Stg 5 Day 4 – Wed 31 Jul

Babel to Llandovery

Final day of the penultimate week.  I don’t want this to end too soon!

One of the joys of doing a point-to-point walk each day is walking out from one place and arriving in a completely new one.  Making a little progress forward each day; like life.

But for family and friends who are walking with me for the day, point-to-point presents a challenge.  I think I’ve seen every possible solution to this problem:

1. Drive to the end point, and then get either a pre-arranged taxi, or a lift from a friend, to the start point (the Wilderness Foundation team, and Helen & Wendy, in Essex)

2. Number 1 but in reverse, i.e. drive to the start point, and then at the end of the walk, get a taxi back to the start (Sean in Buckinghamshire / Northamptonshire)

3. Get a taxi both to the start point and from the end point (Andrew in Oxfordshire)

4. Get your wife to drop you at the start point and pick you up at the end point (Darren & Steve in Herefordshire – come on guys!)

5. Bring your husband with you, and walk with him, but then, halfway through, send him back to retrace his steps to collect the car and pick you up from the end point (Pam in Powys – nice one Pam!)

6. Use two cars: park one at the end point, then drive the other one to the start point (Katherine, Kester & Katie in Oxfordshire)

7. Catch a train (an overnight sleeper no less!) to the start point, and then catch a train home from the end point (on a different line)* (David in Bedfordshire)

8. Train, bus & walk to the previous night’s B&B, walk with me and stay at the next night’s B&B, and then walk, bus & train home (Eleanor in Powys, plus Adam in Herefordshire)

9. Fly(!) to the start point, and then taxi from the end point (Adam in Suffolk – thanks Adam, although I feel a bit bad about the carbon footprint; must plant some more trees!)

10. Drive to, or stay, at a point along the way, walk back a little way to meet me and then double back to your starting point (Katherine & Adam in Suffolk, Christine in Buckinghamshire, and David, Ann & Gnome in Gloucestershire).

(* This is pretty much what I’ve been doing on a weekly basis – we’re basically the same person)

Is this a bit boring?  I love this stuff 🙂  Aren’t folk inventive?  And the lengths people have gone to to support me and walk with me is truly humbling.

Today, Iain was doing an adapted version of option 2, including an overnight stay.  He’d left his convertible Beetle (mid-life crisis? – mind you, who am I to talk?) at Monday night’s B&B, the wonderful Felin Glais.  We were then going to get a taxi back there from Llandovery to collect the car, before driving home.

The weather was much improved as we headed out (after fresh poached eggs on toast) on the short walk towards Llandovery.

Llandovery is an ancient drovers’ crossing of the River Tywi.  Its good connections to many other places in south Wales were partly why it was chosen, in 1847, as the location for the Welsh Collegiate Institute, now known as Llandovery College, a leading independent school.

Longitude: 3°48’W (OS Map / Google Map)

I had fixed to meet with Mike Powell at noon.  Mike has been at the College for many years and is now in charge of liaison with Old Llandoverians.

Over some lovely tea and biscuits in the Great Hall (I know!), Mike told us about the College’s history.

As you know by now, though, while I love all the rich history, on this walk I’m most interested in what it is about their place that makes folk positive and hopeful for the future.

What I heard from Mike were words that seem to resonate right across Britain: family, community, small scale.

The students at Llandovery, from 4 to 18, have some wonderful opportunities, including compulsory membership of the Combined Cadet Force (CCF), taking them out to SENTA where we were yesterday.  Sport and music are also critical components: the heart of the College complex is a rugby pitch.

Young adults leave Llandovery College having developed a great breadth to launch them on into their future lives.  I love the College’s motto: Gwell dysg na golud, or (there are) No riches better than learning.

Over a lamb pie in town, Iain and I wondered how these wonderful opportunities could be broadened out into the state sector.  Wilderness Foundation is doing good work in this area – see the Week 5 Highlights Video for details (coming soon).

Just before the taxi and drive home to Wokingham, we made a wonderful discovery, and it is these unplanned experiences that have made 52 such a joy.

On the Heart of Wales railway line, Llandovery station was threatened with demolition.  But (once again) the local community got together to save it, and it now operates as a successful volunteer-run café and model railway exhibition.

We met Mary, chief volunteer, who very kindly made us a couple of teas on the house.

I was sad to leave.  But the good news is: I’ll be back on Saturday afternoon, before starting the final Week 6 on Sunday.

Crossing Carmarthenshire into Pembrokeshire this coming week, there will be lots of time to reflect.  And there’s a lot to reflect on:

history (just incredible history), geology, hills, the natural world, trees, animals, farming, energy, learning, pubs (of course pubs), towers, BBC local radio, community, commitment, passions, resilience, generosity, luck, friends, family, love, loss (really tragic loss), time, youth, hope.

And all spread across a random cross-section of our wonderful, wonderful country.

What has it all meant?  I don’t know, but I can’t wait to start trying to work it out from this Sunday.  Thank you so much for keeping reading – it really means a lot to me x

Previous daily update          Next walking day