Wanting to retrace steps we’d taken in our previous life by narrow boat, and to chart some unchartered territory, and answering an inner voice pushing up back to water, our path diverted onto the canal network, taking us up to the north coast of Wales and onwards back to the sea.
From Welshpool, we diverted from Offa’s Dyke and onto the Montgomery Canal to head up to North Wales that way. Our immediate goal was Llangollen, a further 5 days ahead, where the treat of 2 nights’ B&B – Alex’s birthday present from his mum and dad – awaited us.
Back to the water
The attraction of being back by water, albeit slightly tamer water than the West Wales coastline that we love, was a great draw. It certainly brought back memories of canal boat living that we’d enjoyed in our previous life (by now a very distant memory). While there might not have been the same raw sense of the wild we’d experienced around the coast, there was plenty to excite us as we walked along the lush canal path. Beautiful sunshine, wildflowers rioting joyfully down the path, diverse wildlife – birds, dragonflies and any number of pike; wild camping spots were easy to come by making a very welcome change from the Heritage Coast section of the Wales Coast Path where it was all but impossible to bunk down for the night.
We were keen to walk a section on non-navigable canal that we’d been unable to travel down by boat when we’d explored this area a couple of years previously, and it didn’t disappoint – the lack of boating had undoubtedly contributed to the rich landscape we encountered. What we hadn’t bargained on was walking 12 miles instead of 7 – but resilience was in good supply. A set back that might have knocked us back a few weeks previously became simply another quirk of the journey – something to add to the walk rather than detract from the experience.
New memories in old haunts
From Welshpool to Llanymynech, Maesbury to Llangollen… as we headed north, the canal moved from the non-navigable into navigable and we stumbled into familiar territory, a section of the canal we had navigated ourselves. It was an opportunity to revisit and reminisce – landscapes, a café, a pub, the epic Pontcysyllte Aquaduct and, once in Llangollen, we hit some of our favourite haunts as well as enjoying a couple of nights in the luxury of the B&B.
Memory Lane is all very well, but we were excited to make new memories too. My new-found love of running had taken hold and we took the opportunity that staying in one place for a couple of nights gave us to indulge. Running up to Dinas Bran, the castle that overlooks Llangollen was hot, sweaty and tough – but having known the exhilaration running could bring, I was up for the challenge. And the joy of pelting back downhill together was reward in itself.
The opportunity to step out of ‘The Walk’ and take stock was also valuable. We spent some happy hours reflecting on what we’d already enjoyed over the previous weeks of walking since leaving Cardigan and decided that the sea couldn’t wait for us any longer. The coast was calling us again – it was time to move on.