Friday 22nd, the day before RAWW - last bits of preparation; check and check again my ruck sack contents, dubbin boot and shoes, make flapjacks, clothes organised in a pile to put on in only a few hours’ time, eat lots of carbs, medications – mustn’t forget hayfever tab! Check the weather, again! COUNTDOWN!! Pick up my sister Katie from train station, eat an enormous tea – I made a lovely stodgy fish paella – easy to digest and sustaining. Bed by 10pm, set alarm for 2am. Sleep!
Alarm goes… 2am…Get up, make a cup of tea for me and my sister, have a quick shower, eat bowl of muesli, get dressed, try not to disturb dog, one last check of kit. Time to go – a short walk from my house down to the buses at Ladywell House car park. What a great feeling.
It was a very clear, light night and so still. A few people were milling about after their Friday night social and the odd taxi buzzing around, but we had had our night sleep, we were well and truly into Saturday, being taken on a coach to the coast, dropped off and then we will literally walk the 44miles back across Wales. Is that mad? No, great fun! Not only the walk but a whole day, a proper whole day (the nearest Saturday to the 21st, so about 19hours of light) for me and my sister to chat. Imagine if you were told that you had to sit and chat to the same person for that length of time – it’s a whole lot easier if you are walking and talking at the same time and I assure you, my sister and I don’t find it a challenge, well, not the talking anyway.
The atmosphere on the coach was unlike some other years when it has been quiet and you can sense everyone’s apprehension. This time it had a certain excitement in the air – continuous chatter and laughter. I was hungry (so much for the sustaining paella) so ate a yummy flapjack. Katie and I like to sit at the front of the bus so that we can get through the first checkpoint easily and don’t run the risk of getting cold waiting to get through.
Glandyfi - At 3.55am we were through the checkpoint and our trek had begun. The air was very cold and it was already getting light, a cloudless sky. It felt lovely and fresh as we set out on the first stint to Cefn Gwyrgrug Farm 7 ¾ miles. One of the best bits is hearing the very first bird sing and then being joined by the whole chorus. What better way to start a walk. There was the odd patch of mist in little dips but other than that it was clearer than we had ever experienced and as we climbed higher and higher the views got more and more breathe taking, especially once on Glyndwr’s Way. ‘Remember to turn round!’ That’s our motto. It is so easy to just keep on walking, missing out on the fantastic views behind you. Not only that, it is so satisfying to appreciate both how high you’ve climbed and also what a magnificent country you are walking in. We were joined early on by quite a young girl walking on her own, her friend couldn’t make it at the last minute. We chatted for a while and then Katie stopped to tighten her boots and we didn’t see the girl again – I wonder how she got on.
Cefn Gwyrgrug Farm 6.30am. A confession – we brought our own egg sandwiches! We make quite a big deal about it; bread from Evans bakery, eggs from my own chickens. We give it a lot of thought before the walk and during the first 7 ¾ miles – something to really look forward to with a cup of tea. Once again the organisation at the farm is brilliant and lots of smiles to greet us and a cup of tea at the ready. There was a lovely big old friendly sheep dog with huge puppy like eyes. I ate my first sandwich and then texted my husband to keep him posted on our good progress. I turned to pick up my second sandwich - it had gone! My egg sandwich gone! And there, right by me was that very friendly sheep dog, with those huge round eyes, holding my sandwich in the grip of his jaw. Quite sweet but gutting.
Now the climb up to Glaslyn, I don’t think I have ever enjoyed this climb so much. I really felt that every step was so satisfying. My sister timed it – 7.5 minutes to do the climb – it is that significant! The view of Cadair Idris, behind us, was fantastically clear. Once at the top it was warm enough, and we were warm enough, to change our trousers for shorts. Glaslyn really did look blue and the skylarks were going crazy, we felt on top of the world. From the moorland up here you can actually see the wind turbines and mast at Llandinam – the route would take us past these after lunch, about 17miles away.
Staylittle. After 7 ½ miles we reached Staylittle, the breakfast stop. It is the only time that my sister and I eat baked beans for breakfast, strange but true. I was starving, the breakfast almost becoming a mirage; sausage, bacon, beans, egg, toast n butter, mug of tea, banana. Picking up the breakfast token at the bottom of the hill is just one step closer to that delicious plate of a good old English breakfast, including beans!!!
We did all the usual checks; water, visit the toilet, sun cream, changed our boots for trainers and set off on our merry way, getting our card punched at Staylittle out. The shape of the punches becomes something else that we get a little fixated about – what will it be? A butterfly? A Christmas tree? An apple? So rest assured Newtown Rotary, nothing gets passed us – every bit of your excellent organising is appreciated.
From here, there is quite a lot of tarmac, in fact all tarmac to Llandinam, hence the change of foot wear. Down, down, down into the Afon Trannon valley passing a beautiful little cottage right by the river, where we always admire the pretty garden. As we approached Llawr-y-glyn we were amused to see that the ‘good luck’ graffiti on the road, for a couple getting married, was still there– it must have been there years now. Actually, one bit says ‘it’s not too late’.
Trefeglwys. Along the straight by Coed Rhyd-y-Carw we had two circling kites above us for ages. It is a beautiful valley and the lane had high hedges that gave us a little bit of shade. We reached Trefeglwys, 6 ¼ miles from Staylittle, where there are always slices of orange. We really welcome them but, and it’s a funny family thing, Katie and I cut our oranges the other way – so if you can imagine, once cut in half, the cut side looks like a pie chart with equal segments, then you cut it again and they are really easy to eat. As I said, a family thing, moving on…
Trefeglwys is just about half way and I think we were there at about 12 noon. Going well!
