March 2019 : Ireland – Cork to Galway

If you want to experience four seasons in one week – visit Ireland in March!  I have gone from sun cream in the mini heatwave to hat, scarf and gloves in the snow and now 3 days of torrential rain and Storm Freya! Last month was Storm Eric –  I wonder how many different names of storms I’ll encounter during my walk over the next few years?

To shelter from the awful weather that the start of March brought, Coleman Sullivan very kindly offered me a night in a motor home. – such a relief not to have to sleep in my tent.  I also had the best fish and chips from Cindy’s Café  Thanks both for your kindness and hospitality.

2 cindys

On Saturday 2nd, I visited my second Parkrun in Ireland at Bere Island. They pulled out all the stops to pick me up from Eyeries to get me to the start. Geraldine drove me to the ferry.  A 15 minute ferry ride to the island, a 15 minute minibus ride the other side to the start and then a beautiful parkrun – with Storm Freya whistling around us! Spectacular scenery even in the mist and such a friendly group of Parkrunners who gave me the warmest of receptions a t- shirt, donations and of course cake. An amazingly sociable morning and a parkrun that should not be missed what an experience.

Thanks to Murphys at Bere Island for the coffee and cake, and also the offer to stay that evening to ride out the storm – amazing hospitality which makes my walk so much easier and you quickly forget the wet days.

On Monday 4th, I left County Cork and walked into County Kerry. It’s always sad to move on when you have stayed somewhere for a couple of days and have got to know your hosts really well. MacCarthysBar in Castletownbere looked after me so well. I needed a rest and they so kindly put me up with amazing hospitality – taking me to places I couldn’t get to on foot and making me feel so part of the place. Adrienne, Aidan and Niki – thankyou so much. No goodbyes as we will catch up soon.

Storm Freya brought snow and heavy rain. I am used to walking in it now. It makes so much difference when you get somewhere and can dry out in the evening, nothing worse than a wet sleeping bag. Everything is in dry sacks ziplocks and a bin liner as extra precaution. The phone has 5 layers of cover and hasn’t been out much these last few days as it just shuts down when wet.

The picture below shows my worldly belongings…. worldly belongings.jpg

Moving into Kenmare a lovely town I stayed with Rob and Lesley Smith in their gorgeous Airbnb Bramble Hill Kenmare.  They picked me up in a hail storm and made me feel so welcome all for Alzheimer’s. I didn’t think I would eat all they gave me but I did ! 😁 Thank you both.

From Kenmare I walked the roads to Sneem. With hindsight the walk was a little long and my feet were still sore. 18 miles with my rucksack on tarmac was not a good combination! But if I hadn’t I would not have met John O’Sullivan in Kenmare, Kitty the poste, Maureen from Sneem or John the delivery driver who stopped and gave me a week’s supply of rice cakes …with chocolate on!

6 rice cakes

It’s so great to stop and talk, it’s unbelievable how Alzheimer’s affects families and everyone has their story to tell, such a terrible disease and everyone I meet wants to do what they can to help.

In Sneem I met Sharon from The Green Chair originally from Wales and now the owner of a homely upholstery business. She helped two runners this year Simon and Rachel who are running around Ireland currently in County Donegal and she also helped me dry out and find accommodation.

Sean is the owner of Goosey Island Motor Home Park Sneem and Dan Murphys Bar Sean, Caroline and his family kindly put me up in their own home for the night to save putting my tent up. The rain and wind was howling and I was so grateful. Dinner and pancakes at his sisters Claudine and what a delight to meet all the lovely children, nieces and nephews – there were a lot of pancakes cooked that night!

I visited St Michaels National School in Sneem to talk to the pupils about my walk. It was a wonderful hour in school. All the children were so enthusiastic and asked brilliant questions, they were a pleasure to talk to and even joined me for a short walk in the rain. Many thanks to Michael Hussey for organising.

As the first week of March came to an end, the rain continued to lash down.  I stayed in CaherDaniel not far from the Skelligs where Star Wars was made. I was lucky to be in the warmth of The Travellers Rest Hostel with a log fire, drying out and resting for another day’s walking.

A few more days of rain followed. I because very used to getting the waterproofs on in double quick time. I limited myself to walking 15 miles a day to make sure my feel held out.

I had been very welcome to have the offers of a place to stay with the recent weather, as with campsites still closed, it was proving difficult to find somewhere to pitch my tent

On 9 March – by an amazing coincidence, while walking on a remote mountain road in Kerry, I met Tom Melling, a fellow Swansea resident from back home in South Wales.  Tom had heard about my walk from a recent radio interview I’d given, but I still think the chances of us bumping in to each other were quite slim.

9 Tom Melling
Tom Melling – fellow Swansea resident from back home

 

By the middle of March, I hit my next milestone – a whole TWO MONTHS of walking! During this time, I’ve walked the Wales Coastal Path to Fishguard, crossed to Rosslare, Ireland, walked the beautiful Coast of Counties Wexford, Waterford, Cork before reaching County Kerry.

Its been an amazing experience. I have met the most wonderful people on route all of whom have helped me so much on my way – I really couldn’t have done it without their support. I was welcomed into the homes of complete strangers, made to feel part of their families and treated with so much kindness. People have joined me for walks and I have been invited to join others. I have been taken out to singing nights, the theatre and a jazz night plus a few pubs! It was very humbling for me.

I am so indebted to my Husband Mark, my family and friends who support me so closely from home. The daily calls, messages, photos, and letters really keep me going especially in those moments when my spirit drops a little.

