On Saturday we hit the £500 fundraising target that was set to determine whether or not I would be walking the Wales coastline dressed as a rhino. I am so grateful to everyone who has donated so far and everyone who helped us hit that target. I went to bed feeling grateful for the support and excited for the challenge ahead.
On Sunday, I began to feel overwhelmed by the challenge. Realising just how huge the challenge is and considering how crazy it was to think I could do it dressed as a rhino. I’ve realised a challenge of this nature is very difficult to plan and the reality of this was dawning on me. Could I really just show up and hope for the best? This started as an idea in January, it’s an idea I loved the thought of and I began to plan it and figure out if it was do-able from the beginning of February and now not only had I announced it but I would be starting the 1,400km walk very soon.
As I sat there feeling all these fears and questions bubbling up, I checked the weather for the week and saw the following few days were set to be wall-to-wall sunshine. I threw some clothes into a bag, grabbed my fresh out of the box rhino costume and drove 5 hours up to a friends house in Liverpool. Why? Because on Monday morning I wanted to start the Coastal Path challenge and stop the overthinking in its tracks. What’s the use in sitting at home and going over it in my head? I can do this, I can absolutely do this dressed as a rhino, even if it’s crazy.
On Monday, Katie joined me for the day and we headed to Chester. We made our way from the train station to the start of the coast walk. The goal was to walk the 20km from Chester to Flint. The walk began with a very straightforward 8km alongside the River Dee, this route was surprisingly busy with cyclists and walkers and provided a great opportunity for some chats about my choice of outfit and the cause I was walking for. The smiles and support so early on was very encouraging. The only negative of walking along a straight cycle path along the river was that there was nothing around to gauge distance so at times it felt like we were hardly making any progress at all as the views remained almost exactly the same.
Just past the 8km mark the walk crosses a bridge and then mainly follows the roads, although we did end up back next to the river for another kilometer further down the route. We struggled to find and follow the Wales Coast Path signs once we were away from the river’s edge so there is a good chance we ended up creating our own route for part of the day. At least walking alongside the road dressed as a rhino provided us with some entertainment. Each car that passed us brought with it new reactions… Some people waved, some beeped, almost everyone smiled and a few just looked utterly bewildered. The only downside to walking next to the road, particularly on the main road leading to Flint was the dust that was kicked up by the large trucks. Not quite the fresh coastal air we had in mind that’s for sure. The last 4km were a struggle, the soles of our feet were sore and walking alongside the road did not provide the most exciting or stimulating surroundings. Even once we passed the “Welcome to Flint” sign we had another 2 kilometers or 30 minutes to walk but when we finally made it to Flint castle we were thrilled.
After a much needed shower (I already understand why people don’t wear full one-piece costumes for hikes) and a good nights sleep I woke up ready to hit the trail again. I was facing this walk alone, fortunately my feet did not feel as sore anymore and I felt ready for the day ahead. I started at Flint castle (where we ended the previous day) and I followed the more obviously signposted route. This time the walk was far more coastal and had beautiful views almost continuously.
There were even a couple of look out points and several pieces of artwork including the “Big Flintshire Guardian” which is a solider made of timber looking out towards Hilbre Island.
As well as an impressive locally made jubilee dragon beacon that stands proud in Bagillt.
The sun was shining throughout the day and the route was relatively quiet, but the people who did cross my path couldn’t resist stopping for a chat. “That’s a funny outfit to wear hiking!”
Towards the end of the hike the route hugs the main road which meant I could get a new lease of energy from all the people waving and beeping at the rhino walking along the roadside! As the sun was setting, I completed the 20km walk and it was no surprise that I finished the day with sore feet and some well-earned blisters.
These first few days have given me a good idea of what to expect and have allowed me to think about the kit I need to make the walk even more effective, spreading the message of rhino far and wide. To be honest, I can’t wait to get back on the trail in my rhino outfit.
I think the first few weeks of this challenge are going to be the “toughening up” part where my body gets used to the long walks and carrying a rucksack of camping gear and food. I’m so glad I’ve completed the first 40km of this hike and I’m very excited for the remaining 1,360km!!! Head over to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/coexistwithrhinos to support this walk and follow @coexistwithmeg for updates.
With love & gratitude,