Day 12: Monmouth to Chepstow

Wednesday, October 14th, 2015

What to say about this last walking day. It turned out to actually be the longest day, distance wise; not walk day 10. The itinerary I received from Contours gave the daily walking distance, measured from lodging to lodging. For this day the distance was given as 27km/17miles, however the actual end of The Path was another 3-ish km further, and with all the last minute weaving it did, Luc and I thought we’d walked closer to 32km/20miles. And believe you me, at that final stage the last few hours were really tough for me. On the one hand I knew I was ‘almost’ there; on the other hand it just didn’t seem to end. But then, at 5:20pm, I made it to the stone marker at the end of Offa’s Dyke (or start for most people walk it south to north).

We left Myrtle Place at 8am and after walking through town, with a quick dip into Waitrose to buy lunch, climbed up to The Kymin where we had  brilliant views over Monmouth and the valley. The weather? Yes, gorgeous again! What could I say.. those weather gods really are my friends! Fields and some lanes took us to Lower Redbrook, from where The Path climbed up to Highbury Wood. A short section on a rather dangerous road brought us to Bigsweir Bridge over the Wye. There the walker is presented with a choice: go back up and stick to the woods or stay low and follow the alternative Offa’s Dyke route along the river to Brockweir Bridge. Having done quite some ups and downs and field crossings, we opted for the latter option. A bit of flat, easy walking along the river was too nice an opportunity to miss out on, specially since it was a long day as well. From Brockweir we headed back to the trail, naturally in an upwards direction, to the woods. The Path followed the Dyke through most of the woods; views were mostly obstructed because of the trees. However from Devil’s Pulpit the view over the impressive riverside ruins of Tintern Abbey was simply stunning. Continuing for quite some time through the woods, eventually the River Severn came into sight and the trail became slowly but surely more suburban. It shied away from Chepstow proper, to Sedbury, through more fields and lanes I thought possible at that stage, to finally, finally reach the last little climb up to the stone marking the end of Offa’s Dyke.

I’d done it. Goal accomplished. Offa’s Dyke done in 12 walking days, with 2 rest days. I wasn’t sure what to feel, standing at (and sitting on) the marker. It was a bit of an emotional moment.

I really did not feel like walking all the way to my hotel (neither did Luc), so I called Castle View and they arranged for a cab to pick us up where Offa’s Dyke intersects with Beachley Road. We guessed it wasn’t the first time they’d got that request.

We arrived at Castle View and I went to freshen up. Luc had to take a cab later that evening to Bristol, but Michael from Castle View gave us an extra towel so he too could freshen up. We then went to the lovely ‘Riverside Wine Bar’ for a celebratory drink (Luc treated us to a bottle of Moët) and dinner, before he headed to Bristol.

What a walk. Not to be underestimated. Some of the easier looking days actually turned out to be quite tough, while the day that’s usually described as one of the toughest (Hatterall Ridge) turned out to be not too bad (the glorious weather surely helped). I felt good, proud, satisfied that I’d finished it. I did get some of the solitude I looked for and consequently had time to think and reflect on things and the very recent death of my dear brother Stefaan. Long thing short: it will never get better; it may get easier. That’s the way it is. That’s the way it always will be. He is gone. Forever. But also forever in my heart. And it is ok for me to mourn him and miss him forever. I will also continue to enjoy life, with all the good it brings me. I m very fortunate to be able to do just about all the things I like and want to do. My safe haven is and will always be with Stephen.

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Crossing The Wye out of Monmouth.
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Into the hills out of Monmouth.
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Overlooking Monmouth.
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Looking back at Redbrook.
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Bigsweir Bridge over The Wye.
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Lunch on the bank of the river Wye.
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Through the woods.
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Alongside The Dyke through the woods.
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Tintern Abbey.
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Last push up the the stone marker at the end of The Path.
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