My friends Kim, Ceri Smith Aruk Fundraiser, and Jude have been incredibly supportive and are with me every step of the way. And then of course the wonderful people who have followed me on Facebook, twitter and Instagram in all nearly 4000. I have received so many messages of support, offers of help with the route, social media, planning and kindness it has been unbelievable! And Parkrun – thank you so much!

Above all thank you for all your generous donations. At the time of writing this update the total has reached a whopping £27451 in 2 months! That’s what this walk is all about raising money and awareness to help make the breakthrough so desperately needed. I can’t do this without you all and am so appreciative x

The second part of March started off pretty much the same as the first part – wet and very windy! My week along the Wild Atlantic Way, was very wild indeed!

I experienced some stunning scenery on my way to Portmagee in South Kerry and the Skelligs. This area is an International Dark Sky Reserve one of only 3 Gold Tier Reserves in the world. Huge thanks to Gerard Kennedy the owner of The Moorings Bar & Restaurant for great hospitality and an incredible display of traditional Irish dancing.

After Portmagee, I continued on to Cahrsiveen and had a night in the local hostel. Mary the manager bought iced buns and we watched Irish Strictly Come Dancing. I slept in a very comfy bunk bed.

The following day, expecting a long 16 mile walk, I was delighted to meet ‘White Van Man’ John who had heard me on the radio and stopped to talk outside Cahrsiveen on the busy road. 10 minutes later I was in the wonderful company of the Ballyhac/Glenageenty/Cahrsiveen walkers, dumping the rucksack and heading up Killelan Mountain with expert walkers in the hail and rain. Huge gusts of winds helped us up the mountain and Gerry Enwright’s local knowledge of folklore and local history was such a pleasure to listen to (still awaiting the invoice Gerry, lol!). It was so lovely to have some company for the day and a meal after. Thank you so much to The Glenbeigh Hotel and Karina for putting me up for the night – all for the benefit of the Alzheimer’s.

17 Glenbeigh hotel

Gerry kindly helped me with the route and I took a lovely road along the lake to Killorglin and was delighted to meet Eddie who walked with me in the rain and kept me company, 6 miles later. I independently met his wife Maired what are the chances of that? And what a lovely couple.

Any yet another storm …… Storm Gareth kept me company as I entered Castlemaine and I was so relieved to warm up in The Castlemaine B&B owned by Myra who spoilt me with a great breakfast and donation too.

From Castlemaine I walked along the Dingle Peninsula towards Inch (thank you to Eddie B for your company on the the first hour of my walk) Although I had dried out the night before, I was soaked through by lunch time. I discovered that it doesn’t matter how good the waterproofs are rain will always get in somehow. Oh and the hailstorms were spectacular …… rather painful!

12 Eddie Birmingham
Eddie, who kept me company for the first hour of my walk

 

Inch Beach is stunning and is the home of Inch parkrun, perfect with Storm Gareth behind you but it’s out and back! Lisa, Con and Jack have one of the best views in Ireland overlooking the beach. They let me stay in their beautiful home and it was a pleasure to have such lovely company.

 

12 Lisa Brown
Lisa, who kindly welcomed me in to her home

The next day was a walk along the Dingle Way to Dingle calling in at Annascaul on route and The South Pole Inn so highly recommended to see the story of Tom Crean the famous South Pole Explorer but sadly it was closed. A long walk to Dingle along the straightest road to meet Breda and her lovely family. So relaxed and easy going. At 9.00 pm she was happily making a Red Riding Hood outfit for world book day at school the following day without a seconds thought and at 9.00 am the following morning we both walked up Connor Pass in dreadful conditions. Breda thank you for all you have done for me x.

14 Connor pass
Connor Pass

Connor Pass was spectacular even in the rain …I loved every minute of the ascent and can safely say my fitness levels are pretty good. The descent was very wet and I arrived at Kilcummin Beg and the home of Maja and Oliver soaked through again. Maja and Oliver are 2 amazing artisan producers making everything from Dingle Cheese to seaweed tapenade and pates. Their home and children were so welcoming and they didn’t seem to mind my rucksack and the puddle of water on the floor of their conservatory when I arrived. Oliver made a great stew and it was lovely to hear about Maja’s cheese shop in Tralee. The next day was the day of World Climate Day strikes across schools in over 100 countries and the three students in this household were up early and out to support the action.

With a lunch of salami and pate I headed to the Maharees a 5km tombolo found on the North of Dingle. Unspoilt, beautiful beaches, and incredibly friendly people. Ursula, Moss and family made me feel so welcome. My washing was hanging by the fire in seconds, my hat was recovered from a wall at the top off the island and as the wind howled and knocked out the Wi-Fi, plans were put in place for a walk to camp the following day after I had been to Tralee parkrun.

Dawn and Mike picked me up in Castlegregory and took me to Tralee, they were celebrating their joint 100 parkrun and cake! The rain poured down on a truly lovely course with everyone dressed in green to celebrate St Patrick’s weekend. Coffee at The Brandon and a lift back to The Maharees so Ursula, Moss and Blathnaide could start our walk to Camp. To say the walk was an adventure is an understatement. There was significant localised flooding and between the four of us we made dams to scale beach rivers , ducked and dived over and under fences to bypass flooded roads and literally ran across rivers with our eyes closed hoping our boots would stay dry. Such a fun walk with the weather chucking everything at us. Do look up Blathnaide she is a great cinematographer.

