A few tips to avoid a miserable time on Offa’s Dyke

One of the things I have really enjoyed about the build up to Offa’s Dyke is the lovely people I have “met” on Twitter – to name but a few groups: fellow hikers and campers, locals near Offa’s Dyke, people who’s lives have been affected by Multiple Sclerosis and other foolish people who have walked Offa’s Dyke.

One of these foolish people is Pete (@Pete_Knight on Twitter) who walked Offa’s Dyke last May with some fellow Naturists for a diabetic charity – he has kindly put together the following tips on avoiding a miserable 13 days on Offa’s Dyke:

A few tips to avoid a miserable 13 days on Offa’s Dyke

  1. Get a sturdy plastic bag, big enough to get you back pack into,
    1. Put the plastic back inside the backpack as a liner, with enough neck left over to fold, or tie off with an elasticated band or bungee.
    2. Backpacks do leak, and if you do fall into open water the contents of the plastic bag will stay dry, essential if you want those dry togs after a soaking.
    3. Soiled or soggy clothes should not be put inside the plastic back, put them inside the backpack, but outside the plastic bag.
  2. Although you should only need one spare set of clothes, take 4 or 5 pairs of socks and underwear.
    1. The clothes might have to last you a few days, but you’ll need clean shreddies (Underpants) each day.
    2. Dampness will cause chaffing, change underpants or you’ll suffer.
    3. Take antiseptic ointment for sore spots and chaffing, the cream will sooth and ease chaffing.
  3. Make sure you boots are well worn in, use them every day between now and the walk, they need to be broken in.
    1. Even a 10 mile walk at the weekend won’t prepare your boots for the distances and consecutive days of walking you have ahead.
    2. Wear TWO pairs of socks, the outer pair can last for days if kept dry, the inner pair should be changed for a clean dry pair each morning. The outer pair can be thick walking socks, the inner pair thin ankle socks.
    3. Reason for two pairs of socks! The socks rub against each other, instead of your skin, which is one of the ways that blisters form.
    4. Carry plenty of plasters, the fabric strip type is best, the individual ones are too small, and the plastic types are a waste of time.
    5. Get some Compeed for your blisters, not cheap, but a life saver if you get a bad blister, especially if it bursts. Click the Compeed image for website.
  4. Clothing should be in layers,
    1. You are better off with layers that you can easily remove, or open, to let out excess body heat, then cover up if you stop for a break, or climb to exposed hilltops.
    2. Weatherproofs should be Gortex or similar breathable material, you can end up just a wet inside if body moisture can’t escape, and opening lets rain in.
    3. Be warned that the hills on the first couple of days are quite exposed; the rain comes at you horizontally, and bloody stings when it hits your face.
    4. When you need to remove the weatherproofs, you’ll need to stow them in an accessible place. I find under the top flap of the backpack is enough to contain them, but easy to get at, but make sure they are turned out sot the liner doesn’t get wet.
    5. Avoid overheating, the body produces sweat to cool, the sweat soaks into clothes and you can end damp and chilled if you’re not careful. Temperatures will go up and down throughout the day, and will vary with the terrain.
  5. Water is very important as dehydration is extremely debilitating.
    1. If you can fit a hydration pack in your backpack, then do it.
    2. Remember, if you sweat a lot due to overheating, not only will you have damp clothes, but you’ll have to replace that water.
    3. The recommended average intake of water per day is 1.2 litres, but with vigorous exercise you’ll need twice as much, depending on how much you lose, which is another reason why controlling the body temperature is very important.
    4. There are taps along the walk, mostly on someone’s property, but most people are accommodating, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
  6. Food is another obvious essential.
    1. Avoid anything to heavy and filling during the walking day, save that for the evening when you settle for the night.
    2. Energy bars are great, as are chocolate bars, but be careful of anything that causes you to need to drink more.
    3. Fresh fruit provides the natural sugars you’ll need, and fluids, so eat plenty of fruit.
    4. Salt is important, if you sweat a lot you’ll need to replace the lost salt, make sure you have some on meals, or in the processed food products, excessive desalination can make you delirious.
    5. If you’re going to cook your own food on the camp site, there are lots of instant food products available, but make sure you buy ones that need only water to reconstitute. Instant noodles have been a favourite of mine when backpacking around hostels in Australia and SE Asia.
    6. Get a good hot meal inside you at least every other day, but in the evening, a midday feast will slow you down in the afternoon.
    7. As alcohol and coffee are diuretic, I would advise against excesses of either, the last thing you need is frequent stops to pee, and it will increase your water consumption, which means having to carry more water than is necessary if you moderate your intake of alcohol and coffee.
  7. The walk itself.
    1. On the whole the walk is well sign posted, the acorn marker symbol is along most of the route, but there are a few pitfalls.
    2. The first half of the walk you’ll find the acorn etched into the wooden signs, that second half you’ll see the black metal sign, as seen below.
    3. Accompanying the acorn way marker will be directional arrows, observe the direction carefully as you cross a style.
    4. Even with directional arrows there are problems, sometimes the route can change mid field, look out for a well worn path, but avoid livestock tracks.
    5. Keep your eyes peeled for styles when walking down lanes, many are easy to miss, I know because we did, on several occasions.
    6. Make sure you have OS maps, anything else is next to useless.
    7. Study the next day’s route the evening before, or at breakfast, then again at breaks.
    8. Take plenty of breaks, mid morning, midday, and mid afternoon as a bare minimum, use these breaks to study the maps.
    9. Stop just long enough to rest, but get moving again if you’re starting to feel the cold.
    10. Follow the link on the image to see a photo of a style with directional arrow, note the angling of the arrow.
  8. Accommodation, like you I opted for low budget.
    1. I slept on the edge of a field next to the Llangollen canal, and apart from a light dew I was warm and dry, and I had the benefit of sunning myself while I waited for the others to turn up.
    2. I slept in a field near Knighton, now that was a cold night, but my forces training and ex-forces sleeping bag came in useful.
    3. I slept in the support vehicle another night, because I couldn’t find suitable cover nearby.
    4. I pitched a tent in a pub garden, one of the other walkers had a room in the pub.
    5. I stayed in the YHA hostel in Kington, it gave me chance to shower and dry my clothes out.
    6. At the end of the penultimate day I shared a B & B twin room with one of the other walkers, that was needed, the last leg was quite long, and I needed to be well rested for that.
    7. The weather for you is going to be somewhat cooler, but you’ll be in tents, which offer a layer of insulation and retains heat generated by your body, so you’ll be OK, although two or three nights in budget accommodation will seem like the ultimate in luxury.
    8. Charge you phone at your accommodation, obviously, but try to take your midday breaks at a pub, a refreshing pint helps ease the aches and pains, and you can charge you phone whilst you’re there.

