Snow, Gower, Beans & Barry

I must apologise South Wales. Trying to summarise over 350 miles of coastal walking into one blog is impossible. I will say that it was one of the most enjoyable and sociable parts of my walk around the coastline of Britain.

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St Davids Cathedral

St Davids, the smallest city in Britain was stunning with a magnificent cathedral and a dreamy beach called Whitesands Bay. Moving east along along the rugged coastline, I came to the gorgeous St Brides Bay with one of my favourite places in Wales – Newgale. The weather that day was gloomy but the bay still took my breath away.

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Newgale

The beast from the east met with Storm Emma to try to blow me out of Wales with icy winds and eventually South West Wales got its fair share of snow too. Pembroke castle looked immense but the bitterly cold wind was making taking photos very hard to do.

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Pembrooke Castle. Gloves off, snap, gloves on

The snow fell as I walked around the Castlemartin peninsula. It not only made the walking difficult but the logistics too. Many of the buses that would get me to the day’s start line were re-routed due to roads being impassable and I had a lot of fun with the drivers who did make it through.

Tenby was a place I was looking forward to going to. I had dreamt of the long sandy walk approaching from the west in bright sunshine with St Catherine’s Island looking glorious perched on the golden sand. I walked in heavy rain with a cold wind coming in off the sea. My head was down and so were my spirits that day. I was looking forward to mooching around the town after the walk but I literally walked straight up to my car and drove back to the Travelodge. Oh well, looks like I will have to have a summer holiday in Tenby after the walk.

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Wet Tenby

 

Camarthen Bay was mostly flat and made up of a few walks to get around the River Towy. Once back on the coastline I was treated to a superb walk along Pembury Beach. Miles of gorgeous sand and luckily for me, it was warm and sunny. I was met by Jayne, BHF Fundraising Mgr for the area at Llanelli at the end of the walk that day and we chatted over a nice cuppa tea. Looking out from the cafe, I could see the Pembury sands to my right and up next, the start of the Gower Penisula to my left.

 

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Pembury Beach

 

I had some sad and shocking news the following day. My neice who was in her twenties, had died in her sleep at home with my sister and Brother In Law. Stephanie was “chaos on legs” as her Dad Paul had  once described her. She was a so gifted with many many talents and a razor sharp sense of humour. I had to go home. I wanted to see my sister Fiona and Paul and the rest of the family. I thought a lot about Steph on the walk. We had been emailing each other and for her not be around any more didn’t make sense. At times, the walk made no sense to me. Within a few months I had lost my neice and a good friend, Gilly. The world of visiting relatives and friends, chatting to them, popping in for a cuppa was not my world. My world had become the walk – meeting strangers, chatting to strangers then saying goodbye to strangers, What about my friends and my family? I felt rotten for a long while.

Steph’s funeral was a month later as they took quite a long time to release the body, After the funeral, people were congratulating me on the walk and how far I had come and I must admit, this helped a lot. That evening, I read Steph’s last email to me. I remeber receiving it on a beautiful stretch of sand and hearing her voice reading it back to me, took me to that beach.

“I am really proud of you, Mad Uncle Kieran” it finished.

I needed to get back out there and finish the walk.

The much talked about, Gower Peninsular was next and I was afraid that my expectations might be too high but it live up to the hype. Rhosilli beach in the sunshine  – you can’t beat it. The picture is of me at Port Eynon bay. Caswell bay was another huge beach that was a pleasure to walk along. Just before reaching the mumbles I sat in silence on a bench and listened to the sea. I prepared myself for the noise of Swansea Bay having spent a wonderful week with Sylvi exploring the Gower.

Swansea & Port Talbot were, as I thought, loud. Swansea was hosting Radio 1’s Big Weekend and the train journey that morning was filled with teenagers spraying glitter all over the carriages. I didn’t partake in the glitter frenzy. My face is usually covered in sand by the end of each day so I feel I do my bit for face painting.

Have you ever heard of Captain Beany? He runs the worlds best (and possibly only) Baked Bean museum. Famous for sitting in a bath of beans for 100 hours in the 1980’s, the captain has kept baked bean appreciation alive all these years. I visited his museum where the Captain greeted me in a bright Orange suit with matching backed bean socks. The museum is decked out, top to bottom with Baked bean merchandise and memorabilia. It was a fun afternoon and I thoroughly recommend a visit. Whilst there we came up with a fundraising idea of the coastal walker being “beantised” on Aberavon seafront.

Now, I admit that I was caught up with his enthusiasm for beans and said yes immediately, however as the morning of my route through Aberavon, I started to regret the decision.

Jayne, BHF Fundraising Mgr for the area met me and told me that it was all still on but that Captain Beany didn’t have any beans – could we go to the Spar around the corner

“How can Captain Beany have no Beans?” I exclaimed, secretly hoping it will be called off.