On our way into Camp we met Rose who I had last seen a month ago in Tallow and I left Ursula and family after a weekend of great fun and friendship x

Rose, her sister Ann and I descended on the wonderful home and stunning garden of their sister Catherine and husband Vincent. How lovely to catch up with Rose who I had last seen back in February. Her son David is assisting in pioneering significant research into Alzheimer’s through Genomics Medicine Ireland and joined us all for dinner. We talked late that night and headed off for an early walk with Catherine and her lovely labrador retrievers currently being trained to be guide dogs for the blind. The training is intense and the hard work non stop. Today the hail continued and the mountains were snow covered as the temperature dropped.

My route planning, resulting in being in Ireland for St Patricks Day was a pure fluke – but what better place to celebrate it!  On St Patrick’s Day I arrived in Ballyheigue and watched the parade. A lot of effort was made by the community to celebrate and the sun came out. Helen had been driving over Connor Pass three days ago when she saw me in the rain with the flag on my back. She kindly offered me her holiday home in Ballyheigue and met me today for a meal to celebrate St Patrick’s and welcome me to her home.

This week, through the wonders of technology, I had the pleasure of talking to Alzheimer’s Research UK at their annual conference! Thanks for the support ARUK very much appreciated x

Towards the end of March Mark came for another visit. It had been several weeks since I saw him last, and as always, it was so great to see him.  Once again, he arrived with such lovely messages and gifts from home – they are greatly appreciated and keep me thinking of home and friends every day. And a special thank you to Three Cliffs In Harmony Choir and everyone who attended, for donating the proceeds of their fundraising evening to Alzheimer’s Research. I am really lucky to have such tremendous support.

21 mark and van

My last few days in Kerry were incredible and I had luck on my side.

I walked to Ballybunion such a pretty place where the famous castle green divides the two main beaches, with the Ladies Beach on the right and the Men’s Beach to the left, names given to the fact that both sexes swam on separate beaches on the orders of the local parish priest, who walked it daily ensuring the rule wasn’t broken! I stayed with Sean Stack from Seanor B&B who so kindly looked after me and gave me the breakfast of Kings…a bowl of porridge with a Bailey’s chaser! With a spring in my step he directed me to the Marconi exhibition

Little did I know that as I passed McMunns bar and restaurant I would be introduced to none other than Prince Marconi. My flag had been spotted by Mary and Colm and I was introduced to the Prince by the owners Greg and Una. Such a momentous day for Ballybunion – 100 years to the day the first voice transmission was made East to West from Ballybunion to Nova Scotia “Hello Canada, Hello Canada” were the first words spoken. 100 years later Marconi’s daughter and grandson the Princess and Prince Marconi travelled to Ballybunion to unveil a plaque and attend the exhibition. So amazing to witness a piece of living history.

Having stayed late it was a brisk walk to Littor Beach where David Griffin and his wife  Rebecca Carroll live. David owns Pods Ireland. I had the pleasure of sleeping in a wonderful pod next to the beach amongst the trees. Such a great experience and a perfect night’s sleep. Rebecca is a world renowned Irish Artist her studio was out of this world and it was so great to be invited in to view it. Rebecca was preparing for her next exhibition – look out for her profile on Instagram. Her book Sunny Spells Scattered Showers is top class.

As February came to an end, I left County Kerry and crossed the River Shannon to enter County Clare.  Waking up in County Clare on the first morning was beautiful.  Since crossing the River Shannon I have walked Loop Head with its amazing light house facing the Atlantic to The Bridges of Ross, once a trio of spectacular sea arches although due to erosion only one remarkable bridge remains.

It was here that we picked up a flat battery on the camper van and had to be towed by a tractor and bump started by Nevin and then have the battery fixed by Peter at Cross. Thanks both for coming to our rescue! I think I might have left a light on – oops!

As I had the luxury of the campervan until Saturday we were able to pitch in two locations Strand Camping a beautiful spot in Doonbeg and Nagles Caravan & Camping at Doolin. Thank you for looking after us and your generosity in allowing us to stay as we travelled around beautiful County Clare.

I attended another Parkrun at Vandeler in Kilrush. This parkrun is set in the most beautiful grounds of Vandeleur walled gardens. We had a fantastic welcome by each and every parkrunner that attended and staff at the coffee shop. Thanks so much for making us feel so welcome. The parkrun community spirit is everywhere.

The Aran Islands are a series of three Islands off the Coast of County Clare. Totally unspoilt and a magical place to go. The Islands are Gaeltacht, Irish speaking and even if only for a few hours it was the perfect place to be. These Islands have stood still in time. This trip would not have been possible without  Aran Island Doolin Ferries and particularly Bill and Eileen for arranging travel for us both. Part of the trip was also a quite stunning boat ride to The Cliffs of Moher where we could view the world famous cliffs and birds that live there so closely. A scene from the Harry Potter film was filmed here at the Sea Cave plus a few episodes of Father Ted.

The Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre is a superb place to spend a day at. The award winning eco friendly centre has a subterranean design almost like a hobbit house so as not to detract from one of the most iconic landscapes in the world. The walks are spectacular as are the interactive media displays at the exhibition centre. Brigid we can’t thank you enough for organising our visit and showing us around the centre.

Before Mark left, we visited Knocknacarra Parkrun and once again had the usual warm welcome

31 Parkrun

 

It was lovely to have Mark with me for 10 whole days.  Towards the end of Mark’s visit, we were well looked after by Paul at his ‘Biscuit Tree Cottage’ in Athenry. 

