37th Across Wales Walk

2 September 2000

One of the best?

The Across Wales Walk

37th Across Wales Walk in summary:

Near ideal walking conditions throughout the day .

  • 98 starters, 88 finishers.
    5 retirements at CP3 after 25 miles.
    5 retirements at CP4 after 32 miles.
  • 4 successful double crossings including first ever female double by Susan Denham-Smith.
  • Fastest time 8 hours 49 minutes by Ian Doherty.
Peter Gretton enjoys refreshments at CP2

This page provides provisional reports and timing information for the 37th Across Wales Walk.

  1. Photographs of this year's event
  2. Entrants and completion times
  3. The Across Wales Walk: an Organiser's perspective
  4. Double First: the 37th  Across Wales Walk on (1st and) 2nd September 2000 by Susan Denham-Smith
  5. Article appearing in The Cambrian News 7 September 2000
  6. ***More Photographs****

If you took part in the 37th Across Wales Walk, please click here to record your experiences and comments in the Across Wales Walk Guest Book

Welcome to Clun........... .........New Memorial Hall: the night before.
Judith Lamb serves drinks to Brian Cole Michael Griffiths with Julian Beck at CP2
'"Playin' my piano de other day'"
Rob Young and Nick Hall at CP2
Michael Pinner and Matt Clarke arrive at CP2
Checker Richard Rosser in action.... ........and with Roy Bradley
Busy times at CP2
Chas Stephenson at CP2 Double-crosser Peter Stevenson at CP2
Linda McCarthy at CP2 Double-crosser Clive Lungmuss at CP2
Tom Shepherd at CP2 Tom, Robert Bills and Nev Tandy at CP2
Andrew Papps of North Powys RAYNET and Rachael Bamford of West Birmingham Hostelling Group confer on timings at CP2
Ian Doherty takes on 'alcohol fuel' at CP5 before returning the fastest time of 8h 49mins David Yorston and the Sorensen family rest at CP5
Another terrific sunset at CP5
Susan Denham-Smith completes the first ever female double crossing of the Across Wales Walk Bob Gold's new sign lights up the night at Clarach Bay
Stuart Lamb and Bob Gold award the certificates at the presentation ceremony, University of Wales, Aberystwyth. Bob hands a certificate to one of the 88 successful entrants
Peter James of Clun adds another certiificate to his collection Nev Tandy, on his 32nd completion, delivers a vote of thanks to the organisers.
Stuart Lamb and Richard Swift Regular West Birmingham Checkers: Derek Norton, Jill Coates, Maggie Gold and Pat Meredith relax at the end of another Across Wales Walk

37th ACROSS WALES WALK: entrants and completion times

To view a table of entrants and times (Excel 97 format, approx. 117Kb) Left click here. To Save the file, right click here and follow the instructions.

37th ACROSS WALES WALK – 2nd SEPTEMBER 2000 : an Organiser's view:
- a transcript of the speech given at the 2000 presentation ceremony by Stuart Lamb

  Firstly, good morning and welcome to the presentation ceremony for the 37th Across Wales Walk. Once again its great to see so many familiar faces and I hope you all enjoyed your stay at the University.

 The presentation ceremony today will follow its usual format:

 …all leading to a planned departure time of 10:30 

To the event itself:

 Clearly conditions early yesterday were wet underfoot following Friday’s rain. But, overall, it’s fair to say that the weather behaved itself throughout the day resulting in near perfect walking conditions. The strong northerly winds forecast never materialised and the day stayed rain-free and pleasantly warm.

Route-wise, this year’s event saw two revisions and one diversion. First we revised the route to follow the Severn Way before CP2 and, secondly, we reverted to the route that Bob Gold originally planned in 1996 through Pen-y-banc after Van. Indications suggest that both revisions were moderately successful, and were the pigs at Van any problem?

<<Comments from the floor suggested that the route revisions had generally been favoured by entrants…and that the pigs (though much larger than when the route was last surveyed, had merely been inquisitive rather than aggressive.>> 

The diversion, however, was probably less appreciated but essentially we had no choice: Nant-y-Moch dam was closed by order to pedestrians (necessitating 50m additional descent followed by steep ascent to CP4). The further problem at Bont-goch Bridge (closed to vehicles whilst being rebuilt) was successfully avoided by a temporary pedestrian bridge.

 We also carried out two areas of route improvement this year: Judith and I cleared the overgrown section by Cefnmawr after CP2 in late June which hopefully had not grown back? <<Entrants confirmed this section to be greatly improved and showed their appreciation>>. There must have been a real surprised farmer at Cefnmawr: his overgrown jungle transformed into manicured, parallel hedges!! Also earlier this week, Bob Gold, Richard Rosser and Peter Gretton worked on the Craig-y-Pistyl scree cutting a ledge and thus making it much safer. <<Entrants once again showed their  appreciation.>> Perhaps we may have to review our policy regarding the ‘fire-break’ diversion when we see how stable the improvements remain.