Howeverm the “Beantisement” went ahead with dog walkers, joggers and ramblers looking on in bewilderment. “Francos” restaurant on the front allowed me to clean up afterwards, though I didn’t do a good job as I was finding beans on me all day long. (I won’t tell you exactly where)

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Full of Beans

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After the madness of Port Talbot, I moved quickly on towards Barry Island. As an Essex boy who lived in Billericay, the TV show Gavin and Stacey is very dear to me. The Essex side of the characters were scripted and acted superbly and I was interested to see how Barry Island measured up. I met Jody, Rhodri and Adam from BHF Cymru at the famous Marco’s ice cream parlour for my walk into Cardiff. We were guided around Barry Island to Jackson Bay by Jo from BHF who had to leave us but pointed us in the direction of Cardiff as she left. We had a fun time walking into Cardiff and had a lunch stop at the lovely Penarth Pier.

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Where to she now?

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After Cardiff, the walk mostly went along a sea wall with England appearing on my right across the Bristol Channel. At Caldicot I got my first views of the Severn Bridge and the following day reached Chepstow and the end of the Wales coast path.

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Under the Bridge

 

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End of the Wales Coast path at Chepstow

My cousin Anna and her children Rachel and Edward joined Sylvi  and I for the short walk across the Severn Bridge. I was sad to leave Wales. A lot had happened during my stint in Wales and I had thoroughly enjoyed the varied nature of the Wales coast path.

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Over the bridge

 

On my first day in England, I was joined by Jane Turner at Portishead marina. The walk had been quite dull through Avonmouth but was brightened up by Portishead marina, a coffee and a chat.

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Jane at Portishead Marina

Clevedon, Weston Super Mare followed and I am currently at Burnham on Sea building myself up for the next challenge.

The spectacular but physically demanding South West coast path. 630 miles with the equivalent height gain of 4 Mt Everests!! How are you thighs Kieran? Dreading it lol

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I have now raised £10,000 for British Heart Foundation research. My target of £20,000 might be in reach with just over 1000 miles to go. Thank you for all that have sponsored me. Please keep sharing and re-tweeting.

Kieran x

 

Fishguarding and the Mayor

Only four walks this week as I returned home for a funeral, a bone density scan and also triple birthday meal.
My life before transplant is never far from my thoughts as I have many friends living with CHD. Some are very well, some have sporadic troubles and some are really struggling much the same as I was 8 years ago. Gilly was a wonderful lady, always giggly and cheerful. I spent many hours walking in the peak district with her and other CHD’ers. We are all in shock over Gilly’s death, mainly due to how quickly she went downhill. Living with a heart condition is hard not only for the physical nature of the beast but also the mental side. It is an invisible illness than can be so cruel at times. Thank you Gilly for the hugs, giggles, silliness, support, campaigning, love and of course… dance moves!

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The walks this week were as varied as the Welsh weather. Aberporth to Cardigan was a road walk in mostly a cold and windy gloom. I was cheered up by the children’s dog poo posters scattered around Penparc.

 

Cardigan itself was lovely and also cleared up a mystery in my head. The previous day, as I drove back to my Travelodge I had this exceptionally stupid thought. ‘Where is Aberteifi? All the road signs are saying it is the exact same mileage distance as Cardigan is but I can’t find it on my map’
The Welsh readers or geography buffs (or Welsh geography buffs) should now be shaking their heads at this comment. For those who are still confused. Abertifi is Cardigan. DOH!
The next day, I left my stupid head back in the room and was delighted to meet the Cardigan BHF Fundraising group at Cardigan Castle. We chatted over a cup of tea at the lovely castle cafe, had a photo session and exchanged stories. I also got to sit on a throne.

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They waved me goodbye and I set off in the drizzly mist to Newport. The fierce headwind made life quite hard for most of this section and arrived very damp with a disappointingly soggy bottom.
By contrast the next day was crisp, bright and dry and the only concern was the wind speed. Gusts of over 50mph were forecast. I made my way up onto the cliffs and was greeted with spectacular views and a boggy path. This was going to be nearly 2000ft total incline over the course of the 12 miles so I took the route steadily. The pembrokeshire coast path is now on Google maps ‘street view’ so you could do this walk from the comfort of your home. I did this the previous night so I knew how my fear of heights might fair. A walker had previously walked the path with one of the Google cameras attached to their head. You can follow the route online.

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It was a great walk and lovely to meet two walkers and their small dog as I approached Fishguard. I was putting on my wet weather gear as the two ladies approached. We chatted and they headed off in front of me. A few minutes later the clouds dumped a violent hailstorm on me. Welcome to Pembrokeshire.

 

I carried on and eventually passed the walkers who were huddling together protecting the small dog. If the hailstones were hurting my face, I tried to imagine how the small dog must have felt. It must be like being surrounded whilst paintballing and without the ability to fire back…bar the odd grumpy woof.

Fishguard was beautiful and I arrived in time for a meeting with a photographer and the Mayor at the Town Hall. I was ushered into a plush meeting room aware that I had at least half of the coast path splattered all over my legs and pasted to my boots. We talked about walking and mayoring. It was a lovely end to a great days walking.

