I'd moaned a bit in my previous blog posts about my Offa's Dyke walk. Blisters and heavy rucksack mainly. No moaning on day 13 though - not at least until the very end. I took a hearty breakfast in Chirk and strolled out in to the bright morning sunlight. Past the polling stations secure in the knowledge that I had a trusted friend back in London casting a proxy vote for me.
Signs indicating Wrexham/Wrecsam gave me a sense of satisfaction of just how much ground I'd covered on Offa's Dyke in total and how I was now up north. It's here that Offa's Dyke path, which I'm following (loosely), and Offa's Dyke, the historical frontier between England and Wales, go their separate ways. My route took me along the Llangollen canal. Part of the trek I'd been looking forward to for various reasons. Not least because Ben (who was becoming my man on the ground) had been promising me great things. It wasn't to disappoint.
It was flat. My blisters were gone. The views across to Cefn viaduct were pretty - though soon to be eclipsed.
Canal boats were lined up and going nowhere and up ahead I could make out a pair of flippers sticking out of the canal. And a breathing pipe. There were two police frogmen in the water. Curiosity got the better of my natural timidity so I enquired as to why. There'd been a recent murder, apparently, and they were searching for evidence.
Not long after this I caught my first glimpse of the Pontcysyllte aqueduct. Built by Thomas Telford and opened in 1805 it carries the Llangollen canal over the River Dee. I'm not particularly scared of heights but I spoke to a few people who were scared to walk across it. Those jogging over clearly had no such worries. The views across the Dee valley are amazing. Fucking awesome. Sent a chill up my back. You can probably tell I liked it by the amount of snaps I took.
Sadly when I reached the other side the railings were festooned with flowers. A kid had gone over the side recently and tributes were plentiful.
A narrow boat named A Tad Adrift passed by and I thought that's what I am without my fellow TADS. Then the Tipsy Toad passed. Another name that would be quite apt. The Tad in Tadley, historically, coming from the word toad.
A Mancunian chap out with his dog shook my hand. He introduced himself as Peter and his dog as Poppy. This was quite amusing as two of my best friends have twin children named Peter and Poppy. Further coincidence came when, a moment or so later, a boat named Eirlys passed by. Eirlys being another of my friends' childrens' names.
I chatted with Peter (a friendly guy with a friendly dog) about my life, his life, and life in general, and promised to send him this blog when it was written. Then I popped over to the Telford Inn for a pint of Llangollen Bitter in the mid-day sunshine.
Sat in the beer garden I heard the line uttered 'do you like pork pies, Malcolm?' which amused me not a little. I also heard someone call the narrowboats longboats. The young lady from behind the bar popped out for a chat. She said she hadn't voted on the EU referendum yet but would probably vote to Leave because she didn't want 'our money', I assume she meant the pound, taken away and if they tried to do that she'd go and live in the forest and eat berries. I tried to explain that wasn't what we were voting on. To what affect I'll never know.
I walked along the canal once more. I stopped for a Cwrw Maddog and a bag of Quavers in The Sun at Trevor and then returned canalside.
Several times the stunning views across the Dee valley stopped me in my tracks. They may get a lot of rain round these parts but when it's not raining, my, it's verdant.
Many of the benches along this stretch contained memorials to folks who'd, in their lifetimes, loved it so much. Unusually, and dramatically, on the opposite side to the towpath the rockface plunged vertically into the water.
I was so glad I stopped in Llangollen. A touristy little town with flags across the bridge celebrating the Eisteddfod. Beneath the bridge the Dee cutting a wild swathe through the centre. It's great when town centre rivers aren't overmanaged and this was the best example of that I've yet seen in this country.
I had a cup of tea and some cheesy chips in The Deeside Cafe, just missing out on an outside table with a magnificent vantage point.
Then I checked in to The Bridge Hotel and met my friend Michelle for a couple more drinks. I knew she lived in the area but I had no idea just how close. It was lovely to see her (and, the next day, meet her baby Evie) and have a proper catch up. You meet lots of friendly, a few not so, people along the way but when you meet people you've known for over a decade there's just more to talk about. We ended up getting takeaway pizza and eating on the street. It felt like a proper holiday.
Then I went back to my hotel and put the telly on. The first results of the EU referendum were coming through and they weren't looking good. I stayed up, hoping for something positive, until 2am. Bad news followed bad news. By 2am a smug UKIP twat appeared beaming on my screen and I turned the set off. The news hadn't improved by morning and it took over a week for my mood to.
I wouldn't want to leave this leg of my journey on such a sour note though so I'll leave it with a big thankyou to all the people I've met along the way so far, and those I've yet to meet, who've confirmed to me that that which unites us is always stronger than that which divides us.
See you next year ODP!