Churchtown to Montgomerytop
- Location: Churchtown
- Distance: 7.5 miles
- Description of this walk: A historic trek along the back bone of Offa's Dyke from Churchtown to Montgomery.
- Map: O/S Explorer Map 216
- Download a map of this walk to print off and follow in Derek's footsteps. (PDF 2.1MB) Having trouble with the map? Download the latest version of Adobe Reader.
This walk was done using a GPS device. We've included GPS marker points, should you wish to use them on this walk.
This walk begins in Churchtown and ends in the historic market town of Montgomery with its impressive Georgian town hall and 13th century, hill top castle.
Introduction to the dyke
Offa was King of Mercia from 757 to 796 AD and had a vast kingdom that ranged from the Trent and Mersey rivers in the north to the Thames Valley in the south and from the Welsh border in the west to the Fens in East Anglia.
About 80 miles of King Offa's 1200 year old dyke can still be seen along the England-Wales border between the Severn Estuary and the North Wales coast.
The dyke is what archaeologists call an earthwork: a bank and ditch which would originally have been around 27 metres wide and eight metres high from top to bottom. Quite impressive when you consider it was all constructed using only crude hand tools.
These days the only invaders are the walkers who travel from far and wide to walk along this piece of living history.
The nice thing about walking along the Dyke is the steady stream of passionate walkers you meet in what are basically quite isolated places.
Young and old, some with dogs, some on their own, we bumped into all sorts of people during the days we were there, filming the walk.
Following the dyke means frequently changing countries, as the border criss-crosses its way across the dyke.
1. Start of the walk: Churchtown
N 52.47887, W -3.08433
We met up with our walking guide and dyke expert, Jim Saunders outside a quaint old church in Churchtown (where there's a church but no town) and began with a steep climb up the first section of the dyke.
Head down the road for about 40 metres and take a right, over a stile clearly marked Offas's Dyke footpath which you'll see plenty more of along this walk.
You're now heading towards the Kerry Ridgeway which is around 1.5 miles from here and is an ancient drovers' way that also marks the border between England and Wales in places.
There was no gentle introduction to this walk, just a steep ascent into ancient woods and on to the next stile.
From here you get a great profile of the dyke as it snakes its way up the hillside above you.
To the left you'll notice a second bank which experts believe may have been built by the Welsh on the other side, but nothing is certain when it comes to the dyke.
Half-way up you'll notice badger sets, a common feature along here and also great place to catch your breath and look back over the stunning views and green sculpted hills behind you.
2. Offa's Dyke
N 52.48285, W -3.08641
The dyke is a curious feature of the landscape; at times completely obvious and man-made in its appearance - at others, barely distinguishable from the banks and hedgerows running along the field boundaries.
Although the dyke has suffered from erosion, mainly due to man's activities, there are still some steep sections where you can clearly see what an impressive sight it must have been, a thousand years ago.
To date, historians and archaeologists have no idea how long it took to build or how many people it took to construct it.
Its purpose is also up for debate and opinions are varied - many believe it was defensive; others think it was built purely as a boundary to mark borders.
Follow the path up to the top of the hill for around 370 metres and cross over a stile and back onto the top of the dyke: N 52.48285, W -3.08644.
Walk across a rough gravel track to the opposite bank and head up back onto the top of the dyke, skirting colourful fields of crops and wild flowers (in June).
Along this stretch we encountered a number of plants which were flowering late into the season including bluebells and flowering hawthorn - indicating a cooler climate than in the valley we'd just left behind.
3. Minor road
N 52.48739, W -3.08720
Walk for 500 metres, passing a myriad of colourful, patchwork fields and follow a path down towards a minor road.
The views from here are impressive, staring down into the heart of the valley below, where the River Unk winds between Nut Wood and Upper Edenhope Hill.
Cross over the stile opposite and into the field, following the track down, parallel to the wood and some steeper sections of dyke to your right: N 52.48790, W -3.08707
Walk down through a gently sloping field to the river bed below (dried up when we visited after the dry spring of 2011).
4. Wooden footbridge
N52.49211, W -3.08788
Follow the sign posts towards a small, wooden foot bridge and cross over to the other side. Turn left and walk up a rough 4x4 track for around 80 metres. Hop over a stile and turn right, up a steep, narrow track skirting Nut Wood pine forest.
The track was brimming with life in summer with ferns and wild flowers lining the path and plenty of warblers and tits in the trees above us.
The track levels out at the top. Pass through a kissing gate to arrive in green fields with tall pine trees to your left.
Turn left and walk for around 230 metres. Pass through another gate and you'll find some well preserved sections of the dyke, that are up to ten feet high in places.
Follow the track to your left, passing a farm pond and head over another stile onto the road and over the border into Wales.
5. Kerry Ridgeway
N 52.49927, W -3.09416
Arriving at this road to the Kerry Ridgeway, you'll find yourself with Shropshire behind you and Wales in front.
Cross over the road and stile and follow the sign marked 'Brompton Bridge 2.5 miles' and walk down a rough and winding track.
Along this section you'll find badger sets, dug deep into the dyke. The badgers are capable of burrowing straight through the soft earth and often have entrances on either side.
