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Cardiff Character: Gareth Axenderrie

Gareth walked 1,164 miles around Wales in 2015 in aid of Velindre Cancer Centre who had previously treated his grandfather

Gareth is a politics and journalism student in Cardiff

Gareth Axenderrie, 26, stands outside the Senedd in Cardiff Bay. The Welsh Assembly building marked the start and end of Gareth’s circuit of Wales on foot. He followed the Wales Coast Path to Wales’ northernmost beaches before returning via the Offa’s Dyke Path. He also climbed Wales’ three peaks – Cadair Idris, Snowdon and Pen-y-Fan – covering 1,164 miles between 8 June and 29

August 2015.

“I was hospitalised. That set me back six months while I built up my strength again.”

The idea came on a rainy afternoon at the office. “There were no customers,” says Gareth, “I’d stacked the same shelves three times. It was boring. We received a delivery of Welsh Coastline leaflets. I picked one up and looked at the Welsh border, thinking, ‘I wonder how long that’d take to walk.’” He smiles. “A quick Google search later I’d decided.”

Getting off the ground

People told Gareth he was mad. “The one person who responded positively was my grandad. He said, ‘I’d have loved to do it if I was your age.’ That was the only affirmation I needed,” Gareth says.

There were setbacks. On one training expedition Gareth contracted food poisoning, returning home early. “It turned into something quite bad,” he says. “I was hospitalised. That set me back six months while I built up my strength again.”

“I’d like to go overseas as part of a team. It was incredibly valuable to learn how to be alone, but being part of a team, that’s what I’d love to do next.”

Gareth discussed the most memorable moments. “When other people got involved. I was on my own for 90% of it. I’d speak to cows, sheep, myself,” he laughs. “But when a local in the pub chats to you, and all of a sudden everyone in the place is your friend, that’s amazing.”

Climbing Pen-y-Fan with friends and family was another standout moment. “People make places. A pub could look sketchy – if the people there are nice there’s nowhere you’d rather be.”

Present day

Gareth, a journalism student in Cardiff now, grins when asked about any future plans. He says, “I try to get into the Beacons between deadlines and essays.

“I’d like to go overseas as part of a team. It was incredibly valuable to learn how to be alone, but being part of a team, that’s what I’d love to do next.”

Gareth may have swapped his walking boots for trainers but he still visits the Brecon Beacons when he can

Velindre Cancer Centre was Gareth’s chosen charity. He wanted to repay them for treating his grandparents. The final sum raised was near £7000.

“Finishing at the Bay was undoubtedly the most emotional moment,” says Gareth. “I hadn’t seen my grandad. I hadn’t heard him on the phone – he’d lost his voice because of throat cancer while I was away. At that point I just wanted to get home.

“At the finish he was the first person to greet me. A massive smile on his face. Everything was worth it in that moment.”

His grandfather passed away at 91, a month after Gareth’s return. “My grandma says, for those last months, the thing which got him through every day was reading my blog,” says Gareth. “I didn’t know the prognosis at that point. They had kept it from me. It’s amazing to know now that I was doing something of huge value for someone I cared so much about.”

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