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Archive for February 2017

Big Walk Sunday

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(First in an extremely occasional series.)

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What to do when you’re feeling out of sorts: get out of doors, yomp through fields, look at green things, distract your tedious internal monologue with beautiful views and how much your legs hurt.

One of the things on my Bucket List*, or Life List, or whatever, is to walk Offa’s Dyke, a 177 mile path that more or less follows the England / Wales border, roughly following the site of some ancient Anglo-Saxon earthworks erected by Offa of Mercia to keep out marauding Celts. Conveniently enough the path goes right past my parents’ house in Monmouth, and so yesterday morning, optimistic and foolishly unprepared, I lit out for Pandy, 16 miles away across the hills. IT WAS GREAT.

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Things that happened on my walk:

  • I was so poorly prepared that I didn’t even bring water (sure there’ll be a shop on the way, I thought. Reader, there was not a shop on the way), which resulted in me drinking from streams and at one particularly low point, a trough in a field. However it’s now 24 hours later and I don’t appear to have cholera.
  • Shortly before halfway, I was feeling particularly delighted by my progress and the swing in my step, whereupon almost instantly I tripped over my own feet and fell right onto my knees in the road, tearing my leggings and skinning and bruising my knees (and also coming within inches of knocking myself out). In some ways this was less than ideal, but it did allow me to stagger the rest of the way being very impressed at my own hardcoreness. (I also did not have the stomach to look at my own wounds, and so WhatsApped a blurry photo of my bleeding knees to Nine (in Malaysia) and Clare (in Mongolia), who had to take me firmly in hand when we were on holiday in Georgia in 2011 and I sliced open my knee on falling over on a bridge made of knives: despite my mildly hysterical insistence that I could slap some savlon and a band-aid on it and it’d be fine, they both insisted that it was not fine and summoned a policeman who summoned an ambulance who summoned a policewoman on a segway (? – I may have confused the order of events there) and I was taken to hospital to VERY BRAVELY have my knee stitched up with no anaesthetic. Anyway Nine and Clare’s very scientific internet diagnosis was that it was probably fine and so I staggered stalwartly on.
  • I was menaced by sheep! Normally on walks I am wary of cows, just because they are very large and could probably do you a bit of damage just by leaning on you, even if they didn’t mean it – however this was the first time I had encountered sheep that didn’t flee in fear but instead RAN TOWARDS YOU shouting aggressively. I stood my ground and they stood theirs and I was permitted to pass through their field unmolested, no doubt because they sensed my relatively recent return to vegetarianism but I have no doubt that were I still a carnivore they would have butted me to death.

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  • I passed a whole load of austerely picturesque country churches, including one in Llanvihangel-Ystern-Llewern that was clearly well-attended for Sunday services, organ music emanating from within, cars parked along the road outside and people roaming the churchyard, leaving flowers on graves. From my heathen citydweller perspective it’s easy to forget that quite a lot of people in this country still take their religion seriously, in a quiet and quotidian way.
  • I passed a castle! White Castle in fact, which boasts connection to two of my favourite historical-figures-as-represented-by-literature, i.e. John of Gaunt (thanks to Anya Seton’s Katherine, I imprinted on him at a young age) and Owain Glyndŵr (who features centrally, albeit deadly, in Maggie Stiefvater‘s Raven Cycle). Less heroically, Rudolf Hess apparently used to go and hang out there painting and sketching while awaiting trial.
  • Two miles before the end of the route, I suffered a brief sense of humour failure when Offa insisted I get offa** the nice path I was on and instead haul my weary and bleeding and parched body up a massive hill. HOWEVER! At the top of the hill there was the village of Llangattock Lingoed, and in that village there was a very decent pub, and in that very decent pub there was a pint of soda water and lime, which I promptly inhaled, AND ALSO a friend of my aunt’s whom I had probably not seen for about fifteen years, conjured up as if by magic. The universe is very tricksy sometimes. Both the drink and a shouty conversation about Brexit and Trump were sufficiently reviving to make the remaining two miles to Pandy a relative breeze.

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*I’ll have you know I had a Bucket List before they were cool (or indeed called Bucket Lists), let alone before they were uncool again.
**Sorry not sorry.

Written by Jess

February 20, 2017 at 6:41 pm

Posted in Uncategorized