home

From mid-April to July 2013 I walked the complete periphery of Wales, over a thousand miles: starting in Cardiff,, following Offa’s Dyke through the borderlands, then along the Wales Coast Path, and back to Cardiff on my birthday.

The walk was a personal journey, but also a technological and community one, exploring the needs of the walker and the people along the way.  It was not the first circumlocution of Wales (see walkers section for others), but it was unique in its technical, social and theoretical aims.

Although the walk is now complete, the project continues.  In particular I often give talks based on aspects of the walk and am still writing and collating data.  During the walk I collected for three charities: MHA, The Wallich and Tenovus, and the fund raising pages for these are still open.

This ongoing project addresses a dual practical and academic agenda:

  • To explore through personal experience the IT needs of the walker with particular focus on the use and limitations of mobile technologies in areas where mobile phone coverage is at best patchy.
  • To work with local communities in order to understand how IT might address their needs, and if not, what fundamental challenges this raises for research.

Both of these are continuing, I would love to hear from: (a) other walkers, if you have experiences you would like to share, or would like any advice or help; and (b) anyone in  along the way who would like to explore how IT could help their communities.  I would love to help then develop partial, prototype or fully functional solutions, in collaboration with research partners across Wales and the UK.

In addition, there were secondary aims:

  • To act as a living lab for research groups to experiment in areas such as body sensors, ubiquitous computing, and mobile infrastructure.  I carried a number of apps and devices, some more successful than others.  I wore a number of bio-sensors and the data form these, together with GPS  traces, audio,image and text are available in the data section.
  • To offer talks, seminars and workshops at universities, schools and other venues, before, during and after the walk itself.  Most of the talks have been in academic or university settings (as far afield as India and Germany as well as multiple places in Wales and the UK).  However,I would love to also talk to communities, businesses or schools, both to share my own experiences and learn from yours.

Finally, walking has a rich philosophical, political and personal history, so, as well as the community and technical agenda, I also created a more reflective written and audio blog, as a precursor to a subsequent book.

54 thoughts on “home

  1. Hi Alan,
    Hope this amazing walking living lab goes well?
    We’re developing technology for walkers and cyclists to facilitate the use of our camping pods. Would you be interested in testing this? We have a MorphPOD on The Glyndwr’s Way, near Felindre, Knighton not too far from Offa’s Dyke if you are interested in staying in?

    • I took at peek at your web page, the pods look so cool 🙂 I love watching George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces, and this is in the same vein.

      I’d love to test one out. Looks like Knighton is closest point to Offa’s Dyke from Felindre, but 10 miles away, so will need to see if I can make transport work. Aim is to be around Knighton weekend of 4/5 May.

      I’ll drop you an email and see what we can work out.

  2. We assisted a guy in 2011 who did the same walk on a mobility Scooter, he raised £15k.

    If we can be of help with local publicity please get in touch.

    In the meantime best wishes for you walk.

  3. Good luck Alan. See you on the 18th for a chat and coffee… Maybe a cake or two. We will ask the South Wales Argus to do an article for you and it is a shame you could not stay with us as we are a lighthouse B&B with hot tub on the roof! Never mind.. Another time. x

    Danielle and Frank Sheahan
    West Usk Lighthouse B&B in Newport Gwent.

  4. Your project sounds amazing. Later on in the year there is a charity event that is also walking the whole of the coastal path. The charity aims to raise £1M for Combat Stress and the Welsh Guards Afghan appeal. The aim is also to remember the Welsh Guardsmen that have fallen in battle since WW2. I was wondering if there was anything we could do to assist each other. We could advertise each others projects. Perhaps we could do follow up research for you?
    Thanks Andrew

  5. Hi Andrew, sorry for long delay, lost where I’d seen your contact! I’s already seen Walk on Wales and have you on my ‘walkers’ page 🙂

    I’ll drop you an email and can talk further.

  6. Hi Alan, saw your item on the viewranger website, you must let me know when you are up in the north, would be great to met up

    Steve

  7. Hope the project goes really well. It sounds very interesting and worthwhile. I would be keen to talk to you about what you are doing and also what you learn during your trip. What you are doing interests me because I am the main contact at NRW for the National Trails in Wales (and you will be doing two of the three during your walk), and I am keen to make sure that information we provide about the NTs and other promoted routes has the right contents and is in a format that is helpful to walkers. We are also keen to make positive links with local communities along the routes. It would be great if you could get in touch. Hope it all goes really well.
    Best wishes
    Jo

    • Sorry for delay in replying Jo, comment got buried and not often had WiFi along the way.

      I am now 1/3 of the way round, Offa’s Dyke NT completed and now half way round Anglesey … I complained occasionally about the Offa’s Dyke signage (especially those confusing ‘Walk With Offa’ signs near Knighton)!! But now having seen North Wales and Anglesey, I can say Offa’s Dyke does very very well! I guess this is partly high standards for NT and partly that OD has been around a long time, so more years to sort out confusing signage etc.

