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5. Cil-y-Coed – Cas-gwent; Caldicot – Chepstow

5. Cil-y-Coed – Cas-gwent; Caldicot – Chepstow

Step Count: 24,462

Distance: 9.15 miles

Max Altitude: 61 m

Min Altitude: 1 m

Height Gain: 187 m

Height Loss: 182 m

 

It was another late start on the Wales Coast Path. I’ve never been much of a morning person and there’s something just nicer about walking in the evenings.

I returned to pick up the trail where I’d left off at Caldicot Railway Station. From there the path went straight to the side of the estuary. Unlike yesterday, it was a bright sunny day with blue skies, so I was able to walk towards the Second Severn Crossing and appreciate it in all its glory. The WCP takes you directly underneath it and for the first time I walked beneath it.

 

The WCP then passes through the village of Sudbrook before rejoining the side of the estuary. You are able to stand between the original Severn Bridge and Second Severn Crossing.

 

This was the last time that I saw the coast closely though, since the path veered inland through ploughed fields and meadows.

 

Shortly after the above silhouette self portrait was taken, I walked onto the fairway at St Pierre. I didn’t have a set of clubs, a pair of plus fours or lots of money in the bank, so was understandably stared at by nearby golfers.

It was just after this that the WCP waymarks went missing and I had to guess my way along. From a farmer’s field, I crossed a footbridge over the M48 only to land in a rather perturbed field of sheep. It couldn’t possibly have been the official route but I had no way of telling what was, so on I went. I ended up having to push my way through thick hedges and brambles before climbing over a barbed wire fence, and sliding down a slope. I was on the edge of the M48 now and this sign cheered me:

image

 

Thankfully, the WCP waymarks reappeared and led me through a Chepstow housing estate where I bought a doughnut from a local shop (bliss!), before continuing into a forest on the edge of the Wye.

By this time it was getting dark, and had I been walking in a more isolated area, I would have quit walking by then. But I knew that the end of the Wales Coast Path was in reach, and so on I went. I badly wanted to arrive at this important milestone in my journey before the day was out.

Into Chepstow I went, following the waymarks through the town, and I was led to the side of the Wye once more, to a space near the Old Wye Bridge  The light had almost failed.

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I had reached the end of the Wales Coast Path and was delighted!

 

As you can see, darkness was upon me. So I shall be returning to the area tomorrow for a closer look and better photos.

 

Gear – Cooking

Gear – Cooking

Cooking, and eating in general, is one of the areas I’ve given the least amount of consideration to. My thinking is since I’m not traversing the Sahara or hiking the Pacific Crest Trail solo, there really isn’t that much to worry about. I’m walking the perimeter of Wales after all, which means that there will be plenty of places to stop off at. However, this doesn’t mean that I’m going to be lording it up in expensive restaurants along the way.

I will be cooking along the way using a Jetboil MiniMo, and replenishing supplies in shops along the route.

Jetboil MiniMo
Jetboil MiniMo

 

What I love about this device is the speed at which it cooks. It can boil a cup of water in less than a minute. This means that I won’t be going short of coffee. It can also simmer, which is perfect for cooking rice and the like. Another highly desirable feature is the push button igniting function; when it’s windy, rainy and generally miserable, the last thing you want to be doing is fumbling about with matches.

I may not be Delia Smith, but I certainly won’t be going hungry.

Gear – Walking Poles

Gear – Walking Poles

In the days BWP (before walking poles) I would have balked at anyone who dared suggest I even pick a pair up, let alone head towards the trail with them in my hands. Me with walking poles? No, never!

However, as the Inca Trail loomed in 2014, I did start to wonder whether I should give them a try. So I left my preconceptions at the door, wandered into a shop and bought a cheap pair for about £10. I stuffed them into my holdall, not thinking that I would bother to even get them out once I arrived in Peru.

When I arrived in Cusco though, I found that not only did the overwhelming majority of other hikers have them, but that the local Inca Trail porters actually call them “magic sticks”. What did they know that I didn’t? I wasn’t about to risk being left out. So on the day that we left for Kilometre 82, the start point of the Inca Trail (and so called because it’s 82km on the railroad from Cusco), I had them lashed onto my pack, y’know, just in case.

As we started Day 1, they stayed strapped to my rucksack. I didn’t think much about them, in fact. But that soon changed as talk over dinner turned to the infamous Day 2 – the slow and gruelling ascent up to Dead Woman’s Pass, an unrelenting upwards trail to the highest point of the Inca Trail. We were going to need them, so as the day dawned, I had them gripped tightly. And boy, was I glad that I did.

Since that day, I’ve used them each time I’ve gone walking from the Brecon Beacons to Snowdonia, to the Andes.

But what are the benefits of using walking poles? Mostly, poles provide stability and balance, which cannot be overestimated when you’re on a steep ascent. They distribute the stress across your entire body, so when you’re walking your upper body gets a workout too. All in all, if they’re used properly, they will increase your speed and help prevent injuries (they really save your knees on a sharp descent). And what’s not to like about that? I certainly wouldn’t be without mine.

 

Leki Vario XS Speed Lock Hiking Poles
Leki Vario XS Speed Lock Hiking Poles

 

The Leki Vario XS weigh just 422g for the pair. I got them new in Ecuador last year and that’s the set that I’ll be using for Walking Wales too.

Why?

Why?

The question I get asked more than any other when I tell people what I’m going to be doing come the 1st of June is – “why?”

And it’s a fair question.

Well, the idea first popped into my head on a Wednesday evening in early April. I had been needing a goal, something new to aim for. But what? I just didn’t know. And I had stopped thinking about it since before Christmas.

Then it came to me, BANG! I should walk around Wales. Wait, what? Yes, I really should walk around Wales! YES! From then on, the idea snowballed and snowballed until it became a reality.

The fact that I can use the walk to raise awareness of pancreatic cancer, just makes the journey truly purposeful.

Croeso – Welcome

Croeso – Welcome

On the 1st of June 2016, I will be setting off on rather a long stroll: a complete anti-clockwise circumnavigation of Wales. The route will take in the entire Wales Coast Path and Offa’s Dyke Path. In total it’s a journey of around 1047 miles, give or take a few. It’s not about getting around the route as quickly as possible; I think it’ll take me between eight to ten weeks to finish it though.

My walk is dedicated to those with pancreatic cancer, and my father, who died from the disease in 2012. Since then, I’ve been on a mission to raise money and awareness of this little known yet deadly cancer. All donations are going to the charity Pancreatic Cancer UK.

Walking Wales is a pilgrimage.

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