Walking Wales - Days 18 to 2016 October 2014
The final days!
Abergavenny to Monmouth was a wet and boring slog. There was not much to see and it was raining. I had to keep persuading myself to just keep on walking, reminding my grumbly brain that the Wye Valley would be more exciting. The campsite in Monmouth town was rather curious, it was right in the middle, amongst the shops and pubs, and only had a few static caravans. Coincidently I arrived just as an Offa’s Dyke backpacker had set up tent. He had spent the last nine days walking from North Wales too, but along a different path, further to the East than me. We chatted for a good while, we had a lot in common, few people could really understand what it was that we were going through. His name was Adam and he convinced me that I could make it to Chepstow in a day, I had planned to take two.
The Old Severn Bridge, that crosses into England, starts just on the edge of Chepstow, so reaching there was a big deal, there would only be one more day’s walking after that. The Wye Valley was indeed more interesting than the previous day’s trudging; steep, wooded, autumnal valleys, a winding river and a 12th century derelict abbey. I didn’t make it as close to Chepstow as I’d hoped, so I had to do my, by now, practiced stealth operation of finding a spot and waiting until after dark to set up tent. My food and fuel were almost all gone, because I knew that, hopefully, the next night I’d be back in Bristol.
I woke at dawn, both from the nerves of the final day and to make sure no one saw me. It was also good to have so much of the light of day at my disposal, my flat is over 25km away, so it was going to be a long day of walking. I couldn’t find any cafes open so early to top up my water so I stopped at Lidl, to get cheap bottled water and treat myself to some mozzarella for lunch. The bridge is about 4km long and crosses both the Wye and Severn. It was an emotional crossing. I looked back at Wales, remembering all that had happened the last three weeks. Both the Wye and the Severn were now huge river estuaries. The Wye in particular had been my companion for many days and now, like my journey it was coming to an end, joining with the Severn and flowing into the English Channel.
The walk from the bridge to the outskirts of Bristol was surprisingly pleasant, it follows an old railway embankment along the shores of the estuary. I could still see Wales the whole time and I got to walk underneath the new Severn Bridge, which is a remarkable piece of engineering. I got grumpy walking through the suburbs of Bristol, it was raining, I was aching and cities just aren’t as friendly as country paths. The first familiar part of Bristol I reached was the Downs, right outside my house, where I go running every week. I’ve trodden its paths so many times but never having just walked the length of Wales to get there. It was a surreal feeling, knowing that I had just spent three weeks on foot, rather than the usual car or train, to get here. I guess then maybe that was the moment that I finally realised that it’s possible to walk from North Wales to Bristol. It still seems odd though, did I really just do that?
I got home and my landlord was in, he’d been fitting a new bathroom whilst I was away. I must have looked a sorry state! What joy to shower in a new bathroom! Later on a few friends came round and we drank bubbly. I didn’t sleep too well, I kept waking up, not knowing where I was. I’ll get used to it.
I’ve been going through all the video footage, having memories jogged. The whole thing feels blurry, was it really three weeks? Time was different when I was walking, I can’t compare it to normal life. How incredibly lucky I am to have had the opportunity to do this, the fitness, the money, the time, the support. I’m so grateful I gave myself this adventure. I’m not completely sure what it all means yet. What resonates most is that I did something primordial and ancient, I walked across the land. It’s something that we’ve done for tens of thousands of years. I’ve had time to think and get a new perspective on this planet and my life.