  8. Hi Alan – it was great to share the journey from Monmouth to Pandy with you today. Did we ever stop chatting! Good luck with the rest of the journey especially your trip over the Black Mountains to Hay. Don’t forget to explore the use of the Welsh language as you go along and finally don’t lose your glasses! Let me know when you are in the Newquay area as there may be a chance of meeting up again.

  9. Alan – just remembered – you have my permission to use any audio files or pictures which feature me – no problems

  10. hi Alan hope your walk is going alright and the sausage rolls were a helpful additional energy source. Enjoyed our chat the other night. see you Thursday. regards Malcolm

    • very belatedly catching up!! Yes the sausage rolls made a really great start to the day form Monmouth to Pandy. I was completely bowled away by the warmth of the welcome at Monmouth, yourself and everyone else there, an absolute high spot of the walk.

      When I first saw you I was still a newbie, but I am now 1/3 of the way round, and looking like an old weatherbeaten sailor 🙂

  11. Hi, Alan. I’m a PhD student in digital media at Bangor, and for my research project I created a new heritage website / virtual museum for Anglesey. I’d love you have a look, especially on a mobile platform as you walk. Please let me know if it helps!

    The bigger idea is to decentralise heritage interpretation, to create a wider audience for heritage by opening up the discussion via social media, Comments, volunteer curators and UGC.

    • that’s great. I’m due to visit Bangor on 16th or 17th May … I need to confirm exact day/time with Eben Muse and Thora Tenbrink. I’m doing North Wales by camping at Llanfairfechan and then taking train back and forth and walking between stations, so reasonably flexible.

    • Susanne, just realised I’d been through bangor and not connected … it has been harder keeping on top of things digital as I have been walking than I had imagined 🙁

      I’d love to hear about more of your work though.

  12. Hi Alan

    do you have info on what tech you are looking into?

    my brother is about to do one of those centurion 100mls in under 48hrs! so would be useful for him

    good luck with your journey

    mark

  13. Best of luck we met you on the coastal path near cemaes bay Anglesey today 20/05/13 ,,,,,Raymond &Vinnie….

  14. Hi Alan, so sorry I couldn’t make the Monmouth or Redbrook points, but very glad to be able to to read these posts and follow your progress.
    If you want a little diversion, you might like to see I Went to Howardian in the 70’s/80’s website, at the posts titled New Photo. John Baldwin’s posted some photo memories including one with you on the Scholarship Roll board!
    Hope your legs and boots are holding out!

  15. aye, feet holidng together, although the flat bits from Chester on were harder work on the feet than all the up and down of Offa’s Dyke

  16. Hi Alan,

    Hope the walk is going well, I see you’re up on Anglesey at the moment.

    We’re unable to run the talk in Lampeter on June 26th, but would still love to bring you to look at our Roderic Bowen archives when you’re near Aberaeron – around June 19th. Please let me know whether this would fit into your plans.

    It would be great to organize a larger gathering in Swansea in July, at our other project hub.

    Katie

    • both sound great 🙂

      I’ve just finished anglesey and off to caernarfon today, so on schedule, although getting less non-walking time for writing etc., than I’d hoped and internet connectivity … well I knew it would be a problem, but …

      • Hello Alan

        Katie has passed me your message. Thank you for agreeing to meet with us on the 19th June. We would like to arrange to bring you to the Lampeter campus where we will invite you to view some manuscripts and ancient maps from our Roderick Bowen archives. We would also like to provide hospitality to you and it would be great to know if you have any particular food requirements. Whatever time is suitable for you we will fit in with. Could you update us on what time you would like us to pick you up and from where. We are really looking forward to meeting with you.

  17. Hi Alan

    Said a brief hello last night when you came to the Ty’n Llan in Llandwrog. Like to wish you well with your trek and research.

    Euryn Owen

  18. Hi Alan,
    You were my external examiner for my FYP for the Interactive Media Masters in the University of Limerick (2010) I did the Google Bike thingy! Anyway,

    Very best of luck with this, I am only catching up on the project now and it sounds wonderful, Practical and technical so I cant wait to see how it continues 🙂 Thank you for sharing and very best of luck 🙂

  19. Hi Alan

    How is it going? Remember us, Ray, Lynn and our Yorkshire friend Paul. We spent the evening at Pandy and met up several times before you headed off to France (such a problem) for a week after Kington. We completed the Offa Dyke in good speed. Weather was great. Had a trilp to Bulgaria afterwards for 8 days.
    It was good to meet you along the way. Hope your hiking is going well as you trapse around the Wales coast.

    • How can I forget the three dykers!

      I have just hot 3/4 point mark, just before crossing the waters at Milford Haven (hopefully using bridge), so just 250 mies to go!

  20. It was really great meeting you too Alan. Thank you ever so much for dropping by to Lampeter. Your insight into the interactions of people, technology and environment was highly enjoyable.
    Best of luck with the remaining two-fifths of your journey!
    Roisin

  21. Hi Alan, thanks for the mention in your blog (Newgale to St Brides). My own blog ( http://kimswoodart.blogspot.co.uk/ ) has several images of the item you saw at Shirley’s gallery including a couple of images while it is still just timber coloured on the lathe.

