It’s fair to say that the last week has been one of the most memorable of my life.
As many of you will know, Mooneerams Charity of the Year is 2wish. The Llantrisant based charity ensures all those affected by the sudden death of a child or young adult aged 25 or under throughout Wales receive the bereavement support they deserve.
Earlier this year, after I first met the founder of 2wish, Rhian Mannings, and heard her story I decided I wanted to do something special to raise funds for 2wish.
So, after giving the matter some thought, I decided to walk from Swansea to Cardiff. I also decided to follow the Wales Coastal Path as much as possible and, as an added twist, to finish the trek by heading north from Cardiff Bay to Mooneerams offices near Tongwynlais. I aimed to complete the 70-plus mile walk within five days. It all sounded so straightforward while reading Paddy Dillon’s excellent book, “Walking The Wales Coastal Path”, from the comfort of my armchair at home.
Last Saturday morning, my wife Val dropped me off in the centre of Swansea with my rucksack and a cuddly toy elephant called George, the 2wish mascot.
What followed were five truly remarkable days. On Saturday, with the aid of Paddy’s book and Google Maps on my phone, I walked from Swansea to Margam in blazing heat without getting lost too many times. There was a scary moment near Port Talbot when I realised George had fallen out of my backpack. Thankfully, after a quick retrace of steps, we were reunited. Val met me in Margam and ferried me back to base camp in Barry, with the first 15 miles under the belt.
Each morning, Val would drive me to precisely where I had finished the day before to ensure continuity. Sunday turned out to be even hotter than the day before. Starting in Margam, I set off on what was intended to be a 16 mile trip to Ogmore.
I ended up walking a further three miles to the far side of Ogmore by the Sea, having walked through Margam Moor, the dunes of Kenfig Burrows, along the boardwalk past Porthcawl Golf Course, along the front at Porthcawl, over more sand dunes and on to Ogmore River which I ended up wading across (at a reasonably shallow point I hasten to add). By this stage, my feet felt like they were on fire, so trudging across in walking boots felt an eminently sensible thing to do!
By this stage, my whole world revolved around the walk, which is the only explanation I can give for why, on Monday, I walked 20 miles, finishing at The Knap. I trekked mainly along cliff paths, some of which were a little too close to the edge for comfort. At one point where the sheer drop was very adjacent, I virtually scrambled down the path on hands and knees, ‘helpfully’ reminding myself not to fall over the edge!
That evening, my feet were in bits, and at one o’clock in the morning, I woke in agony. I was sure I’d have to give up on the rest of the walk. However, in the morning, Val went out early to get some ice, and after a freezing cold footbath, somehow, I was on my way again. For the first few miles, on Tuesday morning, I was joined by Gareth from 2wish, whose companionship from The Knap to Barry took my mind off the fact that I could hardly put one foot in front of the other.
Pragmatism had to come into play, and by now, I just wanted to walk in a straight line to get to Cardiff Bay by the end of the day. In doing that, I walked through Sully, Lavernock, and then at the top of a steep road to the north of Penarth town centre, I was met with the very welcome sight of the Cardiff Barrage ahead and below. Soon, I was celebrating by having a coffee at the café at the start of the path across to Cardiff Bay.
Getting into the Bay seemed to take an age on yet another hot and sunny afternoon, but finally, I got to Cardiff Bay Railway station, where I got a train back to Barry. Another 13.5 miles chalked off.
Wednesday arrived without fanfare. By now, I just wanted to finish the walk, and I cursed that I’d added those extra miles to the walk by setting my stall out to walk to our offices north of the City.
Val dropped me off at Barry Station mid-morning, for my train back to Cardiff. By now, I was walking very slowly indeed. A colleague from Mooneerams recently suggested that I finish the walk by following the Taff Trail, which seemed such a good idea at the time!
I want to tell you about the beauty of the Taff Trail, but honestly, I can’t remember much about it. My sole focus was getting through the final 8 miles to Mooneerams offices. Finally, after almost three hours, I saw Val approaching me at the Iron Bridge in Tongwynlais. She would walk the last half mile with me, and fittingly so. I couldn’t have done this without Val. I did the walking; she did everything else. My huge thanks go out to her.
Walking up the hill to Mooneerams was very emotional. I could see my Mooneerams colleagues waving and cheering ahead, as was Rhian from 2wish and a life-size George, the elephant. Not a real elephant, of course! (I think its alter ego was Gareth).
What a great way to finish a wonderful week, and the best part is that 2wish will benefit as a result.
Over the past few days, over £850 in donations to 2wish has been raised. To everyone who has donated, I am incredibly grateful; thank you. Every penny donated will be put to good use by our friends at 2wish.