Turning away from the coast that we both love so much to head inland up the land border between England and Wales presented something of a challenge. No longer by the sea, and with a change in the weather, we were initially underwhelmed, not to mention flagging in our enthusiasm. But it only took us to get to Hay Bluff, and an exciting discovery, for our mojo to flood back!
When the idea of circumnavigating Wales popped into my head, the idea was that I would run it, an endurance challenge to focus my thoughts and channel my energy. Seeing Ellen so deflated and drained coming out of teaching had given me pause for thought. I reframed the adventure into the walk we were now undertaking. Walking had been brilliant – but the pace was about to pick up in a most surprising way!
Believing in the power of ‘West’
We spent 3 days in Cardiff with Ellen’s sister, partner and dog. Having taken full advantage of the range of bars and restaurants Cardiff has to offer, it’s fair to say that we felt a little jaded as we headed towards Offa’s Dyke in the rain. We pitched our tent and slept off the excesses of city life, ready to turn north for the next stretch of the journey.
The very name ‘Offa’s Dyke’ conjures images of an unmissable landmark, something akin to a long barrow, but stretching all the way up to Chester. What we discovered was a network of interconnecting footpaths – and no real sense of place or past in the landscape where we walked. Admittedly the intermittent drizzle didn’t help, but it was also a huge contrast to the big skies and coastal scenery we had been enjoying up to that point. However picturesque (and it was picturesque) virtually every conversation relating to the scenery we walked through included the phrases “ah, but it’s not the sea…”. Unwittingly, the journey around Wales was bringing us to deep conclusions – and at this moment we realised that we had cemented our love for West Wales, for the views, for the sea. Whatever our future held for us the power of the West would draw us back there.
Heading to Hay
At Llantilio Crosseny, near Abergavenny, we followed an ancient ‘campers’ sign to a campsite we’d seen on a map. Arriving at an almost derelict farm, an old, old lady directed us to a pitch by a beautiful, secluded pond in an unmown field. Having pretty much run out of food, we set off for a pub we’d been told was ‘nearby’ and eventually made it thanks to someone who gave us a lift. Met with the kind of silence made for tumbleweeds to roll through, as we pushed open the door and the local farming population turned to look at us, we ate and had a few drinks before returning along country lanes to the comfort of our tent.
Reaching Pandy, we realised we still had a long way to go before Hay on Wye, our next destination, crossing the edge of the Brecon Beacons. We’d also failed to take enough water with us, so we decided to take the bus to Hay (via Abergavenny and Brecon). The bus dropped us in Hay on Wye and we then experienced a terrifying 35 minutes walking 2 miles along the main road to reach our campsite.
Enlightenment for Ellen
We were back in Pandy at 7.30 a.m. thanks to the bus network, to walk the way back to Hay on Wye. After the fairly tame few days we’d spent once we’d turned inland, the hills were incredible. We did some brilliant mileage too. Free of our backpacks, we got 20 miles under our belt. At the top of Hay Bluff, we looked down into Hay on Wye and realised how much we’d done that day – but there was more to come. Over the weeks, Ellen’s pace had really picked up. Heading down the road into Hay, I suggested that it wouldn’t take much for her to slip from walking into running – and the next thing I knew, she was doing it: running into Hay on Wye.
After telling me on many occasions that she would do things at her own pace, for me not to push her, all it took was a nudge for her to respond from a deep place inside and catapult us into a new gear. It felt almost dream-like, and yet I was elated at the same time, hammering down the hill, together – the most natural thing in the world.
Ellen’s discovery, the sense of enlightenment that came with running galvanised us further. It was yet another lightbulb moment. You can take life steady, move forward, achieve your aims, but a little push further can bring even greater aims and objectives, more fulfilling rewards. Having the space to discover that has been priceless as we move forward with our business. Fully open to the possibilities of the ‘what if we just did….’, we tend to try it – embracing challenge and change, however daunting.