Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Walking The Severn Way: Stage 4

Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Caersws to Newtown, Powys

Only 8.4 miles

In this issue find out how I lost several pints of blood (well it felt like it!), why I'm often referred to as 'old peculiar', how we managed to get so far behind schedule and why it didn't matter anyway, why I'm so glad I don't have a dog and the embarrassment I felt on finding that I was responsible for the dreadful smell on the train!

Thank you so much for following me on the longest riverside walk in Britain - The Severn Way - all 210 miles of it starting at its source at Plynlimon in Mid Wales right through to its end where it gushes into the Bristol Channel. More than pleased to have you along with me for the next stage of the walk.

I must just thank ardent follower of this blog Roy Harrison for suggesting I include a progress map of the walk - excellent idea so you'll see a link at the top. If you don't see it, it'll be because you're reading this in an email or RSS feed so click here to go to the main blog where you'll see so much more including the map link right at the top of the page.

Also thanks go to Chris Wygg for pointing out an HTML error when viewing in Internet Explorer - hopefully now corrected.

Several people including our friend Sue Pearson (an ex-world champion Pool player (or is that just me romancing the stone?) whom I beat at her own game last time we met) suggested I write a book! Don't know about that but they do say there's a book in everyone. Maybe I could turn this blog into a world best seller, Booker prize winner, fame and much fortune etc and of course, you would all feature 'cause you're with me on this great walk! See how I get carried away sometimes?

Thanks too to my sister Vickie who tried so hard to leave a comment but the technology failed her I'm afraid. Better luck this time?We have another walking companion today - say 'hi' to my charming partner Pam who pleaded with me to let her tag along today. I think she felt she was missing out on all the fun and, of course, she has been. I'm sure you won't mind? She'll be no trouble.

In case you missed earlier posts (you'll see a clickable list at the bottom of this post) I've been using public transport as the only sensible way to do a linear walk in stages, using trains and buses to get me to point A where I then walk to point B and use trains and buses to get me back home after each stage. So the car stays at home as much as possible.

Everything so far has worked out fantastically well making me quite proud of our system that thousands of others use every day of the week of course to get them to work, school, shops etc. Today was no exception, even the elusive Platform 6 at Shrewsbury didn't present a challenge this week - mainly because our train to Caersws left from platform 4A!

We'd decided to use our hydration units for our on-board water supply today - we last used them to great effect a couple of years ago when we walked The Heart of England Way together. They're one-litre plastic bladders that you fill with water and a tube passes over your shoulder so that you can drink without the necessity to stop to get the water bottle out of your rucksack. One of the few gadgets that Pam has bought that actually works! I'm on a quest, by the way, to de-gadget my life but that's a different story!

There was slight alarm, however, when Pam noticed some little black things swimming about in her tube! We were on the train so we had to carefully and without fuss untangle the bladder from the rucksack, remove the tube, keeping a finger over the hole, and blow through leaving a little puddle on the carriage carpet. Well... a little water and a strange black wormy thing won't harm anyone will it?!

It was a beautiful cloudless blue sky as we left Caersws station behind heading for the local shop to purchase forgotten provisions - like food for the trip! A light breeze cooled the air slightly - almost perfect walking conditions (a little cooler is even better).

We won't see much of the River Severn again today as The Severn Way heads up the hills above the valley. In fact we only walk close to it here in Caersws and then again as we approach Newtown. This photo is just as we leave the village over a road bridge.

The Severn Way heads out of Caersws onto a footpath where the local mobile library van was parked (do you have these magical contraptions in your part of the world I wonder?).

Just minutes along the path I suddenly realised we were no longer on the Severn Way as we'd been deposited unceremoniously into a field with no waymark and no obvious track leaving me with a somewhat puzzled face - and Pam slightly exasperated! You see - it's OK if things go wrong when you're on your own - there's no-one to answer to, no-one to apologise to, you can easily cover your tracks (literally) and no-one is any the wiser. But here I am - 9 minutes into the walk and I've missed a sign somewhere. So, not only do I have to apologise to you dear reader but I find myself apologising to Pam too - she reminds me of the last time this happened as she was forced to negotiate a fence that we shouldn't have been climbing - and in the rain - where she slipped and managed to break her arm!