 So back to the event proper. Overall, 115 entrants booked for the 37th Across Wales Walk, 98 of whom started the event. Five entrants retired at CP3 with a further five retiring at CP4. From then onwards there were no further retirements: 88 finishers from 98 starters is about the average or slightly higher than average retirement rate for the event.

 It was certainly a good year for runners: the top ten finishers completed in under 10¼ hours. The FASTEST TIME was recorded by a newcomer to the Across Wales, Ian Doherty, who arrived at Clarach Bay at eleven minutes to two in a time of 8 hours 49 minutes – an overall speed of 5.1 mph for the event. <<Ian then received the acclaim of those present>>.

 So much for the speed….how about the stamina?

 We had four DOUBLE CROSSERS starting at various times from Clarach Bay on Friday morning, walking to the start and returning with the event. Three very familiar names who succeeded were:

Philip also set the fourth equal fastest time with a return leg of 9 hours 52 Minutes. <<Peter, Clive and Philip stood to receive enthusiastic acclaim>>.

 As for the fourth double-crosser, well there are very few firsts left for grabs in this event….but yesterday we saw the first ever FEMALE DOUBLE CROSSING. With a time of 16 hours 49 minutes on top of an outward leg of about 13 hours, a total of thirty hours on the road, we saw a fantastically feisty feat of female endurance. Put your hands together for Susan Denham-Smith! <<Susan then received rapturous acclaim>>.

 <<Certificates were then presented to the successful entrants focusing upon, the fastest times, the double crossings, Neville Tandy’s 32nd completion of the event and Tom Shepherd’s inability to build upon his ‘spoon-winning’ performances in 1997 and 1998.>>

 Also at this time we must not forget those who failed to complete the event. Most probably walked further than their previous best distance…and they certainly suffered! <<Those who failed to complete the event stood to receive hearty applause>>.

 <<The Organiser then introduced his annual “Your letters and e-mails” slot, the details of which are not recorded to save potential embarrassment to both the Organiser and the absent correspondent! The Organiser ended with a plea to maintain the level of correspondence, notwithstanding the risk of having your letters read-out at the ceremony!>>

 <<There were no last minute nominations for the Wooden Spoon Award so no award was made for the second year running. However it subsequently came to light that Maggie Gold’s sandwiches prepared as breakfast for the double-crossers were found to contain additional protein in the form of a slug, much to the surprise of Clive Lungmuss!>>

I may be a little premature with the following announcement, but I didn’t want to wait another year before making it. I’m sure you’re all familiar with the legendary and horrific crossing of Mochdre Brook. Well as you may know, when modifying the route for 1996, Bob was in consultation with the local authority regarding the footpaths including the replacement of the bridge across Mochdre Brook. Now at that time, Bob was successful in getting many stiles replaced, but we couldn’t take it as far as a new bridge. In the next year we are going to try again. Obviously, it’s too early to predict how negotiations will proceed but, if necessary, we are contemplating launching an appeal for donations and, if successful, helpers to assist. All I will say for now is ‘watch this space’….but I may be after your money! Let’s make it our objective to put something tangible back into the countryside we love so much. <<Clear support was received from those present>>.

 Now comes the time to thank on your behalf those who made the AWW a super event this year.

 First there are the members of West Birmingham Hostelling Group who provide the core of checkers year after year and without whom the event could not take place:

One name missing from the list of ‘doublers’ this year was that of Richard Rosser…..but proving once again that great walkers make great checkers he did a magnificent job both yesterday and leading-up to the event. I have never seen the floor of the Clun New Memorial Hall looking so good! Thanks Richard. <<…echoed again>>.

There are some other special people I wish to thank: Bob Gold is co-organiser ensuring that checkers are where they should be, when they should be, and a million other things on the day and throughout the year….and how about the new illuminated sign at the finish? Thanks Bob <<…and again!>>

Can I also say a special thanks to my daughters Fiona and Sarah and, in particular, my long-suffering wife Judith. It is as a result of her efforts that the cakes are made, checkpoint boxes contain the correct stuff in the right quantities and that your names are spelt (mostly!) correctly on you certificates etc. She also has to put up with me in that tense and stressful period leading-up to the event. Thanks Judith very much indeed. <<…one more time!>>

Finally, I would like to give my thanks to North Powys and North Dyfed RAYNET Groups whose vital activities in providing communications go pretty much unseen. For example:

These guys are superb!! Thanks very much <<..and again>>

 <<Neville Tandy then lead a vote of thanks to Stuart for the organisation of the event: this was gratefully accepted with many thanks to all: it’s very rewarding when one’s efforts are so clearly appreciated. Neville then promoted his annual Reservoir Roundabout around the Claerwen and Elan Valleys in January 2001. Stuart then recounted that, at a recent ‘boot sale’ he had purchased a copy of Landranger 147 which, on opening, had the route of the Reservoir Roundabout already marked on it. The rear of the map was marked ‘Millard’: the sellers being Roy and Viv Millard, organisers of the first ever Across Wales Walk in 1964. Quite a coincidence!!>>

 <<Nick Hall then promoted the Charnwood Forest Marathon. Nick received the congratulations of all those present for raising in excess of £3000 for charity through the event to date.>>

 The 38th Across Wales Walk will take place on 1st September 2001. Keep an eye on www.acrosswaleswalk.co.uk for details from mid-April onwards, and we’ll see you all next year!

  Stuart Lamb

 Organiser, 37th Across Wales Walk.

PS If anyone has photos or reports on the event, please e-mail them to me for inclusion on the site.

Double First – 37th Across Wales Walk on (1st and ) 2nd September 2000 by Susan Denham-Smith

When writing about the qualities possessed by explorers who undertake extreme endurance feats Dr Mike Stroud highlights the most important characteristics above courage, strength and determination as “an optimistic outlook and a very poor short-term memory”. Optimism I have in abundance and at 8pm on the first Saturday in September, sitting in a bus shelter at Bow Street 3 miles from the end of the X-Wales walk I was beginning to realise that I had also been blessed with a very poor short term memory, and an ominous feeling of déjà vu.

The Across Wales Walk is one of those events that gets to you, it enters your feet, fills your mind and burrows right up into your soul.  In 4 years I have only done the event twice myself but somehow I knew every inch of the course having travelled it in one guise or another 5 times in total.

By any stretch of the imagination and the legs the Across Wales Walk is a true challenge. It is a linear event crossing the whole of Wales from East to West, starting from the English Border and finishing where land hits the sea and the country is no more. It is 45 miles of truly delightful, unspoilt and mostly unheard of British countryside at its best. Call it an obsession or perhaps shear madness but I intended to enjoy it all twice in 36 hours.

As with all classic events they spawn their own special followings and take on personalities of their own. Those who make up the group of aficionados, are the stalwarts who come back year after year, become the extended family of mother “X-Wales”: without them it would be like Christmas without Granny and her bingo or uncle Albert and his sea yarns, and so the X-Wales has its personalities. There’s Nev (Tandy) who has done it more times than we have letters in the alphabet. There’s Tom Shepherd who has a special claim to the wooden spoon, and there’s a group of men, Phil Gwilliam, Clive Lungmuss, Richard Rosser and Peter Stevenson who astound everybody by doing the whole damn thing twice every year. And so I intended earning my rite of passage into the X-Wales family by becoming the first woman in the event’s 37-year history to “Do the Double”: from the finish to the start and back again. 

So when I joined the 98 starters at Anchor on a clear warm Saturday morning I already had 45 miles and 13 hours of running in my legs from the previous day. Starting at 9:30am on Friday morning from the squally grey shoreline of Clarach Bay near Aberystwyth I had jogged with ease into the central Welsh mountains, herding sheep and getting a free welsh shower or six as I breezed over Plynlimon at 750m and down into the pleasant picnic site at Hafren to be greeted by Pete Gretton and Richard Rosser who were supporting my brothers in crime: Clive Lungmuss and Phil Gwilliam, to be offered bananas and pose for photographs. In the Llanidloes fish and chip shop I was filled with fish cakes and chips (a traditional watering hole on the double) and plenty of PSP sports drink and was sent onward and upwards over the wind farm (another tradition is that the outward leg of “The double” follows sections of the old route) and into the dark. OOOPS a near disaster in the making: I had forgotten my torch or more precisely I had not realised it would get so dark so soon. In life you need a few lucky breaks and my guardian angel was certainly looking down on me at this time, for up ahead of me I saw a torch flashing along the route. It could only be one person and after “stalking” Peter Stevenson for about 2 miles along dark farm tracks slipping in the mud guided only by my night vision and the glow of the person ahead of me I steeled my courage and introduced myself to this strange man in the dark.  I do not know who was more scared, but once the adrenaline levels had returned to manageable levels and both identities had been established the last 4 hours of the walk passed in pleasant, gentle conversation and banter. Breaking with the masochistic, male-dominated traditions of the “double” I plumped for the “soft girlie option” of a pre-erected tent as opposed to a dustbin bag in a hedge for short night of 4hrs sleep recuperation.

