38th Across Wales Walk

1 September 2001

The Across Wales Walk

38th Across Wales Walk in summary:

Near ideal walking conditions throughout the morning leading to wind, drizzle and rain later.

  • 69 starters, 65 finishers.
  • 2 successful double crossings.
  • Fastest time 8 hours 8 minutes by Mark Denham-Smith - record for the 'post -1996' route.
Richard Rosser awaits walkers in the morning sun at CP2

This page provides provisional reports and timing information for the 38th 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. Photographs taken during  this year's event by Paul Courtney

If you took part in the 38th Across Wales Walk, please click here to record your experiences and comments in the Across Wales Walk Guest Book

Camping at the playing fields, Clun New Memorial Hall 
Thanks to Chris Mennie for the photograph
Bob Bills and Richard Rosser Susan Denham-Smith and Stuart Lamb
Terry Griffiths takes breakfast at Clun Judith Lamb serves Rob Young
Checkpoint 2 after 14 miles
Aaron Scrivener gives his feet a rest Martin Horrell with Chris Mennie videoing proceedings
Double crosser Clive Lungmuss... ...and his boots showing the evidence of a night traverse of Wales followed by Mochdre Brook 
Hot work! John Dowsett
   Thanks to Chris Mennie for the photograph
Nick Hall
Peter Stevenson Rob Young, Bob Bills and Nick Hall
Roy Bradley Bill Thomas, Bob Bills and Peter James
Richard Rosser makes the best of ideal walking and checking weather
Entrants approach CP2 Busy times at CP2
Michael Pinner and Matt Clarke Terry Griffiths, Kathy Tytler and others
Bob Gold, Susan Denham-Smith and Richard Rosser Susan takes on fluids
The Sorensen Brothers Wyn George
Terry Ames David Yorston and Paul Sorensen
Will Etheridge and Paul Courtney John Newman
Checkpoint 4 after 32 miles
Thanks to Chris Mennie for the photograph Thanks to Chris Mennie for the photograph
Refreshments being taken after the rigours of Plynlimon Checker Pat Meredith
Thanks to Chris Mennie for the photograph
After presentation ceremony at Aberystwyth
The 'SMERFS' with their Smurfs
L to R: Paul Courtney, John Newman, Will Etheridge, Steve Hooper and Martin McGreary
Susan Denham-Smith
Thanks to Chris Mennie for the photograph
Christine Usher and friends Ann and Peter Stevenson

Further photographs taken during  this year's event by Paul Courtney

38th ACROSS WALES WALK: entrants and completion times

To view a table of entrants and times (Excel 97 format, approx. 86Kb) Left click here. To Save the file, right click here and follow the instructions.

38th ACROSS WALES WALK – 1st SEPTEMBER 2001 : an Organiser's view:
- extracted from the 2001 presentation ceremony by Stuart Lamb

One issue dominated the 38th Across Wales Walk, namely Foot and Mouth Disease: it made 2001 an extraordinary year for us in a way we hope is not to be repeated! After the whole walking scene ground to a halt in February and March, we delayed as long as possible to see how the situation would develop and affect us. The first two cases of FMD in Wales occurred just south of Kerry Hill and through May and June the chances of running the event looked very slim indeed. However, on 5th June I received an e-mail from Philip Gwilliam asking, amongst other things, “Is anyone doing a road version of the route?” “Don’t be daft” was our initial reaction. But as this seemed to offer the only alternative to complete cancellation we felt it worthy of investigation. We defined a possible road route south of our normal route….but Bob Gold remained sceptical in the extreme. “Huh! Folks like Clive won’t want to do it.” he famously said. So I e-mailed regular entrants including double-crosser Clive Lungmuss to get their opinion and this was his reply:

Hello Stuart,

Thanks for the note and the thoughts on a 'new' route for 2001. I have thought about it and when I started to get negative and reasons why not, I have decided to go back to my original response on reading your note.

I would like to feel that I took part in the event this year in spite of all adversity.  Everything seems to be against the walk taking place and yet the organisers of the AWW will keep the tradition of the walk alive by staging it on the road.

 If I am to participate in the walk it throws up a whole load of challenges and adds for this year, a new exciting dimension. My vote, if I have one! Go for it. 

Clive.

