A bimble in border country22nd May 2007
Even with showers forecast, I fancied taking myself off somewhere for a walk on Sunday. Because I wanted to continue my hiatus from the Pennine Way for the sake of variety, wandering along a bit of the Offa’s Dyke National Trail appealed. I planned my hike using Anquet Maps to get an idea of what I was taking on and, while I departed from it at times, my planned route was essentially the one that I followed on the ground. The software also gave a projected time for the walk and, though it was largely correct, I might be tempted to add a bit extra to the predicted time for future excursions; I still kept an eye on the time and had alternate plans if it was taking too long.
With that in mind, I travelled to Chirk after braving the hoards of the Macclesfield Bikeathon and picked up the Llwybyr Ceiriog Trail and followed it along the Ceiriog valley until I met both the Offa’s Dyke trail and part of the aforementioned earthwork itself, after crossing from Wales into England (Chirk is almost on the border between Wales and England). In fact, I was to have the famous military barrier for company for a good part of my journey to Craig Nant. It was while I was following this section that the sun came out for a brief spell on what was a mainly cloudy if dry day; the threatened showers thankfully failed to materialise. In fact, it caused me to dawdle for longer than maybe I should have done.
Progress from Craig Nant was steady as I rounded Selattyn Hill on my way to Racecourse Common, part of which unfortunately involved some tarmac bashing. Once past Racecourse Common, it was on into Racecourse Wood for views east over Shropshire with the humps of Long Mynd making an appearance; as luck would have it, the sun was very much in evidence further east and I wonder what delights I would have savoured if skies were clearer for more of my journey.
These days, Racecourse Common and Wood are an amenity for those wanting a stroll but, as the name implies, there was indeed a racecourse here and it was for horse racing. Its heyday was the early nineteenth century before the coming of the railways, and a less than salubrious crowd put paid to its continued existence.
It was about this point that I started to think about getting to Oswestry so that I could start on my journey home. The plan was to leave the national trail for a public footpath taking me most of the way to Oswestry but the need to catch a bus from Oswestry meant that I instead pounded more tarmac than I would have liked. The sun had by then escaped from behind the clouds and I was treated to pleasant scenes as I continued on my way; I still found some time to stop and admire my surroundings.
Oswestry is certainly a pleasant spot and one where I wouldn’t have minded lingering but for time constraints; I needed to catch the 18:15 Arriva service to Shrewsbury. The wondrous St. Oswald’s Church and the pleasant town centre may well inspire another excursion and one with ample time for my training my camera on the sights. I will hold it in mind for the future. Until this walk, Shropshire hadn’t really been subject to my attentions even though it does have its hill country; the Long Mynd and the country round about it certainly do look very attractive through train windows as I ply my way to Abergavenny for the hill country of the Brecon Beacons National Park; it’s almost a shame to do so. Speaking of Wales, one thing that you don’t need to do is go there for places whose names reveal Welsh origins; there are plenty in the west of Shropshire as OS maps will show you. It’s a part of the world to which I can return.
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Time to talk to Andy Howell then – that’s his neck of the woods I think.