35th Across Wales Walk
5 September 1998
This page provides reports and timing information for the 35th Across Wales Walk.
To download a table of entrants and times (Excel 4.0 format, approx. 50Kb) click here.
I have recently been presented with a most coveted award. I do not wish to boast, however I must explain that this particular award, in the shape of a large wooden spoon, man-size in fact, is not awarded every year. To enlighten you further, only those who have taken part in the 'Across Wales' event and who have also committed an outstandingly stupid act qualify. Please note that not just any stupid act will do!
Modesty prevents me from sharing with you in print the details of my escapade, but this year's 'Across Wales' participants will recall Stuart Lamb's colourful account of the incident during the presentation of the certificates to those who completed the walk. Since I cannot enlighten you further, what you may ask is the point of this item?
Apart from wanting to thank the organisers and helpers of this great event, I wanted also to thank Nev Tandy, who unfortunately was not able to participate this year - his first absence for 30-something years. It was Nev who decorated the wooden spoon (having won it himself), by beautifully carving the 'Across Wales' logo on one side and the following rhyme on the flip-side:
'A hill too steep, a
lane too long
An OS map that's printed wrong
Every excuse to save your pride
Why not accept, Wales is too wide!'
By Craig Brown - West Birmingham Hostelling Group
Isn't that great!
Reproduced from LDWA 'Strider' December 1998 (with permission)
Further details of Tom's exploits are to be found on the Wooden Spoon page
Tom thought his secret was safe, but the following article was published in the same journal, spilling the beans on the nature of his escapade!
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The event was started in 1964 by the West Birmingham Hostelling Group. The concept was simple and still applies, to walk across Wales from East to West, a distance of about 50 miles. The original route was mostly devised as the day progressed with two willing wives rushing ahead to possible checkpoints. One such halt was a chapel at Nant-y-Moch but just before the event it was discovered that it was submerged in the reservoir and the dam wall was used instead; it is still used. Today, organised by Stuart Lamb of the same group, it is a well planned very enjoyable challenge event.
On Friday 4 September at 3pm seven people started to attempt a double crossing and joined us lesser mortals at Sam on Saturday at Anchor Bridge near Clun in order to commence the walk proper. The first half hour was in the dark up a narrow tarmac lane, but on reaching the top to turn onto a ridge path, the grey light loomed and misty patches were visible below. No torches needed now. The weather was humid after heavy overnight rain but improved to give some stunning views over the Welsh countryside. The summit of Plynlimon at 752m was clear with extensive views of reservoirs and hills, although we could not yet see the sea. The last few miles on the road are daunting but the end, Clarach Bay, is always in sight. You knew you had finished with the sight and sound of grey waves rolling in from Ireland. I was minded to paddle on completion, but the pebbly shore line and the harsh fact that if I got my boots off I would never get them back on again, decided me against this. I didn't have a go on the dodgems either. Eighty-nine of us completed the walk and thirteen brave souls failed, including three of the double-crossers.
The organisation was immaculate, from the ample tea, coffee and toast at 3.30am in Clun Memorial Hall to the cold dishes of salad, meat, bread, cakes, fruit, yoghurt and drinks ready on arrival at Aberystwyth University Halls. After a couple of beers, the bed of crisp, clean white sheets was like a dream, but the best part which makes many people return is the superb cooked English breakfast on Sunday morning: Egon Ronay eat your heart out.
The helpers at all five CPs were sociable and encouraging and we were actually waitress-served cups of tea. At one CP, using binoculars, they can watch you descend Plynlimon - I bet there were some stories to tell. It was extremely boggy terrain. Luggage is transported with changes of clothes, footwear and extra food to any of the CPs and sleep and evening attire to the university; all very efficient. The transport was just as well organised and thanks are due especially to the private car owners who moved our dirty, tired smelly bodies the few miles from the end to our accommodation at the halls of residence.
My companion for most of the day was a drop dead gorgeous farmer born and bred in Powys. He made me feel and wish I was fifteen years younger. He knew every blade of grass en route, but on the ascent and descent of the mountain especially, his knowledge of animals, land use and the history of the area kept me motivated to complete the walk in 13.43 hrs. I did have to keep rushing ahead while he applied at least a jar of petroleum jelly to his juggly bits but I believe many men have this problem. Perhaps he should have put some on his feet. They were white and wrinkly with bubbly lumps covered in dubious wrapping. 'It's only pain,' was his frequent remark.
