Last night I reached the end of the Wales Coastal Path, the route I've followed, in between inland detours, since May 2014 - that's many inland detours. I slept late in Bristol, the thought of the rain put me off leaving the house and I delayed and prevaricated before eventually accepting what I really wanted to do and going back to bed for 3 hours. It meant that I arrived in Chepstow, fifteen miles later, after 8pm. I walked through the town, thinking about finding a good chip shop and walking out again to camp, but first I must find the coast path monument by the old bridge. Eventually there it was, tucked all the way down by the river, with a quiet park beside it and a little wine bar discreetly sending music into the peaceful evening. I hung around, pulled someone in to take photos and looked around me. Maybe I'll go for a meal in the wine bar. Sod walking more, it's already close to 9pm, maybe I'll sleep in this bandstand that is just sitting right here in the centre of the park. It was deserted already, I had a strong feeling it would be a peaceful place to spend the night. So that's what I did. A three course meal in the bar, chatting a bit to the other customers and the friendly barmaid but mostly sitting quietly and enjoying the good, hot food before going outside in the dark and making a bed in the bandstand. It was a warm night, I could sit for a while in the silence, feeling the shape of the night. It wasn't the most relaxing place to sleep, public places never are, especially those where you might be interrupted by other people, but I settled eventually, after the clock struck 1. I realised that I could hear regular breathing coming from nearby, someone was sleeping in a van parked outside the wine bar, maybe one of the two very drunk white haired men who sat at the bar drinking wine and being jovial.
The only thing I made sure of was to wake up early, not wanting to be caught by morning dog walkers. It worked, I set an alarm, sat up to see a chicken pecking around in the park, bustling for territory with the skulking gulls, put my stuff together and was lacing my boots as the first dog walker appeared - 6am.
I walked away from the coastal path, how strange that I am finished with the sea. All there is to do is follow one river to the source and I will be home and finished. I don't know how to feel about this impending date. Happy, sad? I've settled for neutral and am sure more feeling will flood in, in time.
For now, though, there is just the walking. I must walk fifteen miles every day in order to make it to Machynlleth by the 22nd August. Easy, you might say. Not too challenging. Well. I am very very tired and all I want to do is stop, lie down and not move my body. There is also the problem of my feet, they're starting to become strained again, close to injury. Shooting pain in my heels means the tendon is trying to pull further away from the bone, something I've been managing for over a year now. I should drop the distance down, but I can't. So there it is, days of pain and tiredness but a finite amount of them. The end is near.
As for the walking, it was just an ordinary day - as far as ordinary goes for me. The Wye valley is very beautiful here, I walked through old forests, trees reaching high above me. I walked, sweating under the weight of my rucksack, climbing hills and dropping down until I reached Tintern. Boots off, feet up and a couple of coffees, give my heels a chance to rest. Then I walked an hour more before stopping for lunch, sitting in a bus shelter next to a busy road. Then I walked some more before being overcome with tiredness. It happens sometimes in the early afternoons. There's nothing to do but sleep for a short time, half an hour. This time, three people walked past and laughed at me as I lay in the forest by the side of the path. It is very hard to be exhausted in public and without a safe space to go, let me tell you.
Sleep over I drank some water, walked some more, following the winding, gorgelike Wye valley, so full of trees, until here I am now, in The Boat Inn, Redbrook. I'll walk a couple more miles to Monmouth, complete my fifteen and find somewhere to sleep. Another day closer to the end.