Tour de Vale

The Tour De Vale

A new project has sprung to life! The first ever Tour de Vale started on friday 28 July 2023. I shall explain. I decided a while ago I would like to play around with mapping some routes on google maps and earth.  I also like running. Merge the two and I came up with the idea of linking the settlements of the Vale of Glamorgan and running around them all. So I checked on wikipedia and pulled an arbitrary list of 73 places in the Vale I could link. I created a base map containing all these and then overlaid a series of loops - or stages - linking each of the settlements. the loops were to be runnable and a minimum of 10 miles and the longest 20. I could use roads, public footpaths and bridleways - It has to be public access. It was actually trickier than I thought to create routes which didn't cross each other and got me to each point in the most efficient way - without using any major roads such as the A48 (at least for any length). But eventually I came up with 9 loops of varying lengths which would allow me 9 stages to  complete my journey and visit every settlement in the Vale.

The map above shows all 9 loops along with approximate distances - google earth is pretty accurate but even so I have to allow for slightly innacurate mapping on my part plus as I have learned planning is one thing but no plan survives contact with the enemy and there is no way each route will be perfect or even possible on the ground - I may need to change on the fly while I'm actually out there running them. But that's all part of the fun! The total distance as you can see is around 142 miles which is why I chopped it up into loops - Not quite up to running that in one go yet.  

You may have also noticed that the loops all touch each other at one point at least - this means that I could feasibly link them in the future and became part of the design process - When I need to do loops further from home (the first two are possible from my front door) I will drive to the start point of that loop - which is where I will have passed through before and then leave the van and do the loop.

Loop Two - Llantwit loop - 4/8/2023 - Youtube vid

Exactly a week on from loop one I stepped out on a warm but cloudy day for loop two.  This one was to take me east from my front door towards Llantwit Majot before moving inland through some villages and back around in a similar direction as I returned on loop one.  Its the green loop on the above map.  As usual I found myself doing a good pace to start off with - don't we all?  But again I found that the closer I am to home the less I feel that I was on a project as I know the area so well.  So I trotted through Marcross for location one and moved onto St Donats. I actually had a choice here and I could have added to the mileage by taking the coastal route as the map above shows or stick to the road.  I decided that efficiency was key as I was concerned about just how hot it was going to get as when the sun was out I was overheating a little.  Although I want to experience running the whole of the Vale there are limits and I figured a path I know like the back of my hand is no real loss. As it was I was looking at another 17 mile day and had no idea again what some of the route would actually be like - By the end I was glad I made the decision as things never get easier the further you get from your known trails!

I pulled into Llantwit and was amazed to find crowds lining the streets but alas they were not for me but rather a brass band parade as the local RAF camp is closing down.  Sadly I completely screwed up my videoing at this point so I missed the entry to Llanwit and the band too - I stopped to watch them go by - why not?  So that was a disappointment when I came to review the videos later. Apparently if you use the quick filming button on a gopro (which i invaraibly do) and press too long it creates a timelape instead - so although I have footage its just speeded up clips. Ah well I can't turn back the clock so the footage is lost. But as I am forever saying - onwards!

From Llantwit I headed for Boverton and then turned to go inland for Llanmaes, this was where I hit the first footpaths of the day and the initial navigation was easy, I followed my phone from point to point and learned some nice new paths.   These footpaths weren't the greatest to run on though - mainly straw and field stubble but I made it through to Llanmihangel and was feeling just fine. I was enjoying the day, the sun came and went and I was eating and hydrating well, I'm very lucky that i can tolerate real food rather than just gels as it makes the whole thing more enjoyable.

I managed to navigate a few tricky unsignposted lanes to Siginstone and then set off across the fields for a trip to Llanblethian - Looked easy on the map and on the phone but after a few easy stiles they just disappeared.  I've looked since but I have no idea how I went off the path or even if I did. I ended up wandering around fields and meadows desperately trying to find a way out of a veritable maze of fields. It's easy at these times - and I have in the past - lost my temper and berated everything including myself when things go wrong. When you are hot, a dozen miles into a long run and you feel like you're wasting energy and time going around in circles it is indeed frustrating but I'm learning that this is all part of the game and the harm is minimal if you don't panic, don't over exert trying to get out of the situation and put yourself in energy defecit and don't let the mental stress drag you into a downward spiral. In the end in this case I spotted an escape route via a farmers yard, it certainly wasn't part of the route or a footapth but I could see a way to get to the road via a couple of gate hops and providing I wasn't savaged by a farmdog I would be able to get back on track. This is part of this poroject that I'm really enjoying, it was similar to the Preseli Dipdab where the whole thing was as much about thinking and working things out and through rather than just straight running from point A to point B. yes it's much slower and it requires effort but I'm finding it is a skill to be developed like any other. And part of that skill is the mental toughness to not crack when things aren't going your way.

So once on the road it was a fairly easy run through to Llanblethian which I discovered was perched on some rather steep hills - I didn't expect that either. Nor did I expect it to be so hard to navigate through - once again what looks easy on paper isn't so easy when you're on the ground. But after some good old fashioned power hiking I left in good spirits and trotted over to Llysworney which was actually the  last village on this loop. There were still probably 5 or 6 miles to home but how hard could they be?  I was actually running really well at this point and happy to put in 9 minute miles on tired legs as it just felt fine to do so. Eventually the road led to a track which led to a field which led to another field of 6 foot high corn on the cob plants - the path simply stopped and there was no choice but to hack my way from one side of the field to the other. I've checked since and indeed the path is just gone. That was a fun and hot few minutes of swearing I can tell you. But once I popped out onto the road I was back where I hit the trail on week one to get home via Llandow - efficiency now being key I took the route I know - and this meant not grabbing the electric fence this week. But After a couple of enjoyable miles to end - mentally I could switch off once I knew the way. I popped into the Star for a well deserved pint before heading home (this is the last loop which begins and ends at home so no more pub visits at the end!)