So can you both be very careful please as we negotiate another fence that we shouldn't really be climbing over. OK - walking on - I can now see where we went wrong - we just missed a waymark and followed a cart-track instead. However, we're now back on course. Can you just keep a look out for the signs please - don't leave it all to me - I simply can't be trusted! Look - they look like this:-

Looks a bit like Shrewsbury's Platform 6 again doesn't it - indicating the heavens as the direction we should be going in!

The Severn Way so far has been very well way-marked but you do have to keep your wits about you I find and keep constantly checking map and occasionally setting compass to find the exit point in some of the fields or woods. Sometimes, although well marked at the various stiles (and there are an awful lot of stiles on this stage I have to say) the path is little-used and almost indiscernible. Hence another meander along the wrong track as we head away from Tre-gastell!

You see... even with all three of us (you, Pam and me don't forget) we can still get it wrong. OK - in this instance it's only about 10 minutes out of our way but how far would we have gone along that sheep track if I hadn't decided to stop and check. The proper stile is over there to the left and now two fields away! What are you like? Come on - we need to get a wriggle on or we'll be behind on our next checkpoint and if we do this too often we're never going to catch the train back home - so - please - let's all keep our wits about us. OK? OK - great. Back on course again although no longer on schedule I'm afraid.

Just as we're listening to the lovely sounds of an overhead Skylark a terrifically loud noise suddenly approaches in the sky - it's a jet on a training mission. And then another. We must be close to a RAF airdrome. Several more were to voice their opinions upon us over the next hour or two. There's one there - camera - quick! Too late!

On losing blood!
Have you ever been bitten by a Cleg-Fly? Not sure? You would be if you'd been bitten! It's incredibly painful. Forget wasps and bees - these are awesome little creatures that have sharp saw-like mandibles that chop into your skin and then suck your blood! Go away! We need all of our blood thank you. We've just been walking alongside a stream and I've had three of them attack an arm and a leg - they don't leave much of a mark and the area doesn't swell but boy - does it hurt!

A Cleg-Fly by the way is a type of Horse-Fly - they attack mammals and feast off the essential red stuff. Problem is - they don't buzz - they don't make a sound - they just swoop in - take they're sustenance and disappear. Nasty little creatures but I guess they're there for a purpose - all part of nature's rich bio-diversity. Haven't seen one? Here's a pic so we all know what we're up against:-
I have to admit on failure to get a photo of said Cleg-Fly being rather more keen to eliminate pain than to juggle the camera into position, so this pic comes courtesy of

They didn't trouble Pam as she is always very well-prepared for any eventually coming covered with insect repellent from ear to toe! They were only around for a short distance of 20 yards or so and then - no more trouble.

Canine problems
Dogs can be a problem on farmland - they worry the sheep and cause them undue stress. Cattle hate them too and will attack - in fact a lady walking her two dogs was recently killed by a herd of angry cows as they felt her dogs were a threat to their calves. They simply trampled her to death - so these signs - although quite dramatic and rather crude do save sheep and human life!

Stopping for lunch I spent a few minutes checking where we were and how far we had to go before reaching Newtown and our train back home. Realised that we were about 30 minutes
behind. Sorry, but lunch will have to be quick and we need to move just a tad faster if we can - is that OK?

Let's go! We're on a mission now!

An hour or so later we arrive at the beautifully tranquil Fachwen Pool. Time for a short rest whilst I check our progress...

Getting behind
Oh dear! Seems we're quite a way behind schedule! How do you feel about running the last 3 miles? Well, I know it's a hot day but... what do you mean 'how did i get it so wrong'?

Here we go again! Why is this always down to me? Well I know we drifted off course two or three times, and I may have not allowed quite enough time for the several hills or for the dozen or so stiles we had to negotiate. The hills - OK - down to me - slight mis-calculation here and there but there's no way I'm going to take the flack for not knowing about the stiles. How could I have known there were going to be so many? And as for losing our way; may I remind you there are three of us here?

I rest my case!

OK OK. Let's not fall out over this. Point is do we run or do we catch the next train? It's two hours later. Pause for thought...

I agree - we'll take our time - there's no real rush - home will still be there even if we're two hours later than planned. Let's relax and take a doze in the sunshine by this tranquil spot. And try not to blame me too much!

Rest over - we can now take a slowish amble into Newtown. As we talk over the day Pam kindly points out I've just trodden in a rather fresh cow-pat. I try to clean it off my new summer walking boots but it's stuck right in to the Vibram soles. Hopefully, it'll disappear as we do the last couple of miles - wouldn't want to take that on the train with me.

