Beginning in Conwy and continuing along the Welsh coastal path to Menai Bridge in Anglesey, day eight of the By Your Side walk across North Wales was to be one of the longest with a distance of 19.5 miles to cover.
It was also the first time that the walking group, (including a host of sixth form students from Ysgol Y Creuddyn), had encountered rain, now greeted with relief after the heatwave conditions of the previous seven days. Well wishers from Denbighshire building consortium – Garnett Hughes Developments also came along for the first section of the walk and made a generous donation to the cause.
As the miles went by and the town of Conwy receded into the background, the first real views of Anglesey and Puffin Island could be seen through the misty skies to the North as the column of walking and talking people snaked towards the town of Penmaenmawr.
Another flock of excited school children came down to join the procession at the beach cafe and to sing an accapella Love Hope Strength with Mike Peters and Welsh Opera star Rhys Meirion.
By now the rain had subsided and the old, yet still working quarry clock, could be seen to strike 11 o’clock as the team moved off once again towards the mysterious Penmaenmawr Mountain which translates as the Head of the Great Stone. A local guide Ron Watkins Jones was on hand with stories and local knowledge to ease the passing round the quarried mountain and stopping to point out the uncanny resemblance to Queen Victoria that can be seen in a strange outcrop of rock that rises up from sea below.
A welcome lunch break at Llanfaerfechan refuelled every one for the long journey around the Bangor headland that lay ahead in the far distance. The day turned into another fine afternoon and the group was overtaken by Betsi Cadwalader University Health Board Chief Executive Gary Doherty who was running a half marathon with some other runners to raise funds for the appeal.
A photo stop was called for alongside Bangor Pier as the backdrop looking east back towards the starting point at Flint Castle meant that for one of the first times in the walk the scale of distance already covered could be appreciated by all who had made each and every footstep so far.
A final push through the University City of Bangor and along the Menai Strait soon brought the magnificent Menai Bridge into view. The finish line was in sight and Wynn Evans the charismatic DJ from BBC Radio Wales was on hand to join them for the last few yards.
The By Your Side support cars held the evening traffic back and the procession of tired but elated walkers were able to cross the Thomas Telford built suspension bridge in the centre of the road and finally on to the Anglesey headland that marked the day’s final destination point.
Mike and Jules were then whisked off to the nearby athletics track where doctors, nurses and students were hosting a fundraising fancy dress ‘bed push’ competition. It was a tough knockout style challenge for all concerned, as teams had to push a hospital bed (with someone lying in it), for 400 metres around the track. The winning team had dressed their bed in the theme of Star Trek (including a mock spaceship), and all the team members were dressed like the crew of the Starship Enterprise. Mike presented the trophy to victorious team along with the prize for best dressed which happened to be made up of staff from the Alaw Unit where Mike receives treatment at Bangor Hospital.