Across Wales Walk: Maps, Route and GPS Navigation

The Across Wales Walk

This page contains information on maps, route descriptions and GPS data relating to the Across Wales Walk.

  1. Maps covering the route
  2. Route descriptions
  3. Use of GPS on the route
  4. The Hard Truth about the Across Wales Walk

Maps covering the route

Whilst Landranger 135 and 136 maps cover the entire route, it is highly recommended that 1:25,000 maps be used for navigation, the principal benefit, in addition to the larger scale, being the clear identification of field boundaries.

To purchase the OS Explorer maps for the Across Wales Walk on-line, please carry out the following sequence of actions....

Aberystwyth and Cwm Rheidol (Explorer Maps) Explorer 213 Aberystwyth and Cwm Rheidol


1. Click on the first map to the left or the 'Buy it Now' button above.
This will take you to the appropriate page at Amazon.co.uk.

2. Click the button on the Amazon.co.uk page.
This puts the map 'in your shopping basket' where it will stay until you 'checkout' either on this or subsequent visits.

*NOTE* If you also require Explorer 214, look further down the Amazon page relating to Explorer 213 as this map may also be offered as a "Perfect Partner" at a more advantageous rate. In this case press to purchase both items.

3. If only 213 was added to your basket above, click the button on your browser until you return to this page (or switch back to this page if Amazon appears in a new window).

Llanidloes and Newtown: Y Drenewydd (Explorer Maps) Explorer 214 Llanidloes and Newtown


4. Click on the second map to the left or the 'Buy it Now' button above.
This will take you to the appropriate page at Amazon.co.uk.

5. Click the button on the Amazon.co.uk page.
This puts the map 'in your shopping basket' where it will stay until you 'checkout' either on this or subsequent visits.

6. Add any further books or maps to your Shopping Basket

7. Click 'Proceed to Checkout' and follow the instructions.

Please note that provision of maps is in association with Amazon.co.uk with whom sole responsibility lies for delivery. However, I'm sure that if you haven't tried Amazon before you will be amazed by the speed and quality of their service.

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Route Descriptions

Below are route descriptions for the Across Wales Walk. Entrants must determine suitability of the route in relation to their own abilities. No liability for error, accident or any other arising is accepted or implied.

A two page narrative description of a route is available by clicking here (pdf format)

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GPS Navigation and the Across Wales Walk

Like many other outdoor enthusiasts, I am interested in the use of technology to aid navigation, particularly if it results in fewer people getting lost and more people to completing the event. I'm sure that many long distance walkers, novice and expert, are all too familiar with the disheartening consequences of making simple navigational errors during challenge walks. When compounded by fatigue and foul weather, navigation errors can potentially have serious consequences. Therefore I would like to encourage the use of GPS navigation receivers as an aid to safety but not as a substitute for map, compass and appropriate navigation skills.

Co-ordinate data for the route for most Garmin series of receivers will be available for direct downloading at the start of the event.

NOTE: the co-ordinate data provided comprises more than 130 waypoints spread over eight 'routes'. Some budget Garmin GPS receivers such as the 'Gecko' do not have the capacity to handle more than one route nor this quantity of waypoints. Please bear this in mind before purchasing or attempting to download the information.

This data, compatible with GPS Utility (se below) is also available from this website by clicking the appropriate links below:

awwiss06e.txt is a Route file containing waypoint and route information *use with care as may need updating*.

08AWWDetailedSet02.kml is a Google Earth File.

10AWWReducedSet02.gpx is a GPX GPS coordinates file.

Note that the route file is basically a standard text file and may be read with any text editor. Thus the information may by read by those without access to GPSU software and perhaps converted to other formats.

GPS Utility

Foremost amongst GPS data management programs is GPS Utility by Alan Murphy. I am still fully investigating this program's capabilities but so far I have found it to be excellent and would commend it to anyone interested in GPS. Click on the logo below for more information.

