DAY 42: Chester to Bangor-on-Dee – 18.20 miles
Think I need to invest in some stronger ear plugs, as mine were unable to cut out the sound of the girl snoring in the dorm bed next to me. Already tired I was further frustrated to realise the same girl had unplugged my battery pack (which I need to charge overnight) to plug something of her own in. There are two plugs in that socket so why she didn’t use the other one… anyway… The sun was still shining so that was a positive thing and I’d saved one of my pack lunch Wirral sandwiches from yesterday, which went down really well for breakfast. However I still needed to figure out where to stay tonight, and this was proving difficult. Ideally I wanted to head straight south, but accommodation in that area was scarce and expensive, plus I wanted to factor in walking in Wales – even if only for a few miles. Wrexham was looking like the most obvious choice, but that would mean swinging quite a way out west, and for some reason I was feeling hesitant. It’s times like this I really wish I had a side-kick to sort this kind of thing out… work out best way to head, make decisions then just point me in the right direction. I travel a lot overseas and hardly ever feel homesick, but today for some reason I was really missing home. Which was strange because it wasn’t even the weekend, and the sun was shining which normally makes everything ok.
In the end I decided I wouldn’t decide now, but set off and see how the day panned out. I had also emailed a couple of the perfectly placed but more expensive spots directly south, just in case… Either way, it looked like I would only have about 12 miles to walk today so was able to make my way slowly out of town, grabbing a Subway salad takeout, stopping for a coffee and taking time to appreciate the pretty streets that make up the heart of this historic tourist town. Thankfully once I started moving my mood improved and speaking to a friend back home also helped. And I was still on the phone when I reached a t-junction and – according to google maps – could go either way to continue south. Still feeling indecisive, I asked my friend left or right… and on his say-so headed right. And soon I was to kick myself, for two reasons:
1) I hate doubling back as it seems like such a waste of time and effort. Which is stupid as often this means I end up walking so much further in the long run. On this occasion I had walked just 15 minutes when I realised the road ahead was a dead end. I should have just backtracked to the t-junction and gone left… but being stubborn I reversed just 5 minutes, then took an unknown footpath down by the river which someone had suggested… which ultimately took me miles off course and added at least an hour to my overall journey today.
2) Whenever I’ve had a day with “only” 10-14 miles to cover, instead of following the obvious path and arriving at my destination early giving myself a break, I end up taking more of a risk, going off road, choosing the unknown option like above… because I think I have time to play with. Of course, all that ends up happening is my easy day becomes anything but, and often they end up being the hardest days of all!
So both the above apply today as despite Google maps telling me this route was an option, I found myself come up against a very large set of orate gates and no obvious way through. I rang the intercom on the gate and – even though I dropped the JOGLE bomb – turns out I was at the entrance to the Duke of Westminsters estate so reluctantly I was forced to retreat. But instead of completely backtracking, I decided to take the security guys advice and follow the public footpath down to the river. I mean hey, I have all the time in the world today so why not!
The riverside track started well and of course, it’s always better to follow a good footpath rather than a paved road. But after some considerable time and numerous midge bites, I realised that the river was winding further and further east and there was still no sign of getting back onto a road heading south and west. Of course it was about this time that I realised what with the river, the Dukes large estate and the Welsh border nearby, there was a very deliberate reason why there were no right hand turn options for miles. By now I had been walking for several hours so was totally committed and just had to keep going. Eventually the path did lead over the river and I could finally see signs of a town on the horizon. Reaching it though was another matter as the track suddenly got narrower and narrower until I was pretty much walking straight into brambles and stinking nettles… It was around this time that my frustration boiled over into absolute calm, as suddenly I could only see the funny side of the whole situation and started to laugh.
And when the path came close to an empty farmed field, I simply jumped down onto that and followed it in the rough direction I thought I should be going. I ran into a family of tourists at this point – also fighting with the foliage on the supposed path and seeing I was being a rebel they decided to follow me. Thankfully we didn’t meet any land owners on the way and eventually found a better walking track, which led back to a public road. With some relief I was eventually able to turn west and walk across the border into Wales. It was around this time that I also heard back from one of the hotels in my preferred path, and they agreed to heavily discount a room for me… Happy days! I could now totally relax and enjoy my sunny Welsh walk. Stopping at a pub to refresh, and again to eat my salad and the large slice of coffee & walnut cake which I’d also picked up along the way…. Finally arriving at the tiny cute village of Bangor-on-Dee around 6pm and checking into the very comfortable Buck House Hotel. Totally knackered, a tad sunburnt, a little wiser but ultimately grateful for this roller coaster of a ride I’m currently experiencing.