2013; Alex’s appetite for adventure was whetted – but could he persuade Ellen to join him on the adventure of a lifetime?

A Walk around Wales

We were back in Cardigan – Ellen’s home town. Alex was buzzing with life – a life of outdoor adventure – swimming in the river, running crazy challenges with new friends. Inspired by Arry Beresford-Webb’s Dragon Run 1027 (marking 1027 miles around Wales), Alex was starting to wonder if he could attempt to run around Wales, unsupported, himself.

While Alex was inspired to take up a challenge, Ellen wasn’t in the right place for him to abscond. Drained from leaving teaching and struggling to find her inner voice that had been stifled after years of striving to hit targets in a race she didn’t even realise she was supposed to be running, the time wasn’t right.

Not right, perhaps, for Alex to head off on an adventure on his own, but the suggestion sparked in his head that may be this was something they could do together. Not running – Ellen had never considered running, and despite being active as a teenager, she had been pretty incapacitated with a knee injury following the car accident in 2008 – but perhaps a walk. A walk around Wales.

“Tell me more about it”

It’s fair to say that when Alex broached the subject of taking 3 months off to walk around Wales, his expectations were fairly low. Anticipating either an outright ‘No’, or at best, a barrage of negative questions, when Ellen returned with ‘Tell me more about it’, it was, effectively, game on.

Very quickly we had solid plans in place to set off on an adventure that was to be a game changer for both of us.

Kitting up

Although we’d already made the big leap from lives on a career path in the Midlands to coming back to West Wales a few months earlier, there were, of course, lots of practicalities to take care of.

We had to arrange to sub-let our flat and get on with planning for 3 months under our own steam, carrying everything we needed to live on our backs. A plan gave us, and Ellen in particular, something to take ownership of. We planned a route, what we needed, how we would cook. With the little savings we had, we invested in the kit we needed: a tent, backpacks, corned beef, Nutella… life’s essentials; although as early as our first day on the coast path as we sweltered out of Cardigan to Poppit Sands and up over Caemaes Head to Ceibwr, we realised some things were less essential than others!

One thing was very clear: after many camping trips watching couples arguing over putting up the tent, this was not something we wanted. 3 pegs and one pole and we never had a cross word – at least, not about putting up the tent.

Keep the sea on your right till you run out of Wales…

A walk around Wales – straightforward enough. The Welsh coast path follows the entire Welsh coastline. All 870 miles of it – 3 sides of the country we call home, from Chepstow in the south east round to Queensferry on the north eastern edge. The east edge of Wales is bounded by the ancient Offa’s Dyke, although as we discovered, there’s a lot less of the Dyke to see than we were hoping. While the guidebooks usually advise a clockwise route, we’ve always struck our own path – the Alex and Ellen way of doing things differently. We left from Cardigan, heading south onto the Pembrokeshire Coast Path first, and planned to finish on our home turf – the Ceredigion Coast Path 3 months later. In the end, as we gained in confidence, and once we were heading north up the eastern border, we started to change the pace, basing ourselves in one place for a few days and using public transport to take us out and then run or walk back over separate stretches of the journey. And yes – run is what we did. Not only did Ellen rediscover her inner voice as we put in early miles along the Pembrokeshire coast, she discovered a passion for running, somewhere around Hay Bluff.

As a journey in itself, no doubt, walking around Wales was a massive adventure, discovering new vistas, seeing places we’ve visited before with fresh perspectives – but perhaps the real adventure was how it gave us our own new horizons.