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The downside to the extra height gain the previous day was the return of the toe injury. David Beckham famously had a metatarsal problem, I have a less glamourous right toe problem.
I returned to road walking for Fishguard to Trevasser for this reason but did make it out to Strumble Head. I love that name.

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Next week I take my sore toe round the toe of Wales, St David’s and head east for a few weeks.
Thanks to The Guardian article, various other press in West Wales and donations on the way, my total has gone up to £8820
Please share my walk fundraising page where all donations go directly to BHF research.
https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/ATrailofTwoHearts

Kieran xx

Cardigan Bay

I have been looking forward to this section. So many people have told me I would love the walk along Cardigan Bay. I must admit, it was tougher than I had expected and there were quite a few times where I was longing for a bit of flat tarmac but all in all it is a breathtaking, spectacular walk.

Borth to Aberystwyth was one of the best short walks I have had for a long time. I chose to walk on my rest day as this particular Sunday was crisp and bright and would be perfect for cliff walking. Luckily for me, the forecast matched the day and I ended up with fabulous photos and memories of this.

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Aberystwyth was a big marker point for me. Like Hunstanton, the forth Bridge, Cape Wrath,  Blackpool and many more in-between, Aberystwyth was somewhere to aim for. I have broken this walk into sections and these maker points are a motivation point and usually somewhere I have always wanted to go. Walking down from the cliff railway and seeing the town below me had me once again in tears. I gathered myself together for a flat stroll along the beautiful arc promanade, listening to the waves crash to my right.

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If Borth to Aberystwyth was as close to a perfect walk, Aberystwyth to Llanrhystud could be said to being as uncomfortable walk as you can get for me. With immensely steep, muddy climbs and thin paths cut into the cliff face with sheer drops to my right, the walk became a test of balance, strength and nerve.

I am still scared of heights. You would think having walked along  some of the tallest cliffs in the country, across Britain’s biggest bridges and previous to this, had skydived from 10000ft, I might be curing myself but sadly it is not happening. The only thing I have achieved so far, is finding coping mechanisms when I find myself in these terrifying positions. I found out afterwards that “not many people do that leg of the coast path” and I wished I had read the Ceredigion coastal path website which said it was “not for those suffering from vertigo”

I slowed to a crawl for large sections, chanting “1-2-3-4” and “I can do this” with each step. The pictures below probably don’t do it justice but I was pretty scared.

The last climb was as steep as the first one and as I got to two thirds of the way up, my feet slipped downwards in the mud and I quickly grabbed hold of  a bundle of grass to my left. I collapsed onto the mud, gasping for air and saw both legs shaking in front of me. As I sat there, I made a video log. This will not be published on here as it contains expletives but maybe at the end of the walk, I will bleep them out and do a compilation of scary bits and out-takes.

Obviously, I made it to the top and below is a video where you can hear the relief in my voice (and annoyance)

I made it off the cliffs and back to Llanrhystud but had to take the next day off for my wobbly legs to recover. It wasn’t the steepness that had made them shake, it was the excessive tensing when I was up high and didn’t feel safe. This is what caused the temporary injuries.

Llanrhystud to Aberaron was a better day. I parked my car in Aberaeron and went to get onto the bus to Llanrhystud. I tried my best to pronounce the village name but I failed miserable much to the driver’s amusement. He then said he wouldn’t let me on unless I could say it properly. Cheeky bugger. The walk itself was a pleasant one.

Aberaeron and New Quay are both beautiful coastal villages so its no wonder a few people I had met had said that this was their favourite stretch. New Quay to Llangrannog and then onto Aberporth were both lane walking. I do like coming inland to see the little farms, villages and communities.

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Aberporth

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Llangrannog had a lovely little bay with Saint Craggog looking over it and I found a lovely small cave to sit into to listen to the waves in the sunshine. The walk to Aberporth, however,  was particularly wet and very windy though Aberporth itself looked gorgeous damp and weathered.

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So most of Cardigan Bay done and I am nearly at the end of west Wales coast path.

Kieran xx

 

 

Bugs Gout and Back

It’s so easy to do daily updates on Facebook that I forget about the blogging side of things. So once again, here is an update covering a couple of months.

Mid December I caught a bug and had to come home. It was just a winter cold but my energy levels were sapped leaving no option but to rest. I enjoyed a great Christmas at home with Sylvi and was on the road to recovery when I got the dreaded gout again. Not as severe as before but enough to make me hobble around for a week or two.

By the end of January I was much better and went for several long walks with no ill effects. I decided to go back to Wales on the 31st Jan 2018, starting in Tywyn where I had left back in December. The following day was my years anniversary of walking. I set off from London on the 1st Feb 2017 and in the next 365, I walked for 180 days covering 2800 miles.

