Standing in the centre of Welshpool, The Royal Oak was once the manor house for the Earl of…
The 5-mile (8km) Long Mountain ridge looks down on the plains of England and the snaking valley of the Severn. It’s not a shapely ridge but does have miles of fascinating woodland footpaths and airy views of the green fields of England and the rolling hills of Wales. Although the route directions here may sound a little complex, the route-finding is simple, for here the Offa’s Dyke National Trail markers will guide you all the way to the Beacon Ring at the top of the mountain. Quiet lanes lead you back to the village of Forden.
Offa, an 8th-century Saxon king, was having trouble with the Celtic warlords from Wales, who had for centuries been making forays into the Marches. His solution was a boundary, the Dyke, which would run the length of the border from Chepstow to the Flintshire coast. The earthworks here are either side of the road in places, and will continue through the woodland that you are about to enter.
These woods are largely the work of estate owner and Liverpool banker John Naylor who, in the 1850s, built a great Gothic mansion with ornate gardens. These he surrounded with the fine woodland you see today, and included a grove of giant redwoods and monkey puzzles, some of which you’ll see en route. Perhaps one the most notable things to come from the Leighton Estate was an accident of nature. It happened here in 1888 when the cones of Nootka cypress were fertilised by pollen from Monterey cypress, two species that would never have co-existed in the wild. What resulted was the Cupressocyparis leylandii, a fast-growing scourge of modern gardens.
The single-banked circular fort known as Caer Digoll belongs to the Iron Age, about 2,500 years ago. A round barrow, built to cover a burial, pre-dates the fort by about a thousand years taking it back to the Bronze Age. The plantation trees make it harder to imagine how this place would have looked with its ramparts, wooden huts and gateways. Today you have to be content with the view to Welshpool and the Severn. You can circle the ring’s westward flank, but the view north is hidden by the Cwm Dingle Plantation.
From The Cock Hotel, take the B4388 (directly opposite, signed to Leighton) north through Forden, turning off at the edge of the village along a lane on the right, signed to Trelystan and Long Mountain. The lane bends left beyond the houses to climb uphill on what is the course of Offa’s Dyke. It is also the point at which you join the Offa’s Dyke Path.
Turn left when you get to the green Offa’s Dyke Path sign to follow the right of two tracks. This passes the lodge house and goes into Green Wood, which is part of the expansive Leighton Estate. The path, still following the line of Offa’s Dyke, climbs steadily on the forest track. At a junction bear left. The track levels now as you pass through Pole Plantation.
Just before the track begins to descend, take the signposted path on the right. You soon leave this path for a smaller path on the left, which crosses the earthworks and swings right. A little further on the path descends through the trees, down steps in the later stages, to reach another forestry track. Turn right along this to soon pass around the tree-filled hollow and a tall brick retaining wall that are the remains of Offa’s Pool, part of an elaborate water system that provided power for the estate’s farm machinery.
Fork left over a bridge, but then ignore a descending path on the left and continue ahead to reach a dark pool. Bear off right on a narrower path beside the pool, which leads out of the woods to a lane at the far side of the estate. Turn left along the lane.
Opposite a farm, turn right along a tarmac forest road and follow this to reach a junction of tracks. The one on the right will be used on the return route. To visit the hill-fort and viewpoint of Beacon Ring, go through a bridlegate ahead and climb at the field edge beside Phillip’s Gorse. At the top of the field, go left through another gate, leaving the top corner of the wood by a gate. Follow the ongoing fence, first on one side and then the other, to the afforested knoll of Beacon Ring and the hill-fort of Caer Digoll. Retrace your steps back to the forest road and turn left to continue eastward.
Turn right along the lane, a former Roman road, linking their fort, Lavobrinta, at Forden with one at Wroxeter. Keep ahead at a crossroads, the quiet hedge-lined lane easing back to Forden to complete the walk.
Forestry tracks, woodland paths and country lanes
Forested hillside, quiet lanes
Dogs can run free in the forest
OS Explorer 216 Welshpool & Montgomery
Roadside parking in Forden village (off the main road on B4388)
None on route
WALKING IN SAFETY
Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.
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About the area
The largest unitary authority in Wales, Powys covers an area of approximately 2,000 square miles. Much of that is mountainous because it actually has the lowest population density of all the Welsh counties.
This much wild, empty space is perhaps best typified by the International Dark Sky Reserve in the Brecon Beacons National Park, one of only eleven in the world. The absence of light pollution creates an exceptional spot for star gazing. You won’t find any cities in Powys, just villages and smaller-sized towns, but that’s the way its inhabitants like it.
Newtown, the largest settlement, is perhaps most famous for being the birthplace of Robert Owen, the founder of the Co-operative movement. Brecon is a market town set on the edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park, while the pretty Victorian spa town of Llandrindod Wells boasts the National Cycle Collection. Elsewhere, Hay-on-Wye hosts a major literary festival every year.
Powys is liberally scattered with castles, burial mounds, hill forts, and other historic markers; Powis Castle, near Welshpool is probably one of the most impressive. And for walking enthusiasts, it’s not just the Brecon Beacons on offer – the Elan Valley describes itself as the ‘Welsh Lake District’.
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