I’m starting to get back to normal after my last long walk and have started thinking about where I could go next. Below is a map of all the multi-day wild camping walks I’ve done over the last few years (not including Santiago de Compostela).
My British Long Walks
I’m contemplating a Dorset to Canterbury around the coast walk as there is a bit of a gap on the map. (Last time I walked to Canterbury the Cathedral was closed for Christmas.)
I’d be interested to hear if anyone has any ideas. The Norfolk coast might be interesting and, of course, there’s Wales. Does anyone have any experience of walking any of these or other trails I could do? I’d love to hear your suggestions.
I’m not sponsored by any manufacturer or supplier so the below comments are unbiased.
Tilley – great at giving extra sun protection, reducing glare and keeping the rain off my glasses.
Can be a bit hot and give you hat hair!
My old Tilly (Organic-Airflow) now has a couple of brown rust stains on it from hanging it on an old metal coat hook while wet. Other than that it’s standing the test of time, and many long trails, really well. It has become a good friend.
Decathlon – Worn around the neck – keeps you warm and makes a pull up mask for going into shops. It also stops water running down your neck when it’s not raining enough to have the hood up. Can be worn as a wrist band or attached to your pack strap. Good for cleaning glasses, mopping sweat etc.
I took one long sleeved shirt, a long sleeved t shirt and two short sleeved t shirts.
My first long sleeved shirt is from Craghoppers. It’s now quite old but I love it. It has loads of pockets including one big enough for an OS map. Importantly it dries quickly – you don’t want to be carrying a wet shirt around with you and it’s too big to tie on the side/back of a rucksack.
My long sleeved t shirt is a merino wool and from Aldi (Crivit long sleeve merino wool). This is super comfortable and I used it as a night shirt most nights on my trip. I also wore it on colder days – it never seemed to get smelly! This is one of my favourite new items on this trip. Well done to my wife for spotting this bargain!
T- shirts on this trip were from Polartec and North Face, the latter being new and the former several years (and long walks) old.
They both dry quickly when pinned to the side of my rucksack.
Two pairs of Merino wool Forclaz from Decathlon and one pair of ExOfficio give-n-go boxer shorts. The latter pair are a looser fitting boxer type and the former are a snugger fit. I did suffer from some sore areas on the inside top of my legs when wearing the boxers but still liked the loose, cooler fit in hot weather.
Having said that, the Decathlon pairs performed very well and seemed not to get smelly even if worn for more days than I care to remember. All of them dried quickly.
Thankfully, no photo for this item.
One pair taken and worn almost every day of the walk. I usually wear Craghopper shorts but decided to give the Decathlon pair a go as they are slightly shorter. They performed really well but I do miss having a rear left hand pocket and having a map pocket. They look a little smarter than the Craghopper pair and seem plenty tough enough. They have 3 zipped front pockets and one rear.
I took my old Craghopper trousers on this trip because they are tough, have loads of pockets, and they dry quickly. One of the pockets is big enough for an OS map.
Berghaus – I’ve had these for ages and really like them. Mine have a couple of barbed wire tears that I’ve temporarily repaired with tenacious tape. The repairs have lasted several years!
If the forecast is for persistent rain but it’s not cold I use these instead of ordinary trousers or shorts.
I like the very long zip which makes it easy to pull them on over my walking boots. I also like that I’m able to unzip from the top and vent the trousers.
On this trip I have, on a few occasions, slipped my overtrousers on to protect my legs from stinging nettles and brambles.
Three pairs taken, one pair of my old favourites from Bridgedale, and two pairs of my new favourite (in hot weather) the Solonac hunting socks from Decathlon.
The latter have performed amazingly well. They’ve been worn for up to three days on the trot without getting over smelly or unpleasant and, importantly, a quick wash in a stream and a day pinned to the sunny side of the backpack and they were ready to go again. These socks were really good on this walk and I suspect they would also be good in colder conditions but haven’t tried them yet. What’s more they’re cheap!
On this trip I took a pair of Hanwag boots.
For my LeJog walk I used Meindl boots which were great but the soles wore through at around the 500 mile point.
The Hanwag feel a little heavier and stiffer which is fine with me. They’ve now done well over 500 miles and are showing considerable wear on the heals but I suspect that they’ll remain serviceable for a few hundred miles more. The insole on the right boot is deteriorating at the heal and both boots have some nicks and scrapes but that is to be expected on a hike of this length.