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Memories came flooding back and with the aid of pictures on facebook, I became quite emotional as I started my walk from Aberdovey to Machylleth. Thoughts such as “If I had remained well over that year, I would have finished by now” surfaced but were quickly dismissed as I knew realistically this was never going to happen to someone walking with a suppressed immune system. What amazed me that day was the amount of people still following me (not literally…..that’s creepy) and still encouraging me. It truly is lovely to see and helps me every day.

Tywyn to Aberdovey was a short 6 mile walk along sand to start off again and to get the little legs working. With the wind behind me most of the way and mixed weather it turned out into a glorious multicoloured sensory overload. The sand wizzed past me along the beach, each grain looking like it had overslept and was late for sand castle duty. It looked amazing both facing the wind and away from it.

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Aberdovey looked pretty in the sunshine and even better when I returned the next morning to start the next leg. The A493 clings to the Dyfi Estuary and would be the more direct route but the road looked a bit to dangerous to walk on for 10 miles. I decided to follow the Wales coast path which took me from 0ft to 800ft within the first few miles up into the hills. I cursed my body over and over again until I reached the peak and was rewarded with a great view over the estuary and also a peak at the next day’s walk. The rest of the walk was boggy and I went shin deep in mud many times. The only fun part is the noise when you eventually pull your boot out.

 

Machynlleth! I still can’t spell it let alone say it. Once over the cute little bridge the little town has an impressive clock tower. I sat in my car exhausted but chuffed that I had done 11 miles with 1200ft incline whilst slowly having a mud bath. I answered some press enquiries before heading off. An interview for the local Cambrian News was arranged and also an interview as part of an article in The Guardian on Volunteering.

The next day saw me finishing the day back on the coast at Borth. It was an uneventful walk with long stretches on the road. There were several straight boring sections towards the end where I amused myself by making lists of favourite sandwiches (fish finger won) favourite thing on toast (cheesy beans with brown sauce) and favourite wrap (None- I don’t like rap)

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So, I am back and I will try, once again, to blog more often. Cardigan Bay this week. 🙂

Kieran xx

Sky TV, Sky Blue and Sky Snow

Wow, I am truly smashing my average blog time with this post. My last mutterings were about my journey from Cape Wrath to North Wales. This one doesn’t have to cover such a large distance and was certainly eventful to say the least.

After Trefor was a little village called Tudweiliog. As I waited for the bus, I practised how to pronounce it via the excellent tutoring from BHF Cymru. I must have said it 50 times and as the doors flung open and I looked at a grumpy looking middle aged man (no their wasn’t a mirror) I felt confident that my driver would understand me. Remembering the Scottish bus driver who laughed at my pronunciation of Kirkcudbright, I got into the bus and took a deep breath.

“A single to Tud-whale-ee-org” I said trying to imagine I was Rhod Gilbert.

“Oll wight mate….dats two firty plees”

He was from Clacton on Sea, a fellow Essex Boy. I allowed myself a small moment to capture the magic moment and handed over my change saying “fanks”

Aberdaron and Abersoch on the southern tip of the Lleyn Peninsula both have lovely beaches and are pretty towns. Temperatures had plummeted and both walks had a biting northerly wind. Lucky for me I wasn’t walking northwards into it.

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On the way back from Abersoch the bus driver understood my destination clearly as he was from Yorkshire. He then proceeded to ask me to sit at the back of the bus. Immediately, my mind raced and I thought that maybe he had got a lungful of “walkersmell” He continued, oblivious to my erratic facial expressions and told me that he couldn’t shut the door. I looked into the bus and three people, who didn’t know each other were huddling together on the back seat. I joined them on the seat in front of them – hoping that the icy blasts coming through the door would bypass my end of day odour.

Criccieth, Porthmadog, Harlech and Barmouth then followed, all of them stunning in their own ways. I particularly enjoyed Harlech castle and Barmouth town.

 

Sunday 6th December was the 50th anniversary of the first heart transplant and I was very proud to be invited on to Sky News Sunrise to talk about my experiences, the increased transplant waiting list and my walk. I was very pleased with how it went and was not nervous at all. I was enjoying the experience and its easy talking about yourself. I was amused by the massive amount of vanity on show in the building and compared it to the hairy hiker sat there in his walking gear, smelling like cow pat and looking like I had dragged the muddy fields of Wales in with with me.

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On the back of that came a request from BBC News to be interviewed from home by Skype. I didn’t get changed or washed for continuity and reality purposes and I sat in the lounge in Hemel Hempstead talking to a black screen that said BBC on it. I had no idea that the rest of the BBC News team and viewers were seeing me on a huge TV screen.

Monday, brought another interview, this time for BBC World at New Broadcasting house in London. This felt very special to me – to be walking into the “beeb” so I dressed up a bit. Well actually, I didn’t but I did have a shower! Three interviews in for national TV in the same clothes. Security was tight and eventually was taken into the waiting area where I could watch the presenters live. My interview was sandwiched between some breaking news. The calm and professional environment that I had witnessed when I first arrived quickly went out of the window as the story broke. The former PM of Yemen had been killed was the story. It was fascinating sitting next to the news anchor as she talked with producers about the item. When it finally came round to my turn to speak, I was once again calm having been distracted with the shenanigans.