6. Views over Shropshire Hills
N 52.50194, W -3.09468
As you round the bend, passing a house 'Nyth Bran' (Crow's Nest), an incredible vista opens up before you, with views over the Shropshire hills which look magical in late afternoon sunlight.
To the east lies Corndon Hill, Stiperstones and Long Mynd; with Welshpool in the north and the hills of Caeliber Isaf to the west.
If you've got a camera handy, then now is the time to use it.
Hop over the wooden stile and head steeply down a section of dyke, encased on either side by trees towards the pretty village of Cwm.
Watch your footing along this section as there are badger sets and deep holes to trip over.
7. Road to Cwm
N 52.50242, W -3.09462
Follow the path down past an old quarry hidden away to your left. The track can get quite steep here before turning into fields again, eventually leading you out onto a minor road, leading to Cwm, 500 metres away.
Take a few minutes to explore, as there's a lovely old chapel here - Cwm Chapel, which has been converted into a private house but has some original stone foundations dating back to 1897.
Follow the road signs for 'Brompton 1.5 miles' and after 400 metres you'll arrive at a junction.
Cross over a minor road and stile and follow the dyke path, taking a short detour to Mellington Hall (signposted 'Walkers Welcome').
8. Mellington Hall Hotel
N 52.52092, W -3.09406
Mellington Hall is a Gothic mansion which is now a popular hotel, wedding venue and touring caravan park with campsite.
Follow the woodland path, down some wooden steps towards the back of the old house and walk under a majestic stone archway to the main house and have a look.
Re-trace your steps back and a little further along you'll arrive in open fields, north of the mansion.
The dyke path now runs roughly parallel with the estate road. Walk in a north westerly direction towards a metal gate in the top right-hand corner of the field and head through a small wood, full of old oak trees.
Turn left down a shady track lined with pine trees towards the estate's gatehouse. N 52.52932, W -3.10427
Head through the imposing iron gates and walk straight onto the B4385, keeping an eye out for traffic.
Walk along the B4385 for 400 metres and over the river via a stone bridge marking the border between Shropshire and Powys.
9. Remains of a Motte and Bailey Castle
N 52.53055, W -3.10544
200 metres further on from the bridge crossing, at a bend in the road, on the right hand side are the remains of a Motte and Bailey castle - consisting of a large mound of earth with trees growing on it (next to Bluebell House).
Originally there would have had a timber keep on top as well as a more substantial dwelling nearby.
10. Blue Bell Hotel and Oak tree
N 52.53190, W -3.10634
Just down the road from here is the Blue Bell Hotel, an old drovers' pub that has been run by the same family now for eighty odd years.
Outside is an ancient oak tree, propping up two old petrol pumps (no longer in service) which are well worth a photo if you're passing by.
Carefully cross the busy A489 and after 150 metres, turn right (signposted) past Brompton Hall and back onto the dyke path.
Follow the dyke and field boundary for around a mile with Little Brompton to the west and Rockley to the east.
Cross over a stile, and across a narrow, country lane, through a wooden gate and into the next set of fields.
11. Old stone engraving - 1969
N 52.55716, W -3.12137
Keeping the dyke on your right (which is now hard to spot), follow the track for just under a mile along the field boundary to another wooden stile in the corner. On the ground is an old stone, engraved with the date 1969 although why this was done is unclear.
Heading over the stile, the dyke footpath now veers right, taking you across a cattle grid and north; all the way to Prestatyn if you kept walking.
However it was here that our journey along the Offa's Dyke Path ended and we turned left towards Montgomery.
12. Montgomery Cricket Club
N 52.55867, W -3.13155
Follow a metalled road through Lymore Park and after 700 metres you'll arrive at Montgomery Cricket Club on the right.
This is one of the oldest in Britain, dating back to the 1840s. Montgomery Cricket Club once defeated the All England team here by 62 runs, and may well have been aided by the fact that they fielded 22 players to England's 11!
Pass the cricket club and impressive duck ponds at Lymore Park and head towards Montgomery, visible in the distance.
After 400 metres turn left onto a track which joins up with the B4385 and walk in a north westerly direction into Montgomery.
Arriving in Montgomery, walk through the town and turn left at the Ivy House Cafe and walk towards the market square, past quirky Georgian and Victorian shops and houses.
Behind the town hall you'll spot the 17th century Dragon Hotel and beside it, a steep road leading up to the castle above the town.
13. End of the walk: Montgomery Castle
N 52.56317, W -3.14964
The hike up to the top of Montgomery castle is steep but definitely worth the effort. There's not much left of the castle (compared to other Welsh castles) but the panoramic views from the top are sensational.
The castle was built on a strategic outcrop of rock on the orders of Henry III in 1223 and the town of Montgomerie (named after Roger de Montgomerie) soon followed, gaining a Royal Charter in 1227.
Sadly, much of the castle was demolished in 1649 during the Civil War after Lord Edward Herbert surrendered it to the Parliamentarian forces.
This marks the end of the walk but it's a downhill journey now, back into Montgomery to find your second vehicle or phone for a taxi as there is no bus service back to Churchtown.
Take a look at photos taken during the walk along Offa's Dyke.
Follow in Derek's footsteps as he walks through stunning locations in Wales.
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