This response was typical of all those consulted and in my view shows the real spirit of the event and it’s entrants. I thank Clive and all those who responded so positively for whom we felt we had to continue with the event, in some form or another. 

Judith and I then investigated the feasibility of an all road event starting at Felindre. We found some beautiful countryside which we had not previously visited, and attractive little villages such as Abbeycwmhir to which we have vowed to return. Having said that, 54 miles of driving on narrow tracks and minor roads was tiring and mind-numbing, let alone walking such a distance! Even so, we felt it was feasible and we decided that some form of walk would go ahead. We then started accepting bookings at a time when we are normally closing the event to further entrants.

From then on FMD restrictions were progressively relaxed and we whittled away at the road sections. Bob Gold made a number of trips to mid-Wales to walk various paths to link us with the Cwmystwyth mountain road: our only way out of infected Powys. Clive also assisted with a number of suggestions based on his extensive knowledge of the region. At one stage the route was changing with the regulations and restrictions on a weekly and even daily basis. Powys County Council were very helpful at all times, even when bombarded with numerous e-mails of routes, grid references etc for their consideration. However, over stretched and conservative Ceredigion were not so cooperative. The government’s edict “..to proceed with speed towards the re-opening of paths…” seemed to have passed Ceredigion by. Their concerns, having stayed disease-free whilst neighbouring Powys had accumulated 69 FMD cases, were, I suppose, understandable. But we faced procrastination and ambiguous decisions, all of which came to a head in late July. At this time, almost all paths in disease-hit Powys were re-opened….but not in Ceredigion, no: each path would have to have a risk assessment carried out on it to determine “…..whether there are chances of walkers coming into contact with livestock…” (in Wales?!). Everything rested upon the two paths in Ceredigion from Plynlimon to Nant-y-moch and from Nant-y-moch to Bont-goch. Did the latter path pass by or through the farmyard at Llawr-y-cwmbach? Bob went to see the council who basically said that if we got the permission of the farmer, Mr Evans, then it will be OK. Bob saw Mr Evans who agreed, saying that he couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. On my return from holiday, I advised the council that Mr Evans had granted his approval, to be met by a complete lack of understanding of the process that we’d just gone through at their suggestion! Well I suppose we shouldn’t be too critical – they had a lot ‘on their plate’ at that time – but it made life very difficult for us indeed.

Closer to the event we had some further scares: Cider House at the end of Kerry Ridgeway was said to come under a form D notice, then when surveying the route we found a number of Path Closed signs still in position. However, after consultation right up to the week of the event we were convinced that we could go ahead with the AWW virtually in its normal form, and so it turned out.

One thing that shone through this episode has been the good nature and cooperation of the Welsh farmers and landowners. It would have been easy and understandable for them to have told us not to bother them with our petty walk when they are facing the FMD crisis on top of the worst market conditions, particularly for lamb, in living memory. For example I know that Alun James on whose land we pitch CP5 has had to send 1300 lambs and ewes for culling as the land upon which they were confined by movement restrictions could no longer support them. At the same time, what lamb they can sell gets only half the return that they would normally expect. Are they embittered? Privately perhaps, and with some justification, but to us, no: “You are welcome to use our land”.

Enough of FMD – what of the actual event? Well the 38th Across Wales Walk attracted a reduced field of 69 entrants from 71 bookings. Four entrants retired, one at CP2, one at CP3 and two at CP4. On the whole we had near perfect walking weather until early to mid-afternoon when the wind increased markedly, the mist descended (“..like a curtain coming down behind us…” said one entrant) and the inevitable drizzle that followed then turned to rain.

We also had some exceptionally fast completion times this year: first home was Mark Denham-Smith at four minutes past one o’clock in the afternoon – an incredible 8:08 completion at a rate of 5.6 miles per hour. The course record (held by Caroline Hunter-Rowe) is 7:25, but this was set on the old ‘pre-1996’ route with a larger proportion of road. Whilst comparisons are difficult, what is clear is that Mark’s completion of the current route in just over eight hours ranks as one of the very fastest crossings of all time. Second home was Ian Doherty with another superb time of 8:39 – quicker than his first place last year.