I then entered County Galway, and reached the milestone that was my first 1000 miles of my journey. The walk is not just about the miles but the people that make it.  I know I keep saying this, but a huge thanks to each and every one who have helped me, putting me up for the night (or putting up with me) donating, sharing my posts, arranging trips and joining me walking. I couldn’t do it without you all.

Here are a few more photos of the wonderful people I’ve met, and the beautiful views I’ve experienced during March 2019.

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Until the next blog ….. thank you all so much for your support

Karen x

I try to post daily on my social media, so please follow my journey: TwitterInstagram  Facebook

DONATE HERE and help me reach my fundraising target for Alzheimer’s Research UK

 

 

 

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February 2019 : Ireland – Wexford to Cork

The month started at Kilmore Quay in a lovely to have a dry tent.

 

Thanks to Evelyn Gillen for the contact at WLR FM radio station in Waterford, I was interviewed by Geoff. Here’s a link: WLR FM interview 

As can be expected with the changeable weather in February, after the blue skies of County Wexford, I spent a very long day walking in the rain towards County Waterford.

Fortunately, instead of having to put my tent up after a wet day of walking, Margaret and John Roche very kindly let me stay in their lovely holiday cottage just outside Wellington. Their local knowledge was invaluable and it was just wonderful to spend time with their lovely family.

6 Wellington Bridge

Next stop was Tramore, County Waterford, crossing over on the car ferry from Ballyhack and walking the coastal road through Passage East, Woodstown, Dunmore East and finally Tramore on a glorious sunny day, before being collected very kindly by Danny and his family who let me stay in Waterford City with them.  I even had a whistle stop tour of Waterford.

There are so many beautiful places to see and I can’t thank everyone enough for their tremendous hospitality and generosity and support. I was even allowed free passage on the ferry today as they knew I was coming.

Talking of beautify places …… I stumbled across Deise Greenway, the Waterford Greenway Group really is. You really could reconnect yourself with nature and the scenery is amazing. And as for the people – they were truly wonderful. They kept coming up to me and asking ‘Was I that Alzheimer’s lady?’ and wishing me well. There were so many, and I hope I’ve not missed anyone off this list of thanks: Danny Kidney, for showing me around and introducing me to Flahvans Porridge! He also took me to Hickeys Bakery in Waterford where I met the lovely Mary who gave me some of their famous Blaas.  Then Bernie Rochemeagher for picking me up, putting me up and for that wonderful feast! Craig and Stephen in Coach House Coffee for their amazing hospitality, Paudie from Dunphys Bar, and to the lovely lady called Tara who waited in the car park for me and made a donation. The support was out of this world. A huge THANK YOU to Waterford. I was humbled, not just by your beauty but most of all by your people x

 

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As we entered the second week of February, I was greeted by ……. Storm Eric! Very gusty weather, lots of tree branches down and some heavy downpours. But the sun did peep through on occasions.

As the week progressed, the weather improved and I headed off to Youhgal towards Middleton along the Coast via Ballycotton.

I woke to a beautiful morning in Youghal and headed to Ballycotton.  Since leaving the Waterford Greenway I had been looked after by Jenny in Ardmore and Rose in Tallow – wonderful hospitality, treated to jazz on Friday and a fantastic play “Philadelphia here I come” by the Brideview Drama Players exceptionally good play. I am always so incredibly grateful for the support, it really does make a huge huge difference to my walk.

 

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I had the opportunity to speak with Gerry Murray of cry104fm, which was aired during their Drivetime programme with Eric McCarthy.  I am always more than happy to find time during my journey to stop and give interviews. Not only do these interviews raise awareness of the amazing work of Alzheimer’s Research, but I have found that they often result in the offer of a place to pitch my tent, a bed for the night, or a meal and a chat with someone willing to help with local knowledge – all of which help me tremendously.

Half way through February, I celebrated one month of walking, and hit the 500mile mark! I left my home in Gower, South Wales on 14 January. I couldn’t have done any of this without the amazing support – every tweet, message tea stop, donation, toot of the horn keeps me going xx

Thanks to Elizabeth Parker, who lives in Mumbles, near my home back in South Wales, I was put in touch with her aunt Eiblish Buckley who kindly offered accommodation in Atlantic Sound, Crosshaven. And thanks also to Audrey Buckley for the fish, chips and cider! Elizabeth was such help with her contacts for accommodation, not just in Crosshaven, but in Kinsale and Dublin too – plus a much needed a free foot massage in Kinsale!

 

Coincidentally, Kinsale is twinned with Mumbles, Swansea – my home!

After a lovely treat of a night in the Trident Hotel in Kinsale, I started walking the Wild Atlantic Way, heading to Timoleague.

I was then looked after by Camilla and all the staff and customers of the Brewery Bar in Clonakilty with a great night of singing with Clonakilty Voices, and some very generous donations – thank you!

16 Brewery Bar

My husband, Mark came to visit in our little camper van which was lovely – so good to catch up and plan the next few weeks. He brought letters, messages and goodies from home from friends and family and took home any kit I haven’t used in my rucksack since I started which is a lot – for anyone who has met me along my journey you will know the weight of my rucksack!

We enjoyed the sunshine at Sextons Camping and Caravan Park Timoleague and were very grateful to Margaret, Con and Elaine who put me up in their own home, giving my legs and feet a good rest, and allowing me to get ready to continue with my journey along the Wild Atlantic Way.

 

So after a weekend of recharging my batteries, I set off for a day of sunshine walking to Ross Carbery from Timoleague, but soon hit the worse rain so far walking to Lough Hyne. However, it was truly stunning scenery.

