I walked up the coast to Holywell over a couple of hot days, burning my shoulders as I tentatively moved to vests. Brilliant for keeping cool, not so good for sunburn. My shoulders have burnt and peeled and burned again, causing me to be patchy, like a giraffe.
I've changed from the river Dee to a brief few miles of the Coastal Path to the Cistercian Way. Now there aren't any guidebooks; I'm in the realm of OS maps and a written description from the internet, last updated in 2006. The paths it uses are underwalked and overgrown. I'm fighting through brambles, over fences and occasionally losing the path altogether and resorting to road walking. It's slow and sometimes frustrating, although the deeper satisfaction of tracing a 602 mile round through inland Wales is sustaining me.
I came over the Clwydian range to Denbigh where I slept my most homeless sleep so far - in the doorway of the Denbigh ex-servicemans club. I bought a takeaway and didn't want to walk too far to eat it, then the skies promised rain and at 9pm already it was too late to go searching for a more salubrious resting place outside the town. I felt pretty safe there, plenty of passers by but only one saw me. It's amazing how invisible you can make youself in a public space, just by tucking in and staying still.
I felt bored for the few days it took me to walk down the Vale of Clwyd, it all seemed very samey somehow. Just a long flat valley and field upon field upon field. It all changed when I started the long climb up to pass over the Llantysilio mountains. Suddenly I was back in more dramatic scenery and I revelled in my surroundings again. I could see the Clwydian range and over towards Snowdonia, tracing the paths I'd walked. I turned round to see the way I'd come and to my right came racing the invisible line of the Offa's Dyke, rising and falling with the Clwydian hills, ahead lay the sea and my path from Prestatyn along the coast; somewhere in the mass of rising mountains of Snowdonia to my left lay the beautiful Conwy valley and behind me, over the Llantysilio range lay the Dee valley. All my paths over the landscapes, an invisible line of footsteps lay before me, my journey made visible. to my minds eye.
I came from Llangollen to Welshpool to Llanfair Caereinion to Caersws, meeting plenty of good people along the way. There was Sarah in Langollen, Lou and Jen in Welshpool, helping me through my monster 20 mile day, Claire the couchsurfer who is becoming a friend, Pauline, Clive and Keri in Llanfair and Rebecca the walker to host me near Knighton.
I feel as if the theme of this journey is strong women - they're the kind I seem to meet. Women who are facing down an impending cervical cancer diagnosis (that turned out to be false), the recent deaths of mothers, of caregivers, of relationships, of self. Going solo, running businesses, renewing themselves after redundancy. Walking 1000 miles around the edge of Wales. These are the women of just the last few weeks.
Maybe it's the function of walking as a single woman. Partnered men can't invite me into their homes, it's not the done thing. So it's up to the women to do it. Or the whole ovarian cancer thing creates female solidarity. I don't know. I just see that I'm meeting plenty of women getting out there. And some are not. Some who are scared of cats. Or strangers. Or being alone. It's the brave ones that make the greatest mark on me though.