Almost half way around ALL of Wales

The next leg of our adventure started in Chepstow with a lovely first day accompanied by friends and family. It got us off to a nice gentle start on a sunny day under the Severn Bridges with views of North Devon and the Severn Estuary finishing off in true Coastal Walker style in a pub garden.

Start of Wales Coast Path Chepstow

Start of Wales Coast Path Chepstow

Unfortunately the next few days were riddled with technology problems – lack of battery, signal, blisters, too much sun, the wrong kind of grass, rain, more blisters and intermittent signage. As a result we are running a little behind schedule so bloggage and twitterage has been an added challenge.

Moonlight Wild Camping Gower

Moonlight Wild Camping Gower

Today= day 27.  Mile count = approx 486, with  587 miles and 28 days remaining.  Sponsorship towards new outdoor ed classroom = uninspiringly and disappointingly low (£214).  After being treated to a B&B I am sitting in Pembroke waiting for my very small pile of 4 week old laundry to dry, and am looking forward to having some clean and dry socks (recommend seal skins trekking socks).

Highlights of the trip so far have been:

* visiting Arry Berresford-Webb (DragonRun 1027 ultra distance runner) at the CCW office in Cardiff

*  being welcomed to Swansea after a hard few days on the feet by John Demery with emergency beer supplies and a few days later on the Mumbles for a BBQ and homely garden to sleep in;

* the views of the Gower,

* night walking Tenby to Stackpole Quay with Liz and glow worms until 3am, just because we couldn’t find ‘the right kind of grass’ to camp on.

* the best bacon butty in Wales at the Boathouse at Stackpole Quay. I had two!

* scones at Mrs Weston’s Ye Olde Worlde Cafe in Bosherston (she was awarded an MBE from the Queen for her services to the tourism industry and scones)

Will consider writing a book about power stations and industrial highlights of the Wales Coast Path.

Stormy Day at Angle Bay

Stormy Day at Angle Bay

I will write a more detailed blog once I’m home, but for the moment you will have to follow my adventures on twitter (DragonWalk2012) as technology for blogging on the hoof is sadly failing me. I will add some pictures shortly.

Happy summer holidays!

Steve

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Mud, Sweat and the Offa’s Dyke

Well, the Offa’s Dyke section of my walk around all of Wales is now over, and I am having a rest and admin day before we set off on Saturday 21st July 2012 to walk the Wales Coast Path, back to Chester some 870 miles more.

Offa's Dyke Start

Steve & Mike at the start of the Offa’s Dyke at Prestatyn

Day 1. Prestatyn to Moel Arthur

18.3miles, 9hrs 27mins

Myself and Mike left Prestatyn on Tuesday 10th July 2012 to walk the Offa’s Dyke on the 1st leg of our 1047 miles around Wales on what as a dull but dry day. Our plan was the walk to the hill fort at Moel Arthur some 18 miles south, and overnight there before the section going up to Moel Fammau.

We did somehow miss the turning for the Offa’s but that was soon sorted and we were back on track once again.

Day 2. Moel Arthur to Trevor

The overnight rain soon cleared as we went up on to Moel Fammau and we spent most of the day in shorts and T shirts. The views revealed themselves and we had clear views over the Liverpool, the Peak District and North Wales, which we didn’t expect. We stopped at the Willow Café In Llandegla for a lovely late breakfast, before carrying on to World’s End (I’m still none the wiser as to why Worlds End is called Worlds End) above Llangollen and the days end at the Sun Inn just outside Trevor, where my folks were waiting for some well-deserved moral support.

Day 3. Trevor to Trefone

We said our good byes to the Landlord of the Sun Inn as we made our way to the Trevor Basin and the aqueduct at Pontcysyllte. The weather was sunny and warm, we had had a kit drying morning before setting off. We came across Duke of Edinburgh canoe expeditions, who were training for a bronze expedition going down the River Wye the following week. One of the 2 canoes was looking over the edge of the aqueduct to the River Dee before, were as the other canoe was planted well against the safety of the railed edge, no As the day drew on we had our way south, and the weather continued to be warm and sunny as we pulled into Chirk Castle for a late lunch. We saw the ladies that looked after the information desk and the very good farm shop. Later that afternoon the rain arrived but it was light and not too bad. We ended the day at yet another pub at Trefone, were the Landlady was kind enough to allow us to camp in the beer garden.

Day 4. Trefone to Kingston

The day dawned to the sound of rain on the tent. The trusty Mini Peak stood up well to the rain… again. As we headed south to the target of the day, Knighton, the weather thankfully improved and we had a break from the rain, but as we looked down the valley we could see heavy rain not far away. As we approached Buttington we sought refuge in yet another pub (I think it was the Green Dragon) as torrential rain fell from the skies. Pubs are doing very well out of 2012’s poor summer! Whilst in the beer garden I could see people in their camper vans peering out watching the drowned walkers around them. After the rain abated, we made our soggy way onto Knighton. We were happy to find a B&B that offered camping, although the owners were very unwelcoming and seemed to almost resent us camping on their pristine lawn, unintentionally muddying it, despite a 30year reputation.

