The second weekend of my stay here in Mitcheldean dawned with less ceremony than the first. Whereas last week we feasted on pancakes before jaunting off into the forest for a group walk, today I elected to strike off on my own. Breakfast was a sombre affair on account of Kyra’s difficulties with the dreaded National Express hotline and the resulting mood in the house was discernibly a little down.
I wasn’t particularly quick from the starting block myself and although this seemed like a perfect time to put my new toy through its paces, the process of finding a free gpx file for my planned route was quite laborious. I didn’t get under way until almost 1100, which in hindsight didn’t give me a large enough margin for error when walking from Mitcheldean to Monmouth!
According to the internet I ended at the start of the Wysis Way, which is officially marked by the Wye Bridge in Monmouth. From there it heads eastward up Kymin Hill (which I managed to miss on the first leg) and thence through the Forest of Dean predominantly until the track intersects the Wilderness Centre’s driveway some 12 miles distant. At some stages the path deviates from the forest, taking you through a couple of miles of rolling, bucolic hills and across winding country lanes that are uncommonly pretty in spring.
Beyond Monmouth the path joins up with Offa’s Dyke, and meets with the Thames path at it’s disant end in Kemble. The route that I am taking should, according to the gpx route file made available by Wikipedia, be a little over 24 miles but I managed to take a few accidental detours and wound up clocking just shy of 32 miles all things told. Quite how I managed to go so wrong in spite of having a map on the proverbial back of my hand remains a mystery to me, but I can’t follow recipes without wanting to meddle with the ingredients and I suppose the same can be said for my following directions.
Without question the largest detour I took was in the final four mile descent into Monmouth. Somehow or other I managed to veer off the Wysis way somewhere around Mailscot Wood and wound up in the bottom of the valley at about the point where I ought to have crossed the border between England and Wales, tracing the course of the Wye instead.
The Wysis Way is beautiful and I met very few people whilst walking it, but it would be a gross exaggeration to say of the signposting that it is clear. Although I knew the river would lead me to my goal eventually, I wasn’t content to continue along it’s course and made a very ill advised attempt to try and forge my way back up the hillside and onto the ‘right’ track. Naturally this wasn’t tremendously successful because the course of the river runs back towards the north again at this stage and the Wysis way peels away to the south.
I climbed up through an old quarry somewhere from Highmeadow Woods, gained a great view down over the Wye Valley with Monmouth glimmering some 2 miles distant but the attempt was utterly futile. Various enclosures had me hemmed in and I ended up taking a route back down into the bottom of the valley again that ran parallel to the river for the remaining couple of miles. It was a very scenic detour but probably added about an hour onto the journey which I was glad to cut out on the return leg!
Detours aside I would have made it back to the Centre with a little daylight remaining, but that wasn’t to be the case and I would like to apologise to those who were worried about my safety! The return trip was much quicker, fuelled by biscuits that I picked up in Monmouth, but that isn’t to say that I got home before the light fell wholly from the sky. I wound up getting back to the Wilderness Centre at 2240 with just enough twilight remaining to me to be able to guess where next to place my feet, having almost resorted to getting a torch out of my bag!
So, that concludes the first real test that I have put to my Ambit3 Peak and unfortunately I can say with certainty that I am more faulty than the machine. It did everything asked of it, but I still couldn’t hold a course without getting distracted. More dry runs are definitely required before I head too far off road, me thinks.