Most importantly my feet are fine. I’ve had no serious issues at all. There can be no doubt that the Hanwag have out performed the Meindl boots.
Mountain Equipment (Gore-tex Pro) – luckily I didn’t have to wear this much as the weather on my walk was generally good. I purchased this jacket several years ago for my LeJog walk and it also looked after me well on Wainwright’s C2C last year and numerous other shorter walks. It’s also my dog walking jacket so, in other words, it has been very well used!
I love the zipped pit vents and good, deep pockets. I find it a little heavy (as most of the time it’s in the back pack) but would rather have extra weight than get wet. I also find it noisy, it rustles when I’m walking, but I’ve yet to find a good quality jacket that doesn’t.
My Rab puffer jacket is a favourite of mine. It’s so light and small that it’s hard to believe that it can keep me so warm. I use it mainly in the evenings as the sun goes down and the temperature drops. The jacket is also extremely comfortable and snuggly. I love it!
I hope this answers a few of the questions I’ve had about the kit I took along.
I had a wander into St David’s to get breakfast this morning. I’ve been enjoying my porridge with nuts and blackberries in the tent but thought it would be a treat to go to a cafe for a change and have a ‘proper’ breakfast to celebrate the completion of my quest.
There were no cafes (apart from the rude one) open in St. David’s. I checked online and found that the cathedral refectory is cafe which opens at 10.30. After a wander around the cathedral until opening time, the pleasant lady in the refectory was ‘very sorry sir but we are only doing take away teas, we can’t get the staff,’ she explained.
I must say that I’m amazed and disappointed that this city (albeit a small one) does not cater for its visitors at all well at this time of year. Having said that, it is still a beautiful place. I ended up having another pizza at the only decent food outlet in town and returned to my tent where I have been lying down all afternoon.
I did manage to do some replies to blog comments – whilst doing this I realised that there is a SEND button that I’d previously not seen. So my apologies if I’ve not responded to your post – chances are that I did respond but didn’t press send!
I often feel a bit flat at the end of a walk and that has been the case today. The noise of children in the campsite is irritating me. It shouldn’t; they’re just enjoying themselves. It’s just that I’ve been spoiled. I’ve become used to the sounds of silence; the wind and the owls, buzzards and kites.
I’m not coping well with humans. Last night I went into town to get a celebration meal and a pint. All of the pubs were full and there are no restaurants. I ended up sitting on a wall with fish and chips and a coke. I felt completely uncomfortable in town and wished I’d pitched on the cliff top away from everyone. I’ll have to ease back into society slowly.
Tomorrow I’m catching a bus to Haverfordwest and a train to Hereford where I’m meeting Kerriann and Hugo.
Thank you all very much for all your messages and comments. I am truly moved by all the support and encouragement that you’ve sent.
Today was a day of surprises. The first mile or so was a nightmare tangle of brambles and stingers but despite this it was a stunningly beautiful walk. I followed the stream and eventually the undergrowth cleared to reveal the remnants of a huge WWII airfield. The last thing I expected to find on an airfield was a stone circle complete with altar stone in the middle.
‘I assume it was put here a few year ago,’ I said to Phil who was walking his dog. ‘Built in the 1980s,’ he said, ‘they like their folklore round here.’ Phil’s son runs the most westerly farm in Britain near where I was heading.
I arrived in St. David’s and found a cafe for breakfast. I waited to be seated and when the waitress arrived I asked if I could sit in the seat to my left so that I could plug my phone in to the adjacent socket. ‘No we don’t let the public use our sockets,’ she said. ‘Well, the public will have their breakfast somewhere else,’ I said as I walked out.
I had a quick look around town, found a camp site, found somewhere to eat then set out on the last part of my pilgrimage. I had to visit the most Westerly point in England and Wales and throw the stone that I had carried from Lowestoft into the sea.
It’s a dramatic coastline – wild, just like the North Cornish coast where I used to live. I’m not sure why I felt so emotional when I reached my destination but I had tears in my eyes as I said goodbye to my stone and tossed it into the Atlantic Ocean. It’s been a long tough journey that in many ways I wish would never end. But I’ve been missing Kerriann and Hugo terribly and my body now aches and needs a rest.
I’ll add some more reflections over the next few days along with some kit lists and reviews. But for the time being many thanks to all the lovely people who have helped me along the way by having a chat, topping up my water bottle, providing cups of tea, giving directions and by leaving comments on this blog.
