Offa’s Dyke Path Stage 1: Sedbury Cliffs to Chepstow

Published 29 October 2023

Two metal fingerpost directional signs, pointing the way for the Offa's Dyke Path.
One way or the other, that’s the way to do the Offa’s Dyke Path.

Following the route of an ancient earthwork claimed to have been created on the orders of King Offa of Mercia in the 8th century, the Offa’s Dyke Path provides 177 miles of walking along the length of the England/Wales border. It’s a walk through beautiful scenery, where every day is different from the day before. In March 2023 I arrived in Wales, ready to set off for a journey in borderland.

The Offa’s Dyke Path starts a couple of miles south of the town of the Welsh town Chepstow, at Sedbury Cliffs. And it starts in England.

For some reason, I’d always had Offa’s Dyke Path down as being a Welsh path. It could be because I first encountered it in Wales.

It does pass through many Welsh towns and villages. And it has a Welsh name, Llwybr Clawdd Offa, that appears on many of the signposts.

But the reality is that this is a trail along the border between England and Wales. So, of course, the Offa’s Dyke much of its time in England. Which shouldn’t be surprising given that it was built by a kingdom whose land is now in England. If anything, it’s surprising that anyone – myself included – thinks of it being particularly Welsh.

The stone monument marking the start of the Offa's Dyke Path at Sedbury Cliffs.
The stone marking the southern terminus of the Offa’s Dyke Path at Sedbury Cliffs.

Let’s think about it as a fuzzy trail. In the blurred lines between the two. It’ll be easier that way.

The first section from Sedbury Cliffs runs to the town of Monmouth. But it’s a journey of over 17 miles. And then you have to get to Sedbury Cliffs. The nearest train station is in the town of Chepstow. That’s a two mile walk to add on. You’re looking at 19 miles on your first day. Hmm. Yeah. No thanks.

The alternative is to do what I did. Namely, arrive in Chepstow in the early afternoon. Do short circular walk from there to Sedbury Cliffs, and back to Chepstow. Do the rest the following day. It’s the best way to start things. A short sftermoon stroll. An “amuse bouche” of a walk, knocking a few miles off the next day when the walk would begin in earnest.

A section of Offa's Dyke, near Sedbury Cliffs.
The first section of Offa’s Dyke that walkers come to, not far from the start of the trail.

In many respects,Sebury Cliffs doesn’t seem like an obvious place to even start the trail. There’s limited transport links. No nearby facilities. It’s a spot near some fields, with a view of the muddy Severn Estuary. But there is rhyme to the reason, for only a short stroll away from the cliffs is the most southern section of Offa’s Dyke. Yes, the actual thing that led to the trail being created in the first place.

Now, it must be said, it’s not the most amazing thing to look at. A small earthwork, covered in yellowy wild flowers and mud in late March. Don’t think too much about it and you’d never think much of it. If you didn’t know anything about it, you may almost think it was completely natural.

This initial stretch of Dyke walking was short-lived. It’s a recurring tale throughout the whole trail. Only about half of the Offa’s Dyke Path’s mileage is spent close to the Dyke itself. At one point I’d leave the Dyke, and have to walk over fifty miles before I saw it again.

Sometimes it’s been re-routed away from it for whatever reason. But in other cases it’s because time has seen whole sections of the Dyke disappear. Demolished. Ploughed up. Whatever. These days the Dyke has legal protection, but such things are a relatively modern thing.

A field with multiple roads of houses behind it.
Approaching Sedbury on the Offa’s Dyke Path.

When the section closer to Sedbury disappeared, who knows. But the original route now lies somewhere buried beneath a housing estate. An estate that the trail sent me through now, meandering down streets, and popping down paths between houses. Over a bridge crossing the busy A48 road and the railway line heading in and out of Wales next to each other.

It was all rather much of a muchness, but such is how these things go. I confess I rather switched off. I could have walked a short stretch from the cliffs, then leapt on the bus to Chepstow. Cheating yes, but I would not have missed anything of any real importance.

Old Wye Bridge, near Chepstow on the Wales/England border.
Old Wye Bridge, leading to Chepstow and Wales.

Anyway, the next day would be better. This was only the starter. I’d had that first glimpse of Offa’s creation, and now I was eagerly waiting to see some more. I consoled myself knowing that next morning I’d head on to Monmouth, spending some quality time with the Dyke.

But that would be tomorrow. Leaving the trail, I crossed over the Old Wye Bridge, a cast iron construction that opened in 1816 that allows people to cross the River Wye. A connection with England and Wales.

My B&B lay just over the river and in a different country. An evening in Chepstow and Wales awaited me. But I’d be back in England the next morning, ready for more walking.

Chepstow Castle
Chepstow Castle – just off the Offa’s Dyke Path.

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