The interview went well and left wondering what the BBC World viewers in Yemen had made of my 7 mins of fame whilst wondering how their former PM had been killed. I also wondered if the viewers thought that the scruffy man at the BBC would have been more at home on Countryfile.

The last thing that kept me from my walk was a couple of days later when I had my transplant checkup at Papworth. My ECG was done by a trainee technician who was told off for not making me comfortable on the bed. I wanted to say that I have slept in bus shelters and on golf courses in Scotland since my last appointment and that I was ridiculously comfortable on the bed but I stopped myself. An x-ray and blood tests followed and a chat with the consultant. Everything was fine so I immediately got in the car and drove back to Wales to carry on with the walk.

Snow greeted me in Harlech but luckily the coast wasn’t hit as hard as the hills and the rest of England. The worst of the quick freeze is over now for the time being but I am sure I will be stomping in snow a few more times this winter.

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It was quite a hectic few days away from the walk  but very rewarding. Especially that a number of CHD and transplant patients have got in touch with me on the back of these interviews. The walk has so many parts to it. Raising money for BHF, raising awareness of organ donation, raising awareness of congenital heart disease, my own personal mental challenge, the dream of walking the coastline coming true and seeing the beauty of Britain everyday are just some of the parts but knowing that my story is getting out there and is helping others is probably the best bit.

Kieran

Wales….

Well how did I get down here? How long since my last post? I truly am a bad blogger. My last blog was at the most north westerly point in Britain heading south and now I have walked most of North Wales.

Can I summarise this? Um…..

Scotland was taken care of with the help of my campervan, Denise, Her full name being Denise Van Camper.  Hurricane Ophelia turned out to be more hot air in the media than fast moving air in Western Scotland. I jumped onto Skye for a day and then jumped back to the mainland. I then reached the most Westerly point of mainland Britain, Ardnamurchan. From here I reached Oban and then had a wee break, vowing to do the Mull of Kintyre at a later date when Paul McCartney and a hundred Bagpipers were free.

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In the summer months I had already walked from Greenock to Barrow In Furness so after my wee break, I went back to Barrow to carry on heading south. Cumbria followed by Lancashire brought me to one of my favourite walks of the journey – Fleetwood to Lytham taking in Blackpool on a glorious blue sky day. Next was a few tedious, drizzly duel carriageway days but the reward was lovely Liverpool and a ferry across the Mersey.

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Hayley, BHF fundraising manager covering the Wirral joined me on the Wirral and managed to walked 4-5 miles dressed as Hearty.

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As I crossed the border into Wales, my Welsh accent improved from Abysmal to Awful and I am hopeful that, should I get out of Wales alive, my accent might have reached the dizzy heights of satisfactory. I look every dog walker (and their dog) in the eyes and say “Bore da”. Most laugh, some look away and a few have muttered encouragement to me in Welsh. Well, I am guessing its encouragement!

A stiff headwind and plummeting temperatures made the North Wales coastline cold to walk along. The sheep here are not scared of a strange man in a red cap singing to them. In fact, they seem a hard audience to please.

The Wales coast path is fairly well signposted though I did go wrong one day and ended up walking through a posh estate with posh grounds and posh sheep. Feeling slightly out of place, I made an error clambering over a locked gate and with four sheep looking on I fell off and landed on my back. Nothing was broken and I walked off rather gingerly to the sounds of the sheep laughing at me.

Since arriving in Wales, I have walked through Flint, Rhyll, Colwyn Bay, Llandudno, Penmaenmawr, Bangor and Caernafon and now find myself in Trefor.

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Some stats:

2568 miles walked. 171 days walked. Ave 15 miles a day. £8005 raised.

Apologies for not updating this blog. I do post pictures and mutterings on facebook. www.facebook.com/atrailoftwohearts 

Kieran xx

Cape Wrath and heading south

Week two in NW Scotland started off with my boyhood dream of reaching Cape Wrath finally coming true. Terry, a fellow nomad and I made our way to the ferry point hoping the ferryman was there and willing to take us over the Kyle of Durness to “The Parph”
I was also secretly wishing that the man’s name was Gerry or something similar so I could say that me and Terry took the ferry with Gerry. His name was John.

John Morrison has been taking mad tourists, hikers, cyclists and petrol cans over to Cape Wrath for many years. We clambered into small speedboat with 4 other people, two bikes and Stuart our bus driver. The short crossing was smooth with plenty of banter between Stuart and John. Once on land we were ushered onto the bus by Stuart and began the 11 mile drive up to the lighthouse. This took over an hour due to the potholes and general state of the road. Stuart told us all about the area, a fascinating insight into a MOD and UN bombing range. Craters were visible as were the targets and I genuinely felt sad that this gorgeous wilderness was used this way. No people live on The Parph and the half a dozen sheep are wild. In fact they are more than wild during MOD manoeuvres, they are livid.
Some may be wondering why I didn’t walk the 11 miles. I was intending to but I have been suffering with gout so felt that another day’s rest was in order. I would never have learnt as much about the history of the most NW corner of Britain if I had trudged by myself.