I walked into Letterston this morning hoping to get a bite to eat in their cafe and, you guessed it, it was closed. There was another shop on the other side of the road and, yes, it was also closed. Feeling somewhat despondent I walked on but I should have had faith in the Gods that seem to look after me.
One mile up the road was one of the best village shops I’ve ever visited. It had an unpretentious exterior but inside you could purchase oil and antifreeze for your car, gas cylinders for your Motorhome, sandwiches which were made to order, and everything else the solo long distance walker requires.
‘We’re a one of the few remaining,’ commented the owner when I told him how fantastic his shop was. After that I didn’t see a single person all day. This was possibly a good job as a few miles further I crossed a lovely burbling stream with deep pools. It was too tempting. The sun was out, there was nobody around so I stripped off and got in for an invigorating wash. The temperature was shockingly cold but I washed myself, my hair, and some clothes which I pinned on the side of my pack to dry.
There were several blocked paths today; brambles and barbed wire were the main offenders. I found it irritating to have to double back and find alternative routes because someone had deliberately blocked of a footpath. (See previous post for map of exceedingly irritating diversion.)
I passed a few derelict cottages today and was surprised that that they haven’t been done up and sold. Again there were signs that our ancestors had valued the area including another cromlech (burial chamber). I came across some finely crafted green men that had been carved directly into the stumps of old trees. They sat alongside the footpath like ancient guardians.
I’ve pitched near a stream that sounds exquisite and feels so cold it should almost be frozen. It’s a beautiful pitch. One of the reasons I do these walks, these pilgrimages, is to remind myself how wonderful our earth is. I’m so privileged to be able to spend so much time in amazing places like this.
This is just a quick example of a blocked footpath from today’s GPS record. I followed the path from right to left to find the gap in the hedge for the footpath had been blocked. I had no alternative but to retrace my steps and take the minor road around. Highly irritating and extremely frustrating.
Walked today – 14.29 miles Today’s ascent 1486 feet
Total miles so far – 511.58
Total feet climbed – 34,660
Total pubs visited – 15
Cafes – 16
Campsites – 1
I looked outside the tent at around 1am this morning and the sky was clear and beautifully sprinkled with stars but the most impressive thing was the total absence of noise – it was absolutely silent.
I could see the red lights of a tall radio mast and some distant lights from dwellings but no moving lights – no cars or planes. The stillness at that time in the morning is magical.
When I took a peep outside at about 6am it was white – I was up in the clouds. Over the next hour or so the cloud cleared then drifted over again then cleared. Eventually the sun won out and warmed my tent.
As I started walking the clouds rolled in again. Navigation is always difficult when visibility is poor. After struggling to stay on the path I decided to drop down the hillside a little and follow the field boundaries which were generally barbed wire fences. I got chatting to a Dave, a friendly chap on his mountain bike, who pointed out the sheep dog trials that were taking place in a field below us. He’s lived in the area all his life and clearly loves the place. He referred to some footpaths as ‘Arthurian’ meaning that they probably existed in King Arthur’s time and indeed he may well have travelled along these very routes. I love the thought that I’m treading in our ancient ancestors’ footsteps.
I topped my water up (using my filter) in a lovely stream in the woods and had a very cold wash. When I reached the hamlet with a pub in, I asked some ramblers if it was open. ‘Possibly,’ they said. ‘Open the door and ring the bell by the hole in the wall, someone may be there to serve you.’
I followed the instructions but before I could ring the bell an elderly lady shouted from the back, ‘we’re closed.’ It looked like a proper old fashioned pub. Dave said it was like stepping back in time with beer poured from an enamel jug. I should have guessed it was closed by the washing spread out to dry on the bench in front of the building. I’ll make a mental note to return to this gem one day when it’s open.
I stopped and picked some blackberries to put on my porridge on the morning and then set up camp behind an earth work on the edge of a field of grass. The earthwork is surrounded by an electric fence which I hopped over. So I’m protected by my personal electric fence – I must remember it’s there if I pop out for a pee.
Im very excited at being on the last side of the last Ordinance Survey map of my trip. Only two or three more nights wild camping and I should be in St David’s.
Total miles so far – 497.29 Total feet climbed – 33,174 Total pubs visited – 15
Cafes – 16 Camp sites – 1
Last night was cold for the time of year – about 5C. That, combined with zero wind and a misty daybreak, meant that my tent was damp with condensation. It didn’t help that I’d pitched to the west of a hedge and that prevented the sun from drying me out in the morning.