Day 5. Kingston to Springhill

More overnight rain. Once it abated a warm and sunny day revealed itself. After leaving the quagmire (that once was a nice pristine lawn) we headed south yet again to the campsite at Springhill farm. Having met a German couple at the pub in Trefone two days previously, we had not seen hide nor hair of them since. We presumed they drowned in the downpour, or given up and gone back to Germany (with their gaitors). After pondering whether to go back for them, we decided “Nien, we must go on”! The campsite at Springhill had been voted (by us) as the best campsite so far on the Offa’s. It offered a luxury power shower and washing up area. The farmer’s wife after hearing how far we had walked, and intended to go (all the way for anyone not listening) appeared with three random cans of beer. We spent the rest of the evening on the sun loungers contented and contemplating the days ahead.

Day 6. Springhill to Knighton

After a restless night wondering where the German’s really had got to, and if anyone else had drowned in the downpours, we continued our way to the town of Knighton, accompanied by the rare sunshine, where Mike told me there was an EXCEPTIONAL pub. This turned out to be very true. I think it was called the Three Tuns, but I’m not sure as there seem to have been many so far! After what had been a very long day, ending with no space at the youth hostel, we decided that we needed a curry. Sadly for Mike, it was an alcohol free curry house, but also possibly the best curry house in Wales (well at least had the best mango chutney). That night was spent on the local Rugby pitch, located using Mike’s equally exceptional knowledge of pubs and unusual places to sleep.

Day 7. Knighton to Longtown

Rudely awoken at 6am by the local bus depot preparing the buses for the school run. We made our way into the village and sat in the market square for breakfast, much to the amusement of children (and mothers) making their way to school.  Two young lads asked if we’d slept here all night – I suspect they thought Mike may be a vagrant!! Not me of course. We continued our way to Hay-on-Wye and had lunch in a little café on a back alley, amongst hundreds of bookshops. After lunch we decided to walk to Hay Bluff and assess the weather conditions to decide whether to take the high level ridge walk to Longtown, or the safer but more boring low level road route. Unfortunately due to unseasonally high winds and the fact no sane person was up there, we opted for the longer, boring, sane persons alternative low level route which appeared to go on for miles more than it should. Arriving eventually at Longtown outdoor centre, which had the best drying room I’ve ever seen. Tents dry in 15 minutes, amazing  🙂

Day 8. Longtown to Monmouth

The day started warm and sunny for our continued trundle south to Monmouth. As we had not taken the ridge, we continued along the road to the village of Pandy. When we arrived at Pandy I was in need of the toilet and went into the Caravan Club site, only to be refused use of the toilet to be told that there was a pub around the corner. Not one to refuse the pub, we took a break and made the most of the facilities (for hot chocolate and coffee) and continued on our way. We bumped into a couple in the late afternoon who looked very miserable (no, not the Germans), who informed us that the last 5 miles of our day would be very muddy. Having seen the state of their gaitors, it didn’t look too bad.  Never were we so wrong – mud up to the tops of our boots. We wouldn’t have been surprised to find the heads of lost Offa’s Dykers in the muddy cow strewn fields. After arriving in Monmouth we discovered that the only campsite was not taking tents due to the typical British summer, and a plan had to be formulated as to where we could camp that night. We ended up wild camping in a sheltered spot behind the Naval Monument on the top of the hill behind Monmouth, in the lee of the continuing bad weather.

Day 9. Monmouth to Brockweir

After a good night’s sleep the world was slightly drier place. As the mist cleared from the valleys, we hatched a plan to walk to Brockweir and then return to Monmouth as yet another campsite in Sedbury was closed due to the typical British summer, or the wrong type of grass. We followed the river Wye, that looked more like a chocolate river, due to the previous days of heavy rain. On arriving at Brockweir the pub had closed at 2pm, and did not open until 6pm. So we made good use of the rare sunshine to dry our tents on the useful railings at the side of the road before heading to the bus and onto Monmouth, a hearty meal and company of Liz (my amazing support). Note: Buses returning to Monmouth do not stop at the bus stop next to the bridge. The correct stop for Monmouth is 500yards down the road. Luckily the local bus drivers are kind enough to direct you when waiting like a lemon on the wrong side of the road (if you’re lucky).

Day 10. Brockweir to Sedbury

After a very comfortable night in the Weatherspoons Hotel in Monmouth, we faced the final day of the Offa’s Dyke. Mike was feeling under the weather but eager to continue to the end, welcomed a later start and less mileage. We drove to Chepstow and returned to Brockweir on the bus. After passing the Abbey at Tintern the path made its way through wooded riverside paths and along the Dyke to Sedbury.  After passing through a housing estate we could see a lump of rock in the distance. This turned out to be the rather unsatisfying end of the Offa’s Dyke. We took the necessary end of walk photos and congratulated ourselves on completing the first section of our circumnavigation of Wales. 177 miles complete, 870 more to go.