Good luck, and if there is anything else I can help you with, please ask.

Thanks so much for your tips Pete, they are going to be really helpful!

8 Replies to “A few tips to avoid a miserable time on Offa’s Dyke”

  1. Ooooh the typos, why didn’t I spot those before I e-mailed it. Oh well, at least you get the idea, and I was rushed, trying to squeeze this in between other work and all……… honest!

    The walk is indeed a pleasurable experience, but cold and dampness can blind you to the joys, something I learned when the Queen made me walk for miles in places like Salisbury Plain and Dartmoor in less than hospitable conditions.

    My last day on the ODP was something of a struggle, I had blisters on my blisters, which made walking painful, but with the end in sight I wasn’t going to throw in the towel, especially after putting 158 miles in nine days behind me.

    I hope to join the walkers for at least part of the route, I’ve copied the itinerary and I’ll be following progress on Twitter, so I hope I can plan a day out that fits in with my existing commitments.

  2. I did proof read it a couple of times, but my spelling isn’t great 🙂

    I am really not looking forward to the last day – the longest by far, but apparently (other than the distance) it is quite an easy walk.

    You are more than welcome to join us at any point – we will keep everyone posted on Twitter, and there will be a live updating “Social Hiking 2.0” map – for a taster see http://www.mycountryside.org.uk/viewranger.php?date=2010-03-06.

    Your tips are really helpful – thanks again Pete!

  3. I walked it too and loved it but did sleep in B&bs which is quite a luxury. did carry all our stuff every step of the way though and agree wholeheartedly about the plastic bag! I used a builder’s bag as they are tough plastic. All I would add it not to forget large supplies of compede. it was recommended to me and in the early stages of the walk I had blisters on blisters and couldn’t have carried on without it – fantastic stuff. A very experienced mountaineer friend recommended using new socks and after the blister episode I bought some extra pairs – they were so much more comfortable than my usual socks I shall do that too when we walk in Austria this summer.
    Great article!

  4. I have never tried compede – will have to get some ready for our few days training on the Brecon Beacons next week,

    Were you recommended any particular brand/type of socks Elizabeth?

  5. A long time since anything was posted on this but I’m planning a solo walk of Offa’s Dyke ….is it possible to camp the full way? Tips taken on board about the plastic liner and Compede…..this should be fun!

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