Mary Carroll from Solihull tells us about her recent walk for CAFOD :
‘When I started planning the trip along Offa’s Dyke ( 182 long Welsh miles!) I was told it crosses the English Welsh border up to 22 times as it winds its way from Chepstow to Prestatyn. I started out with my brother who had offered to come and camp with me on the weekends but our initial enthusiasm was somewhat dampened by heavy rain which caused him to fall and injure his foot. So on second night we had to abandon the (now wet) tent at Monmouth ( when he went to collect it following weekend his car broke down but that’s another story!!)
I continued on Day 2 and 3 alone across the Black Mountains to reach Hay on Wye. Here I was met by my sister and a friend ( who thoughtfully brought along her foot spa!!)
Day 4: back on the road alone to Kington Youth Hostel where I shared a room with a well-travelled little lady with an almost fairytale air about her with her trailing skirts hanging off the bunk bed – but she kindly gave me some tea bags which I had run out of !
Day 5 took me along the road to Knighton but today I was joined by a good friend who came by bus with her dog , Angel, to walk with me. Angel was straining at the leash to get close to the sheep and with the path being so slippery my friend described the experience as ‘like water skiing’ as she was dragged along!!
Day 6 took me to a farm where I was to camp the night with my brother ,niece and a friend – the problem was I arrived at 4pm after 8 hours walking and the tent did not arrive till 7 and the farm was deserted and cold. But the owner soon returned from tending his cows and made me a tray of tea( see picture!!),found me books to read and opened the toilet so I could start my washing ( a daily task as we were travelling light-mind you had to beware not to tip talc in the bowl as one white powder in a plastic bag looks much like another!) From that point on, I had company on the walk as I journeyed towards Chirk and then LLandegla .
But then we met with Black Wednesday as we climbed the Clwydian mountains……some of the worst weather I experienced in my life where the wind threatened to throw me against the wire fence and I had visions of being sliced on a wire cheese slice!! The rain was torrential and went through everything despite our waterproof suits, but we battled on for about 8 miles thinking there was respite ahead at Clwyd Gate only to be told by a local man, that it closed down 12 months ago. At that point we knew we needed to come down to lower ground and headed about 5 miles into Ruthin - where we nearly flooded a cafe! From there we moved on to a launderette where we spent £4 drying our clothes and the lady even let us use her toilet to ‘rotate’ our clothes into the dryer!
Now we were ready to carry on but first needed to visit the library to study a map as we were seriously ‘off our route’ by now . Ah well, just 5 miles down busy A roads ( with no footpath) would take us to our next stop near Bodfari so we were happy to receive a warm welcome there in front of their Aga . We also met a couple from Alaska who had turned back on the Path and said they had never seen weather like it even in Alaska!
Our final day we thought we would pick up provisions in Bodfari….but no shop….never mind I still had an uneaten cheese sandwich ( 2 days old) and my friend had a can of sardines, some crisps and a chocolate bar or two !! We scrambled into Prestatyn over the last steep muddy hills( after another 8 hours walking) and made our way to the beach where in a howling gale I took off my socks and entered the icy waters . Joy !
When my brother asked would I do it again my answer was ‘Yes….but in Morocco in the dry season!!’
Mary walked through rain and wind to raise funds for CAFOD’s Lent Appeal, to support her please go to www.justgiving.com/Mary-Carroll2