870 Miles Coastal Path of Wales Challenge - Why?

My name is Martienus Thomas and I am a proud former Penparcau Primary School pupil. I am a self-employed Independent Swimming Instructor and work weekends, weekdays, after school, and have done for a long time.

The last 7 years, with time available during mornings and times off work, I have become a walking geek; short walks, long walks, for fitness and a change of scenery. First a walk in the Cambrian Mountains with friends. Then Cader Idris. I then looked at a map: Ordnance Survey map 213. I would then take adventures, following the map walks, walking pathways around my home village of Penrhyncoch and beyond.

An epic walk from my house in Penrhyncoch to the summit of Plymlimon and back in the same day, would be crazy to some, but I loved the adventure, testing my fitness, enjoying the beautiful landscape. Then I got my hands on more maps with mountains and walkways in Wales, England, Scotland, Canada; pathways like Devil’s Bridge to Borth, Lampeter to Aberaeron have been achieved, sometimes alone and some walks are shared with my beautiful wife Nicola, which we both love.

mum and sister stood proudly with Welsh flags at the train station of Aberystwyth to surprise me with a warm welcome backI have walked Cader Idris 15-20 times over three or four years, and good banter with fellow Aberystwyth squash league players suggested I should explore further than continuing to walk my favourite mountain. I had walked Ynyslas to Aberystwyth six times, Aberystwyth to Aberaeron four times, Aberaeron to Newquay and back two times along the Coastal path of Wales. I have walked from Llanrhystud to Aberystwyth where I proudly teach swimming at Penrhos Golf Club, and have done so several times.

Fate maybe, one day I walked from Llanrhystud to Aberystwyth with deep sadness of the loss of a brave swimmer Harri Rattray. I had the honour of being his bearer. A week later my sister’s eldest boy wanted to do the same walk with me, his reward was we went to McDonald’s and where we sat down with our walking gear we chatted to a group of 5 sitting next to us, and that was the beginning: one of those individuals Nicola has now become my wife.

Later in time, Nicola and I stayed in Tenby for a weekend, together we walked 25 miles in 3 days from Broadhaven Beach Bosherston to Manorbier, Manorbier to Tenby and Amroth to Tenby, using a taxi to drop us off and walk. Outstanding coastline which I respected, and I wanted to see more and more of Wales; that’s when I came up with a challenge.

At Tenby, I said to Nicola I want to walk the Coastal Path of Wales before I became 50.

The next opportunity I had to walk, Borth to Machynlleth was a day walk, and then Cardigan to Newquay another day which completed walking the Ceredigion Coastal Path. Using the Coastal Path of Wales website, I wanted to follow every path as instructed by maps from the website to be able to claim I completed every step of the 870 miles. I printed off the 8 section lists of Wales and started joining sections walking in a way that I could get lifts and bed and breakfasts for overnight stays.

Martienus and NicolaMy plan was to complete the 8 Regions of the Wales Coastal Path and to finish at Pwllhelli and return via train to Aberystwyth, which I did. 47 days of walking. Completed aged 45. My favourite region: Anglesey. Favourite beach: three cliffs bay in The Gower. The Wales Coastal Path was amazing, so much to learn and see. Sometimes testing with hidden sign posts and being sent further away from coastal lands at times. I put my trust in the maps I had. I can honestly conclude 100% that the distance is more than 870 miles. Bed and Breakfasts on route are fantastic and much needed when walking 15-30 miles a day. I was fortunate with the weather, lots of towns, cities and villages to walk through, castles, cliffs, beaches, sand dunes, bridges, stepping stones, paths by roads, farm fields and testing times with cows, seeing so much wildlife, but unfortunately not seeing an otter, my favourite animal. Photos of plenty for memories and a wealth of knowledge learnt about the Geography and History of our Wales. We live in a beautiful country.

My mum couldn’t understand at the beginning, why do it? But walking is a great exercise, and fortunately I have a great family who gave me lifts to destinations to make this challenge possible. My wife shared 20 days with me over the time. Once finished, my mum and sister stood proudly with Welsh flags at the train station of Aberystwyth to surprise me with a warm welcome back. Nicola was precious company on the final two days during which I had Harri constantly in my thoughts and kind messages from Harri’s family. My mum and dad are now proud, and at café shops around the town have been telling stories about my walking with their friends.

People I met along the way asked if I was walking for charity carrying a heavy bag, and walking big distances, I said no this walk has become in memory of a special swimmer that I taught. I said to some perhaps I could put my HND in Graphic Design to some use and write a document about my adventure? Not sure about my writing skills.

I had the privilege to have met Harri who would have been 18 this year. When I have a hot chocolate at a café I remember the good times and the day we dressed up as Batman and Robin for a sponsored swim event with fellow swimmers.

Next, I might like to do Offa’s Dyke? Is it 175 miles? Why? To join around Wales North to South Prestatyn to Chepstow apparently, I will have to find a map first! Hopefully the cows on route, if any, will behave? Not sure what my mum will say!