The Solitary Rambler

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Filmed November 2005 using photographs taken in 1990
Post-production completed 30th October 2006
Latest revised edition 12th February 2016
Running time 47 minutes
Whilst I was growing up in  Chepstow  in  Monmouthshire  I always had an ambition to one day walk the entire length of a long distance footpath, which started near to where I lived.  In 1990 I finally fulfilled that ambition.  15 years after completing the walk I read a diary I wrote during the two weeks I walked along the whole stretch of this 176 mile waymarked route known as “ Offa's Dyke Path ”.....
The film consists of photographs taken along the entire stretch of  Offa's Dyke Path  with new linking material filmed inside my house in Matlock .  The map shows the locations of the guest houses I used when I walked Offa's Dyke Path in 1990.
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Background and production details
It was  Offa's Dyke Path  that first got me into my hobby of walking at a very young age.  The long distance path started near my childhood town of  Chepstow , and so I walked little bits of the first few miles of it every now and again when I was about 10 or 11 years old.  I was fascinated by the arrows and acorn symbols, which were the standard waymark signs for a long distance route in the UK, and so I loved the excitement of where the waymarks were leading me.  I knew that one day I would walk the whole length of Offa’s Dyke Path.

As with nearly all places I visited at a very young age I came up with a tune in my head whilst doing the walk.  I can remember seeing a sign at a particular location on the route that read “Offa’s Dyke Footpath”.  I sang the words on that sign in my head, and then of course in a short time that turned into a song!  So I found myself singing “Offa’s Dyke Footpath, Offa’s Dyke Footpath.....” whilst walking along the route!  I simply called my song “Offa’s Dyke Path” and the main part of the song just consisted of me repeating those three words over and over again.  I like to think I would write better and more varied lyrics today, but I was only 10 or 11 years old at the time!  “Offa’s Dyke Path” was also one of the very earliest songs I ever composed, and I think it was one of the most pleasant.

So for me, making a film about Offa’s Dyke Path was absolutely essential, if not the most important “Solitary Rambler” story I would ever produce.  I had one major problem though, how on earth was I going to film it?  When I walked the 176 mile path in 1990 it took me two weeks to complete, so how long would it take me to go out and film the entire stretch of the route?  Apart from the time factor there was also the cost of travelling, accommodation, etc, to consider, so the idea of actually making this story seemed that it would forever remain just an idea.

However, I had taken a large number of photographs along the path when I walked it in 1990, so I thought that I could perhaps use them to create a kind of slideshow.  I wasn’t sure how it would work, but I thought it was probably going to be the only way a film about Offa’s Dyke Path would ever get made.  I also remembered that I had written a daily diary of the walk, which I still had in my possession, so I could use that as linking narration for the slideshow.

So with this in mind I scanned in all the photos I had taken along the route.  Later on I decided that the best course of action for the linking narration would be to probably film myself reading out loud the diary I had written, so that’s what I did.  This is also the first time in a “Solitary Rambler” story that I talk directly to the camera.

The next stage would be the editing, which includes the most important aspect of this film, the music.  It was essential that I somehow incorporate my song “Offa’s Dyke Path” into the story, or as far as I was concerned there would be no point making this film.  I was unsure about recording the song and singing the lyrics as today it seems a little silly, so I thought the best thing would be to just record instrumental versions of the songs.  However, singing the song was such a crucial part of my childhood when I used to walk those first few miles of Offa’s Dyke Path around Chepstow, so I therefore decided I had to record it with the lyrics!

I ended up recording several segments of the song with the lyrics as well as instrumental versions.  I also remembered how much of a kick I got (and still get) when “ Confrontations in Cannop ” was first watched by people and how the tune “Melody of the Forest of Dean” became so well known, which incidentally I also originally composed around the same time I composed “Offa’s Dyke Path”.  “Melody of the Forest of Dean” was so instantly recognised and many people would sing it whilst watching “Confrontations in Cannop”, so similarly for “Mound of Mercia” I wanted people to recognise my song “Offa’s Dyke Path”.  I want everybody to be singing “Offa’s Dyke Footpath, Offa’s Dyke Footpath, etc” when people watch this story!!

Revised edition
“Mound of Mercia” was a tricky one to tackle when I came to re-editing it in February 2016. The original 2007 version was not great, but it was never going to be due to the style in which the video was made. However, I now had the chance to try to make an improved version.
Firstly I decided to rescan all the photographs and enhance them with Picasa software. They look considerably better as a result and have a higher resolution than the original scanned photos.
Secondly I needed to cut down the length of the film. The original version ran for 67 minutes, much too long. During re-editing I cut down many of the scenes of me reading my notes, so the new version is 47 minutes, a much more acceptable length in my opinion.
This re-edit really is a “remastered” version due to the higher resolution of the rescanned photographs as well as the improved sound now that I had the original Hi8 footage digitized with full stereo sound.
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