Before dawn at 5am the Cross Wales Official begins.  It is a long hike up a hill road to the Kerry Ridgeway and dawn over the rolling expanse of Central Wales. The path that had been so dark and foreboding the night before was revealing itself to the accompaniment of the dawn chorus in the splendour of all its glorious early autumn colours. Such an ogre in the dark, such a friend by day. Looking always in the direction of the sea and the finish every step is a step closer. Variety is everywhere, well-worn tracks and muddy stream crossings take you over one north-south spine to the next, squelch over Mochodre Brook and through the village of Llandinam up the short, sharp, steep shock of a path to the Severn Way and the smiling faces of checkpoint 2 at Cefn Bach. Onward through Van on the recommended route, or via Llanidloes if for all sorts of reasons you prefer to keep to roads or want to shop for souvenirs en route! By the time I had made it back to CP3 at the Hafren picnic site at 25 miles, and before climbing Plynlimon, the first man was drinking a bottle something refreshingly alcoholic at CP5: 13 miles on and only 7 miles from the finish. With excellent company from 4 dashing (in the purely aesthetic sense at this point) security guards from Heathrow airport I climbed steadily up to the heights of the Severn and Wye watershed on Plynlimon. Astoundingly these 4 had taken on the challenge of the X-Wales to raise money for a close friend with cancer - none of them had ever walked this far (25 miles at this point) before in their lives. I said a prayer for her and their endurance to persevere to Clarach Bay and felt very humbled at their motivation, mine being only for the 15 minutes of fame. I knew they would finish, as they showed all the mindless optimism qualities of successful endurance athletes. I did wonder if they would also have short term enough memories to continue their quest for fitness and fund raising, and be seen on the Double next year!

Check point 4 was a real low point. I thought I had blown it on Plynlimon and was going to be timed-out, but handfuls of flapjack and with their omnipotent, omnipresent smiles (and some of that mindless optimism shown by many of the walkers) the marshals dusted me down, and I was gently eased in the direction of CP5 and the long awaited Bread Pudding.

Crossing the Craig y Pistyl Scree path in an upward direction at the 13 mile point the previous day had not been much of a problem, but now in the fading light traveling in a downward direction after 88 other pairs of feet had trod the same path every step was taken with care I had survived the near disaster of forgetting the torch I did not think my guardian angel would be able to fly quickly enough to save me scuttering off an insecure ledge on a crumbling path. 

 Beyond CP5 the route is on a familiar, unidirectional road, mostly down hill and one of the most painful 7 mile road sections in the memories of all X-Wales walkers. And so I found myself in the bus shelter at Bow Street with 87 miles behind me and 3 to go before I could claim my place in the X-Wales history books, and all I wanted was to sit down. There was no other emotion, just perhaps the feeling that I had been here before - 2 years ago when I had done the event for the first time in one direction. Then I had also reached Bow Street with the overwhelming desire for the pain to end and it all to be over. If I could have recalled the agony before I started perhaps I would not have set out 34 hours ago, but mindless optimism and oh such a short-term memory prevailed to take my legs the last 3 miles back to the sea and my rite of passage to the family at the heart of the of the X-Wales Walk.

 Susan finishes her epic double!  


The Cambrian News 7 September 2000

Click on photo for full hi-res version ***8580Kb big***

Click on Photograph to see the full original article (850KB). 
Text shown below.

Picture in the making: Richard Rosser' photograph captures preparations for the press photograph


AROUND 100 walkers can put their feet up this week after trekking 45-miles through mid Wales - in just 18 hours.

On Saturday walkers from across Britain took part in the Across Wales Walk finishing' in Clarach, near Aberystwyth.

The route leaves from Anchor Bridge, on the English border, and passes through the beautiful scenery of Cefn-bach, Hafren, Nant y Moch and Bontgoch.

On the day before, some of the more "masochistic" competitors even walk the route in reverse.

And this year the 'double' will be performed by Susan Denham-Smith, of Cumbria, the first woman to attempt such a feat in the event's 37-year history.

The Across Wales Walk is organised by the Birmingham Youth Hostel Group in association with the Long Distance Walkers Association. The challenge is to walk 45 miles in under 18 hours, with competitors leaving England at 5am.

Walkers reached Clarach in the early evening where they were transported to overnight accommodation at Aberystwyth University.

Saturday's event was fully booked. But one of the event's organisers, Stuart Lamb, is already taking bookings for next year's event which is open to walkers and runners.

He said: "It is recommended that participants will have recently completed a one-day challenge walk of at least 30 miles before attempting this event.

"The ability to navigate over a variety of terrain using a map and compass, in both inclement weather and hours of darkness, is an essential requirement.

"Whilst there are tougher events, the across Wales Walk is not recommended as an introduction to challenge walking"

Next year's event will again be held on the first Saturday in September. Further details can be obtained by contacting Stuart on 01527 545998 (before 9pm).

***More Photographs****

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