    While I have not met any lady woodturners I certainly know of a few in the UK who are frequent posters on various woodturning forums.

    • Thanks Kim, the images on the blog are lovely. I was trying to explain to Fiona just what they were like, a lot easier wuth pictures.

  22. wow, legendary!
    thanks for sharing, and congrats on the beautiful nature of your country, and the great ideas you are working on.

    Matteo (Italian living in Slovakia, lover of nature and passionate admirer of constructive ideas useful to humankind’s best expression of itself as grand, magnificent and Good-at-heart species)

  23. I wanted to add an observation, from my heart, which I forgot about before, if you let me.

    Looking at those fantastic pictures I cannot not notice the thought that comes to my head, when I think of how beautiful those places are even, and especially because technology doesn’t reach there. And that’s what makes them intrinsically healthy. Aren’t they as perfect as they are already? And aren’t they especially becase phones don’t work there, wifi waves are absent, one hopes, and noo sign of pollution whatsoever shows up?

    I’d like to hear about your opinion!
    Meanwhile, thanks for your work.

    Matteo

    • You are right when it is truly in the wild (although there is precious little of that in the UK), but when you are in towns and villages, lack of connectivity becomes a real problem. This is merely frustrating for me as a visitor, but damages life chances of those who live there. As an example, in a recent survey 50% of Welsh primary schools said that poor Internet connectivity was adversely affecting education.

  24. Can someone show Allen where Corus (now Tata) illegally built a large workshop over Footpath 92 at the Morfa Beach end of the path thereby causing an obstruction.

      • Yes that’s FP 92, but as Vance says, it has been diverted without the benefit of a legal diversion order, and now Tata want it closed altogether

  25. Hi Alan,

    I’m guessing that if you only had 39 miles to go on 21st July you will have finished walking by now, so well done – especially in this heat!

    Still working on the online exhibition – will let you know when it’s ready and maybe ask you to contribute an introductary paragraph…?

    Best wishes,

    Sarah

    • In fact the final day is fixed (returning to birth town on my birthday!), so VERY leisurely week from a walking perspective (but did talk at Swansea, visit to MHA in Penarth tomorrow).

      Really looking forward to the exhibition, and happy to contribute a few words, let me know what you need.

  26. Hi Alan, hope you are well….nearly a year now!

    I’ve had a bit of an idea and would be great if you could help.

    I’m looking to write a piece to blog or maybe pass to media about those who’ve ‘been around’ Wales.

    Would be wonderful if you could send me…..
    1. Image of best moment on the walk
    2. Image of best sight/location.

    And with a little information about both?
    I’d obviously credit you and keep you posted.

    Cheers!

    Will

  27. Hi Alan,

    I’m planning to walk the Wales Coast Path next April. Although I have many more questions I’ll be asking all and around different places can you give me an idea of how much you spent during your circumnavigation in total?

    Thanks for any help,

    Lloyd

    • The is certainly something I should add to my ‘report’ section.

      The costs will vary a lot depending on how you travel. I had a load of computer equipment, books, etc. because my walk was also a research trip. This meant that while I was not staying 4 star every night, it was certainly more expensive. Also if your timetable is more relaxed you will probable end you spending less per day (although of course more days), as it can be hard to find accommodation that fits with natural day-lengh journeys.

      My most expensive bits was when I was B&B-ing. In the southern part of Offa’s Dyke, my camper van (base vehicle) was in a campsite costing about £20 a night (even though I was not staying in it as north-south public transport is non-existent), I was paying £50-70 a night for a B&B wherever I ended up, £25-35 for my bags including computers!) to be sent on between B&Bs, and at least another £15-20 as I ended out eating wherever I was (and you do need to eat quite a bit to make up for calories burnt). That is about £120 a day.

      The cheapest days were when I could sleep in the camper and and travel too and fro to the start/stop place each day. For the North Wales I camped at Llanfairfechan, which is on the railway, so was able to take trains/buses back and forth, with a reasonable timetable, so was able to choose convenient start/stop places relatively easily, and there was also a reasonable number of places to get food (once out of Dee estuary). Here I was probably spending about £20 a night for the campsite, another £10 or so on fares (mage a little more for the furthest places, but less when close), and £10 for takeaway in evening (I could have cooked myself, but spent every evening and morning plugging and unplugging computers and writing!) and £5 for other food during he day. That is about £40-50 a day.

      Not all campsite days were so cheap as occasionally the lack of public transport, especially at suitable times, meant I sometimes ended up getting a taxi from the campsite to start point … even £50 one time on Anglesey.

      Will who was walking the same time as I was, was backpacking, would have just had tent-place at campsites (usually less than a tenner), and I think doing more camp-cooking; so I’d guess he spent around £20 a day, maybe less.

      I do have quite detailed accounts (as it was research trip I needed them for the taxman!), but the headline figure also includes things like leaflet printing, books, etc., so I need to break it down to separate actual travel costs from the other costs.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *