Weekend 5: 23rd and 24th April 2016

Day 1: Saturday 23rd April – Llanelli to Hill End (29 miles)

Starting where I left off the weekend before at the Discovery Centre (located right on the millennium coastal footpath), I enjoyed the view across the estuary to Whiteford Burrows, Gower where I was headed.

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As a carry-over from the “aggressive” coastline in Pembrokeshire (especially North Pembs) I still have sore knees (knee caps) so the morning run was accompanied by uncomfortable pain. It is also a pain when things do not go according to plan. Passing the Wales National Wetlands Centre, I must have missed a sign so spent an uncomfortable, wasted 40 minutes working my way through bramble and briars around the boundary of the Sewage Works as I headed for the coast to get back on track. This was compounded by over-running the road run in Lougher which took me on to Gowerton before I doubled back! Prior to the start of this “journey”, I was warned that things would go wrong and that I should expect the unexpected. Voila!!

I ran to Penclawdd before stopping for a hot chocolate. I always take the opportunity to leave Moon Shadow cards in such places, which I hope helps to spread the word for the “cause” http://www.moonshadow.wales/ . Onward then, rounding Crofty heading toward Llanrhidian, enjoying wonderful views across Llanrhidian Marshes, Llanrhidian Sands and the Lougher Estuary. My enjoyment was enhanced when I had my lunch on the go (protein balls, energy gel), including an ibuprofen tablet which took away the pain for the remainder of the afternoon.

As I rounded North Hill Tor (the sea was out), I took my “runners” and socks off and walked, ran and scrambled over the marsh and the squelching, mud-banked rivulets. Bizarrely, I enjoyed the experience (the beauty of trail running) eventually arriving at Whiteford National Nature Reserve. Coincidentally, between 1985 and the very beginning of 1990, I managed a portfolio of property for the National Trust…..including this one. The Reserve is covered in Pine woodland. I rounded Whiteford Point before doubling back along Whiteford Sands to the expanse of Broughton Bay: a wonderful experience. I reconnected with the coastal footpath at Broughton Burrows and ran out onto the small island of Burry Holms before turning south and running the final stretch of a 30.5 mile day (!) to Hill End, west of Llangennith.

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Day 2: Hill End to Mumbles(26 miles)

It’s not often that one can wake up to the prospect of running along a glorious beach, with the receding waves lapping the shore. This was the case on Sunday morning 24th April, with blue skies and sunshine to-boot.

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Rounding the medieval field system at Rhossili, I ran along the Gower Coast National Nature Reserve to Port Eynon, catching up briefly with Jackie and Lynne to have a hot chocolate. Crossing the beach, I re-joined the footpath at Horton, running forward to Oxwich Point. Passing through woods at Oxwich Point, the ascents and descents were “aggressive” and my knees (knee caps) knew it. It was warm on Sunday so I took on board more fluid in the form of a coke at an Oxwich cafe before traversing the beach (below Oxwich Burrows) to

Crossing the beach, I re-joined the footpath at Horton, running forward to Oxwich Point. Passing through woods at Oxwich Point, the ascents and descents were “aggressive” and my knees (knee caps) knew it. It was warm on Sunday so I took on board more fluid in the form of a coke at an Oxwich cafe before traversing the beach (below Oxwich Burrows) to Nicholston Burrows, and onward towards the iconic Three Cliffs Bay.

I scrambled up Shire Combe to the footpath prior to Southgate where I had a lunchtime sandwich, crisps…..and an ibuprofen tablet to take away the pain of my sore knee caps. Running was easier (pain-wise) from here as I passed Pwlldu Bay, Caswell and Langland. In the latter place, I had a ginger beer (good for energy) at the beach cafe, before running to Mumbles Head, Mumbles Pier and then ending the run outside Verdi’s, the completion of marathon 11.

This weekend marked another milestone: the completion of circa ONE-QUARTER of the entire distance of the perimeter of Wales.

