Tree hunter finishes 13 year Offa's Dyke nature walk

Published
Image source, Rob McBride
Image caption,
Mr McBride finished the venture dressed as Garry Hogg, an author, who walked the route in 1945-46

A "tree hunter" who has been recording ancient trees along the English and Welsh border has completed a trail he started 13 years ago to the day.

Rob McBride, from Ellesmere in Shropshire, has been walking the 177 mile (285km) Offa's Dyke path, logging hundreds of trees, since 23 April 2008.

Joking about the end of his journey he said: "I must be a slow walker".

The project will be recorded in his forthcoming publication The Great Trees of Offa's Dyke.

Mr McBride, a former software engineer, initially thought it would only take a few weeks to complete the project, during which he has been recording trees for the Woodland Trust on the Ancient Tree Inventory.

He said the oldest tree he has recorded was a yew at Discoed churchyard, close to the Dyke, which was between 2,500 to 3,000 years old, while the largest tree was the Buttington Oak at 11m across, which sadly fell in 2018.

Image source, Rob McBride
Image caption,
Garry Hogg wrote about his walk along the route 75 years ago in And Far Away
Image source, Rob McBride
Image caption,
Mr McBride said today was a "landmark" as he completed the 13-year walk

The Offa's Dyke path links Sedbury Cliffs near Chepstow with the coastal town of Prestatyn, crossing the border between England and Wales over 20 times.

"Today is a landmark for me for sure," Mr McBride said.

"I would guess I have recorded somewhere between 500 and 1,000 trees, because I still have quite a few to record on the website."

Reflecting on his journey he said: "Some of the sights are just 'wow'. There are incredible trees, some of the oldest trees are around about 3,000-years-old."

Image caption,
Mr McBride was greeted by children at Offa's Mead Academy in Chepstow

Shortly before reaching the end of the route, Mr McBride stopped at Offa's Mead Academy in Chepstow where he gave a short talk about his adventures to pupils.

"It's been amazing, the kids all lined up alongside the route, along the road, it was quite emotional really," he said.

Mr McBride finished the venture dressed as Garry Hogg, a journalist-turned-author, who walked the route in 1945-46, wearing a trilby hat, with a pipe and tweed jacket.

Mr McBride's passion for trees started after a mental breakdown, when serious anxiety forced him to end his IT career.

Image source, Rob McBride
Image caption,
The Oak at the Gate of the Dead is found near Chirk Castle in Wales

After "being prescribed fresh air and exercise", he started attending meetings with "tree professors" who taught him how to identify ancient trees.

Over the years he has walked, cycled, camped and hitch-hiked, spending days away from home at a time to catalogue his finds.

Mr McBride said his favourite tree along the route was the Oak at the Gate of the Dead, near Chirk, Wrexham, which he named in 2006, and is the "last living witness" to the Battle of Crogen in 1165.

He joked that now he has finished the trail, he just needs to finish the book, before starting on his next adventure.

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