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Walking from Pontypool to St Davids…. Fundraising for Public Child Protection Wales September 2021

Read about my journey..

I set off on my travels on the morning of Saturday 04th September 2021, aiming to walk solo

from ‘the canal basin’ in Pontypool to St Davids, Pembrokeshire; St Davids is the smallest

and most westerly city in the UK and has a significant religious history and is a beautiful

place of pilgrimage.

The goal was to raise awareness about the global rollout of RSE (Relationships and Sex

Education) which is now being introduced into our Welsh schools aimed at ALL children,

without exception, from age 3, and to hopefully raise much needed funds for ‘Public Child

Protection Wales’ in their head on battle with the Welsh Government.

I would be doing this solo (except for my dog Bingo who kept me company for 3 days and 2

nights). There would be no swanky hotels and no team car carrying my kit. I would need to

walk between 20 and 25 miles per day, with no days off until I reached my destination.

Originally I planned to complete the walk, arriving in St Davids the following Friday, but

following advice from locals in Newhaven, I did not take the coastal path for the last stretch

of my journey due to the conditions. Consequently, I arrived in St Davids from the opposite

direction a much-needed day early.

My kit would comprise of only the essentials required for six days wild camping in what

could potentially be a very cold and very wet September, turned out that forecast was quite

the opposite and for the most part we had a mini heatwave, hence why Bingo finished early,

his black fur coat did him no favours. Needless to say, it did me no favours either, it meant

amongst other things, the need to carry way more water than I expected in my already ram

packed, 30kg LK35 rucksack. Why not collect water along the way you might ask? Well,

there were a couple of days where I passed nothing for 15-20 miles; no shops, no petrol

stations, no supermarkets and for the most part, no open source of water I could trust enough to drink without preparation and without deviating from my route and adding unnecessary miles and time to my journey.

Day 1: Pontypool canal basin to Llangynidr

Absolute stunning weather and after a late start (due to photos etc with PCP) I set off on what I assumed would be a 5 hour stroll up the stunning Monmouthshire and Brecon canal with loads of free time lounging about by the river, how wrong I was! I walked solid for a good 8 hours or so, in the heat, carrying 30kg and by the time I then found a suitable location hidden from the beaten track I was absolutely exhausted.

The spot I found was idyllic, nestled perfectly between the canal and the River Usk, in a

small thicket, I got a river front spot sharing the field with some cows. Unfortunately, the

reality was that it was fast approaching dusk when I reached the spot, I was so tired I couldn’t

even be bothered to eat and stupidly broke rule number one, I couldn’t be bothered to pitch

my shelter and literally slept on the ground and under the stars; despite the super daytime

weather, this was autumn and by midnight, I was soaking from the moisture in the air and

further soaked by the dew coated grass in the early hours.

Day 2: Llangynidr to Trecastle

The heatwave continued…Day 2 would be the final 10 mile stretch of the Mon and Brecon

Canal to its beginning in the centre of Brecon town, then continue through and onto the A40

to Trecastle where I would take a ‘B’ road in search of a suitable location to spend the night.

Again, another idyllic spot, jumping the gate opposite St Marys Church I darted across the

exposed farmers field tucking into the trees on top of a small ravine overlooking a small

river/big stream. Tonight, I would be much more sensible and set up my home for the night

which consisted of a tarp, bedroll and sleeping bag, I even cooked a chicken curry and rice in the dwindling daylight with ingredients I had purchased from Aldi when passing through

Brecon town; I slept well!

Day 3: Trecastle to Llandeilo

Day 3 started pretty foggy but would quickly turn into another scorcher. Todays endeavour

from the outset would take me up over the mountain via a little lane and past Usk Reservoir,

which although I didn’t actually get to see it, the surrounding landscape and forest was utterly outstanding. The top of the mountain is also where I would enter the third of four counties I would cross; I would leave Powys and enter Carmarthenshire. This day would take me through Bethlehem (which I was really excited about), and if I had the time to take the right diversions, I could have also visited Lebanon (Libanus in Welsh) and Babel that day; Wales is literally Gods country it would seem.

My pre-planned goal for the day was going to be nothing more than “a few miles past

Llandeilo”. Unfortunately, Bingo had to be picked up in Llandeilo and taken home bless

him, it was way too hot for him and too much road walking for his paws, it would have been

cruel to keep him with me so we said our goodbyes and just like that I was truly alone.

