Lands End and the Lizard

 

Arriving at Newquay was a real delight for me though underneath this satisfaction, there was a nagging feeling that something wasn’t right with my body. My left leg was still not recovering from the walks and I hoped that the relatively flat section around Newquay would give it a better chance of recovery. During the walk from Newquay to Perranporth my gut feeling was proved right when at the top of a 200ft climb, I noticed that I had an irregular heartbeat.

Getting used to a new heartbeat straight after transplant was a strange thing and adding exercise into the mix made it a fascinating period of time. I have always pushed this lovely gift, running the London Marathon twice, skydiving and hill walking. I have a max heart rate of 120 bpm but it has always been in sinus rhythm no matter what I have put it through.

I listened to the rhythm and realised I was getting ectopic beats. This is when an extra beat is added which throws the rhythm off and often there is a short period of time when you can’t hear your heart beating. Then, a heavy thud returns things to normal. I had never had these beats whilst exercising before.

On top of this cliff, I sat down and whilst catching my breath, listened intently to my new funky rhythms. The view of Perran sands made the worrying situation a little better. I rested for a while until I had recovered and set of down to the beach.

As I approached Perranporth along the huge sweeping golden sands, I realised the tide was coming in and asked the lifeguard if I had time to nip around the bottom of the last cliff before Perranporth got cut off from Perran Sands. He said it was touch an go. I wasn’t going to risk it and this left me with another climb to the top of the cliff before finally going back down to the finish. As soon as I had done 20 steps upwards, my heart was off again doing its groovy jazz beat. A group of 20 year olds were behind me and as I pulled over to the side to let them pass, a cocky dude with a straight jaw and a six pack, mocked me. He had seen “5000 mile walk” on the back of my rucksack.

“Haha, you’ll have to get fitter if your going to walk 5000 miles around the coastline”

For a split second I was transported back to childhood hearing the fit boys teasing my heart condition. I looked him straight in the eye and said:

“Well I have walked 4100 miles so far”.

Our eyes locked and his face dropped. His brain was trying to compute the scenario.

“whoa….um”, was all he could muster.

I told the group about my walk, my transplant, ectopic beats, the BHF and congenital heart disease. I gave out my “business” cards and was amused as the cocky lad went to tuck the card into his speedos.
They were all really interested and having adjusted the dude’s perceptions of hidden illnesses they went on ahead of me.

It was an immensely satisfying moment and it carried me up to the top of the cliff. I finished the walk at Perranporth and headed back to my Travelodge knowing that I needed to look seriously at the situation. My needy poor left leg had now been relegated as my heart took up most of my attention – yet again!

Day 245 Newquay to Perranporth 11 miles 1900 elevation

I decided to cancel next few legs and hoped that rest would do the trick. It was a hard decision to make. I would usually rest then start again from where I left off but lots of things had already been arranged for my arrival at Lands End. Cancelling them was the only option. So I have 5 legs from Perranporth to Pendeen to go back and do.

Day 246 Perranporth to Portreath 12 miles  2250 elevation
Day 247 Portreath to Hayle 12 miles 1362 elevation
Day 248 Hayle to St Ives 6 miles 751 elevation
Day 249 St Ives to Pendeen 16 miles 2683 elevation

Sylvi joined me on “Day 250” for my walk into Lands End. My beats had gone back to normal and I felt confident that I would be ok. The walk went well and as we approached Sennen Cove (about a mile from Lands End) I received a phone call that BBC Spotlight, the SW region TV news programme, were sending a cameraman and interviewer to do a piece for my arrival. We met Paul the cameraman and he filmed us at Sennen Cove.

Walking along the coast path to Lands End is something that has gone around my head for years and years. It didn’t disappoint. I felt elated and had a tears in my eye as we walked towards it. Before we met up with Eleanor the journalist, I punched the air and screamed “yyeeeeessss” as we walked past the famous signpost. No-one battered an eyelid. Lands End is full of people doing crazy things. They are usually starting or finishing though. I have to be different!
The piece that they did for the evening news was excellent, see below:


The following day became a “BHF and my walk awareness day” at Lands End. Sylvi and I were joined by BHF fundraising managers, area managers, volunteers, two CHD’ers and eventually Simon Gillespie, CEO of the BHF.
We gave out cards, chatted to lots of people, had the traditional Lands End picture taken and walked to Senna Cove and back. It was a glorious day full of humour, fun alongside some sad stories of how peoples lives have been afftcted by heart disease too. Tracey, Maria and myself even got our scars out!! We raised a bit of money and we all went home happy.

My ectopics, however, had come back towards the end of the filming the previous day so I decided to take some more time off and went back home to Dawlish.

The walk, like cliff walking is a bit of a roller-coaster.

I took the next section steadily and split longer walks in two. It worked perfectly. The heartbeats were strong and powerful on the elevations and went back to normal on the flatish bits. Lands End to Lizard is an incredible section. High cliffs look down upon many beautiful sandy coves and lead you to gorgeous Mousehole, Penzance and then the stunning St Michaels Mount at Marazion. Bad weather or should I say typically Cornish weather, greeted me a Lizard Point – the most Southerly point on mainland Britain.

