Bainbridge residents explore Wales and return with stories for new travel book

Published 4:24 pm Friday, July 6, 2018

Henry and Barbara Intili are veteran travelers who enjoy getting to know the different countries, their people and their customs by walking the trails and by-ways. They just returned from a walking/canoe trip through Wales and wanted to share their experiences.

England is a country rich in national trails. The Intilis have now walked three: The South Downs Way, The Cotswolds Way, and Offa’s Dyke. Offa was a king in the 700s who built a wall between his Anglo-Saxon subjects and those pesky Welsh.

Much of the wall remains as a pile of stones, dirt, trees, sheep droppings, and a well-defined national trail that runs 177 miles north to south (or south to north) across Wales. It traverses mountains, through pastures and fields, over wooded stiles, through kissing gates, and on the occasional narrow rural road.

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Barb and Henry walked south to north from Chepstow with its Norman castle on the English Channel to Prestatyn on the Irish Sea. They stayed in well-appointed B&Bs and in dumpy local bars and inns. Lacking the knees of twenty year olds, They had their two suitcases forwarded with a local driver every night to the next sleeping place, and walked with a day pack filled with rain gear, water, maps and munchies. 

Although they walked 6 to 12 miles every day, there were several times the weather was so foul (welcome to Wales) that they took a cab part way. In the end they only walked 100 miles of the 177 in 15 days.

Their  section of Wales was rural and wild. The people were friendly and the walkers numerous, many their  age or older. They met new friends from England and Australia. Plus material to write a new E-book for!

During thier walk on Offa’s Dyke Path in Wales, they had an extra day in Hay on Wye. The River Wye defines the north side of this small market town. With high sun and warm temperatures, a canoe trip down the river seemed an ideal way to spend the day.

They had encountered the River Wye in Chepstow, 120 miles down river from Hay, when they stayed in Chepstow prior to starting their walk on Offa’s Dyke Path. There, the river is subject to tidal flows in excess of fifteen feet. The sides of the river are pure mud in low tide and flooded in high. In Hay the river is moderate size. Wales has been dry this spring and the water level is low.

They walked through town on a bright morning, and across the arched stone bridge over the river. On the far side of the bridge they came to Go Canoeing Company and its staff. Clare is a fit, pert young lady who purchased the canoe company four years ago along with her husband Aubrey. Billy, a tall, thin young man was their helper and sometime guide who manages the equipment. He set us up with a very fine fifteen foot fiberglass canoe, comfortable safety vests, and heavy paddles.

The bridge was the first obstacle. They had to paddle hard across the river to go under the bridge in the farthest span. That was the only place with enough water to avoid grounding their canoe. Billy told us: “Stay right, but not too far right, or you’ll be caught under the willow trees that extend out from the bank.”  Barb and Henry know about being caught under sweepers; they  didn’t need a second warning. Their dunking in the Koyukuk River north of the Arctic Circle taught them more than they ever wanted to know about the danger of tree limbs that sweep you and your canoe into the water.

The six mile canoe trip was through peaceful Welsh countryside. The river level was low, and they often scraped the bottom of their fiberglass canoe. The river was full of white swans, owned by Her Majesty Elizabeth II who owns all the river swans throughout her kingdom. Fortunately her Royal Guard was not patrolling the river to insure that they did not abuse her property. Several of the swans trailed their fluffy cygnets behind.

They also encountered Canadian geese, various duck species with mama leading her troup of youngsters, herons, and an occasional kingfisher. The day was bright and sunny with the clearest air we’ve had in a week. Hills dotted with white sheep. Stone houses surrounded by garlands of flowers.

They passed under a second bridge with an oak substructure that Clare described as 200 years old. The beams were massive and in good shape. Past the bridge, the river chutes on the left side of an island (well, not an island today because the water level was too low), and the Boat Inn pops into view.

Two hours after our noon start they pulled into Boat Inn where Billy and Aubrey were waiting to help them pull the canoe off the river. Aubrey is as large and muscular as his wife Clare is small and lithe. They stayed at the pub for a big lunch topped with a pint of cider before heading back to Hay on Wye with Aubrey’s truck loaded with the morning’s canoes.