The Offa’s Dyke Path, on the border between Wales and England, is one of the most beautiful and diverse long-distance footpaths in Britain. This year, the path celebrates its 50th anniversary with the unique art project “Walking with Offa”.
The story of King Offa goes back a long way. To separate his kingdom of Mercia, today central England, from rival Wales, King Offa had built a huge 18 m high earthwork (dyke) as a border to the Welsh Celts in the mid-8th century. More than 1200 years later, Offa’s Dyke is still the longest ancient monument in the United Kingdom.
Along the historic boundary, the 285-kilometre Offa’s Dyke Path (in Welsh: Llwybr Clawdd Offa) was created in the late 1960s and opened as a National Trail on 10 July 1971. To mark its 50th anniversary this summer, the Offa’s Dyke Association and Centre, together with Welsh artist Dan Llywelyn Hall, has launched an unusual art project.
Under the motto “Walking with Offa”, the artist walks the entire long-distance footpath, accompanied by guides or locals, to hear their stories and to and capture the varied landscape on canvas. “The dyke has allowed Wales to retain its language, culture and identity, which is what fascinates me most about this monument,” says Hall. The more than 50 works will then be on display at an exhibition to coincide with the re-opening of the restored Offa’s Dyke Centre in Knighton, Powys, on 10 July 2021. Furthermore, in addition to the release of over 20 new walking tours by National Trails, more activities are planned for the summer.
The scenic Offa’s Dyke Path winds along the boundary line – some 128 km of it on the remains of the former dyke – from coast to coast, between Prestatyn in the north on the Irish Sea, to Sedbury Cliffs south of Chepstow, at the estuary of the River Severn. In its total length, it runs through eight counties and crosses the border between the two countries more than twenty times.
The landscapes of the borderlands are as spectacular as they are diverting: from the stunning Black Mountains in the Brecon Beacons National Park to historic market towns, idyllic valleys and forests, past centuries-old castles, monastic ruins and over lonely, heather-covered ridges where sheep and ponies graze. About a third of the route passes through “Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty” – through the picturesque Wye Valley, across the Clwydian Range and the Dee Valley in the north.
Walkers can complete the entire Offa’s Dyke Path in about fourteen days, or in sections. There are twelve “stamping posts” along the route, and a corresponding walking pass can be obtained from the Offa’s Dyke Association. “The proceeds from the sale of the passes (£5) support conservation projects that help to sustainably protect the Trail and the Dyke for future generations,” says Rob Dingle, National Trail Officer.
Further information can be found at www.offasdyke.org.uk
Image: Rhos-y-Meirch, south of Knighton, Radnorshire © Crown Copyright (2021) Visit Wales