Offa’s Dyke Path at 50: an ancient earthwork still shrouded in mystery

K

Kevin Rushby

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This mighty monument, running 177 miles along the England-Wales border, offers breathtaking views and walks that entice you to keep going

We come up a steep hillside, stepping past twisted trees laden with lichen and scarlet berries, all dripping with rain. A mob of ravens clack overhead. Then, as we come out on the top, I understand at last what the fuss is about. Ahead is a bracken-covered rampart as tall as a house, curving forward into the mist, its steeper face turned west towards hills and valleys that are dimly visible through sheets of rain and cloud. “This is it!” shouts Rob above the noise of the downpour. “Look how it follows the contours, how they built it to impress anyone coming up from the west.”

I knew, of course, about Offa’s Dyke. I’d seen the photographs. It was the faint remains of an earthwork, like the wrinkled lip of England, running along the border between it and Wales, built by some medieval megalomaniac with a silly name. I had not expected this massive fortification, barging its way across the broad shoulders of Llanfair Hill, a few miles north of Knighton.

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