As far as the two double crossings made this year are concerned, it was a case of “The Tortoise and the Hare”. The Hare was Philip Gwilliam who once again astonished us with an unsupported overnight crossing followed by a 9:18 completion of the event putting him in third place overall. The Tortoise was Clive Lungmuss who, equally astonishingly, put in a gritty and measured 17:22 return crossing making him last man home, fifty-nine minutes behind the second to last group. Both Phillip and Clive must now rank as two of the most outstanding Across Wales Walk entrants of all time.

One clear consequence of FMD has been that the many infrequently walked paths we use haven’t been walked at all for the last six months. Thus, in the weekend before the event, Bob, Judith, Sarah and I spent a long day walking and clearing critical sections of the route. We started by clearing the new steps at CP1 then moved on to Mochdre Brook where we replenished the stepping-stones after their annual clearance in the winter rains. Then we drove via Llandinam to Cefn-Mawr just after CP2. We did extensive clearance on this section before last year’s event, but this year there was evidence that others, official or otherwise, are also trying to keep the Severn Way clear so not much needed doing. The bridge at Van Terrace was another story: effectively the path was barricaded closed and vegetation had gone rampant on the other side which Bob bludgeoned his way through. Nant Gwestyn was little better, the path leading to Aberdaunant Shoot was seriously overgrown with bracken. We then addressed the area by the shoot where the old spoil heap appeared to have slipped across the path. Finally we moved on to improve the scree path at Craig-y-Pistyll. About half of the entrants appeared to have used the scree path this year although those crossing after rain reported the section immediately after the scree, where the major risk of slipping now lies, as slippery under foot. Also in the week before the event, Richard Rosser walked the Van to Biddfald section reporting all to be OK and finally, Bob Gold walked and cleared the Broneirion to Rhydfaes section on the day before the event. I would like to thank all those who put in such a valiant effort to prepare the route this year.

In 2000 we announced our intention to fund the building of a footbridge across Mochdre Brook. I would like to thank those who sent donations. The good news is that Powys CC staff visited the area and issued a contract for a bridge to be built before the 38th Across Wales Walk. As a result of the FMD crisis, unfortunately no work was carried out. Nevertheless, we are hopeful that by the 39th Across Wales Walk, the bridge will be complete and the monies collected will be put towards route marking or some other commemorative item. On the same contract were the steps down to the road at CP1 which were installed: clearly this is a great improvement.

In 2003 we will celebrate the 40th Across Wales Walk for which I want to put together a compilation of entrant’s anecdotes or experiences relating to the event over the years. I would be much obliged if entrants past and present could pass such onto me.

In conclusion I would like to thank those who made the 38th Across Wales Walk possible. Firstly there are the valiant members, past and present, of West Birmingham Hostelling group:

Jill, Roger & Nathan Coates
Bill Thomas
Derek Stanbury
Martin & Helen Child
Derek Norton
Pat Meredith
Maggie Gold
Fiona & Sarah Lamb
Richard Rosser

…..without whom, as is the case every year, the event could not have taken place.

Special thanks go to Judith Lamb for her total assistance in administration and all the other hidden background work that goes on…and for keeping me on the straight and level in what has been a very difficult year. Special thanks also go to my co-organiser Bob Gold who, in addition to marshalling resources before and during the event, has played a crucial part in ensuring that the route would be open to us.

During the event we fielded a total of fifteen checkers. RAYNET, who handle our communications, fielded a further fourteen radio operators plus supporters. They also produced the completed results sheets on the evening of the event. Once again they stationed operators as far away as Devil's Bridge to establish reliable radio links over Plynlimon – a superb team effort. Ray Ricketts deserves special mention: his market stall you sheltered under at CP5 turned out to be invaluable.

Unfortunately due to recent illness, the Across Wales Walk's most experienced entrant, Nev Tandy, was unable to take part this year. However, Nev and Ann visited us over the weekend and I would like to thank Nev for his vote of thanks on behalf of the entrants. We all wish Nev a speedy recovery and look forward to him completing his incredible thirty-third AWW in 2002.

The 39th Across Wales Walk will take place on 7th September 2002. 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, 38th Across Wales Walk.

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

Organiser of the Across Wales Walk finally driven mad as he continues to take bookings during the FMD crisis!

Further photographs taken during  this year's event by Paul Courtney

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