Final stats were 17.04 miles with 1112 ft of elevation loss and gain and it took 3 hours, 40 minutes and 41 seconds at an average pace of 12.57" /mile which considering the day I'm very happy with. Again I had a blast just running around, exploring and generally having fun - which just goes to prove you can still have fun on an imperfect day.

Youtube Vid

Loop One - Ogmore loop - 28/7/2023 - Youtube video here

It was with quite some excitement that I stepped out of my front door on friday July 28th at 11.38AM.  I would say the weather was ok for a long run, a bit humid with a good chance of showers. But could have been worse so I was lucky there.  The first loop started on familiar ground and as the first location was where I live I instantly had Broughton in the bag followed a minute later by Monknash. Two down 71 to go!  The next however was Southerndown a few miles away and so I set off along the cliffs and into my new adventure.  I was carrying full kit as per ultrarunning but a change of footwear to the Dynafit 50 to see how they went on longer runs. I was using the Dynafit pack that is working so well and also took poles and 2 pockets of food and 2 bottles of water.  I was prepared and the only thing I wasn't loving was the humidity. I was sweating buckets right off the bat.  

Still I soon cooled off just before Southerdown when it absolutely hammered down and I actually wore a jacket for the next 4 or 5 miles as I passed through Southerdown and then Ogmore which were locations 3 and 4 in quick succession. Now I headed inland along the Ogmore river before hanging a right up the valley to St Brides. This was my first deviation from the plan, I spotted a footpath I hadn't noticed before and I wanted to see if it led where I thought it would. Maps on my phone was telling me good things so I took it, this I regretted briefly a few minutes later as it led to a deadend - I missed the stile to turn off but that is part of the joy of this project, exploration and having fun. If I wanted to just run 20 miles I could do loops around my home village and never get lost - or have much fun.

So a quick refuelling stop in St Brides shop for some fresh water supplies, some chocolate and sweets - I was treating myself, why not, its not every day you're setting out on an oddessey!   St Brides was location 5 and I passed through and up onto the common where I saw some cows that looked like giant pandas (really) and then headed down towards Castle Upon Alun but found that the path I wanted was overgrown and I couldn't be arsed getting my legs torn to pieces by hawthorn so I went the slightly longer route over the old Roman road.

This is where disaster struck - or nearly disaster I should say. I know the rocks on that path are slippery, I've used it enough in the past to know but I wasn't prepared for quite how slippery.  I barely touched one rock and instantly lost both legs literally horizontally meaning I came down full force on my right hip. I actually had my poles out at this point and looking back it meant that I couldnt hit the floor with my hand as the pole caught and held my hand up. A mixed blessing because my hip took the full brunt but I suspect that if I had tried to break my fall instinctively with my hand i'd have been looking at a broken wrist. I lay there winded for a few seconds and then got up and carried on. I have no idea looking back how or why I did this. I actually started filming again less than a minute later. It was almost automatic as if I believed that if I got up and moved it hadn't happened. It certainly had as my hip was extremely sore and I was covered in dirt. It simply appears I knew that nothing was broken and decided to run the injury off.  It just still strikes me as odd even now that I didn't take time to check myself over, get myself together and walk.  At this point I was much closer to home than my route would take me otherwise and really the sensible thing to do was to call it a day there and get home and rest it up but as the video shows I was even saying that I was as far out on the route as I could be - when i was clearly not as I was running away from home and would do so for another 10 miles or so rather than the 2 miles to get home from that point.  So I'm either stupid, tough or just plain stubborn and I know which I lean towards.

After this I immediatly came to a fallen tree in the lane which I had to crawl under - the Gods were laughing at me now, followed by two really steep hills up followed by a really steep hill down. the down was now worse due to the hip.  I did however continue onwards and just gritted my teeth and ran as well as I could to Ewenny and then Corntown so 6 and 7 were ticked off. Then I realised the map actually took me slightly the wrong way and as I had just bagged Corntown I could cut a small section off on my way to Llanmaes - A blessing at the time and a realisation that the routes I had designed may be more guidelines in places - as long as I hit each settlement it didn't matter how I got there.  And this is where my lack of knowledge of this area combined with really bad phone signal cost me - I couldnt follow the maps on my phone and I wasn't 100% on where I was going which is a lesson i need to learn - don't rely on tech. A route may look easy on paper (or google) but doesn't look the same at ground level when all lanes look the same. However I got myself through Llanmaes then Colwinston for 8 and 9 and then a slight cockup as I missed a stile to Llandow which meant i had to cross a field of young cattle to rejoin the path. The cattle were fine - what i wasn't expecting was the electric fence across the public footpath right in front of the stile. You may enjoy that part of the video but only watch if you you don't mind excessive swearing.

Fromn there things looked up as I passed through Llandow (10) and then into the fields headed for Wick (If you do follow this route it is not a private road out of Llandow towards Wick no matter what the signs say - It's a public footpath and another example of landowners trying to prevent access to the public through misinformation (which admittedly isn't as painful as electric fences). Just as I was approaching Wick the Gopro battery was dying so the timing was good but not as good as where I popped out into Wick which was location 11 and the last of the day but it was also right next to the Star Inn which  serves Gwynt Y Ddraig cider - how could I resist!

So the final stats were 20.33 miles with 1800 feet of elevation loss and gain  and it took 4 hours 44 mins and 29 seconds (not including pub stop)  It was a good day despite the fall which meant the second half was much more painful than it would have been and as for electric fences, getting lost and stung - well that's all part of the game!

Youtube video of the day is here