A wooden spoon is awarded at the end of the walk, this year to a Mr Shepherd who accidentally dived-with-pike into a rushing stream from a ford. I spotted him shivering wrapped in car blankets with a brown tinge and green slime dripping from his orifices. He ran past me later and completed the event. The spoon is engraved and carved and has a name added annually. Apart from actually drowning yourself it is difficult to win. I won't be trying.
For this event you need to dedicate nearly a whole weekend, but it is well worth it. Every member of the LDWA would enjoy this linear challenge event with a difference.
PS I hope my husband doesn't read this - he thinks he's coming with me next year.
Reproduced from LDWA 'Strider' December 1998 (with permission)
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As always the most important factor affecting the event over which we have no control is, of course, the weather. From the Wednesday before the event the signs were bad: hurricane Bonnie from the south, hurricane Danielle from the west. I'm sure I was not alone in thinking that we were in for a real 'soaker', as indeed it turned out to be for the 'double-crossers', more of which later! In the end we were lucky as we exploited a real 'window' in the weather.
So it was that the 89 starters experienced early mist but generally dry conditions and, by the time CP2 was reached, the mist had cleared and there was little or no wind, but most noticeable was the unusual warmth and humidity. Last year it was biscuits the entrants wanted, but this year it was water, so much so that we ran out at CP1: this is unprecedented in our experience. The weather then generally improved with the 'cap' of mist eventually lifting from Plynlimon. There were some localised downpours, most notably at CP4, but the weather generally stayed kind for the remainder of the day. In particular, the westerly wind which normally saps the strength of the walkers in the latter stages was really only evident close to Clarach, and then it was untypically warm. So, on the whole, it was a remarkable day: our prayers were generally answered!
Back to our 89 starters, from 104 bookings. The fastest times of 10 hours 7 minutes were recorded by the familiar band of TERDS (Thursday Evening Running and Drinking Society) and friends:
John Lucking and
Philip Gwilliam who all deserve our congratulations. [The runners then took a bow]
This year we had an unprecedented 7 attempts at double crossing the event by
Phil Newman and
These intrepid souls left Aberystwyth on Friday to walk to Anchor. All completed this phase through a foul night of near continuous rain: a noteworthy achievement in itself, particularly without support. Clive, Richard, Phil and Phillip then completed the return leg; the two Peters and Mark did not. But all these guys really suffered and deserve our acclaim. [All doublers then took a bow].
Need I point out that one of these supermen repeated last year's feat of doubling and setting the fastest time: The incredible Philip Gwilliam! [Philip then received the acclaim of those assembled].
[The successful entrants then received their certificates from Stuart and Judith Lamb.]
Of course we must not forget those who did not complete the event this year. Many walked further than they had ever before, more suffered. Can those who retired stand (if they can) and let's give them deserved recognition! [The retirees then received enthusiastic applause.]
As in previous years, I requested information on the booking form as to where entrants heard about the 35th Across Wales Walk. I received the usual mix of comments:
'Strider' and 'previous entrants' said many.
'In a nightmare' said Peter Gretton!
'From my girlfriend in 1971' said John Edwards...how far-sighted she must have been!
I also had some interesting further comments:
'I completed the 1st. 2nd, 3rd. and 25th event' said John Evans who, supported by his wife Angela, also took part in yesterday's event but unfortunately did not finish.
In addition Roy Millard also took part this year, supported by his wife Viv who, between them, organised the very first Across Wales Walk in October 1964! Those of you who took part in the 25th event will recall that Roy described the first event at the presentation ceremony 10 years ago. Can I ask Roy and Viv to again remind us of the origins of the event 34 years ago. [Roy and Viv then entertained us with their account of the humble origins of the event: this was very well received by all present. An article by Roy summarising the first AWW is on this website.]
As usual this year I tried some new things for this year's 'cross Wales:
Firstly, the website went on-line at the end of April and it had had some 218 visits the last time I looked (accepting that most of the visits were by me looking to see how many visits I'd had!) and I hope that some of you found it useful [a show of hands revealed that about half the entrants had made a visit].