As Mark was still with me, I was able to carry a lighter bag during the day as I meet the campervan at the end of the day – this made me feel like I was moonwalking without having to carry the extra weight!

I then headed along the estuaries of County Cork. The mist was still down as I reached Ballydehob at the tip of the Schull Peninsula.

I was delighted to receive some fantastic news from back home – Lliswerry Runners, my running club, had raised a phenomenal £1160 towards my fundraising for Alzheimers Research UK!  When I joined Lliswerry Runners back in 2012, I could hardly run 3 miles but since joining them I have run several marathons, half marathons and 10ks and 5ks. This club is so friendly and welcomes runners of every ability…whether you run from the front or run at the back you enjoy the same level of support and encouragement from every single member. My closest friendships have been made at Lliswerry and I love supporting this incredible club. I have been very humbled by this wonderful donation to Alzheimer’s Research as it involves every member of the club I am proud to belong to …Thank you so much xx

 

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As I left Ballydehob and headed to Mizen Head, I received some more great news …..  my Just Giving page had hit £25k! Its amazing to think that just over a month in to my 4 year walk, I hit a quarter of my fundraising target for Alzheimer’s Research.

 

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As much as I enjoy my solo walking, company along my route is always welcome. As I walked to The Altar Wedge Tomb at Toormore Bay, County Cork I was joined by Jimmy Tobin. They say that great company eats up the miles and that’s certainly true.

On 22 February, I reached the most South Westerly tip of Ireland – Mizen Head.  The sun came out and I had a great welcome from Stephen and his team at the Visitor Centre. I also had the pleasure of talking to Patricia Messenger from Cork 103 radio and Ray D’Arcy from RTE 1 both of whom had been following my walk around Ireland and were an absolute pleasure to talk to.

As some of you may know, I love my Parkruns, and am trying to visit as many as I can on my journey. So, on 23 February, I had the opportunity to attended the Glengarriff Parkrun – my first Parkrun in Ireland. I walked the course – with my rucksack!

24 Parkrun

It had been so lovely having Mark around for the previous few days, but sadly the time had come for him to return home. Thanks to Margaret, Con and Elaine Sexton at Sexton’s Camping and Caravan Park, Linda at Balleydehob, Stephen and his team at Mizen Head, Glengarriff parkrun, Owen and his daughter in law who makes exceedingly good cakes at Goleen Farmer’s Market, and Emma at the Crookhaven Inn – all of whom gave myself and Mark the most amazing welcome.

 

After Mark left, and I walked the Sheepshead way to Bantry, I was given the most wonderful welcome from Julia and Mike at the Carbery Guest. They kindly took me to see a local band ‘Frank and Polly’ at O’Suilleabhain’s Bar. The location of their B&B is in such a beautiful spot overlooking Dunmanus Bay and Mizen Head.

As February came to a close and I headed towards The Beara Way and Allihies, I hit the 690 miles mark of my journey so far. I have to thank those who have helped over the previous few days : The West Lodge Hotel, Bantry Bay, Mary and Tom, who I met at the Parkrun welcomed me in to their home , MacCarthy’s Bar – a place full of history and owned by Adrienne and Niki who all looked after me so well.  I know I keep saying this, but I really am ever so grateful for all these offers of a bed for the night, or somewhere to pitch my tent, it really does help.

 

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I do hope my blog posts have given you a little insight into my journey. I shall try and post them regularly. I am sorry if I have missed anyone off my list of thank yous – the days go so quickly, and I sometimes don’t always get time (or internet connection/phone signal!). I do try and update my social media daily, one way or another, so please follow my journey on there too.

Until the next blog ….. thank you all so much for your support

Karen x

I try to post daily on my social media, so please follow my journey: TwitterInstagram  Facebook

DONATE HERE and help me reach my fundraising target for Alzheimer’s Research UK

Leaving snowy Wales for Ireland. Week 3 (28 Jan – 3 Feb 2019)

Monday 28th January

A rest day. But as with all rest days much to do including a 6 mile walk to meet a lovely lady Sally who has a website which promotes a positive lifestyle and is jam packed with interesting articles.  We whiled away a few hours chatting and then it was time time to clean my kit – a never-ending job but it does have to last me a long time.

Tuesday 29th January 2019

Mark went home today after supporting me over the weekend …. always a heavy heart when he goes, but I will see him again before Ireland.  The path was very undulating today and my coat leaks like a colander, but on the positive side –  my fitness is improving and it’s easier to go up than down! Walked so well today that I passed St David’s my destination for the night and had to cut through past St Nons Chapel and Well a very tranquil spot.

I wasn’t expecting to be invited to such a wonderful  hotel at the Twr y Felin Hotel. Do look it up – its a very luxurious hotel and Ewan and Luke welcomed a wet, muddy and smelly guest just as they would any other. I wore my socks and no boots to dinner and no-one batted an eyelid! I slept in a tower with the most amazing view and felt like a princess – the stuff of dreams.

Wednesday 30th January 2019

Cosy fireThis morning l left the Twr y Felin Hotel in St David’s having been incredibly spoilt, complete with a packed lunch I headed to the Coast Path via the Cathedral. The Pembrokeshire Coast Path is truly spectacular and a pleasure to walk along. The wind was biting cold today and it was lovely to meet Francesca, Ian and John at Celtic Camping and Bunk House Accommodation.  Francesca came to meet me in the cold and told me how they had also looked after Christian Lewis who is walking the UK for SSAFA, The Armed Forces Charity, and is currently in Scotland.  I slept the night in the bunkhouse beautifully warm with a lovely fire. This is a great place to spend time – the views are stunning and there is much going on at the farm.