The route file in detail

A total of 135 waypoints along the route of the walk have been defined either from OS 1:25,000 maps to a resolution afforded by 8 figure grid references, or by direct measurement with a GPS receiver in the field. These have been checked then converted to 10 figure references compatible with the GPSU software and are shown as separate eastings and northings.

Each waypoint has a six digit ident which may be either a reduction of a place name on or near the waypoint, or it may be a sequential ident such as 'road04' which, for example, is the fourth waypoint on a road along the route. Some waypoints also have an altitude (in metres) as determined from the map, however this information is incomplete, and pretty irrelevant anyway as altitude measurement is not a strongpoint of portable GPS receivers. Important waypoints also have a text description up to 16 characters in length. This description appears in the 'waypoint comments' field of the GPS at the 'waypoint' screen.

The waypoints are grouped into 8 routes as follows:

  1. Start - CP1
  2. CP1 - Llandinam
  3. Llandinam - CP2
  4. CP2 - Clywedog
  5. Clywedog - CP3
  6. CP3 -CP4
  7. CP4 -CP5
  8. CP5 -CP6/Finish

Uploading to a Garmin GPS receiver

Although the interface on Garmin GPS receivers do not necessarily conform to an RS232 standard (accepting that there is no such thing as a standard RS232 interface!) it is possible to make a direct connection between a PC COM port and a GPS. Such a lead can be purchased from Garmin but it is possible to fix-up a cheap substitute. The original round connections are not easy to trace but, with care, a 5-pin 'domino' DIN female connector can be modified to suite. Note that possibly the centre pin will need to be removed and the remaining hole enlarged to take the centre peg found on some models of receiver such as the GPS38. For details of how to make such a connection try this link.

Use of the GPS to follow the route of the Across Wales Walk.

Each route should be made 'active' in sequence. This essentially transfers the active route into route 00 (which overwrites the previous content). The GPS should then identify which is the nearest waypoint and set a course for it. Once this is reached, the receiver should then identify the next waypoint in sequence and so on for all the route. When the end of a route is reached, the next route should be activated and so on. Note that no route passes through a checkpoint so a new route may be selected as part of your normal checkpoint routine.

Experience with GPS on the route (all a but dated now, but retained for interest!)

I have used the Issue 02 route description extensively with my Garmin GPS38 receiver. In the clear parts of the route I have found its performance to be outstandingly good. Often one can count down the feet to the next waypoint with surprising accuracy. Across areas such as Plynlimon where the waypoints are widely spaced it gives good consistent bearings to one's next objective. However, where coverage is restricted, such as in the muddy depths of Mochdre Brook (typical of such places where detailed navigation assistance is so desirable) the limitations of these early GPS receivers become clearly apparent. In fact you might as well save your batteries and turn it off! I understand that the latest multi-channel receivers (such as the GPS III) still operate under tree cover: perhaps when all receivers have this performance then GPS will really be of benefit.

A further serious limitation of units such as the GPS38 is that they carry an internal antenna with no provision for an external one to be connected. Thus one has to walk around like a demented 'water diviner' in order to maintain an adequate signal. However, an external antenna is not the best solution either: does one really want to walk around looking like a mobile TV detector van?

Another limitation is that of battery life: I plan to make an external battery pack and dedicated lead (as for linking to a PC) to overcome this problem. However, for now the AA cells run down in no time - I would recommend the serious 'GPSer' carry at least three sets. I would also recommend that one purchases AA cells with care: some types (particularly Duracell with the integral 'power meter') are larger in diameter and stick into the battery holder. I have previously had to resort to chiselling them out with a screwdriver at great risk to the unit.

Those familiar with the principles of GPS will be aware that the 'Compass' function in the cheaper GPS receivers (a mimic of a compass dial to show the direction to the desired waypoint) is calculated by assessing the speed and direction of one's changing position. This may be fine if you are sailing a boat on a steady course, but on foot, in my experience this function is virtually useless. Typically, if one stands still or even travels slowly, the compass oscillates wildly. However, a GPS is basically effective in knowing where it is, not where it's going: it is therefore very good at calculating bearings to waypoints. Thus I have found the best system to be to carry both a GPS and a magnetic compass together, using the former to tell me the bearing and the latter to give me the direction. Until the price of GPS receivers with integral electronic magnetic compasses comes down, this will be the best compromise.