We had an hour or so at the lighthouse and Terry took a picture of me at the most North Westerly point. I stayed there for a while on my own, many thoughts spinning around my head. I pictured the small boy looking at maps in his mum’s 10 volume encyclopaedia and making a pledge that one day I would visit Cape Wrath. I thought about the walk and the people I have met.

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Then my eyes filled up as I thought about my heroine Spud. It felt as though her and her dog Tess were sitting there with me. It was cruel that cancer took her away so early in her life.
I looked across to my right and saw the north coast of Scotland where I had come from and then to my left where the cliffs down to Sandwood Bay could be seen. I will be walking South for the rest of this year and some of 2018. I took a deep breath, looked out to the horizon and said “left turn Spud”
The journey back was quiet as the impact of the solitary location took over. It was a deeply moving experience for me. Terry and I toasted Cape Wrath when we got back to Durness and I started to look at my walks for the week.

Cape Wrath had been a drizzly day but the rest of the week was the complete opposite. I was treated to Sutherland at its very best with bright warm sunshine, fluffy sheepy clouds and a wind strong enough to keep the midges at bay.

Scourie bay was spectacular and a wonderful spot for some Ukelele playing whilst resting.


Day 136 to Drumbeg brought me over the glorious Kylescu bridge and amazingly picturesque Unapool. This was the start of some very dramatic roads that climbed and dipped around the cliffs and surrounding hills.


The next day to Lochinver had the beautiful Clashnessie beach. Lochinver itself is a tiny village with an immensely pleasurable walk along the Loch.

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Altandhu sounded like a sci-fi planet and I was really looking forward to reaching that coastline. The Summer Isles spreading out in front of Altandu made a spectacular photo opportunity.


The first two weeks of this Scottish leg has delivered amazing scenery and great weather. I know that this next week will be a tough one as wind and rain is forecast. I am heading south now which, in a weird way feels like I am heading home….with just 3200+ miles to go..

Kieran xx

 

Oh Durness do be do.

Week 1 of my six week walk around the northwest of Scotland is complete and what a week it was. I will run out of superlatives by then end of this section so forgive me for the overuse of the words stunning, amazing, beautiful and many others.

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I picked up my VW campervan from Stuart of Strathpeffer Campers and headed straight up to the north coast, crunching the poor gearbox at regular intervals. The unique setup of the gears left me floundering and cursing at critical moments but I eventually got used to first gear being bottom left and move up to second gear. I reached Reay and parked for a moment remembering the sad evening a few months ago where, exhausted and unwell I made the difficult but ultimately sensible decision to abandon NW Scotland and return home to get better. Reay hadn’t changed much but I certainly had.
I soon got into the rhythm of driving to my end point, hitching back then walking to the campervan. Over the course of this week, I improved my hitching techniques and then I stumbled on a better way of doing this. I park in a viewing area and wait for people to stop and then ambush them with my story. Suddenly I went from potential axe murderer with his thumb out to a mad eccentric Essex boy on a mission. So thank you: Tom, Ken and Deidrie (oh I know you couldn’t make it up! As a Corrie fan I pretended to be Mike Baldwin), Svetlana and Aurule (I didnt check spelling) and two others that I didn’t get their names. Maybe I could call them Jack and Vera.
Seeing the campervan in the distance makes the last section so much easier. I collapse into it and doze for a while then pop the kettle on. The evenings are a really special time. Closing the curtains and putting up the bed can take quite a while but the extra stretching is probably helping. Once the lights are off and I am tucked up in bed, the real magic of a campervan takes over. The patter of drizzle or the gentle rocking by the wind (external not mine) makes a soothing end to each day.

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So, this week I racked up 76 miles with plenty of hills and it was all done in typical Scottish weather ie unpredictable and changeable. Kyle of Tongue and Loch Eriboll were some of the highlights even though the weather wasn’t particularly great, they both were stunning.

 

It was the beaches in and around Durness that blew me away towards the end of the week.


Saturday, with blue skies and bright sunshine I made my way to Keoldale to catch the ferry over the Kyle of Durness to go to the most North Westerly point on mainland Britain – Cape Wrath. I was overjoyed that it was such great weather for the trip however this elation soon turned sour as the ferryman told me that the winds were too high to go across. I was gutted.  He has a little speedboat and towards the middle of the day, as the wind increased, I saw his reasoning.


I had got chatting to Terry, a man from Kent who was in a campervan close to the ferry and after a bit of deliberation, I decided not to waste the good weather and do Monday’s walk instead. So Terry and I drove to Shegra and set off of on an out and back walk to the amazingly stunning beautiful Sandwood Bay beach. There were couples having romantic lunches on the beach looking out across the white sands to the Atlantic Ocean. Sadly for them they were joined by big burly man from Kent and a show off in a BHF top but we didn’t stay long. The peace and beauty of the bay returned after we left.
The walk to and from Sandwood Bay was not that strenuous and I would highly recommend this day out on a fine day. The most remote corner of Britain has to be seen.

