38th Across Wales Walk
1 September 2001
Near ideal walking conditions throughout the morning leading to wind, drizzle and rain later.
This page provides provisional reports and timing information for the 38th Across Wales Walk.
|Camping at the playing fields, Clun New Memorial Hall|
|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|
|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|
|Refreshments being taken after the rigours of Plynlimon||Checker Pat Meredith|
|After presentation ceremony at Aberystwyth|
|The 'SMERFS' with their Smurfs
L to R: Paul Courtney, John Newman, Will Etheridge, Steve Hooper and Martin McGreary
|Christine Usher and friends||Ann and Peter Stevenson|
Further photographs taken during this year's event by Paul Courtney
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.
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:
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
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.
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
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
Martin & Helen Child
Fiona & Sarah Lamb
…..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.
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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