Weekend 4: 16th and 17th April 2016

Day 1: Saturday 16th April – Laugharne to Carmarthen (24 miles)

Saturday 16th April - Rob checking running poles before Laugharne to Carmarthen

Starting from the car park below the castle I ran passed Dylan Thomas’s boat house where he cogitated over so much fine poetry. And what an outlook from this vantage point. Today was very much an estuary-run across fields adjoining the estuary which at their edges were wet and muddy. Travelling north, I crossed the River Taf at St Clears and then traversed agricultural land as I headed south-east following the “path” as far as I was able to do so. At Pentowyn, I looked across the estuary back to Laugharne: a stone’s throw away compared with the distance I had just run! Onward then to Wharley Point (National Trust property) where I enjoyed spectacular views across to Worm’s Head, Gower before arriving at Scott’s Bay (and the beach) by St Anthony’s Cottage. This is where I ran along the beach to Llanstephan, stopping for a welcome hot chocolate.

The run from Llanstephan to Carmarthen was uninspiring simply because the “coastal footpath” was anything but as it traversed roads and fields some distance from the estuary.Rob arriving in Carmathen

Day 2: Sunday 17th April: Carmarthen to Llanelli (27 miles)

Jackie (team Clio) has been a “rock” in helping with logistics, food, clean kit (and sometimes the ‘moods’ of a runner under stress) etc while I have concentrated on the running. I stepped out of the car in Carmarthen and actually didn’t want to run today. It was one of those moments and I was “out of sorts” with myself. It didn’t help either that my ‘nano’ (music player) wasn’t working. And my knee caps were sore (still recovering from the undulating coastline in Pembrokeshire). I ran through Croesyceilog to Ferryside (circa 8+ miles) and wasn’t particularly in a good place. Some food, coffee and an ibuprofen tablet helped immensely because the pain eased away and I was able to focus on running again without pain. Ferryside, Llansaint (views across to Pembrey) and then Kidwelly where I had a welcome hot chocolate. Onward then, running through Pembrey Forest (Pembrey Nature Reserve), a run that seemed to go on forever before arriving at Cefn Sidan Sands. And what a moment. I was in a remote place with nothing but the most extraordinary and breath-taking views: one of those magic, uplifting moments especially after my malaise earlier in the day. I ran along the beach to Pembrey Country Park (the recreational area). Just before the coast path I bumped into Phil Cooper, a business acquaintance. What were the statistical chances of that happening! Onward to Burry Port where I bumped into Phil again. He took a photograph for his web site / Facebook page and congratulated me on my extraordinary challenge to raise research funds for MND (Motor Neurone Disease). At Burry Port, I had run out of water (my 1.5 litre platypus water holder was dry) so I popped into a local cafe for a Diet Coke. From here the way ahead was clear as I could see my destination in the distance: the Discovery Centre on the millennium coastal footpath. Yet again wonderful views across the Bay (and the River Loughor) to Gower: Llanrhidian Sands and Whiteford Burrows. I was greeted at the centre by the smiling faces of Jackie and Lynne who congratulated me on my 9th marathon run.

Final reflection: the weather had been kinder this weekend. My mentor Alex Jungmayr had thought that Saturday would be easier than Sunday. In fact, it was the converse especially as I had to overcome my Sunday morning lethargy. The challenge of doing something that paradoxically I wanted to do (as part of the Moon Shadow Wales Challenge) whereas my “being” didn’t want to. The ‘ups and downs’ of life!

Weekend 3: 9th & 10th April 2016

DAY 1: Angle to Manorbier (27 miles)

DAY 1 – decent weather – hooray – blue skies & sunshine, albeit a tad blustery. My initial attempt to start in Angle was defeated by the high-tide, which meant that I had to run circa 1.0 / 1.5 miles to get to the start! Then to Freshwater West (Cafe Mor http://www.beachfood.co.uk/cafemor.php – 10 minute stop – coffee & brownie, where I met Jackie & Alasdair); onward to CastleMartin and (because it was open at the weekend) the artillery range, through to Broad Haven (National Trust car park), where I had a sandwich lunch & soup. Then crossed glorious Broadhaven beach onward to the quiet and secluded Barafundle Bay (beach). Then Stackpole Quay, Freshwater East through to the carpark below Manorbier castle. The stretch from Stackpole Quay to Manorbier was undulating: up and down, up and down, but at least the weather had been kinder!

looking out towards Freshwater west Sat April 9th

DAY 2: Manorbier to Laugharne (26 miles)

I had spotted on the weather forecast the night before that forceful winds would be travelling south-north from the channel, through the South-West and up into South Wales. Little did I realise that I would be running into full-on, head-winds for the entire day.

