Canal Walk – Offa's Dyke

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1820s Lock Keeper's Cottage

In a B&B at Buttington on the Offa’s Dyke Path:

Over a breakfast shared with Dan, our hostess Mona told us she had been doing B&B for 36 years since her husband’s death. Her husband had just got off the bus, returning from work when he was hit by a car.

Mona was a sprightly pensioner, keeping herself busy with providing accommodation for walkers, looking after the local church and caring for a bed-ridden patient. Shows you that a busy life and the fresh Welsh air contribute to longevity.

Dan from Oregon in the USA, had come to London for a friend’s wedding and planned to do the Coast to Coast Walk. Plans changed and he decided to walk Offa’s Dyke instead.

With breakfast over Mona drove Dan to Buttington Cross from where he would continue on the Path. She soon returned and drove us to the Buttington wharf. We had decided to walk the alternative route along the Montgomery Canal, a branch of the longer Shropshire Union Canal, as a day of level walking would suit us just fine.

An overcast day with a ruffle of wind at our backs with the sporadic spotting of rain. As we walked along the quiet towpath, Carol moved on ahead, and I appreciated the relaxing of muscles that for the past ten days had tensed for numerous ascents and descents.

The path ahead was clear and I found myself in a meditative mood. The grey sky was reflected in the largely still water of the canal while the rushes moved in the wind. The story of “Wind in the Willows” surfaced and I half expected Ratty, Mole and Toad to be punting along in a small boat splashing the water with their tiny paws.

I had the feeling that I was a monk wandering the cloisters of a very large monastery, with my hood pulled up over my head against the cold. I thought about the abbeys, the churches with their yew tree enclosures. The site of Strata Marcella Abbey, founded by the Cistercians in 1170, was just across the Severn about ¼ of a kilometer away.

The only interruption to this monastic walk was the traffic moving along the nearby road. Swans with their goslings cruised along the canal in search of food. At Pool Quay there was an 1820s lock-keeper’s cottage by the locks, now neglected. In their heyday, the system of canals that criss-crossed Britain, was the main infrastructure for the economy. Now the canals are a pleasant source of interest for tourists and provide a relaxed lifestyle for canal boat owners.

Although the direction of the path was clear, the paucity of signs or name places made it necessary to check the map because we would have to leave the canal where the B 4393 crossed it. There was one section of the canal which was empty and I was fascinated with the sandy, muddy bed now obviously silted up. A little further on, we saw a lone canal boat with a family on board. We warned them about the dry section ahead.

On the map, the A 483 passed over the canal at two places, so I expected to see large bridges, but coming to the first crossing, it was obvious that the road barely cleared the canal creating an impassable obstacle for any canal boat.

The weather remained blustery and we decided to take a break from the wind underneath an old stone bridge. Here our voices echoed as we discussed how difficult we were finding the Offa’s Dyke Path and decided to ease our journey by using some of the baggage carrying services available and slicing off some of the distances.

Being a foot traveller means that you adjust to suit the pace.

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