37th Across Wales Walk
2 September 2000
One of the best?
Near ideal walking conditions throughout the day .
This page provides provisional reports and timing information for the 37th Across Wales Walk.
|Welcome to Clun...........||.........New Memorial Hall: the night before.|
|Judith Lamb serves drinks to Brian Cole||Michael Griffiths with Julian Beck at CP2|
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|
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.
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.
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>>.
for the speed….how about the stamina?
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>>.
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>>.
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.>>
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
<<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
comes the time to thank on your behalf those who made the AWW a super event this
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:
Rod and Rachael Bamford
Ann Tandy……..Thanks to you all! <<echoed
by the entrants by their applause>>.
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
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
<<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.>>
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!
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
WALKERS CROSS WALES IN MARATHON CHALLENGE
AROUND 100 walkers can
put their feet up this week after trekking 45-miles through mid Wales - in just
On Saturday walkers from
across Britain took part in the Across Wales Walk finishing' in Clarach, near
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
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
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).
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