Steep walk up Lydstep cliffs in very blustery weather. Sunday April 10th Manorbier to Laugharne

At Lydstep point I was literally being blown backwards! It was good to get to Tenby and have some respite from the constant, constant forceful winds. This meant getting into Jackie’s “team Clio” car for 15 minutes to have some soup, whilst the car itself was being buffeted. The coastal footpath terrain out of Tenby was pretty aggressive. It was poignant, pausing for a moment on the coastal footpath and looking out towards Monkstone Point. Lynne had mentioned the night before that this was one of Tony’s (TJ) favourite spots for fishing.

Because of the constant battering of the wind, I grabbed a coffee in Saundersfoot. A lady in the coffee shop noticed the #MoonShadowWales yellow cover and asked (via her daughter) what I was doing. I explained that I was running around the entire perimeter of Wales (circa 1,030 miles) to raise money for #MND research. Purely accidentally, she commented that her late mother had succumbed to MND and subsequently texted a donation – thank you so much. Post coffee, I ran on to Amroth via Wiseman’s Bridge. My son Alasdair reminded me that Amroth is the official end of the  #Pembrokeshirecoastalfootpath – some 186 miles – and congratulated me on reaching this milestone after 6.5 weekend days running (in all weathers!).

end of the Pembrokeshire Coastal path from Poppit Sands to Amroth.

To the east of Amroth, I ran across the wind swept beach of Marros Sands. Such was the ferocity of the wind passing my ears that I could not hear the music I was playing on my nano. I had one idle thought that the ferocity of the winds hour after hour might cause deafness because it was so loud and thunderous. Anyway, onward rounding Ragwen Point & Gilman Point to Pendine. I had to go indoors into the shelter for a moment to read my map, out of the wind. The footpath then moved inland to bypass the coastal MOD land (Pendine Sands & Laugharne Burrows), passing through Llanmiloe & Plashett to Laugharne. I cannot tell you what a joy it was to arrive in Laugharne carpark adjacent to the castle, greeted by Jackie, Alasdair and Lynne. The attritional nature of the windy weather today had got to me so I was pleased & relieved & glad to finish.

 

Weekend 2: 1st, 2nd, 3rd April 2016

DAY 1: Little Haven to (east of) Monk Haven (22 miles)

Starting in Little Haven, Pembrokeshire on Saturday 3rd April, I was confronted with another wet, windy, rainy start – evidenced by some of the video clips – which continued more-or-less throughout the day. Here are some other memories: sight of the castle from the coastline, near St Brides Cross; the flooded footpath trail for large parts of the path leading to Martin’s Haven; passing through Martin’s Haven (and the ‘old deer park’) reminded me of my time as a Managing Agent for The National Trust; sight of Gateholm Island from the coastal footpath; Marloes Sands, and just inland, remnants of the Second World War airfield.

If the coastal footpath from Little Haven to Martin’s Haven was wet and windy, the section from Martin’s Haven was incredibly exposed evidenced once again by forceful winds, rain and cold: I decided that too many such clips would be boring, but they reflect the reality of the conditions on the day.

I arrived at St Anne’s Head. Stupidly, I thought there might be a place to shelter…..and have a hot drink. I must have been dreaming!! I was wet through and very cold at this point. All that I could do was shelter behind one of the buildings adjoining the cottages. Thank goodness Jackie (my wife and essential supporter) had given me a flask of hot tomato soup. That really made the difference, as well as the sandwiches.

Onward then to Dale along the indented coastline. At the yacht club, I had a hot chocolate and sent Jackie an e-mail (the club has wifi and it’s a good ‘stopping place’) to say that I was not far now from the meeting point in St Ismaels. Leaving the club, despite the suggestion that I should take the high tide route, I took the low tide route and crossed the boarded walk without any bother. What I’ve discovered on this journey so far is that I need to follow my own instincts, including my own powers of observation.

I passed through the small beach of Monk Haven, having agreed to run to Longberry Point on the coastal footpath and then take the footpath inland to St Ismaels (east-side). Subsequently heard on BBC weather news that Pembrokeshire had had 30mm of rain on Saturday 2nd April – and didn’t I know it!!

