It’s been more than a month since I finished. I’ve put off writing and going through my photos for a long time. Then when I finally did, I realised why. Man, I miss it so, so much.
May I tell you how it ended?
The last four days of walking were less than exciting. The Coastal Path in Carmarthenshire spends a lot of time away from the coast, following estuaries inland in search of bridges, often on roads, to then make a long trip back to the coast only to do it all again the next day. But that’s something I became quite grateful for. Finishing the trip on a high like the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path would’ve made for such a comedown. But four days of faffy and convoluted walking got me to a place where I was just ready to finish; ready to be done.
That’s not to say it’s not lovely. But it’s not the walking I’d race to get back to.
You may have gathered that people’s kindnesses defined this trip for me, right up to the end. Even on my very last night I got chatting to a lovely woman outside her home, and was invited in for some tea and food. I was offered a place to sleep too, but wanted to be outside for my final night. I camped wild on the foreshore at Ferryside. Half a mile across the water was Llansteffan, where I’d started my 17 ½ mile walk that day. There was a lot of looking out over the water feeling sentimental.
I felt like there should have been some profound thought or realisation. I tried to think about what I’d learned or gained or found. But instead I asked, “God, what did you get out of this?”
And I heard His voice so clearly in my spirit saying, “I got to spend time with my daughter.”
I don’t think it needs saying how precious that was to me.
Before leaving Ferryside the next morning I was interviewed for a Welsh language television programme. Which is hilarious. I was asked to contemplatively look over the water, which is how I’d spent most of the previous evening, so I nailed that part. Interviewing in Welsh wasn’t quite so easy, with little more than a faded GCSE-level knowledge. But after this trip, I’m so inspired to grab hold of my country’s language. Speaking Welsh shouldn’t be about what school you went to or who your parents are. It’s part of the inheritance of living here.
Taking the time to really know my country makes it feel so much more like it belongs to me. Maybe it’s that in taking the time to get to know it, and rely on it, Wales has become more ‘mine’. But maybe it’s that I know the one who made it, and I feel more His.
Some friends joined me at Ferryside, and I was glad of the company. A few hours of fields and roads got us to Kidwelly, where some more family friends joined us. It was good to be able to talk and share some stories and thoughts. And to have people around for the bursts of excitement along the vast expanse of Cefn Sidan beach, as it finally felt like I was walking home.
I was left to do the few miles to Burry Port on my own. I wanted some time to end the journey with God, and thank him for it. I’m not sure what emotion filled that time, but I was certainly full of it. The Gower could been seen so clearly, every detail brought out by the sun and then reflecting off the sea. It looked so close, like I could touch the sand I’d walked on three months before. Then rounding the end of the beach, Burry Port comes into view, and the beach-side flats at Llanelli. Slightly behind are the city-of-Swansea hills, and more hills beyond. All rendered in perfect detail in the evening light. All seeming so close. A whole country in walking distance.
Though one of my favourite things about that view, was that I only saw it because I’d missed a turning. I’m the only person I know who could walk around Wales, and then get lost on her home turf.
Thankfully, because of the tides I could still get to Burry Port without turning around. I just had to paddle a bit of water and confuse the crowd that had gathered by arriving barefoot and from the wrong direction.
I knew I was meeting a few people at Burry Port. I could not have anticipated the hero’s welcome I found waiting for me.
We all walked the final few miles together. Which I felt was so appropriate. So many people had supported, encouraged, provided and prayed for me in those three months that it wasn’t my achievement alone.
We walked the familiar length of my running route. And finally came to the spot just after the little footbridge, where I had stepped onto the Wales Coastal Path twelve weeks and one day before. I had come full circle, a thousand miles to arrive back where I’d started. There’s not many things that can give you a feeling like that. That’s the point where there were tears.
We went home, we celebrated, we ate good food, and I was sprayed with champagne. A curtain started to close over the last three months of my life in which I did something I never expected. Even now, it feels like someone else did it and I just know a lot about how it went. That’s why it’s taken so long to write again.
I know I’ll hold onto this for the rest of my life. I’m sure there are some things about it that I won’t understand for years to come. The prayers prayed over the ground, the hours singing out God’s sovereignty over cliffs and over rocks and declaring that God’s not finished with this nation; I may not see the fruit of those things, but I leave them there in great faith.
But the things I can get my head around are these:
I am tougher than I thought, my God is good and people are kind. And any experience that can teach you one or all of those things is a worthwhile one.
I’d love to share more of my stories. I’ve yet to tell you about the beauties of Pembrokeshire or the kind pubs in West Wales or the many times I was fed or housed or cared for on a person’s whim. Chronology is over-rated, and I’d love to share these with you if you’d like to read them.
Thanks for being part of the adventure with me.
Love, Soph x