Victory Walk Resumed
Since the last update ten days ago life has been very busy: more trial walks and the Physio confirming I was fit enough to resume the Victory Walk. Thereafter, it was all about getting ‘back on the road’, joining the Pembrokeshire Coast Path again and trying to remember routines which before the accident had been expertly mastered.
Decanting ourselves from our spacious waterside apartment and repacking belongings into our compact Victory Van took a day. Then there were goodbyes to be said to many people who we’d met and supported us over the past two months or so. Although desperate to get going again, it was with a sense of sadness that we left Milford Haven. However, I was greatly energised by the kind words of encouragement received from three remarkable sportswomen – sailor Dee Caffari MBE, and athletes Dame Kelly Holmes and Jo Pavey MBE.
Our first night back in the Van saw it shaking with the full force of Storm Hannah. To complete the picture, the roof sprung a leak and water flowed down the wires by the fuse box and poured from one of the lights. Our first ever leak, but why that night of all nights?! Next day, Saturday, was spent pleading for assistance from a manically busy motorhome service centre. With their generous help we got the problem fixed.
Walking mileages have remained modest while I rebuild strength and get used to carrying my normal rucksack again. My first task was to complete the Pembrokeshire Coast Path (185 miles). Trial walks over the previous week had seen me reach Tenby, after which I clambered over to Saundersfoot and on to Amroth where I began the Carmarthen Bay and Gower Coast Path (131 miles): this path will lead me to Swansea.
It didn’t take me long to cross into Carmarthenshire, where the coastline became more rugged and I peered through low lying cloud. Somewhere ahead of me were Pendine Sands, famous for land speed record attempts by Malcolm Campbell, who broke the 150mph barrier in July 1925. Two years later, he set a new record of 174mph. English aviator Amy Johnson also began her nonstop transatlantic flight to America from these Sands in 1933.
Shortly after Pendine the first of three long estuary walks began. Heading up the River Taf towards St Clears, I passed through Laugharne with its huge derelict, yet majestic castle. The town, once home to the writer Dylan Thomas, is proud of its heritage: plaques announce his former homes and I walked by his preserved ‘writing shed’ (a converted garage) which has wonderful views down the Taf estuary.
Next came the river Towy, with woodland paths carpeted in bluebells, wild garlic and other Spring flowers – these paths took me up to Carmarthen via the waterside village of Llansteffan. Had my luck been in I could have caught a small ferry straight across the water to Ferryside, saving me 17 miles. Sadly, my luck was out, and so was the tide! The plus point was that in Llansteffan I met entrepreneur Jamie, a former RN chef, who now runs an excellent local shop, bakery, and licensed café.
Coming down the other side of the Towy I walked through Ferryside (ferry still broken!) and towards Kidwelly, before circling a MOD Danger Area by the former WWII RAF Pembrey. This station had had many roles during its lifetime, including being host to Fighter Command and, later, a Polish Fighter squadron. It was also a gunnery school. Today, part of the airfield is home to Welsh motorsport, providing racing for cars, motorcycles, karts and trucks. I could hear the constant whine of motorcycles as I walked along the nearby Cefn Sidan Sands.
These Sands stretch for miles, giving me my first proper view towards the Gower peninsula and led me to Pembrey Country Park, an area that used to be covered by an enormous Ordnance factory. In recent years this land has benefitted from huge investment. One of the initiatives has been to develop a National Closed Road Circuit for cyclists; created as a premier cycling track in Wales. On the day I walked through there were no competitions taking place, but it’s clear how popular the facility is.
Later on, an obelisk signified that I was in the Millenium Coastal Park, where heavy industry once dominated before it was transformed with the UK’s largest land reclamation project. Burry Port, with its distinctive stubby lighthouse, and once the home port of copper and tinplate works, now offers a new marina within this Coastal Park. Shortly after Burry Port I had a chance encounter with Beth Wickes, who is aiming to walk around the UK in the opposite direction. I’d read about her and it was lovely to meet a kindred spirit.
Not long after our farewells I spied a blue plaque to another aviatrix at Pwll, a small coastal village. This plaque commemorates the spot where, in June 1928, Amelia Earhart landed her plane in the Loughor estuary. She was the first woman to complete a solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean. Looking out across the flats I admired her immense courage and skill as I continued circling my third estuary of the week, leading me past Llanelli and up to my bridging point at Loughor.
While all this sounds as if I’m back into my old routines, it is misleading. I’m still required to do almost two hours of daily physio exercises, complicated by a lack of space in the Victory Van. With few options, I find myself getting up even earlier, to lie on the floor of a toilet block in a campsite. The hard part is explaining what I’m doing when someone walks in and finds me!
Finally, turning south again, I started to walk the Gower Peninsula where at a village called Pen Clawdd I was intercepted by a former Royal Marine. ‘Royals’ are always keen to pose for a camera, and Dennis was no exception! His warm greeting also reminded me why I’m persevering with the Victory Walk, wishing to raise money for naval veterans. Dennis remains fit and healthy, but others are not so fortunate.
See Photo Album No 72 – Victory Walk Resumed