We woke up in Shelly and James’ house once for the third time. These two have been incredibly nice to Caitriona and myself over the last few days. We both woke up thinking that today was our last day. A few weeks back I had decided to terminate the swimming section of this adventure at Newnham (where I finished yesterday). So today involved a walk from Arlingham (opposite side of the river than Newnham) to Severn Beach. I estimated that the walk would be about 45km (oh how I’d be wrong).

We started off with fresh legs and full of enthusiasm. Today was the day that this 17-day long adventure would end. It had been an exceptionally tough adventure at times for Caitriona and myself. But here we were, 17-days later, with our heads held high and rearing to cross this finish line together once and for all.

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Caitriona has been the backbone of this adventure

After a few hours, we were arrived at our first obstacle. The Severn Way path was blocked by angry bulls. We had no option but to detour around them. As if this day wasn’t going to be long enough, we now had to add a few more kilometres onto our route.

At about the 10km mark for the day, I noticed the first symptoms of the infamous ‘Severn Belly’. I got ‘Severn Belly’ while I was swimming in the River Severn a few weeks before the start of this adventure. I said to myself, “Oh crap, your in real trouble here”. I was sweating more than normal, my stomach felt sick, I was light headed and was feeling faint. I was quite worried at this stage as I knew we still had about another 40km to walk.

At about the 21km mark we stopped off at Sharpness, in order to have a quick interview with Geoff Dawe. Geoff works for the Severn Area Rescue Association (SARA). I met with Geoff numerous times whilst preparing for this River Severn swim. I knew how dangerous the final stretch of the river is, so needed some help with the planning of this section. Geoff very kindly passed on all his abundance of knowledge of this area of the river. He told me that, “no one can stop you swimming it, but the closest thing it will resembles is trying to cross a motorway with a blind fold on”. When you speak to someone like Geoff, you get a full appreciation for how powerful this river is.

Geoff told Caitriona and myself some of the horrifying stories of late, where people have died in this section of the River Severn. He said on average he pulls out 6-8 bodies every year. He spoke about the devastating impacts he has seen on the grieving families. Thanks to Geoff, I decided not to attempt this last section of the river. In a couple of days, myself and Geoff will be releasing a safety message about the dangers of this section of the river.

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Wreckage on the riverbank of the ‘Noose’

Just as we left Sharpness we could see the two Severn bridges in the distance. The weather turned very wet, windy in cold in the blink of an eye. We still had a good 30km to do, and it was already 4:30pm. I didn’t want to tell Caitriona at the time, but I knew that we had underestimated this day, and we probably wouldn’t make it there this evening. But for the time being, she didn’t need to know that, we simply had to just plough on for another few hours.

Bridges in sight

It came up to 8pm, and we were about 10km or so from the first Severn bridge. The Severn Way path decided to take a massive detour around, and it was at this point, that I had to stop. I was gritting my teeth for hours, but enough was enough. My body was in turmoil, and my sick stomach certainly wasn’t helping the situation.

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We were soaking, cold, and it was getting dark

I told Caitriona we had to stop. She was fuming. She wanted to keep going. I explained that we wouldn’t get there until about midnight, in the pitch black, freezing cold, we had no head light, no rain gear, and we were both wearing wet clothes. Unfortunately we were going to have to finish this adventure tomorrow. We were both gutted. We had planned on being back in Cardiff this evening, but it wasn’t meant to be.

We now had a serious problem on our hands. Our car was a 45-minute drive away. We were in the middle of nowhere. My legs had seized up. We were soaking wet and I was shivering. This was starting to turn into a horror story. We walked up to a town called Oldbury-On-Severn and found oursleves the only inn within miles I’d say. I asked the girl behind the counter could see give us a room. “I’m sorry we are fully booked”, she said. I then asked her to ring us a taxi and she came back and said “they are all fully booked due to a wedding”. I was trying to keep my composure in an effort not to panic Caitriona, but I don’t think I was doing a very good job. We were both seriously worried at this stage.

I got desperate and asked a few people could we stay in their houses. They all said ‘No’. I kept on asking, as I knew it was our only hope. A group of four people stopped their car, when I flagged them down. Looking back I don’t know why I even asked them, becasue their car was full, but I was so desperate at this stage. They stopped and talked to us for awhile, trying to help us, but couldn’t think of anything. Then the driver said he could drop us to a B&B about 15-minutes away, but one of us had to hop in the bout of the car. I knew that “one person” had to be me. So in I went. A first for me and a surprisingly comfortable experience actually.

Once they dropped us off, I could barely get out of the bout. My legs were fully seized now, and I was walking with straight legs, as if my knees didn’t work anymore. There was a depressing feeling around us as we thought we would be back in our apartment watching some Breaking Bad. Instead we still had more of this River Severn adventure to complete tomorrow for the last time.

If people would like to donate, you can do so by visiting my Just Giving page, it’s really simple to do. All monies will go directly to Motor Neurone Disease Association.


Start Location: Arlingham
End Location: Oldbury
Distance travelled: 40km
Exercise Duration: 12hr:00mins
GPS Track: //connect.garmin.com/modern/profile/RossSwims

Day 17 – River Severn Adventure