ROD BIRD’s Talk on OFFA’S DYKE for PSCC on 4th March 2021

Date Published 
Fri 5 Mar 2021

It makes a pleasant break to be reminded what we actually have cameras for. Recording things that we want to look at in the future whether its places we have been to or people we have met or know. So it was that Rod Bird visiting us via Zoom once again brought a taste of the outdoors with a pictorial recreation of his walk the length of Offa’s Dyke a year or two ago.

This manmade and now somewhat faint furrowed feature runs happily coincident with the English/Wales Border from Prestatyn in the North to Chepston in the South on the Seven. It is unclear whether it was built by Offa (King of the Mercians in 796 AD) - to keep the English out of Wales or the Welsh out of England. There was certainly a great deal of unrest around the border at that time.

Rod and his wife had decided to walk it from north to south (down hill). To facilitate this they used a company called ‘Contour Walks’, to move their belongings along the route to each of their planned nights stops giving them something like a 20 mile a day average distance to travel. In the event of a failure to reach any destination the service included a motorised pick up and return service from and to the same spot the next day. Rod discovered that Bed and Breakfast establishments across Wales vary a great deal in quality. It is easy for us to forget that until comparatively recently much of Wales had been a quite depressed and poor area especially in the rural parts. His experience of the night stay was therefore varied. The more touristy parts usually offering the better accommodation.

Keeping weight to a minimum he carried, always at the ready, a very small but high tech. Sony RX100 MkI compact camera (24 mp and good zoom lens). Also a Sony A55 for some of the trip. Judging from the quality of the images he showed us this was perfectly adequate for the job and with its integral image stabilization, something that is getting popular now on most models, he was able to dispense with a cumbersome and heavy tripod. He showed us at least one long exposure, probably as much as a second or so, of a small waterfall that would not have not normally been thought possible hand held. However his most impressive shots were of numerous very clear and sharp landscapes, mostly green fields, using the effects of passing patches of bright sunshine to highlight important areas and inject depth and interest into very wide almost panoramic shots. The terrain, although not the huge peaks of Snowdonia or the Brecon Beacons, was impressively hilly so plenty of stiff climbs awaited through out with plenty of scope for spectacular views.

They detoured slightly to take in more than just Llangollen and walked the canal for a little while to experience crossing the Dee on the Pontcyllte Aqueduct which he could pronounce correctly first time (Welsh parentage) and visited Chirk where the other interesting aqueduct resides. It also simplified the map reading for a while. Possibly Welshpool and Oswestry were the least interesting parts of the journey but then that opinion might have been clouded by the fact that he managed to break his elbow at about this point.

Huge swelling and in not a little pain sadly the expedition had to be halted after an emergency trip to Shrewsbury Hospital. They returned a year later to the day to continue and once again managed to coincide with reasonable weather. April is considered the best time for this undertaking what with the climate being as dry as it will ever be and the increased daylight at that time. As a result he was able to capture a few very impressive bluebell images around Monmouth to reminded us how lucky we are in the UK to have as much as 90% of all the wild blue bells in the World. He and his wife successfully completed the walk to Chepstow and brought us equally grand images of the famous Wye as it meanders about just before exiting into the Severn. Little bits of history were poking out throughout his talk and you really got the sense you had been somewhere and seem something new by the end.

Offa’s Dyke is not quite the Iron Curtain but I hope you will forgive me for my lift of that classic Churchillian quote at the start of this as ‘Prestatyn in the north’ sounded so much like ‘Stettin in the North’ I couldn’t resist it. Coincidentally that famous speech was delivered on precisely this day (5th March) 75 years ago. I don’t just throw this programme together you know.

Dave Hipperson