The last day

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Our last slumber in a tent. Our last 14 mile hike. Our last hill. Our last forest. Our last BAAA session with sheep. Our last brisk walk away from a bull. Our last blister. Our last day in these 8 day old clothes. Our last and final day of friendship.

I’m writing now from my home in Abergele, drinking a gin and tonic, with my chest hair submerged in a warm deep bath full of bubbles. Success has never felt so good. Although I can see my toes peaking over the bubbles… yeah we won’t go there just yet.

Compared to previous days our last day has been relatively uneventful. As you may have picked up, over the past few days Heather had become a kind of ground support team for our walk. Because of the sheer weight of our STUPID rucksacks Heather had offered to drop them off at our next campsite. She was also driving on to Abergele to stay with my parents and then join us the next day at Llangernyw (3 miles into our walk). Our campsite, it turned out was run by one very happy lovely lady and a small army of children in wellies. So Heather whisked us off to The Stag in Llangernyw for our final meal before the last walk. The Stag is the kind of homely old pub that makes you wish you were either a 6ft farmer with spades for hands who’s probably wrestled a few stags to death. Or a wealthy lord, horse tied up outside mincing around gafforing with the land workers… Both characters, it seemed, were in abundance this Friday night.

It wasn’t a heavy night. No sprints through dark forests. Paul and I settled down in our cosy tent to one of the coldest nights yet. I woke at 2am to find Paul sleeping in his man sized bag wearing trousers, t-shirt, fleece and coat. Heather had kindly lent me an adult sized sleeping bag, however after a quick nightie dash with Paul to the toilets I whacked out the ol kids sleeping bag and chucked it over my head. Despite all our efforts this was one very cold sleep deprived night.

Refreshed and ready for the day. We packed up, Paul had noodles for brekkie and we lugged our stuff over to Llangernyw. Purely by accident but much to my satisfaction we ended up walking through the grounds of Hafodunos Hall. Hafodunos is an old Victorian mansion that has been derelict for some time. They’ve recently started doing the place up but over the many years it’s been left as a shell it’s lands have become overgrown and rather beautiful. Wealthy Victorians, being the way they were used to collect exotic seeds from the many corners of the British Empire. So the gardens and lands of Hafodunos are like a spooky half exotic jungle. Apparently, a friend once told me, there may even be opium growing in the grounds. Paul and I stumbled out of this weird Victorian dream into the Llangernyw St. Dygain’s Church grave yard which boasts the oldest tree in Wales and maybe even fourth oldest in the world! The tree is over 4000 years old so we felt the need to go and have a good stare. I find it fascinating that these yew trees are that old and that they’ve had some importance to humans on these isle’s for a considerable amount of time. Although Paul summed it up pretty well as we left by saying “yeah but after the first 1000 years they all look the same anyway”.

We met my dad and Heather in the stag car park, dumped our rucksacks in his car, organised maps and headed off for Llanfair Talhaiarn with an extra team member, Heather. To begin with Heather took on the days walking with the energy of a small child who certainly hadn’t just walked 100 miles. However as the day wore on she did simmer down to our pace and tone again. One trump at a time we wore her down.

Together we stumbled across an empty camping ground (in the middle of August) which openly accepted Allan Lovejoy.

You may think that navigating this last stretch of hills, forests and fields would be much easier than the wilderness of Snowdonia. This was unfortunately not the case. The great thing about Snowdonia is that many hikers actually use the trails as it’s famous for it’s beauty worldwide. The walks through the foothills of Conwy on the other hand are not famous and some are seemingly never used at all. More than once we found ourselves in the middle of an overgrown field desperately trying to figure a way out. One particularly frustrating situation of this sort also involved a huge bull waddling towards us as we clambered over a gate.

I am instinctively scared of farmers and their dogs. This might seem odd for someone who’s just walked across Wales. However when I’m lost on their land and they’re standing still, looking at me as though my brief visit is nothing but a slight irritation in the long history of their families land, I get a little nervous. As I approached one farmer lost and nervous I asked “Would you be able to help us?” my voice decided to break and whimper as the words fell out of my mouth. The surly wise shadowy figure moved out from under the tree and instantly revealed himself as one of the nicest old men on the planet. I felt a fool as the farmer explained in the softest kindest Welsh accent how exactly to navigate his and his neighbours land to get towards Abergele. Maybe it was because I was so relieved but I looked into his eyes and thought, for a second, that I saw an innocent kind young boy framed in an old mans wrinkled face. We thanked him profusely and moved on. There was also a similar incident with a farmers dog, as we leapt out of the previously mentioned bull field into a courtyard a dog came running up to Paul. I shouted “be careful!!” to Paul thinking it would be a trained guard dog. The dog upon reaching Paul instantly fell into his lap and gave him a big cuddle. I should have expected this, given that Paul is to dogs what Crocodile Dundee is to any wild beast.

We were close now. Slowly realising that we would soon have to use sentences like ‘pardon me’ ‘sorry about that smell’ and ‘oh really that’s so interesting, tell me more’ one foot after the other we headed back towards civilisation.

Once we were about 4 miles away I was able to recognise Tower Hill and Tan-Y-Gopa of Abergele. This really spurred me on as we walked through field after field and fought our way through wooded neglected paths overgrown with thorns and nettles. Dreaming of a good bath, getting out of these clothes, a gin and tonic and a good nights sleep. We climbed our last hill and headed down through the forest before turning onto my street and hobbling into my back garden to find the parents ready with the drinks.

After a quite frankly incredible first bath we sat down for dinner, regaling tales of the day and the hilarious near disasters of the past week. The parents had promised a steak and boy did they deliver. The family feast was magnificent. It was good to be home. For now at least I was happy not to be wandering the forests of Wales.

One of the most touching and surprising things about our walk has been the enjoyment people have gained from reading these posts. So when we headed into the good old George and Dragon pub in Abergele that very evening it was really heart warming to hear that many of my friends had been reading them. The rest of the night was spent catching up and trying to remember the story of Beddgellert, much to Paul’s annoyance.

The walk had been a success and it’s clear to both of us that this has been a good healthy thing to do for many reasons. I’d like to post again to thank everyone who helped us on this challenge. Although it’s probably very obvious, having Paul with me on this trip not only made it possible but also made it one of the funniest, most memorable weeks of my life. He truly is a legend and his ability to call things as they are and find the hilarity in every situation made every day, well, fucking brilliant.

lovejoy

hafodunos

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