Two walks, two weeks, two completely different ways of enjoying the Welsh countryside…
One of the delights of living in Liverpool is that by train, bus or friend’s cars, much of England and Wales’ countryside isn’t too far away.
That said, it’s unusual for me to take two walks, starting within five miles of each other, around different parts of the same range of hills that are so completely different.
One, the first, was Excalibur—a name that will live on long after the aches and pains have faded.
The other, the second, was a meander up Moel Findeg, which will live on long after the memory of wandering through snow has faded.
Excalibur was the first big challenge event of the year: It was called the UK’s toughest off-road marathon. I’m very glad that I choose to walk it with a mate, as I’m not sure running would’ve been the most sensible thing I could’ve done. A marathon is tough; a marathon with one-and-a-half times the ascent of the biggest mountain (Ben Nevis) in the UK is hard. Possibly the hardest days hill walking I’ve done.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
It’s very easy when pushing for the next run, the next challenge, the next event, to forget the fun. I got into this walking and running (and climbing) through good friends taking me into the hills and making it fun. Though I now move faster through the terrain doesn’t mean I don’t like the meanders, and it doesn’t mean that everything has to be done at a pace.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
Excalibur went through terrain with thousands of years of history. The Iron Age hill forts and the remains of their ramparts provided an extra little challenge to our aching thighs. The steepness of the hills attested to both the ingenuity of our ancestors and their tactical acumen. It was bad enough walking up there with lightweight walking gear; the thought of leading a charge whilst under attack and carrying sword and shield makes me weak at the knees.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
Moel Findeg was a gentle walk, after the late snow, past midget goats and wild ponies, sticking our noses in caves, finding decent pubs and finishing with tea and scones. The snow was very small patches, just enough to cool a warm brow and to gleefully leave your boot prints in.
No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
There was no time on Excalibur for photography; my focus was about five feet in front of my nose, two steps away—walking pole as balance aid, rest and occasionally even as a push stick to get me up the toughest of the hills. The lack of evidence means I have to implore you to trust me. The gorse was lending a golden sheen to the hillside, the heather with its verdant greens made the rolling hills look as alive as we felt.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
Whereas Moel Findeg gave views through the clouds to Moel Famau and stretching off behind it the route of Excalibur.
A poor life this is if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
(Leisure, William Henry Davies – appropriately a Welsh poet)
Sharing this poem throughout the title and blog post is my plea to all of us pushing our limits to never forget the simple joys. Continually working out our splits, carbo-loading, interval training and so on can make us incredibly boring, so every once in a while get out there and do what we do for the hell of it.
And now I get back to the hard miles—just under four weeks until the Belfast Marathon, just a normal 26.2 miles…
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