Day 11. Day of Rest.

After spending the night at my sister Jane’s in Malvern (thank you Jane and Chris), the morning was taken up with washing my few (by now quite smelly) clothes and a little admin. We had a short visit to see Bob and Rose and http://www.backpackinglight.co.uk. to collect Mike’s new Mini Peak II, after seeing how durable and spacious mine was compared to his Laser Comp. We returned to Chepstow to meet Zoe and Roger, the former of whom will join me and Mike for the remaining 870 miles on her own challenge, WathWalk. Unfortunately, due to Liz’s never ending work, we missed the opportunity to meet a local coastal path blogger (Charles Hawes). We also hoped to meet the legend Arry Beresford-Webb (aka DragonRun1027) but she was too in demand with her sports physio clients to be able to make it. Hopefully I will meet both again soon along the path.

Rab Volt Jacket

Well for this walk ill be taking the new Rab Volt Jacket

Rab Volt Jacket

Here are the specs

The Volt Jacket is a lightweight waterproof jacket using Pertex Shield + fabric with stretch. The Volt is a fully featured mountain jacket that makes best use of the new incarnation of Pertex Shield+ fabrics.  The Volt features a water resistant front zip, 3 external, mesh lined pockets (that can double as vents) plus large pit zips for when you’re working really hard! The voluminous hood can be adjusted down when you aren’t using a helmet and rolled completely out of the way when not in use.

The Volt manages to squeeze this huge wish-list of features into a tiny 400g package that can be easily stowed in any pack.

RAB VOLT JACKET FEATURES

  • Helmet compatible hood with kitty roll down closure
  • YKK Aquagaurd front zip
  • Internal strom flap and rain drain
  • Double exit hem drawcord
  • 1 A line mesh lined YKK Aquaguard zipped chest pocket
  • YKK calendered pit zips
  • Velcro Cuffs
  • Medium Cut
  • Weight: 400g / 14oz

On my scales it comes in at 360g which for a jacket of this spec is brill

Week to go….

Well, with just over a week to go, im just about ready to go. I had a last minute shopping trip to Betws Y Coed and Llanberis yesterday afternoon. I got my new Rab Volt jacket from Stewart Cunninghams in Betws and a pair of Under Armour shorts in Llanberis.

Im just waiting for my new Oookworks nest to come for my Minipeak II, hopefully that will come before the end of this week.

Ive managed to get all my kit together now and its sat in a huge box by the wardrobe, but when I look at it, it doesnt seem to be much for 55 days..lol

As im being quite strict with what im taking this time, from lessons learnt on the South West Coast Path last year, and the amount of stuff that I sent home, with I rekon must have totalled around 7kg at least, so at least this time ill not be stopping at the post office to send unused kit home.

Earlier this week, Arry came to see me at school, as she was up from South Wales with work, and she had something very special for me in the boot of her car.

It was the whole of Wales 🙂 and before you start saying how could she have managed that, it’s the most biggest map of Wales ever printed. Its a 1-25000 scale OS map showing all of Wales, that was made for the opening of the Wales Coast Path.

Its around 9m x 9m and I was a bit worried that I wouldnt have anywhere big enough to unfold it. So I took it into the school sports hall and set about unfolding it, which is no mean task on you own when it weighs around 50kg.

Once it was fully open, I just stood and looked at it and thought, mmmm in a week or so ill be walking all the way around it, 2nd thought was mmmm looks bigger.

That afternoon, I let pupils come and have a look at the map, and walk over, pointing out interesting places, and showing them where ill be walking, everyone that saw the map thought it was really cool, but they also thought that im crackers for even thinking walking around Wales, but time will tell if that is true.

Wenger and Invo8

Many thanks to Wenger & Inov8 for their kind donations to the Dragon Walk 2012.

Wenger have donated a EvoGrip 14 Pen Knife and Invo8 have donated a pair of their Debri Gaiters for my GTX-400’s.

Wengers website

Inov8 Website

Wenger EvoGrip 14 Penknife & Invo8 Debrigaiter

Maui Jim Volcano Sunglasses

Many thanks to Maui Jim for their kind donation of a pair of their Volcano sunglasses.

Have a look at their website Maui Jim Sunglasses

image

The Outdoors Station Wales Coast path podcast

The Outdoors Station has done a podcast featuring the new Wales Coast path.

It has interviews with both Arry & Dave, which is great 🙂

Listern to it here The Outdoors Station

2 More facts about my walk

its 5,507,423 ft or 1,678,662m long 🙂

Useful Stats

Well here are a few useful stats about my walk this summer

Height Gain 129798ft
Height Loss 129784ft
Real Length 1047 Miles
Average Height 1145ft
Maximum Height 2001ft
Mumimim Height -10.9ft (thats a bit worrying)

New Route

Well I now have a rough new route worked out 🙂 some of the distances are a little out because of problems with gpx file’s and kml files showing different lengths, but will work on that in due course.

Have a look https://dragonwalk2012.wordpress.com/dragon-walk-route/