President’s Challenge: The Walking Weekend

28 June 2022, Julie Barratt, CIEH President

A photograph of participants on the Wales Coast Path

A photograph of participants in the President’s Challenge Walking Weekend including CIEH President Julie Barratt and CIEH Executive Director of Policy and External Affairs, Debbie Wood.

After all the planning, number crunching, booking and route marking, the CIEH President’s Challenge Walking Weekend was over in a flash. From mustering on the campsite in the evening of Friday 17 June to drifting off at various points on Sunday 19 June, 25 people and four dogs in various combinations walked a total of 18 miles around the actual Wales Coast Path with the actual President and had a ball in the process.

On Friday night we all shared a three-course dinner prepared, transported and served with aplomb by Debbie Wood, Executive Director of Policy and External Affairs and maker of excellent ragu and pasta, who issued various threats about what would befall me if I if I didn’t mention the excellent catering.

On Saturday the campers were joined by the Air B&Bers and, predictably after a week of glorious sun the big event of the weekend, the long walk on Saturday, was completed in light rain, some slightly heavier rain and some really pouring down rain, but we dried off in the afternoon and even managed to crash the Atlantic College Summer Fayre and had lunch sitting on the lawn of that esteemed establishment listening to the live band and taking advantage of the food stalls and other facilities, notably the high gothic ladies toilets which we ladies visited to admire if not to use. We walked along the Wales Coast Path from Llantwit Major to the Nash Point lighthouse getting some views across the Bristol Channel of North Somerset and North Devon all the time serenaded by skylarks, of which there seem to be an abundance this year. The highlight for me was being within ten feet of a peregrine falcon perched on a post which we all looked at with slack jawed awe while it watched us with mild disdain, but hung around long enough for even the slowest of us to get organised and take its photograph.

Fortunately, given the weather conditions, Elaine Clark had secured the use of a Coleman shelter, which we were able to position between vans so that all of us could get into it for the barbecue on Saturday night. Having initially looked like it might be a wash out, there was a 20 minute break in the rain and we managed to get everything cooked before it started to rain again. Chris Brereton proved that he is not just a CIEH Vice President but also an accomplished BBQ chef and marshmallow wrangler. It’s a relief to report that we had no mentions of any illness after 48 hours, so we can conclude that everything was cooked properly! It was actually great to be sitting around just chatting about the walk, where we were from, where we were walking, who had got to what point in the walk as well as a host of other no walk and non-work related stuff. I was pleased to meet people I only ‘know’ though the walk and through their Facebook pictures and really delighted to meet partners and dogs who weren’t doing the walk but had come along just for the social walking.

Sunday was a shorter walk along the Colhew Valley in significantly better weather which finished with lunch at the Old Swan Inn in Llantwit Major, sitting outside in the sun.

I’m not sure which was greater, my enjoyment of the weekend or the relief that it all passed off without incident or injury, but the general consensus was that it was a great weekend. If we use as a performance indicator the number of times the phrase ‘next year’ was bandied about I think we can claim it was a success. I’m very grateful for the support and for the huge effort that people made to come. Thanks to Stuart and Julie and Loki the dog who came from Dover and get the long distance traveller award with Stuart coming within a few miles of finishing the walk over the weekend (he now has, well done to him) to Tessa and Alan who came from Surrey and did what we did but in reverse, to Debbie and Carmel and Ian the rookie campervanners, in Ketchup the hired red campervan, Chris and Sally Brereton, Ruby the Red Fox Labrador and Ziba the supermodel saluki, Paul Mee and Fiona Kinghorn who joined us for the walk on Saturday, Gill Dicken with Percy the camper van and Simon and Elaine Clark, co-conspirators and organisers and bringers of both the Coleman shelter and Pepper the dog both of which were great for different reasons.

As I said from alarmingly early in the weekend the phrase ‘next year’ was being bandied about, in the ‘where shall we go’, ‘I’m looking forward to it already’ and ‘we would definitely support it’ sense. Another President's Challenge Walking Weekend presupposes another President’s Challenge for 2023 which brings me to my final thought. This challenge, the Wonderful Wales Coast Path raising money for the equally wonderful Trussell Trust closes to entrants on 31 July. That still gives people entering on that date seven months to do the walk – stacks of time. If you fancy the challenge sign up here or if you don’t want to walk but would like to support the great work that the Trussell Trust does you can donate here. Or if you prefer you can spend the seven months thinking about taking part in next year’s challenge and gearing up for the challenge and the Walking Weekend to come.

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