I have now visited the most easterly (Lowestoft) northerly (Dunnet Head) westerly (Ardnamurchan) and southerly (Lizard point)

Here is a selection of photos from Day 250 to Day 255:

 


Day 250 Pendeen to Lands End 10 miles 1522 elevation

Awareness Day at Lands End

Day 251 Lands End Porthcuno 5 miles  891 elevation

Day 252 Porthcuno to Lamorna 7miles 1113 elevation


Day 253 Lamorna to Marazion 10 miles 725 elevation


Day 254 Marazion to Portleven 11 miles 1916 evaluation


Day 255 Portleven to Lizard Point 13 miles 2412 elevation

 

Cornwall has been stunning and even the massive influx of tourists during the summer holidays hasn’t annoyed me, it has given me a chance to tell my story and get donations. I still have some lovely locations to walk through before Devon awaits me once again.

K x

Hardest walks so far

Since last blogging I have had the toughest set of walks of the 244 done so far. There were some very hard days in NW Scotland and sporadic tough walks in England and not forgetting the difficult sections of the Pembrokeshire coast path but I seem to have had a few easy walks in between the hard ones making it feel both physically and mentally easier.

The south west coast path (SWCP) has been constantly hard and sadly my left leg is now starting to be a pain in the……um……leg. It is gruelling at times with parts so steep it is easier crawling on all fours up the cliff. I have been carrying 4 litres of fluid in my backpack which I have used up pretty much every day.

Here are some SWCP stats:

15 walks averaging 12.2 miles each day. 183 miles in total walked. Elevation total was 38,023 feet or 1.3 Mt Everests. The average temperature was 25 degrees. Hard work.

I have now reached Newquay and have two days rest before undulating  myself along to Lands End. In total, I have walked 4075 miles and climbed nearly 250,000ft (8.5 x Mt Everest)

Alongside the hard work comes the rewards of the views, the people I meet and the donations coming in. The good weather is great for the photos but more of a hindrance for long distance walking. Luckily, the SWCP meanders in an out of woods quite frequently and a break of 3 miles in the woods refreshes me enough to cope with the blazing sun on the cliff tops. I carry a small cool box that has a ice cold drink and a flannel and also a towel attached to the outside of my rucksack. Even starting at 6-7am only gives me an hour or two of relief out of a 7-8 hour day.

Both North Devon and North Cornwall have stunning coastlines scattered with many small beaches and coves. They also have huge long sandy beaches where on the odd occasion, the boots came off and I paddled for a few miles.

An odd thing I noticed as I passed through these beaches were how out of place I felt. In this “heatwave” or “summer” as I like to call it, the holidaymakers were all out in their underwear (which is what Speedo’s and Bikinis are effectively) and I had socks, boots shorts, belt, long sleeve wicking top, “walking the coastline” tabbard, a faded BHF hat and a huge rucksack. I might has well have been in a formal suit with all these semi naked bodies running around me. I noticed lots of people pointing and mutterings of  “5000 miles? did you see that?”. It obviously doesn’t bother me as this is an awareness walk as well as a fundraiser but I constantly have the feeling that I have turned up at a non fancy dress party in fancy dress.

The tabbard is helping now I am in a more populated area. People not only read the rucksack from behind but now they see a red blob coming towards them, eventually reading the words and often stop to chat. I have given out more cards on this section than anywhere else and more and more donations are coming in.

I can’t possibly single out a favourite part of the SWCP so far, so here is a collection of my favourite pictures.

Day 230 Minehead to Porlock Weir 9 miles 1824 elevation

Day 231 Porlock Weir to Lynton 12 miles 3435 elevation

Day 232 Lynton to Coombe Martin 13 miles 3766 elevation

Day 233 Coombe Martin to Woolacombe 13 miles 3317 elevation (Rain!!)

Day 234 Woolacombe to Barnstable 17 miles 1231 elevation

Day 235 Barnstable to Westwood Ho! 14 miles 404 elevation

Day 236 Westwood Ho! to Clovelly 11 miles  2995 elevation

Day 237 Clovelly to Hartland Quay 12 miles 2382 elevation

Day 238 Hartland Quay to Bude 15 miles 4170 elevation

Day 239  Bude to Crackington Haven 10 miles 2494 elevation

Day 240 Crackington Haven to Tintagel 11 miles 3494 elevation

Day 241 Tintagel to Port Isaac 9 miles 2589 elevation

Day 242 Port Isaac to Padstow 12 miles 2923 elevation

Day 243 Padstow to Porthcothan 14 miles 1561 elevation

Day 244 Porthcothan to Newquay 11 miles 1447 elevation

 

I will be arriving at Lands End on the 1st August 2018 where I will be greeted by Simon Gillespie the CEO of the BHF and other BHF volunteers and staff. It should be quite a party as the day before I will be celebrating my 9th transplant anniversary. If anyone is in the area and is free in the morning, please come along. We’ll have a cuppa,chat and photos before I take off for a short 5 mile walk. Use the contact button to message me and I can tell you more details.

Looking into the future, I have around 60 days walking left to complete the walk. I have never looked further than a few weeks ahead in all the time I have been doing this (since Feb 2017!!) but once I round Lands End, I may start to count down the days. Obviously I still have 100’s of miles left and quite a few Mt Everests to climb but I am starting to get a little excited about the thought of completing this. At this moment in time though, I don’t want it to end. Honestly, I would love to go around again – maybe clockwise?? lol

Please keep sharing my twitter link, facebook page and this blog/website. Being alone all day on a cliff or in a field is not ideal for fundraising to say the least, so I am relying on followers to spread the word and get sponsorship/donations that way.

Finally, has anyone got a left leg they want to lend me? I’ll give it back when I finish…..whenever that is.

Thanks for reading and sharing

Kieran xx

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.

http://nt.pcnpa.org.uk/website/sitefiles/nt_page.asp?PageID=8&NewsID=39

 

 

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