Looking out of the window, the fine weather had done an overnight flit. It was overcast, but clear and dry. The weather forecast promised rain, and we wondered whether we should follow the narrow road along the vale of Ewyas.
But our host gently advised us that we would be better advised to climb back up to the footpath that followed the line of Hatterall Ridge; he reasoned that the road was narrow, tortuous, and frequented by farm vehicles which were sometimes difficult to evade! George’s breakfast was obviously designed to fuel us up all the way to Chepstow. I cannot imagine what he served up for those travelling the other way, and whose goal was Prestatyn! As we left The Half Moon Inn, and got into our togs, I noted that my boots had been packed with newspaper, a task I had neglected to do before going to bed the previous evening. This seemed the height of hospitality; I would now have the luxury of a few squelch-free hours.
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The path running south-east from Llanthony back to the ODP climbed at a much gentler gradient than the path we descended on the previous afternoon. Although the spectacular views had disappeared, the walking continued to be pleasantly free of strain.
We were soon descending towards the village of Pandy, and the rain started initially in a rather desultory fashion. The open marsh and moor gave way to lanes and lowland pasture. We crossed the River Monnow by wooden footbridge; it seemed to be running dangerously high and fast. By the time we reached the A465 running through Pandy, the rain was falling with a great deal more determination. We therefore took a small detour north to the warm welcome of The Old Pandy Inn. It was dry, and provided excellent food and ale. Three fellow dykers were also taking refuge; like us they were drenched; unlike us, they were travelling north and seemed seriously exhausted. In fairness, they were carrying large rucksacks, whereas we had arranged for George to take our luggage onto our next port of call. In addition, they had obviously not had the advantage of a George breakfast!
We spent longer than we had planned in the inn, the logic being that we might as well be sheltered whilst the rain was at its worst. We set off once more during a lull in the downpour; the lull proved to be temporary. However, we were on our shortest leg of the ODP, only 8-9 miles for the day. So the fact that it was raining quite heavily did not bother us too much; we were only 2-3 miles from our overnight stop in Llangattock-Lingoed. Progress was slow, mainly because we were walking across farmland, and conditions underfoot were extremely boggy. In addition, I had strained muscle tendons on the outside of my right ankle on the precipitous descent to Llanthony on the previous day, and it seemed that every pasture we crossed sloped down from left to right, hence stretching my sore bits. My ostentatious limping therefore slowed our progress even further.
Even so we reached Llangattock-Lingoed before four o’clock. We were to spend the night at a pub. It was all locked up with no sign of life. It was effortlessly tipping it down by this time, but the church, St. Cadoc’s was nearby, it’s door was unlocked, and it had a small kitchen at the foot of the bell tower for the use of drenched ramblers. We ‘phoned the pub repeatedly but obtained no reply. I began to worry about our luggage, and so I ‘phoned George at Llanthony. He related that he had experienced the same problem – he could not get any response from the pub, either by knocking on or by telephone. He had left our luggage at the rear of the property under a sheet of thick, black plastic. I returned to the pub; our luggage was where George had left it, and thankfully, the contents of the rucksack were bone dry. Eventually, at five-thirty the pub responded. The lady of the house was clearly surprised to hear that we had booked to stay the night. Our desire to stay at the pub had evaporated; we politely told them so and rang the guesthouse in the village. They were apparently fully booked. It was still raining Welsh cats and dogs, and we had nowhere to stay for the night! One bit of luck was with us – Julia had picked up an Abergavenny tourist information leaflet at The Half Moon Inn on the previous evening. We rang a B&B in the town, and we were fixed up! Our ODP guide (The Trailblazer series) gave contact details of a taxi firm in Abergavenny, and before six o’clock we were making a soggy mess of a pristine taxi speeding us towards those Paradise People (you’ll have to check Marty Wilde’s back catalogue to unravel this obtuse reference).
This was the only major hiccough of the whole trip, and obviously, one reflects on how it could have been avoided. It might be that using an agency to arrange accommodation rather than doing it ourselves would have prevented such an eventuality. Presumably these firms have a database from which they scrub those places that have let customers down or who have failed to come up to scratch. But using a travel firm seems a bit soulless, as planning the trip is definitely part of the fun! My advice to readers is simply not to stay in a pub in Llangattock-Lingoed. Note that I haven’t named the pub; so to be on the safe side, avoid all pubs in the village!
I’m not sure how we would have fared without George and St. Cadoc. They saved the day. I failed to mention that the church is in a beautiful setting, and has the added attraction of a wall painting of St. George dating from the 15th century on its south wall. It obviously takes its pastoral role seriously; besides encouraging wayfarers to make themselves a hot drink, it provides a loo!
So we found ourselves in The Black Lion Guesthouse, only a couple of hundred metres down the Hereford Road from where I lived as a kid. The accommodation was spacious, allowing for various wet garments to be dried and aired, and there was access to a bath! We donned what remained of our glad rags and went down into town for a pint at The Kings Head Hotel and a very satisfying meal at their restaurant, Venue 59. (To start: Roquefort soufflé, fish cakes; mains: duck with cassis, chestnut roast) We were tired as we returned to the guesthouse; somehow we had managed to create a fraught day out of what promised to be a relaxing stroll!