Thursday 31st January

Snow!I left Celtic Camping after a great night’s sleep and was relieved I had not had to put my tent up. It had been bitterly cold outside. My walk was to Abermawr a day of undulating coastal walking in the sleet. At Porthgain the scenery looked like a lunar landscape with the old lime kilns. I grabbed breakfast/lunch in The Sloop, a pub steeped in history.

Ruth BestThis walk is so much about the people you meet on the paths and the homes you are invited into, tea, cake and a towel with Gerald and Jenny at Abercastle and then at Abermawr, I was whisked off to the home of Ruth Best (simply that) where my clothes were dried, I ate like a king and I overslept in the morning! I was spoilt by her hospitality, amazing local knowledge and tales of the Brownies …. thank you Ruth x

Friday 1st February 2019

This morning I was dropped off at Abermawr, The Cable Hut by Ruth at the exact spot from where she had picked me up the night before. A cold morning but fortunately no snow.  I headed across the stony beach at Aberthaw only to find a river in full flow preventing me from crossing. Had it been the summer I would have waded across but in the cold opted to walk 3km inland and back again. Having dried out the night before, I didn’t fancy my chances of taking a tumble on the rocks.

Goodbye Party
The goodbye party!

I headed along the Wales Coast Path until Goodwick where I met Mark and friends from home, and went to The Cabin which had kindly been lent to us for the weekend. My clothes were immediately ordered to be put on a boil wash. Clean clothes –  just wonderful!

In the evening we met the owner of Pebbles who showed us some amazing sketches drawn by Simon Marsh who had walked around England and Wales 20 years ago. His collection ended up in the V&A. Maybe I should get my sketch pad out!

Saturday 2nd February 2019

Sorting kitToday was a rest day – much kit sorting, cleaning and trying out the new Kelly Kettle for cooking in remote areas. The kettle definitely needs a lot of practice. But when it gets going you can heat water in 3 minutes using leaves, twigs and Pete…or was that peat!  I also ended up walking a few more miles along the Welsh Coastal Path – not sure how that happened?! Great to spend time in The Cabin Fishguard with friends before the big departure to Ireland.

Sunday 3rd February 2019

Stena Ferry to Rosslare, Ireland from Fishguard, Wales.  This day has always been so far in the distance that I gave it no real thought until it arrived. I  knew it would be an emotional day as the next 8 months are an unknown quantity and my family and friends are so much further away, so it was with very mixed emotions that I sailed off on the 1.10pm Stena ferry.

SKA band.jpgGood friends had put me up for the night in Fishguard and after a last breakfast together at “The Diner” in Fishguard and a photo with a two-tone ska band “Sorted” (best in Pembrokrshire!) we rushed to the Port.

The Fishguard Welcome Bay had arranged for free passage for me out of the country and a return too (result) with an opportunity for a great seat in the Stena Plus Lounge all courtesy of Stena and all for Alzheimer’s Research UK.

The boat sailed sooner than I expected and as I rushed to the top deck to wave goodbye my husband and son were running along the jetty to catch a last glimpse, while friends waved goodbye from the terminal. I shed a few tears, I will miss them enormously.

So now begins the next chapter of my walk….a journey around The Emerald Isle – keeping the sea on my left.

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Settling in! Week Two (21-28 Jan 2019)

14 days into my walk and I am just starting to settle in! My feet are becoming used to the wet conditions “Trench Foot” I think they call it, my shoulders are getting accustomed to the 35 pound backpack which despite a cull this week is getting heavier daily! This is due to swapping old inadequate kit with some proper kit and a season 4 sleeping bag which has been to Mount Kilimanjaro! (Thank you Buffy x) Still working on the jacket which leaks like a colander but that will be sorted by Ireland! Won’t it Mark lol?  So what has been ditched? A second compass, a pair of trousers for going out in the evening! Thermal layers for night time as I now have a season 4 sleeping bag, 1 excess battery out of a packet of four and a collapsible cup! Every gram makes a difference especially when you are stuck in a bog!

glenthorne guests house newspaper article

 

The week started with a rest day in Tenby.  I had the pleasure of bumping into Mr Trevor Hallett quite by chance who gave me a wonderful guided tour of Tenby and a coffee, all with my rucksack on my back. A lovely man who is very proud of Tenby and so he should be, its an amazing place to go!  Do check out St Mary’s Church steeped with history and beautifully restored. Having spent a night out on the seafront in the tent I was delighted to be welcomed by Jeff and Lisa at the Glenthorne Guesthouse which I mentioned in last week’s update.

 

 

 

beau at tenby

Tuesday 22nd January 2019 was an 18 mile walk along the Welsh Coastal Path from Tenby to Stackpole  –  by far the toughest day yet although I am sure that will change! A fabulous walk with old friends meeting new friends on route. Yvonne, Ann and Beau were good enough to travel from Newport and Swansea to join me. The route was decidedly up and down and I lagged behind all day with my rucksack, I think I should have insisted on holding onto Beau he could have helped me up the hills! Beau loves to eat tissues and hoovered up the rubbish as we walked along. He can be hired out for beach cleaning!

 

The army turned us back at the rifle ranges outside Manorbier despite pleas, we headed inland. On route we heard that the fundraising had doubled with a very generous donation which certainly put a spring in my step! After all that’s what this walk is all about! It’s the wrong time of year for tea stops as it is out of season but Lesley Smith opened the doors of her beautiful home to the four of us and gave us cake! A new friend inspired by this walk, thankyou!