Overall, in my view GPS is a bit of useful fun that adds some interest. I don't necessarily see everyone carrying it in future, and if one is not careful use of a GPS can dominate a walk: one can spend far to much time looking down and fiddling with it. Perhaps its a bit like golf: a good walk spoilt? And who wants to look like a 'techno-dork' with wires going up your sleeve and antennae poking out of your KIMM sack? Not me, well not where I might be seen!

Errors and disclaimer

Be aware that 'Selective Availability', the deliberate reduction in accuracy of the GPS system by the US Department of Defence can induce errors. NB from 1 May 2000, SA was removed by the DoD: this has resulted in a significant improvement in accuracy, but SA can be put back on again at any time! In addition, vegetation, terrain and your body can obscure the GPS's view of the sky and cause loss of coverage or reduction in accuracy. Finally, all waypoints were derived by eye using a roamer to 8 figures and therefore errors on my part may have crept into data. However the data has been comprehensively checked and has been used on part of the route, but is basically provided in good faith for assistance with navigation. As stated in the details of the walk, traditional tools of navigation i.e. map and compass, must be carried as a primary means of navigation.

Finally

I hope you find the data useful and I would appreciate any feedback on its features or shortcomings.

Across Wales Walk: The Hard Truth!

Thinking of coming on the Across Wales Walk for the first time as an individual, as a group with your buddies, or as a vehicle for raising money for good causes? Or perhaps the proposition of crossing the wonderful country of your birth is your motive to take part? Then it’s best to be prepared and forewarned as to what you, and the people who are currently your friends, can expect to endure. This is THE HARD TRUTH about The Across Wales Walk!

The total length of the AWW is 45 miles to be completed within 18 hours. If you take a normal fast walking pace then you will be on your feet continuously for 15 hours or longer. Having started in the dark you’ll potentially end in the dark too with no significant rest periods in between. In many ways, our event is as much a mental challenge as a physical one: walking continuously for 18 hours through a whole day can and does take quite a toll on those who are unprepared. Bear this in mind: you will not believe how long this day really can be!

Clearly we cannot know the capabilities of individuals or groups considering taking part. However, it is generally accepted that an essential prerequisite of entry into the AWW is the successful and recent completion of at least one similar long distance walking event of at least 30 miles over similar terrain without significant negative effects. We know from bitter experience that if entrants are not used to this type of event over this kind of rough, pathless country, they seldom get beyond CP3 at 25 miles. Or, if they continue thereafter, they risk their own well-being. It is a well known fact that there is just no substitute for getting ‘miles in the legs’ beforehand over similar terrain. So, our first and most important recommendation is that any individuals or groups should take part in a number of similar events leading up to the AWW to informally ‘qualify’ through physical and mental preparation. Try www.ldwa.org.uk this being the main information resource for such events. By far the majority of our entrants are LDWA members and are certainly familiar with the demands of such events.

Our second recommendation is to reconnoitre the route thoroughly beforehand. There are sections that can be particularly tricky and demanding. There is a Tips page on www.acrosswaleswalk.co.uk where we identify the difficult bits. When you’re tired and fatigued, there’s nothing as dispiriting as either getting lost, or not realising that you’ve got another 3 miles to go until you get to the next CP! Generally our entrants fan out pretty quickly and so you can never rely upon following others: they may be lost too of course! Also, on the positive side, knowing where you are gives you both a mental confidence and a much faster and efficient pace, both of which may be the difference between completion and retirement. Bear in mind that in foul weather these benefits are significantly magnified. So get out there and enjoy some really special countryside where, bar one day of the year, few others ever walk! It is also worth reading the reports of previous events on the website to make sure the event is right for you. If you want to know how challenging the AWW can get then the 2006 report is essential reading. Better still, ask someone who took part! Our Facebook group may elicit a response.