Secondly, I produced a detailed route description which, as Bob Gold reminded me, is supposed to be an aid to navigation, not a substitute for a map and compass. Some may have found some of the errors that slipped in - did anyone waste time looking for a steam to cross? However the danger of reliance upon route descriptions was highlighted by one gentlemen on the event this year who, after leaving Nant-y-moch, went through a gate without "....turning immediately left...". The fact that he was off-route was confirmed when he took a forward dive (double pike with two and a half twists, difficulty 3.1) into a sink hole of stinking brown water! The 'judges', whilst having reservations on Technical Merit (he was impeded by his rucksack, so he claims) were particularly impressed with the style of his numerous attempts to both breathe and leave the aforementioned pit. On exit, this rather bemused walker arrived at CP5 sporting a sort of 'tide mark of filth' around his hair-line - a veritable sphagnum moss 'crown of thorns'. This same walker arrived at CP5 last year in a blood-stained condition having attempted to slit his wrists over the same section! The 1998 Across Wales Walk Wooden Spoon Award goes to.....Tom Shepherd!
[Tom was then presented with his award which he rapturously received. See Tom's report on his completion of the event. His exploits are also described in the section relating to the Wooden Spoon.]
Whilst on the subject of cock-ups, on behalf of Mr James of Elerch I would like to apologise to the walker whose map case was peed upon by one of his disrespectful sheep dogs. Mr James advised me that his dog is still young and under training: by next year his aim will be much better and walker's rucksacks will then be his preferred target!
Just a few further points I would like to make:
I'm sorry about the late distribution of OS maps this year. With the introduction of the new Explorer series of maps, Pathfinder 929 has been in extremely short supply as the OS appear to be running-down slow-moving maps such as this; we appear to be the major customer for some of these maps which apparently sell less than 100 copies per annum. We are currently not sure which maps will be available in 1999 or even whether we will be able to offer the same service. Good news is that the bum-bag plus wallet that went missing at Clun were both found having been misplaced.
Now it is time for me to thank those who made this year's event happen:
First, North Powys and North Dyfed RAYNET Groups once again provided us with first-class communications. Each year without fail they match us in numbers and enthusiasm.
I should like to thank Penbryn Halls for the excellent service we have received this year.
Next, I would like to thank the members of West Birmingham Hostelling Group. Bob Gold has provided excellent support throughout the year, and operational planning on the day. As Bob was walking this year, this put extra burden upon Maggie - she has been reliability personified: thanks very much! I would also like to say a big thank you to all the other checkers, some of whom were valued non-entrants or 'followers', specifically:
Debbie and Stuart
Judith, Fiona and Sarah.
As I say every year, without them yesterday would not have happened.
Finally, I would like to thank the two retirees from CP2, Geoff Drake and James Fiske, who helped unload all the baggage at Aberystwyth in a record 15 minutes!
It's not too soon to be thinking about the 36th Across Wales Walk which will take place on 4 September 1999: Envelopes are available afterwards so please fill in your name and we'll send you entry forms as soon as they are available....And, of course, don't forget the website where, when time allows, I'll publish past reports, photos and timings on the event plus full details of next year's event. [Sorry for the delay in publishing this information - changed job and much less free time to support the website].
[Clive Lungmuss then proposed a vote of thanks to the Organisers which was gratefully received. Nick Hall then promoted the Charnwood Forest Marathon, room keys were collected and proceedings closed.]
So ended the 1998 Across Wales Walk. Thanks to all those who wrote letters of appreciation who clearly enjoyed the event as much as I did. See you next year!
Organiser, Across Wales Walk
Thankyou card received from Mark and Susan Denham-Smith after the 1998 event.
Caption reads "What do you mean 'It's a but muddy'?"
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5 am at the
start. Double-crossers Peter Gretton (L) Peter Stevenson (white
cap) and Clive Lungmuss (R)
take on refreshment having already completed 45 miles. Bob Gold points out to Maggie Gold what is required.
Busy time at CP1, Maggie Gold in charge
Stuart and Judith Lamb serve drinks at CP2. Pat Ryan (seated) and Jack Allen (R) take refreshments
John Edwards and others take refreshment at CP3. Maggie Gold, Julian Beck, Peter Hatcher and Sandra Fox help out
Wyn George and
Christine Stratton take refereshment at CP4 while David Beckett
and Allen Ince entertain four-legged helper.
The slopes of Plynlimon extend behind
Sarah, Fiona and Judith Lamb at CP5
Gold, Sandra Fox, Debbie Rainscourt, Julian Beck and Martin Child
await the next arrival at the finish.
Clive Lungmuss's mum waits for Clive.
For more of Richard's photographs please click below:
Tom Shepherd at the end of the event
Three 'supermen' at Aberystwyth before starting their double-crossing in 1998
Pictures taken by Essex and Herts LDWA members in 1998 (on E & W LDWA Website)
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