Review: Offa’s Dyke Trailblazer Guide 3rd Edn

odpguide I walked part of Offa’s Dyke Path in 2007 – the three days that I managed are recounted here. Anyone who’s read this will remember that I didn’t enjoy the walk very much (to say the least), but I do plan to walk it again, in full, at some point in the future. So I was quite pleased to receive a review copy of the following in the post. Please note I’m reviewing the book, not the walk here!

Trailblazer have released a new edition of their Offa’s Dyke Guidebook, to coincide with the path’s 40th Birthday – being celebrated by Monmouthshire County Council on 23rd September in Chepstow – the end/start of the path.

This third edition has been re-walked and re-worked by Keith Carter, and should be available in the shops from the 20th September onwards. The book retails at £11.99, but will probably be discounted on places like Amazon. Make sure you look out for the 3rd Edition star in the bottom right hand corner, or you could end up buying the old edition.

The guide weighs in at 297g, which isn’t lightweight in any way, but as anyone who is familiar with Trailblazer guides will know, they use good quality, heavy grain paper that won’t dissolve like tissue paper and they are remarkably sturdy and won’t fall to bits the first time you bend the spine.

This is a traditional Trailblazer guide in every way – there are a minimum of colour pages – just a few interspersed through the book for detailing flora and fauna and one or two scenery shots. But I’m a big believer in keeping things simple and by reducing the colour to a minimum, Trailblazer are able to pack so much more detail in here for the much less than the price of the National Trail guide for example.

As with all recent Trailblazer releases, there are GPS waypoints and a supporting website that will keep readers up to date with any changes to the book or the route subsequent to publishing. At the time of writing this review the update page relates to the 2nd Edition, but this will be changed after publication.

The real problem with the Offa’s Dyke Path is the lack of a cost effective baggage courier along the route. There are plenty of companies who will arrange the whole holiday for you, but only one company that does baggage transfer and that charges about £30 per day – probably more expensive than your accommodation. The Trailblazer guide walks you through the alternatives, from using taxis, to recruiting the help of B&B owners through to offering advice on how to effectively carry all your own gear. This is advice I could have done with when I walked the path in 2007 – it would have made a big difference.

All the usual planning and preparation are included in the guide – all updated for 2011. A number of alternative walking itineraries are included too, so you should be able to find a pace to suit yourself.

I’ve saved the best to last of course – the maps. I’ve reviewed a few Trailblazer guides now and the maps are a joy to behold – I’d love to meet the person who does them – they’re a true artist. The detail is perfect – all the detail you need close to the path and none of the fluff that surrounds it. Compare these to the National Trail guide – which uses OS 1:25k scale mapping and the difference is startling – even at 1:25k scale the route is often hard to follow. There are so many changes of direction, fields to cross, sunken lanes, wooded tracks, but the Trailblazer maps show them all clearly. There are something like 600-700 stiles on the path, which shows how many field boundaries you are going to cross. I for one would take the Trailblazer maps any day, over the OS version.

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Offa’s Dyke climbs up the face of Hay Bluff, just outside Hay-on-Wye – and, interestingly, is one of the opening locations in “American Werewolf in London”.

lonewalker

Fell-walker, trig-pointer, peak-bagger, Wainwright-er & Pennine Way author, with a passion for long paths, malt whisky, fast cars & Man City

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7 Responses

  1. lonewalker says:

    I have just uploaded a full GPX track (running from North to South) to my website, for anyone else who needs the accurate track for their GPS. You can download it from this link:

    http://www.lonewalker.walkingplaces.co.uk/files/Offas_Dyke_Full_Track.gpx

    I would recommend right clicking the link and saving the file to your computer – a left click will probably open the file in your browser’s text viewer.

    Please contact me if you have any questions about this file.

  2. lonewalker says:

    Donovan – I have a full set of waypoints in a GPX file from when I was planning to walk the route a couple of years ago. Happy to share these, if you email me I will reply with the GPX file. Send me an email at stuart at walkingplaces.co.uk (just replace the at with an @ – spam avoidance)

  3. Donovan says:

    Hi Stuart — thanks for your great review. I have purchased this book (influenced by your review), and I’ll be walking/jogging the ODP starting next weekend. Unfortunately, I went to download the GPS waypoints advertised, and could not find them anywhere on the publisher’s site (as instructed in the book, and as linked from your review above). Even worse — I then entered all the waypoints as published in the book by hand, and converted them to a GPX file. After doing so, I realised that every single waypoint is off by hundreds of meters, in varying directions (so no consistent error that could be uniformly corrected). I’ve triple-checked the waypoints, but they simply are not on the path as described. Any chance you have any inside scoop on this, or any strings with the publisher you might be able to pull? I have sent them an email myself, but thought it would be worth checking if you had any insight as well? Thanks ever so much — and the book is still fantastic, in spite of the errant data.

  4. lonewalker says:

    Very good point – there are one or two journals on the web, but they aren’t that recent. The latest one I could find is George Tod’s diary from 2010 (http://www.gtleisure.co.uk/walks/cw10/cmbway10a.htm). He also walked it in 2000, so you can compare and contrast the two accounts.

  5. Tim says:

    The Cambraian Way looks like an excellent high-level and challenging walk. Just the kind of walk I had in mind when thinking of Wales. Tony Drake’s website is very informative but I am curious to know if there are any recent accounts of walking the Way. It looks tough and I would want to ensure I am up to the challenge before committing to it or trying to convince others to join me.

  6. lonewalker says:

    Tim – agree completely – you’re coming a long way to walk in the UK and there are plenty of walks you can do before you need to walk Offa’s – there’s so much good walking in Wales too – the Cambrian Way looks much more interesting for example.

  7. Tim says:

    Sturat. Enjoyed your review. Must say I have never been seriously tempted to walk the Offa’s Dyke Path, despite the strong appeal of walking in Wales. Perhaps I have been unduly influenced by the assessment of others, but there seems to be a good number of LD walkers who have been “under impressed” with the OD. Couldn’t agree more with your appraisal of the overall quality of the Trailblazer guides. I used Tralblazer for our Pennine Way walk back in April. While we were well supplied with digital mappping resources (thanks to a generousity of a certain member of the walking fraternity) the guide proved very useful (accurate and up to date) when most needed. The maps are indeed a “joy to behold”. The Trailblazer team are to be commended. Tim

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