A walk through the woods with puzzles and glimpses into the past.
Distance 6 miles (9.7km)
Minimum time 3hrs 30min
Ascent/gradient 1,116ft (340m)
Level of difficulty Easy
Paths Forestry tracks, woodland paths and country lanes, 3 stiles
Landscape Afforested hillside
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 216 Welshpool & Montgomery
Start/finish SJ 39024
Dog friendliness Dogs could run free in forest
Parking Roadside parking in Forden village (B4388)
Public toilets None on route
1 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. From the Cock Hotel, take the B4388 north through Forden and turn right along the lane, signposted 'Long Mountain'. This bends left to climb uphill on what is the course of Offa's Dyke. The earthworks here are either side of the road in places and will continue through the woodland that you are about to enter.
2 Turn left when you get to the Offa's Dyke footpath sign to follow the right of two tracks. This passes the Lodge and goes into Green Wood, which is part of the expansive Leighton Estate.
3 The path, still accompanied by the earthworks of Offa's Dyke, stays parallel to the road for a while, but then swings left in Pole Plantation. Beyond this take the signposted right fork that climbs and swings right. You soon leave this for a small path on the left, which descends through the trees, in steps in the later stages, to reach another forestry track. Turn right along this to 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.
4 Ignore the path descending left but continue along the track that soon swings right to pass another pool. Beyond this a narrow path heads out of the woods to a narrow lane at the far side of the estate.
5 Turn left along the lane then climb right, along a tarmac forest road to a junction of tracks. The one on the right you will use on the return route, but on this occasion go through the left fork track alongside the spruce trees of Phillips's Gorse. Near the top end of the woods go over a stile on the left and continue alongside a hedge to the afforested knoll of Beacon Ring.
6 Retrace your footsteps to the previously-mentioned junction by Phillips's Gorse (the useful-looking bridleway marked on the OS maps doesn't exist on the ground and is impassable). Turn left along the scrub-lined grassy track that leads out to the lane running the length of Long Mountain. Turn right along the lane, which was formerly a Roman road, linking their fort Lavobrinta at Forden with one at Wroxeter. Today this quiet hedge-lined country lane will ease you back to the car.
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.
Offa's Dyke was built on the orders of Offa, an 8th-century Saxon king. Offa 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.
Even older is Beacon Ring, a single-banked circular fort, also known as Caer Digoll, that 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. Sadly, the plantation trees stop you from imagining how this place would have looked with its ramparts, wooden huts and gateways. It surely would have been a wonderful viewpoint. Today you have to be content with the view to Welshpool and the Severn, where the afternoon sun can render the river as a shiny blue serpent slithering away to the green Welsh border hills. You have to encircle the ring to the north side to get views of the distinctively-shaped Breidden Hills, that last bit of Wales bordering Shropshire.
The walk includes part of the Leighton Estatee. This place is largely the work of estate owner and wealthy 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, that fast-growing scourge of today's gardens.
The Cock Hotel at Forden serves bar meals and sandwiches except on Monday lunchtime. For something more upmarket try the 17th-century half-timbered Lion Inn and Bistro at Berriew, 5 miles (8km) south of Welshpool.
Offa's Dyke runs right through the forest and is often near your path if you look hard enough. It's especially noticeable in Green Wood.
From the Canal Yard in Welshpool you can take cruises in comfortable barges along the Montgomery Canal. It's a great way of relaxing and seeing some wildlife. The cruises can last the day or just 1½ hours if time is short. On the longer trip you can stop off at a canalside pub.