 

stackpoleAnn and Beau left us at Freshwater but Yvonne and I battled on in the dark to Stackpole with headtorches and walked the longest mile ever from Stackpole Village to the National Trust Stackpole Estate who kindly put us up for the night! Every calorie lost during the day was replaced threefold! Such an amazing centre there was a school party there for the week and the place was buzzing!

 

Wednesday 19th January 2019 – Stackpole to Freshwater West:

Yvonne and I parted company in the morning and I headed west.  Sadly not along the coast as the area is an army range at Castlemartin and there was much activity going on, I had missed the firing in the night as I was out for the count but today was all about tanks and manouvres “not in the dark”.  The roads were closed too and I headed further inland arriving at Freshwater West where part of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows was filmed. The National Trust once again bent over backwards to help and let me stay at Lower Gupton Farm  a truly beautiful site offering camping and accommodation just stone’s throw from Freshwater West.

 

Thursday 20th January – Freshwater to Pembroke:

50644926_2229781990628619_8671411882541711360_nWell it started raining at 7.00 am and I don’t think it stopped! The day was spent heading to the Pembroke Oil Refinery which occupies a prominent position on the south bank of the Milford Haven Waterway and can be seen for many miles. It was mostly shrouded in mist!

 

 

50557943_485219815337467_5294737018520076288_nI had to walk on A roads  for a time today, which was nerve wracking to say the least! I spent a lot of time jumping on and off the verges and the army tanks were still coming thick and fast! In the evening I walked into Windmill Hill Caravan Park expecting a patch of grass to pitch my tent, but was greeted with a caravan and cooked meal! After a 16 mile walk in the rain to be greeted with such kindness was just wonderful. Thank you Jane

 

industrial milfordOn Friday this Penny slid into Milford Haven. Heavy persistent rain had made the ground very wet! I walked with Christine Johnson who I had met in Pembroke and quite literally we slid along the paths, Christine accompanied me to the Cleddaau Bridge and from there I walked to Milford Haven. They say that company eats up the miles and that is so true! The scenery was stunning, industrial and beautiful!

 

milford haven

Milford Haven Port Authority greeted me at 5pm and I made it just in time! Karen Lewis kindly handed me a cheque for £200 and the Authority paid for a wonderful B&B in a traditional pub The Heart of Oak steeped in character, locals and full of kindness.

Saturday was frantic, a quick blast to Haverfordwest to catch the Parkrun. As usual as with all Parkruns I had an extremely warm welcome and accompanied the tailwalker. For those who have not had the pleasure of attending a Parkrun you are missing out. You don’t even have to run its a social event for every ability more often than not combined with tea and cake! What’s not to love! I have life long friends from Parkrun! A quick dash to Pure West Radio and an interview with Frank, and back to Milford to start my walk for the day! The winds had picked up and the rain stung my face all day! In the evening Team Davies kindly gave us the gave me the use of their cottage as a base for the weekend. Team Davies you are the best! Mark has been able to come down and sort out kit and today in the 75 mph gust of wind I have been able to use a smaller back giving my feet some relief!

robin

Once again I had great company today and was more than happy to share my  lunch with this little robin ….

Tomorrow is a rest day but I will need to walk a few miles as I need to get to St Davids Tuesday.

190 miles into my journey around Britain and Ireland thank you all so much for your continued support.

This time next week I will be in Ireland!

Karen x

 

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Week One 14-21 Jan 2019

It’s been a week since I left the beautiful Gower Peninsula where I live in Wales to walk the Coast of Britain and Ireland. To say it’s been a fabulous week is an understatement.

As I write this, I am now 100 miles into my Walk and today reached Tenby where I will rest up tomorrow before restarting Tuesday and heading to Stackpole. I have tried to build in a rest day every 7-10 days to preserve my feet, recharge my batteries and above all else have a wash 👀

50751103_1515003785297110_2831957330239684608_o.jpgI have had the pleasure of starting my walk with this lovely fellow who fresh from his Christmas duties accompanied me for several days. Carl Elliott. Safe travels to The States to see your family it’s been a ball x

On route the National Trust Gower not only helped with siting our tents and looking after us but Kathryn Thomas fed us too for which we are so grateful.

50305659_1515004425297046_5678153623821877248_oMy family treated us to a fantastic meal in the Ship Inn Port Eynon. They were extremely generous in donating a cheque for £200 for Alzheimer’s Research UK. Coming up with the wonderful suggestion of donating a penny a mile. And donating now rather than waiting to the end of my Walk. Thank you so much

Day 3 we left the Gower to walk the beautiful Millennium Coastal Path to Burry Port and Carl said Goodbye.  Called in to the WWT Llanelli Wetlands Centre where I had a lovely welcome and a nice warm bowl of soup ….. just as well as the temperatures started to drop. This meant I became quicker at putting up and taking down my tent in the dark!

50847865_1515002885297200_6044623379095355392_oDay 4 together with Jason Phelps from BBC Radio Wales we were invited for a coffee at the new lifeboat station Burry Port where lifeboats Operations Manager Roger Bowen updated me with crucial lo cal knowledge of the Coast path and facilitated calls to Ferryside Lifeboat who kindly took me over the River Towy and saved a full days walking inland.