This picture shows a view back to where we started this stage back in Caersws. Follow the valley right in the distance as far as you can see and we started just beyond that! Well done!

We pass Rhydfelin Baptist Chapel here in the hills and can't resist a foray around the small and isolated cemetery. Can you read the inscription for Anne Evans on this one?

It reads 'She hath done what she could' and you wonder how hard life probably was in these remote parts back at the start of the 1800's.

As we walk over yet another small hilltop we see our stage-end in sight - that's Newtown down in the valley.

So another stage of The Severn Way draws to a close. Did you notice we didn't meet anyone at all- again? It's been the same right from the start a few weeks back. It just doesn't appear to be that popular a walk although, of course, we're fortunate to be in a position where we can avoid the weekends, so that may be a factor.

We explore the quaintly old-fashioned town that apparently has been a 'New Town' since 1321 so it's not all that new really is it?! And of course, we meet up with our beloved River Severn again.

After a drop-off at the shop for a bottle of well-earned beer we head for the station and just a 30 minute wait for the train - it was better than running wasn't it?

Ae we sit on a platform seat to open our bottles of beer we realise we need an opener. No problem - there's one in the rucksack - it's on one of those fancy penknives with all the different gadgets on. I'll open yours first - a nice bottle of San Miguel. Whoops - the top of the bottle has broken off with the cap, leaving dangerous looking shards! Don't get cross - it was an accident! Be careful how you drink that! You can't put it near your mouth - here's your flask cup - just watch out for any glass bits. I've said I'm sorry!

Old Peculiar
Bet I can do the next one without a problem - see... a lovely cool Old Peculiar with a nice clean unbroken top.

Old Peculiar - what a satisfying drink - some would say it befits the drinker! Maybe I'm drawn to names of beers rather than taste? Remember the pint of Waggle Dance we shared in Llanidloes? When I think about it I do seem to partake in libations of a few odd-named beverages like Old Speckled Hen, Hobgoblin and Bishops Finger. There's apparently one called Sick Duck and another with an equally disgusting name of Moose Drool but I haven't come across either of those yet. Have you? Is it just the name? If it is then it's an excellent marketing strategy on someone's part. It works for me! Do you now of any other examples?

Here's the train. You'll have to drink your San Miguel quickly - you can't take that broken bottle on board - people will think we're vandals.

It's a packed train - please feel free to take the last remaining seats - this Old Peculiar will stand. No - it's OK. Really.

Where did that smell come from?
I do eventually get a seat towards the other end of the carriage but at least I'm sitting. Everyone around me seems to be talking. Someone comments about the strong countryside smell on the train and I remember my cow-pat stuck to the sole of my boot! Is it me I wonder? I try to look nonchalant as I turn my foot over to glimpse the sole. Yep - it's still there! I note the windows are open which surely must be bringing in loads of countryside smells and hope I get away with it.

And so another stage of our Severn Way walk comes to a close. Did you enjoy it? Pam and I did so will I see you next week? Hope so - it's a 15 miler the next stage - Newtown to Welshpool. Pam has already declined I have to say - eyelashes need perming, or ears need waxing - or is that legs? Not sure but you'll be there at Newtown waiting for me won't you? Excellent! See you there then!

Oh... and if you'd like a friend or friend to come along too just send them the link:-
The more the merrier! I know I've said before I prefer to walk on my own but you're so quiet I hardly notice you're there. It's only at the end of each stage you tend to comment and talking of comments;-

Don't forget to leave a comment below; help, advice, silly banter, words of encouragement are all very much welcomed and I know then you're definitely following me!

Please click this link for the
Stage 4 Slideshow


Chris Wigg said...

I'm a keen real ale man as well and fortunate enough to once live in the vicinity of The Hook Norton brewery in Oxfordshire.

One of their beers to fit the odd name category is 'Steaming On' which is described thus:

A dark reddish – brown ale, with a very unusual slightly smokey flavour. This is derived from the use of a small amount of Peated Malt, which is normally reserved for Whisky production. Steaming On was first brewed in 1999 to celebrate the centenary of the Brewery’s steam engine, which remains in daily use.

Chris Wigg

Tracy Morris said...

Welcome to 'Wonderful Wales' Paul and Pam. Looks like your having a great time on your walk!
From Tracy Morris in the Vale of Glamorgan (member of your downline at elottery)
Good luck with the rest of your walk and hope the weather is kind to you.

A Joyful Chaos said...

I am enjoying your blog. Thanks for sharing it with us.