Civilisation has brought many challenges to many people. For us, as we left the wilds of the Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire coastlines behind us, our challenge as walkers was to seek out the path less trodden, places to pitch our tent. Not always easy as we hit the South Wales coast heading for Cardiff.
Sometimes, life can be less exciting than we would like it to be. The day to day can be tedious, but nevertheless needs to be got through to move forward, to reach the next stage. So it was with some aspects of the walk. After the stunning weather and breath-taking scenery of the Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire coastlines and the Gower Peninsula, we headed towards the South Wales coast
It rained in 3 Cliffs Bay. The first few drops were glorious – bouncing on the parched earth, bringing a touch of fresh to the atmosphere. We revelled in it, took enormous excitement from burrowing to the bottom of our packs to find wet weather gear for the first time since leaving Cardigan. The first precipitation brought with it a sense of change which was reflected in the path that we now trod towards Cardiff and a rendezvous with my sister and her partner and dog.
3 hours later, there was less excitement about the persistent drizzle. Heading for Mumbles, our next stop as we left the Gower peninsula, the rain dampened our spirits and we became increasingly dismayed to find nowhere to camp. In fact, the thought of putting up a tent was one we relished less and less as we approached the outskirts of the settlement and found nowhere to tuck the tent away. Wet, knackered, and a little despondent, it was perhaps the first time we craved a roof over our heads. £50 bought us a dismal room in a dismal pub – the view of the bins a far cry from the sweeping coastal scenery of the previous weeks. Making the best of it, I set about washing our gear in the tiny sink in the hope that we would get it dry for the morning. Alex assumed hunter gatherer role and headed out to secure a bed picnic for the evening’s entertainment. For all that we weren’t out in the wild, there was a proper shower, and a proper bed – always something to be grateful for!
Echoes of the past at Llantwit Major
Camping at Llantwit Major, further along the coast, I had a real sense of tapping back into family roots at Llantwit Major. My grandfather, growing up near Pontypridd in the Valleys, would go to this part of the Welsh coast on regular church outings. When he had children himself, he would take them (my mum and Aunty Sarah) to the same beaches. Arriving here, treading in their footsteps, echoes of the past vibrated all around us. It felt like revisiting somewhere significant – somewhere that had played a part along the way in the life we were heading for in the future. Grandad had learnt how to use a computer so he could read the blog we kept day to day during the walk, and it felt good to be able to write about places that would mean so much to him as he read about our travels.
Although we’d headed through Swansea and the industrialised coast around Neath and Port Talbot, arriving in Cardiff was a huge culture shock. We walked into Cardiff Bay and on to the City Centre to meet up with my sister, as planned, for 3 days of urban living.
While there had been less to excite us day to day about the paths we walked and the scenery we saw as we headed around Swansea towards Cardiff, nevertheless, the experience remained rich and rewarding. We were really ‘in it’ by this point in the walk, convinced we had made the right decision to step out of life. We were thoroughly enjoying being together and living in the moment. In the run up to our departure, we’d essentially lived apart for 4 months. We’d also gone through some difficult times, both together and individually over the years that led up to the decision to walk around Wales. Coming out of teaching where I was always being pushed and felt like I always had to push forward, it was a huge relief to be more present, to have space to think about what I might like to do, rather than what had to get done. The discipline of getting up every morning, of packing away our kit, and walking had taken us away from all the mundane things you have to do in life to move forward – paying bills, cleaning the bathroom.
We had space to breathe.