We first saw the two walkers from our vantage point overlooking the storm beach at Pwlldu Bay on the south Gower coast. The surprisingly sunny October afternoon found us in Tee shirts and walking trousers and boots. The walkers were dressed from head to foot in dark Gore-Tex gear, as if they had recently walked through unkind weather. Their heavy-looking rucksacks also suggested that the man and woman were undertaking part or all of the coastal path around Wales. In any event, they walked rather slowly: perhaps they had covered a long distance that day.
We sat for a few minutes more, enjoying the autumn sunshine while it lasted, until thoughts of cake and tea brought us to our feet to set off along the coastal path back towards Caswell Bay, some way to the east of Pwlldu Bay.
We encountered them again a few yards along the path; they had not got very far in all the time we had been basking in the sun. They were both rummaging in their rucksacks just off the path as we passed them. We recognised this apparently mundane activity, something that A and I have engaged in very many times during the past few decades during the various long-distance walks that we have completed in the UK.
At length we arrived at our accommodation and set about cutting slices of cake and making a pot of Jasmine tea. A had barely taken her first sip of the golden-coloured liquid while she stood at the French widows that overlooked the smaller beach at Caswell Bay.
“There they are, walking even slower. They’re crossing the sand,” she said.
I could just make them out making very slow progress across the wide expanse of the bay exposed by the low tide.
“I don’t know what to do,” she added. “I’m worried about them. I think she’s limping.”
“What do you mean?” I said.
“Perhaps I could offer to drive them somewhere. I’m going down there.”
A put her cup on the table.
“I’ll come with you,” I suggested.
“No. One busy-body is enough.”
“They can’t have got far at that rate,” I said. “If anything, they will be a bit further up the path to Langland Bay.”
The door closed behind A, leaving me wondering how long she would be and what she would find out. I wondered if her admirable concern harked back to the day when her ill-fitting boots halted her progress at Goring while we walked the Ridgeway a few years ago. She had battled on that morning without complaint, but as I walked behind her – the path wasn’t wide enough to walk side-by-side – I could tell that she was in pain. I threw the offending boots in the bin when we returned home after we reached the end of that long-distance trail.
A knows what it is like to be in severe discomfort while covering long distances. I could easily understand her concern about the couple she had gone to find.
A’s cup of tea had become stone-cold by the time she returned.
“I found them at Caswell Bay. They’ve finished today,” she said. “What a relief. They’re waiting for a bus to Swansea, then a train home.
“They hadn’t got far then. What did you say to them?”
“Oh, something along the lines that I saw them and wondered if they were okay and that I could give them a lift if they needed.”
“Was there anything wrong?”
“The woman has pulled something in her hip.”
“Hence the really slow pace then?”
“They’ve walked along the coast path from Fishguard.”
“Fishguard! That must be 100 plus miles. Further than we ever did on any trail.”
“Wild camping along the way.”
“Ooh, that doesn’t sound nice at all,” I said. “You did a very kind thing today,” I added.
A smiled briefly. “Can I have a fresh cup of tea please?”
Our world and our lives in it have been particularly beset with troubles for the past two years. Perhaps acts of kindness can help to cancel out some of the tribulations that lean in on us.
My publication earlier this year ofThere Was A Soldier is available at Amazon by clicking or tapping on the book’s cover image below: