I must apologise South Wales. Trying to summarise over 350 miles of coastal walking into one blog is impossible. I will say that it was one of the most enjoyable and sociable parts of my walk around the coastline of Britain.
St Davids, the smallest city in Britain was stunning with a magnificent cathedral and a dreamy beach called Whitesands Bay. Moving east along along the rugged coastline, I came to the gorgeous St Brides Bay with one of my favourite places in Wales – Newgale. The weather that day was gloomy but the bay still took my breath away.
The beast from the east met with Storm Emma to try to blow me out of Wales with icy winds and eventually South West Wales got its fair share of snow too. Pembroke castle looked immense but the bitterly cold wind was making taking photos very hard to do.
The snow fell as I walked around the Castlemartin peninsula. It not only made the walking difficult but the logistics too. Many of the buses that would get me to the day’s start line were re-routed due to roads being impassable and I had a lot of fun with the drivers who did make it through.
Tenby was a place I was looking forward to going to. I had dreamt of the long sandy walk approaching from the west in bright sunshine with St Catherine’s Island looking glorious perched on the golden sand. I walked in heavy rain with a cold wind coming in off the sea. My head was down and so were my spirits that day. I was looking forward to mooching around the town after the walk but I literally walked straight up to my car and drove back to the Travelodge. Oh well, looks like I will have to have a summer holiday in Tenby after the walk.
Camarthen Bay was mostly flat and made up of a few walks to get around the River Towy. Once back on the coastline I was treated to a superb walk along Pembury Beach. Miles of gorgeous sand and luckily for me, it was warm and sunny. I was met by Jayne, BHF Fundraising Mgr for the area at Llanelli at the end of the walk that day and we chatted over a nice cuppa tea. Looking out from the cafe, I could see the Pembury sands to my right and up next, the start of the Gower Penisula to my left.
I had some sad and shocking news the following day. My neice who was in her twenties, had died in her sleep at home with my sister and Brother In Law. Stephanie was “chaos on legs” as her Dad Paul had once described her. She was a so gifted with many many talents and a razor sharp sense of humour. I had to go home. I wanted to see my sister Fiona and Paul and the rest of the family. I thought a lot about Steph on the walk. We had been emailing each other and for her not be around any more didn’t make sense. At times, the walk made no sense to me. Within a few months I had lost my neice and a good friend, Gilly. The world of visiting relatives and friends, chatting to them, popping in for a cuppa was not my world. My world had become the walk – meeting strangers, chatting to strangers then saying goodbye to strangers, What about my friends and my family? I felt rotten for a long while.
Steph’s funeral was a month later as they took quite a long time to release the body, After the funeral, people were congratulating me on the walk and how far I had come and I must admit, this helped a lot. That evening, I read Steph’s last email to me. I remeber receiving it on a beautiful stretch of sand and hearing her voice reading it back to me, took me to that beach.
“I am really proud of you, Mad Uncle Kieran” it finished.
I needed to get back out there and finish the walk.
The much talked about, Gower Peninsular was next and I was afraid that my expectations might be too high but it live up to the hype. Rhosilli beach in the sunshine – you can’t beat it. The picture is of me at Port Eynon bay. Caswell bay was another huge beach that was a pleasure to walk along. Just before reaching the mumbles I sat in silence on a bench and listened to the sea. I prepared myself for the noise of Swansea Bay having spent a wonderful week with Sylvi exploring the Gower.
Swansea & Port Talbot were, as I thought, loud. Swansea was hosting Radio 1’s Big Weekend and the train journey that morning was filled with teenagers spraying glitter all over the carriages. I didn’t partake in the glitter frenzy. My face is usually covered in sand by the end of each day so I feel I do my bit for face painting.
Have you ever heard of Captain Beany? He runs the worlds best (and possibly only) Baked Bean museum. Famous for sitting in a bath of beans for 100 hours in the 1980’s, the captain has kept baked bean appreciation alive all these years. I visited his museum where the Captain greeted me in a bright Orange suit with matching backed bean socks. The museum is decked out, top to bottom with Baked bean merchandise and memorabilia. It was a fun afternoon and I thoroughly recommend a visit. Whilst there we came up with a fundraising idea of the coastal walker being “beantised” on Aberavon seafront.
Now, I admit that I was caught up with his enthusiasm for beans and said yes immediately, however as the morning of my route through Aberavon, I started to regret the decision.
Jayne, BHF Fundraising Mgr for the area met me and told me that it was all still on but that Captain Beany didn’t have any beans – could we go to the Spar around the corner
“How can Captain Beany have no Beans?” I exclaimed, secretly hoping it will be called off.
Howeverm the “Beantisement” went ahead with dog walkers, joggers and ramblers looking on in bewilderment. “Francos” restaurant on the front allowed me to clean up afterwards, though I didn’t do a good job as I was finding beans on me all day long. (I won’t tell you exactly where)
After the madness of Port Talbot, I moved quickly on towards Barry Island. As an Essex boy who lived in Billericay, the TV show Gavin and Stacey is very dear to me. The Essex side of the characters were scripted and acted superbly and I was interested to see how Barry Island measured up. I met Jody, Rhodri and Adam from BHF Cymru at the famous Marco’s ice cream parlour for my walk into Cardiff. We were guided around Barry Island to Jackson Bay by Jo from BHF who had to leave us but pointed us in the direction of Cardiff as she left. We had a fun time walking into Cardiff and had a lunch stop at the lovely Penarth Pier.
After Cardiff, the walk mostly went along a sea wall with England appearing on my right across the Bristol Channel. At Caldicot I got my first views of the Severn Bridge and the following day reached Chepstow and the end of the Wales coast path.
My cousin Anna and her children Rachel and Edward joined Sylvi and I for the short walk across the Severn Bridge. I was sad to leave Wales. A lot had happened during my stint in Wales and I had thoroughly enjoyed the varied nature of the Wales coast path.
On my first day in England, I was joined by Jane Turner at Portishead marina. The walk had been quite dull through Avonmouth but was brightened up by Portishead marina, a coffee and a chat.
Clevedon, Weston Super Mare followed and I am currently at Burnham on Sea building myself up for the next challenge.
The spectacular but physically demanding South West coast path. 630 miles with the equivalent height gain of 4 Mt Everests!! How are you thighs Kieran? Dreading it lol
I have now raised £10,000 for British Heart Foundation research. My target of £20,000 might be in reach with just over 1000 miles to go. Thank you for all that have sponsored me. Please keep sharing and re-tweeting.