We were greeted by a pall of grey cloud; not a chink of blue sky. After breakfasting, we set out on one of our shorter days – ten miles from Gladestry to Hay- on- Wye.
We climbed as it started to drizzle, the Path taking us through farmland and open pasture to Disgwylfa Hill. We passed a couple of ladies taking their beautiful husky for a walk; we were overtaken by a young lady from Chiswick who preferred horses to cars and the green fields to city streets. No more than four miles from Gladestry, the path descended to the tiny hamlet of Newchurch. It’s church, St. Mary’s, provided sanctuary for those passing through. As at St. Tecla’s in Llandegla (encountered a full week ago), provisions for a hot drink were provided at the rear of the church. Needless to say, we made good use of such hospitality before continuing our way south.
The going was easy across farmland and down narrow lanes. We passed a father and son travelling northwards on the Dyke; the father was stopping with relatives in Newchurch, whilst the son intended carrying on to Prestatyn, camping whenever possible. The weather ahead looked promising, and we could clearly see the sun shining upon the hills and valleys to the south. But this proved to be illusory; the sunshine steadfastly avoided us all day. We stopped for our packed lunch in the wooded Bettws Dingle; only the babbling of the stream broke the silence.
All was still and the mystery of woodland was palpable. The dingle lead us down to the A438, and our first glimpse of that river which asks more questions than it answers; incongruously it was flowing north; and yet we knew that it would be with us at the very southernmost end of our walk in five day’s time.
Fortunately, we were not on the A-road for very long. Again we crossed farmland, knowing that The Wye was to our left although we couldn’t always see it. It would have been gratifying to have reported that we made Hay whilst the sun shone, but as we crossed Hay Bridge, the drizzle started up again. Fortunately, we were near our destination – over the bridge, turning right into Broad Street, and the Seven Stars was on our right, facing the town clock tower.
The Seven Stars is an old public house which is now dedicated to B&B. The lady of the house was young, pretty, garrulous and pregnant (not necessarily in that order). She settled us in to our comfortable room which overlooked Broad Street with bank, cafe and clock tower opposite. Today was May Day, or Labour Day Bank Holiday, and Julia and I had the good fortune to be visited by our daughter, Joanna, who had motored from Oxford to meet us in Hay on her day-off. She had been allocated the room adjacent to ours. Tout les trois, we meandered through the town, wandering into the stuffy book shops, and ending up in Kilverts for a pint.
One of the distinguishing features of The Seven Stars is that it has an indoor swimming pool. Julia and I had carried our swimming togs for ten days, and so we bobbed and soaked in the pool before going out for our evening meal. The proprietress recommended The Old Black Lion and booked us a table. This hostelry was on the other side of town and necessitated a three minute walk. This was really a serious eatery rather than a pub; all the available space beyond the bar was taken up by tables. You’ll be glad to know that we did the place justice by eating seriously! (Beetroot & lovage soup/smoked salmon; Moroccan lamb, steak & kidney, monkfish wrapped in bacon; sticky toffee pudding).
Replete, we waddled back to the B&B; the journey on foot might have stretched to four minutes on the way back. We had all simultaneously run out of steam and it wasn’t long before we retired.