An epic 870-miles adventure in 43 days
DON’T MISS THIS EVENT!
March 11th 2021 – If you’d like to hear Zoe speak for the Royal Geographical Society’s Microlectures about her experiences on the Wales Coast Path, tickets can be purchased by clicking on the image above.
Becoming the first woman to walk the Wales Coast Path in 2012 was never on my radar. It just turned out that way – ‘some things are meant to be’. That seems to be how much of my life has developed and I love that organic flow of happenings.
After completing the South West Coast Path in 2011, people kept asking me “what next?” It hadn’t occurred to me that after my first long-distance walk to mark my fortieth birthday, there might be other walks too. Those people, in all their curiosity, had unwittingly sowed a very important seed.
Three friends from the South West Coast Path and I, organised another meet up. Our destination was Cardiff on 5th May 2012, for the inaugural opening ceremony of the Wales Coast Path. Arry Beresford-Webb (now Arry Cain) was running around the full perimeter of Wales on her ‘Dragon Run 1027‘. Having started off at Roald Dahl Plas on 24th March, Arry was due to run into Cardiff Bay on 5th May. This coincided with the opening festivities. The arrangement was for the ‘baton’ to be passed on to fellow walker, Dave Quarrell, who then set off to walk both the Wales Coast Path and Offa’s Dyke national trail. This completed another full circuit of the country.
Arry had been blogging and as one of her followers, I was keen to be involved in the occasion. Perhaps I could even run the last mile with her, into Cardiff Bay.
The plan to walk the Wales Coast Path had already been hatched right after completing the South West Coast Path. Walking all the way around Wales was glibly mentioned, at the WCP post-ceremony drinks in a local bar. Arthur was already committed to walking the South West Coast Path (for about the fifteenth time I believe!), but Mike and Steve excitedly agreed they would forge ahead with this great idea. I have to admit here, to being miffed that they were planning to take on both Offa’s Dyke and the Wales Coast Path at a distance of 1047 miles, without me. I would have given my right arm to do this but in the days available in my school summer holiday, it simply wasn’t possible.
Camping out every night
Having left the wild camping too late during my SWCP adventure, I had made up my mind to sleep in a tent EVERY night while out on the WCP. It was the best decision and heightened the experience of the walk.
It is my duty to state here that if I wild camp, I do so discreetly and following the ‘LEAVE NO TRACE’ rule absolutely to the letter. I am fully aware that there are many schools of thought on this subject and it can bring about much healthy debate. My way is to arrive late and usually pack up early, depending on where I am, to avoid any issues. If I need the loo and cannot bury it, I do my business and bag it. Double bag it and carry it out. It can be tied to a rucksack and popped into the next rubbish bin.
Across the forty three days it took to walk this new trail, we encountered many environments of interest. The sites of industrial landscape are of as much importance as the scenic, geological coves, and cliffs. They have all shaped the country into what it is today. Despite living in South Wales now, I am certainly no expert on the study of this wonderful land and at the time of walking, had only visited a handful of times. But during my hike of the coastline (which incidentally, is not all coastline!), I discovered much about the culture, the people, and the traditions of this beautiful place.
- 20.23 miles per day (average)
- 42 nights camping
- 4 beer garden camps
- 7 domestic garden camps
- 30 wild camps
- 1 fortress camp
- 8 power stations (at least)
- 3 oil refineries
- 16 unitary authorities
- Many estuary walks (inland to the nearest bridge and back down to the coast)
- Infinite derelict buildings (although sad, they are still artistic and of great interest, both photographically and historically)
- 29,194m level of ascent (approx.) – equivalent to climbing Mt. Everest just over three times
- 2.3kg weight loss (7lbs)
- 12kg pack weight (marginally better than my first pack on SWCP of 18kg!)
- 10 blisters (at least! I was still new to the hiking game…)
- 95 people met who made enough impact to make it into my trail log
- 14 different types of noted wildlife (dead or alive; not incl. farm animals)
- 27 different types of recorded terrain
Throughout the duration of this hike, we crossed many bridges. I actually wish I had made a note of the exact amount. They were plentiful anyway, with some standing out more than others. The Menai Bridge crossing into Anglesey was a stunning feat of engineering. The Newport Transporter Bridge blew me away. I had never seen anything quite like before! The gondola, which hangs down below the main structure of the bridge, carries the cars and foot passengers and passes across to the opposite bank. It was not in operation, sadly, on the day we arrived in Newport. We had a much longer walk around to the next road bridge instead.
Observing the design style and architecture of a bridge is important, as it usually reflects the era in which it was constructed. A bridge gives us such an excellent reason to stop, even if just for a moment. To absorb the view of the river, road, or valley it spans from a new perspective. To gaze in awe and wonder at how such enormous and often elaborate structures were built. To play Pooh sticks… (if it’s the right kind of bridge!)
You know where I am…
Please feel free to message me or make contact with me on social media if you are thinking of walking the Wales Coast Path. I receive a multitude of questions from people on the topic – particularly around camping or accommodation. Campsites and Youth Hostels serve the path pretty well. I’m sure if you want to B&B along the way there are plenty to choose from.
At the end of the day, however you choose to sleep while adventuring along this now popular path, we are all bringing value to the economy of the country by supporting local businesses. For forty-three days, my walking buddies and I bought meals in pubs, shopped in local grocery stores, sought out shops with outdoor gear supplies, and occasionally found the need to use public transport. The Welsh people are super-friendly and the many people who have ’emigrated’ from over the border into Wales will be just as enthusiastic about supporting you and talking to you as you pass through each of their local areas.
For further information about planning your walk please visit the Wales Coast Path dedicated website.
REMINDER – DON’T MISS THIS EVENT!
March 11th 2021 – If you’d like to hear Zoe speak for the Royal Geographical Society’s Microlectures about her experiences on the Wales Coast Path, tickets can be purchased here: https://www.rgs.org/events/spring-2021/geographical-journeys-microlectures/
Well done. SWCP and WCP. You will run out of coastline soon and I struggle to think of anywhere in the world that will compare.
Hi Martyn, thank you! I know the UK is small (by comparison to much of the world) but although I’d love to walk the UK coastline, it’s going to take a while… I’m not concerned about running out just yet. My biggest concern currently, is getting started on the rest! 😉
Planning to walk this summer, camping all the way too. Any spots recommended, most welcome, particularly beer gardens! Hope to use legal sites as much as poss but don’t want to stray too far off the path. We did SWCP and the extra walk to camp was sometimes tiresome! Can’t find any suitable places on north coast at the moment🤔
Many thanks and happy travels
Hi Clare, this is great news! So pleased to hear you’ve planned to camp the whole way. Are you going solo or with others and which direction are you going – north to south or south to north? Plenty of pubs en-route that will be happy to accommodate a solo or pair of campers in their beer gardens, I’m sure – especially if you drink/eat there. There are some very beautifully placed YHAs too. If you’re happy to wild camp (with leave no trace ethics and supporting #righttoroam) then be prepared not to plan ahead and to allow the path to provide you with little nooks and crannies to squeeze into or wide remote vistas to enjoy. I wouldn’t recommend camping around the towns/cities, especially if you’re on your own and I wouldn’t recommend it on the north coast either. Other than that it’s great to go with the flow. I have a friend who walked the WCP with me that first year and he and his wife live on Anglesey. They may be able to advise… drop me an email or DM on IG/FB and I’ll send you more info. Thanks for getting in touch! Z x