Sun, sand & sporty pants

This weather is alarming. We’ve had a whole week of warm sunshine in March, which probably means summer is nearly over and I will be walking around Wales in sideways hail, tornadoes and freezing fog. And it might also rain.

Fortunately, it looks as though a very kind outdoors company is sorting me out with some quality kit to suit any conceivable weather conditions (with the possible exception of frogs). More details soon.

Last weekend was eventful. On Saturday morning, Tasha and I hit Cardiff Bay to cheer off the awesome Arry Beresford-Webb as she started her in[credible/sane] DragonRun1027 ultramarathon – the same route I’m taking, but running a marathon every day so she’ll cover the distance in half the time. She’s due to finish on 5th May and she’ll officially hand over the Wales Coast Path / Offa’s Dyke relay baton to me at the launch event.

Arry is an absolute inspiration. She’s raising £25,000 for two charities really close to her heart – Velindre Cancer Care and the Gozo CCU, and she’s taken on a massive, massive challenge. 6 days in as I write this, she’s suffering with a gippy knee and horrendous blisters, but she still has every bit of her bubbly enthusiasm and good humour. I’ve never met anyone like her.

Stop reading now and don’t come back until you’ve clicked here and sponsored Arry. If you’ve sponsored her already, cancel your Friday night curry (or whatever) and sponsor her again. No, seriously.

So, back to Saturday. In amongst all Arry’s last minute preparations / hugs / photo opps I somehow found myself with a clip mic up my t-shirt, getting interviewed on camera by Iolo ap Dafydd. This will not become my 3 minutes of fame. I don’t think I strung together anything that could be edited into coherent sentences, and I have discovered that TV cameras cause me to jig up and down involuntarily. Need more practice.

With Arry on her way, Tasha and I drove down to the Vale, parked up at St Donats and walked the 16-ish miles back to Barry Island in gorgeous sunshine. We bumped into Arry again on the sea wall at Aberthaw – after she’d run 18 miles and we’d walked 8, guess who looked fresher. Yup.

During Saturday I learnt some things (in no particular order):

1. Midges are not a foodstuff.

2. Rounded pebbles the size of my head are not a path.

3. I am not meant to be on TV.

4. Aberthaw power station is remarkably well defended against amphibious landings.

On Sunday I set out from Porthcawl and again walked ‘anti-clockwise’ (i.e. in the ‘wrong’ direction) along what will be my Day 3 route, heading for St Donats. It was hot. Not far into the walk, I learnt another thing or two:

5. Sand dunes are Not Nice At All.

6. Newton Burrows / Merthyr Mawr could do with a few more Wales Coast Path wayposts.

At some point as I stumbled about and got lost in the sand, Arry passed me in the opposite direction. I didn’t see her, and she thought I was a hallucination, so we didn’t stop for a chat. A short time later I learnt 3 more things:

7. Estuaries are the Destroyer of Souls.

8. The River Ogmore is deeper than it looks.

9. “Just keep the sea on the [left / right]” is not a sufficient substitute for a map.

Long story short – I found my way to the Ogmore Castle stepping stones via a short stretch ‘otherwise than on a public footpath’, with 5 similarly lost teenagers in tow. Then I sat barefoot on a bench in the sunshine at The Pelican in her Piety, drinking The Most Welcome Glass Of Coke In The Known Universe.

Boots back on (still the old ones – they’re engaged in a war of attrition with my toes), I walked on through Ogmore and along what must be one of Wales’ most distinctive and beautiful stretches of clifftop coastline towards St Donats, enjoying a really spectacular sunset.

Since it was getting dark, I detoured inland towards Wick and then followed the road to Monknash for a drink in the Plough and Harrow, whilst I waited for Tasha to pick me up in the car. Great pub, friendly people, monks in the loo.

Total distance walked over the weekend was around 33 miles – the first time I’ve done longish back-to-back training walks on the coast. It’s highlighted one final, and very important lesson:

10. Long walks in warm weather introduce new and painful opportunities for chafing.

I think it’s time I invested in some Sporty Pants.

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