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.
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”.