Jason Phelps also made a fantastic film of my journey so far. Click here to view

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On day 5 following a damp night in Llanstefan I set off to walk to Laugharne. When you talk about learning curves I am right at the bottom! As beautiful as the Coast Path is, at this time of year it is very tricky to cross in places and I ended up in the marshes, knee deep in mud and frozen. I slipped on a wooden boardwalk and literally my 35 pound rucksack took the full weight of the fall as I landed flat on my back.  The rain chucked it down Friday and as you can see from my picture in Laugharne the only part of me which was truly waterproof was my skin.

50231583_1515003075297181_4771048413418487808_oHaving braved the elements all week I was so delighted to be invited to the wonderful home of Sian Lima and her family. She not only collected me but dried everything and I mean everything by hanging it above the fire at her farm, preparing a superb meal and quite frankly bringing me back to my normal self.   Click here to see a lovely little video which Sian made of my time with them. What a wonderful family.

Being a regular parkrunner (and hoping to visit as many Parkruns as I can on my journey) Sian kindly drove me to Colby Parkrun the following morning, where I was welcomed by such a friendly group of Parkrunners and was able to walk the Parkrun and achieve the fastest p.b yet with my rucksack on. Before returning to Laugharne to recommence my walk.

Last night I found a pitch in Saundersfoot.It was freezing so tomorrow will be spent sourcing a season 4 sleeping bag and thermal clothing. I think we are in for a cold snap.

50439932_1515003235297165_837731988105330688_o.jpg

Today I arrived in Tenby. I love it here ….family holidays…days supporting friends who compete in ironman. I met a man called Trevor today and had a guided tour of the town.. In Tenby he says you should leave nothing but foot prints and he is right. It’s a gem.

Tonight I have Wi-Fi, charge and a warm bed, thanks to the wonderful generosity of The Glenthorne Guesthouse Tenby who have warmly welcomed me here washed my clothes and looked after me in order to send me on my way on Tuesday. I did not expect the amazing help I have been given and its support like this which will keep me going for the next few years.

One day at a time.

Karen

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Day One : 14 January 2019

day 1 interviews at the startThanks so much for all your good wishes and offers of help. I couldn’t get back to everyone yesterday as simply ran out of time as overwhelmed by your very kind responses. It’s a huge day for me today. I have another interview on BBC Radio Wales live at 7.20 and then head to Pennard Primary School to see Year 4 to say “Goodbye” and give them a map to plot my route on as they follow me for the next 4 years.

Then onto The Southgate Club to see friends and family, and more interviews and photographs, setting off at 11.00 am.

 

My route for Day One will follow the Wales Coast Path from Southgate to Rhossilli passing through Oxwich and following the South Gower coast.  It will be a long day hopefully getting to Rhossilli by 7.00pm. I will try and post to my facebook group often and thank you again for your support, and thank you to everyone who has donated to my Just Giving page helping me towards my target of £100,000 for Alzheimer’s Research UK.

Photo by Adrian White Photography
Photo by Adrian White Photography

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Preparation

feet2At the moment life is very hectic getting organised for this walk, there is much kit buying, route mapping, fund-raising, grappling with social media and of course training going on.

I am indebted to my friends who have helped fundraise by manning stalls and donating items to raise money (Team Davies xx ) and to my friends who are helping with the logistics and technical issues…..and most of all to Mark who puts up with me and who is so supportive…..he is hoping to join me on this trek as much as he can….

Over the next few weeks I will be finalising my twitter, instagram, justgiving and facebook group and I would love you not only to follow me but join me if you can on my walk around Britain. And if any of you know anyone who is able to let me put me up in my tent in a safe area of their garden or put the kettle on as I go past I would be so grateful.

Mr Andrew James, Consultant PodiatristEarly December, I hit a major milestone in my walk preparation. Over the previous few months Mr Andrew James, a Consultant Podiatrist from Spire Hospital Cardiff had been creating a set of orthotics to help me complete my challenge.  I suffer from Equinus which means that I walk on the balls of my feet which causes pain. This manifests itself in plantar and Achilles pain.  Andrew has remedied this with specialist orthotics and amazingly has kindly given not only his time but his expertise and the orthotics for free. I am so incredibly grateful. I am self- funding my walk and this helps so much. Thank you Andrew.

Following the Sky News and  Wales Online articles I did not expect the amount of publicity they raised nor the new followers on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook … but I just want to assure my family and friends who thought I had left without saying goodbye that I am still here, 😃

radio2Its been a whirlwind of interviews on both radio and television.  Jason Mohammed and the Rev Kate Bottley were so lovely and welcoming on Radio 2, and I never thought we’d get a chance to sit on the red sofa with Louise Minchin and Roger Johnson on Breakfast TV (even though the tv appearance was touch and go as Mark dropped a ladder on his face whilst getting something out the loft the previous night, and they needed to see his photo first! Luckily he got through vetting process – thank heavens for the hair and make up department!) Click here to see the interview –  It was an unbelievable morning!

red sofa

I set out on the 14th January 2019 leaving home here in Pennard with Carl Elliott equipped with our rucksacks and tents to walk to Tenby which will take 7 days before Carl flies to America. From there I walk to Fishguard before catching the ferry to Rosslare where I begin the 2nd leg of my journey clockwise around the coast of Ireland on the 3rd February. I anticipate that it will take 6-7 months to walk around Ireland before coming back to the mainland at Fishguard in September 2019. From there I will head north along the Welsh Coast again travelling around Britain in a clockwise direction walking as many of the Islands as I can. I anticipate it will take 3 1/2 to 4 years to complete.

cropped itinerary

My route is plotted until Fishguard and I’ll post future routes as soon as they’re planned. If anyone would like to join me along the route, I’d love to see you!

Karen

 

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