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To finish off a splendid day we went to the pub as it is the law that all splendid days should end in the pub. Durness Sando bay Oasis pub was packed, well I say packed – everyone had a seat. Terry and I looked at the photos and videos of the day and drank the local ale. We politely mocked three people who were hitting the surround of the dartboard more times than the dartboard itself and listened to the locals talking about the weather. A young couple came in and as they sat down near us they groaned like old people do. I asked if they were ok and the man simply replied “Ben Nevis”
I said “Hello Ben” but he looked confused. Ester and Erik were from Holland and had came over to Scotland for 3 days to climb Ben Nevis, motorbike up to Durness and go back to the ferry in Newcastle and back to Holland. A speedy mountain fix. We all joked about being English, Dutch and wanting to be Scottish and as the pub got louder our Dutch Essex and Kent accents became more noticeable. Their eyes eventually began to droop with fatigue not my schoolboy humour and we decided to end the night at 10pm.

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Terry, a biker himself wanted to see their bikes so we trampled in the dark to their campsite to take look. I have very little interest in motorbikes but thanks to my new “say yes” mantra I was to witness a surreal ritual. Here in a field in one of the most remote villages in Britain stood 4 adults in a circle beaming 4 mobile phone torches at two bikes. It was like a scene from Harry Potter. Phrases such as “fuel consumption” and “horse power” were like spells, cast into the blustery night and sent towards the artic circle ahead of us.
I wondered how long this ritual would last. Three petrolheads and one unleaded dipstick. I muttered “mmmm” every now and the, mainly just to tell them I was still alive. After what seemed like a all night long bike party, we parted safe in the knowledge that Anglo Dutch relations over motorbikes were as strong as ever.
Today, Sunday, is my day off and tomorrow I will attempt Cape Wrath again with the forecast less windy. Then I start heading south.
Kieran xx

 

 

 

 

Chatty Cumbria

I can’t believe I did not blog all the time I was walking in August. It became a very busy month and a sociable one too. I don’t feel creative at the end of walks and my new “rest day” on Sundays are now busier than I thought they would be.

August brought some incredibly good news. Travelodge are now on board and have offered to put me up whilst I am walking.  I have their newly formed partnership with the BHF to thank for this. Sundays are now my transfer day between Travelodges. To be able to park my rucksack in one location and walk with a daysack makes my walking days much more enjoyable. Also, no more rough sleeping, begging for a free bed or the dreaded camping, I should be able to get a good nights sleep for most of the 3000+ miles left.

I spent the first part of August walking by myself in Dumfries and Galloway. Some of my days involved 6 buses to get to and from my walk route. Some people may have found that a drag but I loved it. Sitting on the various buses gave me a chance to listen to conversations (if they were speaking slow Scottish) and watch how southern Scotland got by day by day. Gatehouse of Fleet, Kirkudbright and Sandyhills were gorgeous and it was lovely to see the Lake District in the distance as I got closer to the border. It was also a sad time too because I would be leaving Scotland and even though I still have a section in NW Scotland to complete, I really felt as though I was going to miss Scotland.

I was amazed that walking just 12 miles from Gretna Green to Carlisle that accents changed so quickly. I visited the BHF shop in Carlisle and spoke with the manager who was born and raised in Carlisle. To me she sounded Geordie and was unsurprisingly amused at being told that. She told me of local rivalries, Carlisle history and things to see and do. I had arrived in chatty Cumbria and it stayed like that for the rest of August.

Nigel, a retired hotelier and father of Laura, who works at BHF in London, joined me for two days along the Cumbria coast path.  Sadly on the two days we spent walking, we didn’t have the best weather and the routes were not the most picturesque but Nigel, from the Lake district, didn’t seem to mind and we completed 30 miles together in good spirits.

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Whilst I was in Carlisle taking photos of the Castle, I saw out of the corner of my eye the BBC Cumbria building. Nothing ventured, I went in and asked if they would be interested in my story. Within an hour and a half, I was live on air being interviewed by the friendly and zany DJ Caroline Robertson. It was one of the better interviews  I have had and I thoroughly enjoyed being in the studio for a change rather than battling with mobile phones

Thanks to this five minute plug, I received an email from David, a retired Sellafield worker and we walked two days along the coastline with some of his friends.  They gave me a fascinating insight into life at Sellafield and the impact on the surrounding area. I was incredibly grateful for this and they were great fun to walk with.

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This coming week is National Organ donation Week . I have been very lucky to have met many transplant recipients on my walk and in Whitehaven I met Dave who is 4 years post heart transplant having spent many years on the transplant list. We walked from Whitehaven up to cliffs where he left me and welcomed me coming back down at St Bees. We both know how organ donation not only saved our lives but has given us a quality of life we could never have dreamt of. We exchanged stories, both of us knowing how lucky we were to be able to walk with each other.  I was made to feel like royalty during my stay with him and his wife Tina.