Thirdly, if you’re coming on the event as a group, ensure that all, repeat all, repeat again ALL members are fully prepared. We have had group entries where, for example, one experienced member comes one year, enjoys it, then brings all his friends, workmates or drinking buddies to the next event. The result is usually predictable: they generally do not enjoy the experience! Others join the group at the last minute but are na´ve to the demands. Some groups have also considered a drinking binge in the White Horse Inn on the previous evening to be ideal preparation: we can assure you this is not the case! The desire to raise sponsorship money has also taken precedence over entrants’ ability to complete the event without suffering (please see below for additional comments relating to fundraising.) Be assured that we’ve seen many friendships strained as a result!

Fourthly, don’t underestimate CP5 to the Finish. One can think that by CP5 “it’s in the bag”, particularly when you see how few instructions remain on the route description. The last seven miles of road walking can drag like hell, it is not downhill all the way and is potentially dangerous in the dark, hence the recommendation to use high visibility gear along this section.

Finally, bear in mind that, more often than not, the weather for our event is generally foul. We’re unsure what’s happened recently dry weather has been scarce in recent years. Crossing the Plynlimon massif which is the highest mountain in mid-Wales, is often difficult, sometimes frightening and no fun at all in driving rain, particularly when you've already walked a demanding 25 miles beforehand. Every individual member of any team must, must, must be fully competent in navigation on open, featureless mountain country in all weathers and at night. Sorry folks, this is so important that I suggest you read the last sentence and ask yourself, honestly, are my navigation skills and experience really up to this level? Can I set a compass bearing and then follow it at night, including estimating distances, whilst being hosed down with water? A slight exaggeration perhaps, but ignore navigation skills at your peril! Also bear in mind that your potential shortcomings in this respect can also jeopardise the safety of those tasked with coming to your aid if you get into difficulties.

Use of the Across Wales Walk for Charity or Fundraising

As you may appreciate we often receive requests for information regarding using the AWW as a vehicle for raising money for good causes. Let us say from the outset that we have no objection to this in principle. However as you must appreciate, over and above many other longer distance events, the AWW makes cruel demands upon either the unprepared or those unfamiliar with this most strange “leisure activity”. It is therefore vitally important that any parties are, first and foremost, hardened and fit challenge walkers. We cannot stress this too highly. Regular ramblers, even those considering themselves ‘strong’, generally will not complete the course, often by a long stretch.

Charity group organisers may hold the view that less experienced entrants can always drop out at checkpoints which, of course is correct. However, please bear the following in mind. We are a small band of volunteer organisers and marshals, logistically-stretched across this uniquely linear event i.e. starting and finishing in different places. Whilst we will always have some retirements – and the last thing we want to do is dissuade exhausted participants from retiring - we struggle to cope with the effect of ‘speculative’ entries dropping out in any appreciable quantity. By ‘speculative’ we mean entering the event with the likelihood of dropping-out if they can’t make the distance. This can put a significant strain upon our logistics over the Cambrian Mountains where access is difficult, mileages by road are disproportionately large and transport of retirees is a real issue for which we have to cater. It goes without saying that with our limited human resources, all of whom are volunteers and who also face a long and challenging day, the fewer the retirees then the fewer difficulties we face. Well-run sponsored walks operate in the expectation of extensive drop out whereas we budget for a rough percentage of retirees based upon experience, above which we struggle. Our friends at Newtown Rotary Club organise their Across Wales Walk primarily as a fundraising event and we would encourage anyone with doubts about their ability to complete the Across Wales Walk to try that event first, details of which may be found via the following link: http://newtown-rotary.org.uk/site/node/343 .

We don’t want to give the wrong message: we’re aware this may sound unwelcoming, and we apologize if we give this impression, but we have to accept entries on the understanding that entrants are experienced, fit and, in effect, qualified to do the whole course. Our “not for profit” organisation incurring significant exceptional expenditure to recover high numbers of unprepared walkers raising money for their charities is ethically and financially unsustainable for us.

Thanks for your understanding and cooperation.

 

Stuart Lamb Organiser, Across Wales Walk on behalf of The Across Wales Walk Association

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