The road trip from the south coast of England to the west cost of Wales did have a purpose slightly bigger than driving through the countryside, the 12 hrs spent driving on the road would culminate a full-day hike through Snowdonia National Park.
Accompanied by 2 National Park guides, our hiking team of 20 set off on an overcast Saturday. For 6 hours, we trekked on farmland, through forests, and past abandoned churches. Besides the odd farmer herding his sheep, it was just us and the elements of mother earth. We saw nobody for miles.
When you’re walking through fields, with no immediate end in sight, your mind starts to wonder about all sorts of things. I’d been reading Lance Armstrong’s It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life on the drive to Wales and wondered what it felt like to be alone on a bike, in some of the most brutal of road and weather conditions, for days at a time. We walked past charred bushes that had been burnt the week before and sheep whose ownership was marked by spray paint on their backs. I tried to imagine a livestock auction, where a good sheep would sell for £30 and a prize ram, £10,000. Sometimes we were walking through valleys; sometimes we towered over the coast. I wondered what it’d be like working on one of the farms and not seeing another soul for days. The guides told us, sadly, that rural life here was starting to collapse. I tried to imagine what the National Park would look like one day, without tractors on the side of the road, without the farms and the livestock…
By the end of the 7 miles, when we emerged onto the road from someone’s backyard, I felt an air of satisfaction – I had experienced the genuine countryside and absorbed Wales, in vast proportions.