Tag: lockdown

Walking Offa’s Dyke Path National Trail as it marks its 50-year anniversary

This year marks 50 years of the Offa’s Dyke Path National Trail.

There are local walking festivals to look out for and a revamped visitor centre in the Welsh border town of Knighton to open later this summer.

An ITV series about the Path, Wonders of the Border, will be shown over summer.

The 177-mile national trail, which runs from near Chepstow on the River Severn to Prestatyn on the North Wales coast, divides into 12 day sections.

As lockdown restrictions eased, I walked the trail for a day from Castle Mill [pictured above] near Chirk Castle in North Wales into the Shropshire Hills to get a taste of the path.

The earliest reference to Offa’s Dyke is attributed to Asser, King Alfred’s biographer, who wrote:

“A certain vigorous king called Offa … had a great dyke built between Wales and Mercia.”

Offa was the king of Mercia (the modern-day Midlands) and ordered the construction of the dyke around 785AD to mark a de-facto border between England and the rebellious Welsh tribes to the west.

National Trail Officer Rob Dingle says: “King Offa is something of a shadowy figure from history, but we do know that he was keen to expand his kingdom, and the design of the Dyke was quite deliberate, acting as a warning shot to the west.”

National Trails is encouraging walkers to share their memories of 50 years of Offa’s Dyke. Read more.

Read my feature coming soon to the i newspaper.

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A post-lockdown visit to the National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire

Here’s a new concept: the post-lockdown day out.

With restrictions easing, but overnights stays still off limits until April 12, I made a day trip to the National Memorial Arboretum (NMA), the year-round centre for remembrance in Staffordshire.

As an outdoor attraction, the Arboretum has managed to remain open throughout lockdowns and, with the Rule of Six back in force from yesterday, it’s a good place for socially distanced small gathering.

Many of the memorials, such as the Shot at Dawn memorial [pictured above], are thought-provoking and rich with symbolism.

More importantly, it offers a tranquil place for reflection set in nature to digest the events of the past year that have changed our lives beyond measure.

That could be why the Arboretum has been mooted as a potential site for a new national, government-led memorial to recognise all those who have served their community during Covid-19 pandemic, including NHS keyworkers.

The Arboretum celebrates its 20th anniversary on May 16 and I have a feature coming soon in the i newspaper — look out for details.

It’s like Chris Ansell, the Arboretum’s Head of Participation and Learning, told me this week:

“We have a responsibility to those who have given their lives for their country but also a responsibility to ourselves to take time and reflect in order to look forward with hope.”

More about the NMA here

 

Download my new Haunted Chester audio tour — now available via VoiceMap

My lockdown project is complete.

I used quieter time over the last few months to tinker away at a creative project, creating a new audio tour to my home city of Chester.

The result is Haunted Chester, a 60-minute circular walking trail based on the tours I lead for Chester Ghost Tours.

Those tours have been in hibernation during lockdown, returning hopefully in May.

But, meanwhile, you can download this self-guided tour to your smartphone and explore with just my voice and a detailed map to accompany you.

It’s the ultimate in social distancing.

VoiceMap uses local writers and guides to create quirky walking tours that offer local-knowledge insights and insider tips.

Here’s what my new tour promises:

If you like ghostly goings-on and spooky stories, then this walking tour around the centre of the historic city of Chester offers tantalising tales of the supernatural.

We’ll visit some familiar landmarks — but don’t expect a dry history lecture.

I know my home city well and will be highlighting some of the hidden corners that you don’t find on typical tours. After all, I’m a local boy and I’ll be sharing my insider knowledge.

On this tour, you’ll hear about:

• Roman soldiers still guarding their historic garrison
• The grisly tale of Chester’s last public execution
• The ghostly monk that haunts the city’s spookiest passageway
• Chester’s only official exorcism

Allow one hour for this walk. There are plenty of cafes and bars along the route for a quick coffee stop.

Whether it’s your first time in the city, or you’re a local keen to learn more about your home, Haunted Chester is the perfect way to see it in a different light.


Download the VoiceMap app to your phone and search for Haunted Chester, or use this link:

https://voicemap.me/tour/chester/haunted-chester-a-spooky-stroll-around-the-roman-walled-city

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How to celebrate St Dwynwen’s Day in Anglesey, North Wales

Today marks St Dwynwen’s Day, the Welsh equivalent of Valentine’s Day.

The love action is focused on Llanddwyn Island [pictured above], a remote headland off the tip of Anglesey, where Dwynwen founded her spiritual Shangri-La in the 5th century.

It’s a place to celebrate new-found love and soothe the soul after heartbreak.

I’ve done the walk to Llanddwyn Island several times, braving the elements and soaking up the ancient spirituality of the location.

I’ve trudged its Blue Flag beach for both contexts.

Llanddwyn is off limits to most this year under ongoing lockdown restrictions.

But my feature in the travel section of The Independent today celebrates its unique sense of spiritual calm at a time when, loved up or alone, we all need some saintly solace.

Here’s a flavour of my story:

Today that church may be ruined but it still swirls with the spirituality of the Wales’ age of the saints and has a presence that compels visitors to run their fingers along the ancient stone altar.

As the weather closes in, I find wave-smoothed pebbles [pictured below] tucked amongst the stones, messages of love lost and won scrawled upon them.

Read the full feature, A walk with ancient Celtic lovers for the Welsh Valentine’s Day via Independent Travel.