A wander around Welshpool in hot weather30th July 2008
After a mini-heatwave, we seem to have returned to more run-of-the-mill British weather again. Not being a fan of hot weather, I am not sorry even if it means that things are little damper. That heat made the past weekend none too ideal for a spot of hill wandering but July seemed to slip by without such an outing and, on Sunday, I headed off to Welshpool for a circular hike regardless. It was to be a day for protecting oneself from the effects of strong sun and intense heat. There was a threat of showers but I was long ensconced at home by the time that one happened on Macclesfield and none was to cool me down on my way around Montgomeryshire.
The travel arrangements were easy: take a train to Wolverhampton and change there for the last leg of the journey both on the way out and the way back. Public transport arrangements aren’t that easy sometimes so this was one of the simpler days. The journey wasn’t too long either with a departure not long before 09:00 landing me in Welshpool at around 11:25. Even with departing at about 18:50, I was back home well before 22:00.
Being allotted a good amount of time, I decided not to force myself and to watch how much walking I was doing, understandable given the weather on the day. I started with a quick amble about Welshpool before heading for the hills and it actually looks a reasonably pleasant town. My escape into the countryside took me north along the Montgomery canal, part of the Severn Way, until I came within reach of the Offa’s Dyke Path. Crossing from one trail to the other did mean some crossing of busy roads and a building site for a new livestock market. Once past those obstacles, I joined the aforementioned national trail at Buttington to proceed through fields where cereals are growing before the I hit the slopes. The hinterland of the Severn clearly has its fertile spots.
As with other parts of the Offa’s Dyke Path, the hills to the east of Welshpool are not that high but they are steep-sided. I found the same sort of topography around Knighton and the hill country north around Ruthin, Llangollen and Chirk also shares this characteristic. The day was getting hotter all the while so I took my time ascending the slopes until they levelled out a bit as I neared Beacon Ring fort, the highest point of my hike at around 400 metres above sea level. From there on, the terrain stayed more friendly with its ups and downs and forest cover was on offer for a good of the journey down to Forden where I left the Offa’s Dyke Path to return to Welshpool.
That return involved a lot of road walking, never a pleasant thing and not helped by boiling heat or having to keep an eye out for combine harvesters and their ilk. A plan for using the public footpath network to cut down on the tarmac bashing came to nought when I saw what my map’s suggestion crossed: a field with growing crops and no obvious way through. In any case, it was better not to attempt tricky navigation in the heat.
As I continued on, I took advantage of any shade for a rest when it offered and it is for that reason that I took a break beside a high hedge near Welshpool’s airport. After negotiating roundabout that thankfully wasn’t too busy at the time, I made my way up a quiet lane that took me again onto the Montgomery canal and the Severn Way for the last stretch of the way into Welshpool. By now, the heat was such that I was glad to be reaching my journey’s end for the day and, when I did make Welshpool, I found a quiet and well appreciated shady spot for a bit of recuperation before catching the train home again.