DAY 2: Monk Haven to Angle (31 miles)

I will remember Sunday 3rd April for some time to come. This was the day that running over aggressive coastline caught up with me. My knees were in great pain. In particular my knee caps (patellas). I am sure there is a more technical explanation but I was running in pain for 5 hours today. No sympathy required, just a fact.

I crossed the stepping stones at Sandy Haven (low tide mark), moved around South Hook oil refinery Gellawick Bay…….and then had my first experience (following the acorns) of running through urban landscape via Hakin to Milford Haven, over the bridge, marina on my right, Main Street, Pill to Black Bridge, up the river mouth for a while and round to Venn Farm and then to the coast to the left of the oil refinery. Passing through Hazelbeach, Llanstadwell, Neyland to Great Honeyborough over the bridge and then over the second bridge into Pembroke Dock. I was glad to catch up with Jackie and Lynne John (my supporters for the weekend) for hot drinks and something to eat. Lynne was able to give me 2 ibuprofen tablets. Within minutes, the constant pain was gone and I was able to move easier for the rest of the afternoon. Jackie reminded me that you have to be careful taking such tablets. A fair point….and I took them having ‘refuelled’ with food.

Leaving Lynne and Jackie, I passed through the urban landscape of Pembroke Dock to Pembroke taking time to enjoy the castle and moat. Then, along the coastline south of Hundleton, passing the Power Station, following the path south of the oil refinery to the beach directly west of Rhoscrowther. Took 5 mins at this point. Sunshine and blue skies – the FIRST time for the entire weekend!! Enjoyed just watching the vista before me whilst having a sip of hot soup. Finally, onward to Angle. Enjoying running WITHOUT PAIN whilst enjoying the first sunshine of the entire weekend ANOTHER BIG WEEKEND.

WEEKEND 1 – Moon Shadow Wales Challenge


 

Well, what a weekend!!! How was I to know that it would coincide with storm Katie. Saturday and Sunday were particularly challenging in the face of a full-on gale.

Good Friday 25th March – travelled down to Cardigan mid-afternoon, staying with Alex Jungmayr & family (Plas-y-Wern Cottages, Tresaith) http://www.plasywern.co.uk/

DAY 1 (27m): Started 26th March – Poppit Sands (Cardigan), Cemaes Head, Ynys Fach, Newport – tried to cross the river but quickly up to my waist and fast flowing, so went round (managed to get a hot chocolate in the local pub {Golden Lion} on the estuary), Dinas Head (Dinas Island), called into The Old Sailors, Dinas Cross (wet through and cold, it was good to have some lamb cawl on the house http://tinyurl.com/jqaudsv – thank you, it was excellent); Fishguard, Goodwich (finish of day 1).

DAY 2 (29m): 27th March – Goodwich, Strumble Head, Pwll Deri (YHA), Tregwynt, Abercastle (was offered tea & ham sandwich from Paul & family {from Stratford Upon Avon, Warwickshire} who were staying in a holiday cottage adjacent to the slipway to the beach – thank you), Porthgain (coffee at The Shed), Abereiddy, St David’s Head, Whitesands. I was literally spent when I arrived at Whitesands beach: a very long day which started at 8.30am and ended at 7.00pm at night. Good to be met by Lynne John, and my wife Jackie with a warm blanket and chocolate protein drink. Then whisked away to stay with a friend in the St David’s area – Andy Middleton.

DAY 3 (24m): An altogether different day. Yes, still windy but blue skies and sunshine. Whitesands, St Justinian’s Lifeboat station, Lower Treginnis, Portclais, Solva (hot chocolate and sandwich at cafe 35, Solva), Newgale (met Jackie & Lynne and had a coke), Nolton Haven, Druidston (passing the hotel), Broad Haven, Little Haven…….. then ‘long’ drive home back to Cardiff.

This was a ‘big weekend’. Glad to have started……..the end of the beginning. One weekend down, 19 (or thereabouts) to go! People have heard me say that this run is a metaphor. I am eating away at the distance, just as MND http://tinyurl.com/gr3ujq4 in devastating fashion eats away at human beings when diagnosed.