More road to Llandinam but with the sun high in the sky and a spring in our step we happily walked on. On the way out of the village we passed an immaculate and regimented veggy garden which we took some time studying; broad beans, peas, carrots, beetroot, all in neat rows – very inspirational. Then a friendly lady painting her fence stopped to talk and offered to fill our bottles. All these little snippets of beautiful surroundings and truly generous and genuine folk make the walk what it is and it really is from beginning to end.
For some reason on this stretch we began to talk about what we could eat from the hedgerow and what we would eat if we had to survive; would we chew a grub or just go for ‘the swallow in one whole piece’ – I would go for the latter as would my sister, although we did discuss the merits of chewing; the nutrients reaching our blood stream quicker as the enzymes did their job. Never short of something to talk about!
Llandinam. Lunch already. That 5 miles went quickly. My husband James and dog Cooper were there to meet us on the old iron bridge at Llandinam. James had brought our lunches that I had made the night before – pasta and potato salad with feta cheese, seeds, nuts, tomatoes, all fuel for getting up that big hill to the windfarm. We had a can of coke too, kindly provided by the organisers (we could have had one of their burgers too). I really do like a drink of coke, really hits the spot sometimes. So with cards punched (a Christmas tree for ‘Llandinam in’ and a simple hole for ‘Llandinam out’) we said our goodbyes to James and the dog and proceeded to the next check point, only 1 ½ miles but about half way up the long, long haul.
The heat certainly made it a challenge and we stopped to offer help to a fellow walker. He had been going about the same pace as us from the start; sometimes he was ahead, sometimes we were, so we had built up some RAWW camaraderie. He rested for a while and we saw him later at the Devil’s Elbow checkpoint and again on completing the walk – well done him.
There as some places up on the moorland that I have only ever seen boggy but this time the ground was actually so dry it was cracked. In fact I had walked this stretch on Whit bank holiday, only a few weeks ago, and I had had to climb over the fence to avoid the bog. The track through the wind farm is quite rough under foot, there was no shade and the sun was beating down by this time. We felt really good considering and continued to make our way past the motionless wind turbines on this very still, dry and dusty day. You either like them or not, but there does seem something quite graceful about them, except when they start to turn, making an awful grinding noise, losing their gracefulness and becoming some sort of sci-fi miscreation.
Bryn Dadlau. Next stop, checkpoint 10, Bryn Dadlau, windfarm offices. A quick punch of cards by some helpful scouts and off t’ go. We collected some water too. At every check point there is water and the stewards never fail to ask if you need any and never fail to make us laugh before we carry on to the next checkpoint. The next being Devil’s Elbow – always a tricky one, it is only 2 ½ miles but as the crow flies it is probably only about 1 mile – a proper dog leg! It just goes on and on. There is an old but well-kept barn on the way where, every year, there are farmers shearing. They must have been baking in the heat. Not the kind of day to be wrapped up in oily wool and wrestling with awkward sheep.
Devil’s Elbow. We love the Devil’s Elbow stop and start thinking about it a long way back (another mirage) – tea, Jaffa cakes, fruit cake and only 7.5 miles to go to the finish. We sat in a shady spot to have a welcomed cuppa and saw a few familiar participants. All the walkers that we had seen quite a lot of on route, now had names; big man, dentist girls, hope people, bright orange top women, sunburn man, the boy. We don’t use much imagination in our naming system - that is quite apparent.
The Kerry Ridgeway was in sight and is very familiar territory so to us, the end really was near. The walk was going so quickly, none of it seemed a slog (possibly the hill out of Llandinam but we took it very steadily and I seem to remember we were having a conversation about Roald Dahl for much of the way – a good distraction).
Cider House. The next checkpoints are really close together to break up the last stint so we were soon at the Cider House. This is the beginning of the ridgeway where there once would have been a pub/inn for the drovers on their way to the markets in England.
More oranges here (let’s not go into how they were cut). As expected the views from the highest point were fantastic – Cadair, Aran Fawddwy, Berwyns – all looking spectacular. We noticed that our shadows were getting really quite long. We hadn’t experienced this on previous years because we were back much earlier. Our plan to be more chilled this year, and enjoy every single moment of the day, worked really well – we felt brilliant and we even had some surplus energy to jog little bits towards the end. In your mind you really can’t imagine running but as soon as you start to run, it relieves your tired muscles. Quite strange, but a really nice feeling.
Picnic area. Check point 14 with only 2 ¼ miles to go and the card punch is a flower this time. The fields across to the Kerry Pole were a nice rest on our feet before the tarmac lane to the Anchor. Two little boys handed us an ice pop each, they were so sweet we couldn’t refuse. I had texted James when we were at the picnic area so he would be on his way to meet us at the Anchor. Once on the lane, we really were on the home straight. It is quite a steep downhill to have at the end of a 44 mile walk and if you have sore feet it can be torture but we were bearing up well and crossed over the Welsh/English border amazingly without a problem. After the steep downhill then comes the last incline, just so you don’t get off lightly. As we approached the Anchor pub and lady stopped us to ask if we were sisters, twins even. It wasn’t the first time that we had been asked, on the walk, and it had become quite a joke. Yes sisters but not twins, although we both wore head scarfs, black shorts, the same Bryn Walking tee shirts and, of course, walking at the same pace.
The Anchor. Finished! 8pm arrival at the Anchor. James, dog and my son Ted were there to meet us and take a photo. We were so elated and excited. Rotary Across Wales Walk 2018 done! Certificate and tee shirt collected and homeward bound for a well-earned curry (thank you James) and a drink. We were in bed just after 10pm and I can safely say that we had talked from 2am until 10pm, well done to both of us! Oh yes, and we had walked from 4am until 8pm covering 44 miles. Both results pretty good going.
Many thanks to Newtown Rotary Club, Cambrian Mountain Events and all the sponsors.
Roll on next year.