The Wales Coast Path was officially opened on May 5th 2012. Chepstow being just 5 miles from where I live and having the day free, I suppose I felt inspired to go and see what was happening. Despite having lived in the area for 25 years, I had walked very little along the most local stretch of the coast to my home, so I was also interested to see where the path went. As I parked the car in the Castle Car Park a cheery chap asked me where I was intending to walk that day. “Newport”, I said, without hesitation and a little bravado. (I made it to Magor – about half way to Newport.)
So on this particular day I had made no plans to walk the whole path. And I still don’t have such a plan. But I have a much less formed idea that it would be a fascinating and wonderful thing to do so. I am in full time work and will probably be so for quite a few more years so I am not able to do the whole 870 miles in one go. Neither would I want to. I can just about understand why some people will be doing so, indeed, are doing so as I write. But personally I think they are bonkers. Trust me, I know about these things.
I do, though, enjoy walking quite long distances and walking for several days at a time. In my youth I walked for several days – perhaps a week- on the Pennine Way, carrying a small tent, sleeping bag and cooking gear. Thankfully, I cannot remember just how sore my feet must have got or how exhausted I was lugging all that stuff around. But I do remember loving watching the countryside slowly unfold as I marched along, the pleasure of being on my own with the elements and the sense of achievement I felt by travelling on foot quite a long way. But I let these pleasures fade from my memory until after we had moved out of London to where we now live in south Wales.
Some years after moving here I did several days continuous walking on the Glyndwr’s Way – a fabulous section from Knighton (where it starts) to Machynlleth- staying in bed and breakfasts and pubs. And I have walked some of the Offers Dyke Path, too. In recent years, mostly in the company of good friends, I have returned to the pleasures of walking on National Trails, completing the 191 mile Coast to Coast Path in two stints in 2010 and last year doing the Hadrian’s Wall Walk over 7 somewhat damp but exhilarating days.
But now I am using the services of those very wonderful people who are providing the service of taking your bags between your chosen resting place, giving you the luxury of having most creature comforts with you that might like to have with you on a holiday (at least those that will fit into a suitcase) whilst allowing you to carry only a day bag. There is no going back as far as I am concerned to trying to imitate a donkey. But there is also no such baggage transfer service operating for the Wales Coast Path. So I will be making more ad hoc arrangements for getting to and from the path, using my car, and public transport as fits in best, and sometimes carrying a few extra things for an overnight stay.
I will start at Chepstow and then I know it will be important to me to re-start the walk wherever I have left it. I have found that I can cover around 15 miles a day without suffering too many aches and pains afterwards. It depends on the terrain, of course. So that’s the kind of chunk of path I am planning to do each day on the Wales Coast Path.
The route of the path is the most useful thing that I have found on the official website for the path. So I will be marking this route on 1:25000 Explorer OS Maps before I do a section. My other navigational aid is a Garmin etrex GPS. This is fun, as it gives you the distance you have walked, your elevation and your location as a grid reference (and lots of other clever stuff I don’t use). I would like to say that this means that I don’t get lost or find myself not where I am supposed to be. I do. That’s because I don’t spend my time looking at the map and the GPS – I can be too engaged with looking around me. And I’ll be taking lots of pictures. – not carefully composed studies, but really snaps from on or very near the path, just to give you a better idea of what to expect if you decide to go yourself.
Finally, I do hope that you enjoy reading the blog. Do get in touch if you would like to comment or add anything to my observations.