It’s not too hot and it’s not too cold, not too wet and not too dry. Imagine our surprise this year then, when the sun came out in a searing and sweltering thirty degrees, with not even a hint of a sea breeze to even take the edge off.
Now to some, this might sound like sheer summery bliss; but when you are kitted up for walking and most of your routes are uncovered coastal paths with no shelter, the thought of a ten mile hike filled our group with some trepidation. Just imagine how sales of factor fifty sun tan lotions went up in the small town of Cardigan that week!
Our walking adventures began mid-week on Wednesday 19th May, when our “Active with Diabetes” group of walkers converged from all over the UK to meet at the Cliff Hotel in Cardigan. The hotel lived up to its name and provided us with some stunning views of the bay, especially first thing in the mornings when it was covered by low lying blanket of sea-mist, and each evening when we were treated to a daily light show of glorious colours reflected on the still water by the sun setting on the horizon.
After welcoming our guests, room allocations and an afternoon of settling in and unpacking, everyone gathered in the hotel lounge for an introduction and welcome. I introduced myself first. Some of our group were familiar faces, friends and regular walking holiday attendees, and others were new, first-timers. Hopefully they would like the week ahead and become regulars and fast-friends themselves.
I then introduced our friend and regular walker Angela Sealeaf. Angela is a Lead Diabetes Nurse Specialist from the Royal Calderdale Hospital in Halifax. She joins us every year to make sure our group are staying safe and following all the recommendations for this type of activity, and managing their diabetes while doing so. She is also on hand to take care of any minor medical emergencies, should they arise, not to mention our mental heath as she keeps us laughing too. We are always very grateful for her help and company.
Next I introduced our Ramblers Countrywide guide for the week, John Woods, and his wife Marjorie. John briefed the group on the routes we would be taking, the distances and walking times we would be adhering to, the pick up and drop off times for our buses, what safety precautions we needed to observe and generally what to expect during the week. He even regaled us with a few stories and anecdotes from his previous walking expeditions around the world. Everyone listened intently and then with rumbling tummies we went to dinner, excitedly chattering about the adventures to come.
After dinner, we retired to the lounge again, where we handed around some diabetes information leaflets and copies of our latest monthly newsletter. We even had some surprise goody bags containing dextrose tabs, pens, pedometers, water bottles and other useful items for the week.
On Thursday morning, our group was ready and waiting and set off on time with John and Marjorie in the lead. This was to be the first of four walks that would take in the coastal sights of Cardigan Bay and the many miles of Pembrokeshire Coastal path.
Over the course of the week the unseasonably hot weather made the walks challenging and lots of bottled water was carried and drunk to make sure we kept our fluid levels up; hats, sunglasses and regular slatherings of suntan lotion were also a necessity.
John led us on some very picturesque walks across the whole region, taking in places such as Llangrannog, Penbryn, Tresaith, Aberporth, Cilgerran, Poppit Sands, Moylegrove, and Cemaes Head. Most of our walking was along the winding coastal paths and the views from high up on the cliffs was stunning. The sea below was azure and we made sure we kept our eyes open for seals and porpoises, which we finally spotted on the last day.
Other wildlife was abundant too, and we saw many different types of insects, sea birds and flowers. The air was also heavy with the scent of wild garlic, as it was growing freely all over the place. One special and lovely sight during our walks was the vast covering of bluebells, which were everywhere we looked. They turned the grass verges, rolling fields, steep hillsides and sea-cliffs blue, and kept us company each step of the way.
One walk gave us the opportunity to stop at the Cardigan Wildlife Park and Education centre where we rested our legs, cooled off and refreshed ourselves with some welcome coffee.
Cardigan is a small town and the area was very quiet and remote. Away from the tourist locations and crowds, the routes that John led us on gave us the chance to view this unspoilt corner of Britain in an uninterrupted way. To stand on a cliff and gaze at a view stretching to the horizon without another human being in view is wonderful.
The walks themselves took us up some steep cliff side paths, which certainly made the leg muscles burn and worked up a thorough and uncomfortable sweat. Coming down again was nicer, with a chance to slow to a more welcome pace and take in the surroundings. The small deserted coves and bays like were a joy to see and the busy seaside bays that we visited to refresh ourselves with a cold drink, cappuccino or ice cream were welcomed by us all.
On the fourth day, John and Marjorie decided to shorten the walk by a couple of miles to take into consideration the increasingly hot weather. A few members of the group decided to sit out the last walk and visit a local ornamental garden instead, and then go for a gentle stroll around the town of Cardigan before stopping for a refreshing pot of tea and some toasted Bara Brith. What a lovely way to rest our legs after so much walking.
On the last evening, we had our final briefing where I thanked John and Marjorie for their support and for looking after us all week. We presented them with a bottle of sparkly and a card signed by everyone. Angela was next. She also got a bottle of sparkly and a signed card. She also got some special thanks for her blister expertise!
Dinner that evening was in the conservatory of the hotel. The food was great, the company charming and the atmosphere warm and comfortable. As the sun began to go down, the blinds were opened to reveal the most stunning sunset we had seen all week. Cameras and coffee in hand, we went out on the terrace to capture some photographs and take in this amazing sight. What a perfect ending to a perfect week.
Our week in Wales was great and certainly a welcome and deserving addition to the portfolio of locations that we have walked in these beautiful islands of ours.
Perhaps one day we will return but for now we are looking forward to meeting again for our next adventure in 2011.