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I ended the month at Barrow in Furness having racked up 1665 miles which is exactly a third of the way round. I still can’t believe that I have walked all this way and maybe I never will. It’s only when I look back at my photos that I recognise each of the 127 days walked so far.

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I will be back up to NW Scotland in a few weeks to do the section I missed when I was previously unwell. I am really looking forward to this and I hope I get some good weather to make the pictures better. Whatever happens, the scenery will be stunning and my dream of getting to Cape Wrath will eventually come true. Then once I have ‘joined the jots’, I will go back to Barrow to carry on to London.

Kieran xx

I am an 8 year old!

On Monday 31st July, I celebrated my 8th heart rebirthday with a 12mile walk – just for fun.

I was thinking about all my 8 rebirthday celebrations and quite a few have been to go on a long walk or a fast run. I think of my donor all day long, her family and what I have done with my very special gift.

My 8th year has been incredible, visiting my old heart, meeting my TGA/Transplant Twin from NZ, Stuart Watson, two perfect transplant checkups, then the small matter of planning and walking 1400 coastal miles in all weathers. I am already looking forward to my 9th rebirthday where I will look back and say “I have walked around the whole coastline of mainland Britain”

OK, I am getting ahead of myself but I am now very confident that I can complete this and I can’t wait to write to my donors family to tell them. I am sure their reaction will be the same as most people I meet – ‘bloody nutcase’

My mini break included volunteering for the BHF at the Brentwood Festival. We had several stands there and it was so good to meet other volunteers and BHF staff. I was let loose on the main stage to talk about my heart and how the BHF research has helped me. Status Quo were headlining on Saturday evening and whilst I was backstage waiting to go on, Francis Rossi walked passed and I managed to grab a photo with the mad man. Yes, he is quite mad and very funny. (pic with Joanne Howe)

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Before my talk to the crowd, they played the BHF video of me meeting my old heart. If you haven’t seen it, here is a link.

 

It was so strange hearing my voice but even stranger watching the crowd’s reaction when my heart is brought out for me to see. After the video was shown I was invited onto the stage to a nice round of applause.

“HELLO…..GLASTONBURY” I shouted as I grabbed the microphone. There was drunken cheering and laughter. I had an easy crowd. I explained that a friend dared me to do it and would give £10 to the BHF if I succeeded. Never dare me to do anything where showing off is involved. I can’t resist.

I was tempted to come onstage after the video showing and say “So, now you have all seen my organ…”

 

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So with the crowd warmed up, I briefly told my heart history and got a lovely reception especially when  I said I had ran the London Marathon.  Maybe word had got out that I had my ukulele in my rucksack and they were just glad I didn’t bring it on stage. The crowd were great and with my 15 minutes of ZZZ list celebrity status finished I went back to the BHF tents. I was quite overwhelmed for the rest of the day that so many people came up to me and shook my hand.

“I fink yur fabulous”, they slurred holding their drinks. “Really FFF FFF Fablas”

“Thank you. I think you are fablas too” I would reply soberly.

“No but seriously man, did I tell you? Yooo rrr F***** fablas. F***** fablas”

And so it went on. The men were even worse.

 

On the Sunday of the festival, my fablasness was old news and I spent some of the day as Hearty. This was a first for me. Obviously I wear red tights all the time before but the heart costume and the one size fits all boots were quite an experience. I had a two year old girl follow me around the field for a long while until she finally plucked up courage to give me a high five. I lowered my hand, she stretched out as high as she could – we high fived. Then she fell over and started to cry. I felt helpless and feared that any sudden movement to comfort her might make the whole situation worse so I just stood there with my huge hand over my huge smile. I was glad my face was hidden.

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We raised lots of money and personally for me, it was great to talk to two congenital heart patients and many other people who had had heart attacks, bypasses and other heart related troubles. It was a great way to spend the weekend and we stopped in time to watch Status Quo.

I am writing this blog having endured 9.5 hours on a night bus (sleep deprevation bus) from London to Dumfries. I think I fell asleep around Preston for an hour but can’t be sure. I am hoping this blog makes sense. Two minutes after getting off the bus I found Robert the Bruce pub. Well, that seemed a perfect place to write.

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I will be sleeping the rest of the day no doubt but I wanted to get a blog in before I set off again tomorrow. August will bring me another 300 miles down the South West of Scotland and then back into England.

The beard is still a contentious issue. I had no idea my vision to be Forrest Gump at the end of this walk would be so popular and that the two times I have shaved since February have left me feeling guilty. Maybe the beard growing and shaving is representative of the highs and lows of the walk. There. That might please everyone.  Sorry beard fans.

 

So I am shaved and ready to go. Now that’s something I have never said before!!

 

Kieran Shavey McShavedagainFace