In 2014, my wife Mona and I walked the 1300km Coastal Path of Wales from Chepstow to Chester. And in 2019 we walked the 285km of Offa’s Dyke, starting in Prestatyn and finishing on the coast just beyond Chepstow. We achieved our goal of walking around the most beautiful country in the world. And in doing so we raised over $22,000 in Canadian money for cancer research.
In recent weeks, our son Ioan and I have been tackling the Cambrian Way, a 497km walk with 22,000 metres of elevation gain through the hills and mountains of Wales, to raise more money for the Canadian Cancer Society. While this is a great father-and-son cooperative challenge, and a great way for us to spend significant time together, it is also a memorial to the many who have lost their lives or lost loved ones to cancer.
A brave battle
In January Ioan lost a good friend, colleague, and teammate in Darrel Parry, who fought a brave battle with colorectal cancer. Darrel’s fight was one that too many of our friends, family, and loved ones have had to take on. We walk this long walk in their honour and memory.
Our journey started on 23 June when we flew to London from Calgary, Canada and travelled on to Cardiff. We set off on our trek on 27 June, hoping to complete it within 21 days. You will probably not be surprised to learn that Welsh weather had other ideas.
Please check out our photos and news on the Calgary Welsh Society Facebook, donate if you can, and let us know if there’s anyone you’d like us to walk for. Ioan and I are willing to dedicate a day’s hike to a family member or friend of yours who is battling or has battled cancer.
Off on the Cambrian Way
Our first day was dedicated to the memories of J. C. Matthews, Margaret Matthews, Sian Davies, and Darrel Parry. We walked 24.5km from Cardiff Castle to Machen.
Day two was Machen to Pontypool, remembering Robert Griffith Evans and Suzanne Evans who lost their battles with cancer. We also thought of Alison, who is fighting cancer, and Ernestine in an Edmonton hospital. We remembered “Ernie Camsell, Grandma Celine, Aunty Adeline Knapton Pain, Uncle Don Camsell, Vern Steinwand, and Grandma Lilli Steinwand” for Tammy. A day of steady drizzle made the hike more challenging, moving through narrow areas with a lot of wet vegetation. After completing 18.5km we had difficulty finding our hotel on a busy motorway, which added several kilometres. Sore feet, wet boots.
On the third day on the Cambrian Way we walked from Pontypool to Abergavenny, remembering Jan Mather, Glenna Mather Stevens, Arthur Halford, J. Layton, and Wilf Hanson. For Kathy we remembered Aunt Deborah; for Gwendolyn Giffin Carter we remembered her dad, Earl Kitchener Giffin. We remembered our good friend and husband to Ruth, Peter Murray, and Ruth’s sister-in-law. A brighter day made things a little better. We negotiated a very steep slope down to Abergavenny.
The next day we walked from Abergavenny to Capel y Ffin, remembering Janice Mantla, Aunt Dora Marie, Elfyn Eirian and, for Matilda and children, Yun Young Chan. By day six on the Cambrian Way, Crickhowell to Storey Arms, we had walked through Bannau Brycheiniog for three days. A lot of people were walking our final climb of Pen y Fan. Ioan and I were in good company with my third cousin Aled Davies.
For the walk from Storey Arms to Glyntawe, we’d been warned that trails wouldn’t be obvious as we walked across moorland. This was true but made worse by driving rain in gale force winds. A helicopter and road rescue were out in that looking for a missing hiker. Day eight on the Cambrian Way was Glyntawe to Llandovery. We are most grateful to Lesley Matthews for her great support, and were thinking of her sister Barbara.
Rain, rain, and rain
As the forecast was Welsh, we took a break day, having walked 165 km. A welcome rest to treat our feet. By day ten, Tyn Cornell to Claerddu Bothy, we had passed the halfway point of the Cambrian Way. We remembered elders and youth who have passed away in Whati, Behchoko, Gameti, Wekweti, and Sambake in the Northwest Territories. We remembered their wisdom, guidance on the land, company in hunting, trapping, and fishing, and wonderful sense of humour. Masi, Masi! Masi cho!
After a two-day rest in my childhood home of Borth – with thanks to Wynford Edwards, an old Trinity College friend, and so many others for their great help – we were back on the Cambrian Way from Ponterwyd to Dylife. As we climbed towards Pumlumun Fawr and Fach it bucketed down, we were shrouded in mists and stung by high winds. It was great to have Michael and Pepper the springer spaniel to join us. Pepper throughly enjoyed the entire hike.
In the days that followed, the beauty of the Welsh landscape trumped wet weather and wet boots. By day 15 on the Cambrian Way we were walking Bwlch Llyn Bach to Barmouth, over Cadair Idris to the sea. A great day with no rain, the peace disturbed only by the RAF jets which weaved through and below the mountain tops we climbed. After the days of rain, mists shrouded the mountain tops, but during breaks we saw wonderful vistas. What a beautiful country.
We had to take more break days due to dangerous weather. But by day 18 we were tackling Maentwrog to Beddgelert, with Aled again. As we walked we remembered Ceri Davies and Dave Potts, friends of Nigel, and Mick Rafferty, friend of Aled. We also remembered a child suffering from brain cancer. The walk started in mild weather, but after a steep climb with some scrambling, it turned to rain with gale force winds on the ridges slowing us down. At last we were over Yr Wyddfa, in decent weather but with the summit socked in by mists and tourists.
We now have not far and yet far to go. Let us know if you’d like us to remember anyone as we walk the Cambrian Way, and donate if you can. We have already met our initial goal, but the more donations the better! Together we can beat this terrible thing, step by step.