My hotel for tonight turned out to be in the shadow of Paxton’s Tower, tucked in behind the

hedgerow, a couple of foot from the B4300, which, despite being named a ‘B’ road was

surprisingly busy with cars, trucks, and farm vehicles. Again, I didn’t erect a shelter, but this

time was for strategic reasons, I was so exposed in this location I needed to conceal myself as best as possible (wild camping is still illegal in England and Wales). Other than sleeping

with the largest variety of insects I’ve ever witnessed, I slept surprisingly well.

Day 4: Llandeilo to St Clears

Awake, packed, over the fence and on the road early enough to see the most stunning sunrise, I trudged on with the sun huge and orange and on my back, reminding me that I was on a westerly route. From the moment I set off my body was craving fat; for that reason,

Carmarthen was the first goal, a cooked breakfast occupied my mind the whole way there.

Satisfied with the crappiest, yet most awesome breakfast I’ve ever had, (who puts the beans

in a little ramekin lol?) I took a selfie, had a very brief look around Carmarthen Castle and I

was off.

As expected from my studying of Google maps, from St Clears onwards would become

increasingly difficult to find adequately discreet locations to spend the night; it’s flat and

open with a noticeable shortage of trees. Tonight however, would turn out to be the worst

and possibly the spookiest night I have experienced in my adult life.

I ended up having to walk halfway between St Clears and Whitland before I found a spot.

Unbeknown to me at the time, due to the now diminishing light, I pitched my tarp off the

rickety wooden fence lining the railway line, the freight trains went on for an eternity and the

passenger trains lit up the area like the sun. On top of the constant strange noises and

something substantially sized rustling in the bushes, I was woken abruptly by

someone/something tripping over my guy line; I was alone and literally in the middle of

nowhere, I s**t a brick and slept with my knife in my hand.

Day 5: St Clears to Haverfordwest

Today can only be described as hell! I was knackered from the previous nights lack of sleep

and obviously fatigued with a blistered foot as a result of the insole in my new shoe slipping

forward and rubbing with every step. The Pembrokeshire sign not only signified entry into

the fourth and final county I would have to cross, but also signified what would be the start of probably the hardest and most challenging day I can remember.

The sun was still beating down as it had all week, and I didn’t pass a shop or petrol station all

the way to Haverfordwest. I was functioning on yesterday’s crappy breakfast and rationed

water supply. Worse still and almost instantly after passing the Pembrokeshire sign the

gradient climbed and climbed and climbed and then climbed some more all the way to within a mile of Haverfordwest. At this point and unaware that I was only a mile of downhill trudge from my daily target, I took off my rucksack and laid down in a layby opposite

Haverfordwest Golf Club. Ignoring the stones and gravel digging in my back I either passed

out or simply fell straight to sleep (to this day I’m still not sure which), I was awakened with

a frantic woman approaching me asking if I was ok, at this point I heard the voice on the

other end of the phone she was clutching “hello, which emergency service do you require?”

This was my nod to go.

Following a much more satisfying, yet hard to find breakfast and a substantial amount of

chocolate sat on the riverfront admiring Haverfordwest Castle, I stocked up from the local

Coop store and headed off in search for my bed for the night which turned out to be between 7 and 8 miles further on down the road. Wild comfrey lined the path for a good third of that distance.

I set up camp in a hedgerow in a lovely spot away from the road, as with my first night, I

would share the space with cows. Within minutes of setting up and settling down with a

cuppa, I watched a cloud blacker than the night sky roll towards me. The rain had officially


Day 6: Haverfordwest to St David’s

After a wet but otherwise uneventful and restful night, I was motivated and excited despite

the now gloomy weather and constant rain. I was buzzing with the realisation that I was

close to success and, depending on which route I choose (coastal path or road), I could

potentially accomplish my goal today. Like a double-edged sword though, I was also gutted

that this was going to be over, and soon. It is, without doubt, right at the top of my very best

experiences in life and for a very worthy cause.

Despite my motivation and enthusiasm, from Newgale onwards was hard, up down up down

up down to the extent I was cursing some imaginary authority for not already building

bridges from peak to peak, a ridiculously unnecessary request I’m sure. If you’re ever in the

area, Solva is beautiful, I wish I had a little more time to look around, a lovely little harbour

nestled between two mountains with an eclectic assortment of brightly painted, quaint little

houses and shops.

Arrival at the City of St David’s road sign was a truly momentous moment, quite emotional I

might add. I was here! I had accomplished massive things personally but more importantly I

had proudly been a walking billboard for PCP Wales which in turn encouraged a lot of

interaction with the generally unaware public. Particularly in St David’s, many people had

passed me on their way into St David’s on one of the two roads in or out. Did the spirit of St

David guide me to take the road and not the very much more private and secluded coastal

path for that reason, who knows?

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