This isn’t a problem with the tent, it’s just one of those things that happen in all tents under certain conditions. My MSR Hubba is probably one of the least prone to condensation problems on the market. To give it a chance to dry out I delayed getting up as long as I dared but the field had good long grass so it was probably due to be cut or livestock would be let in soon. I was nervous that the farmer would show up. So I ended up packing a wet tent, something I hate doing.
Top tech tip:
Always pack your fly sheet in a separate dry bag. They weigh next to nothing but stop dampness migrating to other items in your pack.
Soon after setting out I was impressed with the beautiful cromlech Gwal y Filiast (The Greyhound’s Den) that sat right in the middle of my track. I couldn’t help but reflect that 4,000 years ago people had walked this same path and one important person liked the place so much that they chose to be interred here. I recommend an early morning visit – I was moved by the atmosphere and beauty of the place.
Later in the day I also visited Gots Fawr stone circle and its associated standing stones – another impressive site.
I was low on drinking water this morning and, whilst I could have clambered down the bank of one of the streams and filtered some water, it seemed prudent to call into a camp site that I’d seen was almost on my route. It turned out that the site also had a bar and restaurant so I ordered a pint of lemonade and lime along with a baked potato and beans – yum!
I got talking to the team at Trefach Country Club who were as friendly and helpful as I’ve come to expect in Wales. ‘The full facilities of our site are yours to use,’ they said. ‘We’re so impressed that you’ve walked so far! Would you like a shower? I will get you a clean towel’. I couldn’t turn down an offer like that so I had a lovely long hot shower and also took the opportunity to – you’ll already have guessed this – wash a pair of socks.
While I was there I saw the girls presented with a bouquet of flowers from another guest who they’d shown exceptional professionalism and kindness to. Thank you Trefach Ladies, you are a very special and lovely team.
I’m now at an altitude of around 1400 feet up on the Preseli Hills. The views are, of course, beautiful. I stopped at about 4pm which is quite early for me but I wanted to get the tent up, dried and aired while the sun was still strong. There’s a nice breeze this evening so I shouldn’t have any problems with condensation.
I wonder if the person one buried under the Greyhound’s Den loved the place and its people as much as I do?
Total miles so far – 482.68 Total feet climbed – 31,097 Total pubs visited – 15
Cafes – 15
Camp sites – 1
I slept well last night thanks to the distant pulsating drone of a wind turbine. It was necessary to tweak my route a little to take in Llanboidy as it had a shop and pub and I needed supplies. Not only did it have a shop it had the nicest, cleanest community run toilets I’ve ever seen so I managed a bit of a wash. I even washed a T-shirt which was particularly impressive as the ‘sink’ was one of those hole in the wall soap, wash and blow dry jobs. It’s particularly difficult avoiding the soap when rinsing the garment!
The church had an outside tap so I topped up my bottles with holy water. The shop and shop keeper were both great but the pub was closed – yet another victim of Covid.
I was surprised to find a stone circle on my route that wasn’t marked on the OS map. It’s likely to be a modern one but it had a charm about it an I liked it.
Later I was slowly walking up a long farm track when I noticed a quad bike parked in the middle. As I approached an elderly gentleman came out of the gate and looked me over. ‘Aah, you’re a walker,’ he said. It turned out he was the shepherd/farmer. I patted his collie who was sitting on the back of the quad bike and we chatted. Ifor is in his seventies and suffering with arthritis which is probably why he rode his machine sidesaddle.
Some time later I was passing through his farmyard. ‘I’ve been hearing about you,’ Mrs Ifor called out. ‘Would you like a cup of tea?’ The farmhouse was lovely – a huge aga, shepherd’s crooks and horse brasses on the wall. It was everything a farmhouse should be. ‘Your tea might seem a little white, it’s because the milk has come straight from the cow,’ Ifor said. ‘I wish I were more like you, I’ve not done anything with my life,’ he went on. His wife pointed out that he had done a lot with his life including feeding half the world with his sheep, employing people etc etc. I agree with her, he is a wonderful, interesting person and so is she. The kindness and hospitality of the Welsh people I’ve met moves me yet again. (Apart from the Sainsbury’s security guard.)
‘Strangers are friends you haven’t met yet is one of my favourite sayings,’ she said as I departed. I left them to wait for the vet to come and castrate their bullocks…