Back in 2019 whilst sat at the bar in Tiny Rebel Newport I had just (briefly) got back into running after surgery and was keen to set myself a challenge and a goal for the future so wondered how far it would be to run the entire boundary of the county borough of Newport.
Over a couple of beers I plotted a rough route sticking to the border as best as possible along roads and public footpaths. The outcome? A route approximately 70 miles in length and around 5,000ft in elevation. Yep, that would be challenging.
At the time the plan was to get back into running, up the mileage, attempt some ultra marathons and attempt it in the summer of 2020 but as chronicled on my other blog, My New Bum, things didn’t quite go to plan.
Fast forward to 2021 I now feel as though I could attempt it. Since starting up again in May 2020 I have completed in a training plan with Adam Holland which culminated in a half marathon PB and a huge marathon PB. Over Christmas and New Year I competed in two 24+ hour challenges (a 24 hour challenge before Christmas and a 28 hour challenge over NYE) which helped prepare for what it’s like running through the night and then in February I completed a 44 mile run to Barry Island and back and ticked off 50 miles in a Last Runner Standing race.
Whilst I wouldn’t be able to complete it now, I feel as though I’ve got a good base of distance running and if I follow a 20-24 week 100k plan I should be in a position where I’d have a good shot at it.
The aim is to follow the county boundary as close as possible whether it be on road or public footpath. as we’re fortunate to have so many footpaths a route can be plotted quite close to the boundary but where it can’t it’ll either come just inside or just outside.
The planned route is going to start and finish at the iconic Transporter Bridge and would head in an anti-clockwise direction. Heading east the route would follow the Wales Coast Path along the Severn Estuary until it reaches a sewage treatment plant and passes the county border near Redwick. It’ll then head north towards Magor and taking a detour to Llandevenny and around the brewery to follow the county border. There is a path that follows the border to the line but a recce a couple of years ago proved tricky with a very overgrown path so the detour along the busy A4810 will be a better option.
The route crosses the M4 motorway and heads north passing Penhow Castle, briefly following the A48 and then climbing up through Wentwood – the first big climb (~900ft). At the Cadira Beeches car park it bears west a fire trail to the edge of Wentwood. To get as close to the border as possible rather than exiting on the south end of Wentwood there’s a detour north and beneath the A449 to take the Bulmore Road back to Caerleon. There is a shortcut through the Celtic Manor golf course which is open to the public but it’s not guaranteed to be open so will be avoided.
The route heads away from Caerleon following the border and then passes through Penhow and past another sewage treatment plant. The border takes a path that’s not easy to directly follow so when it cuts south halfway along Malthouse Lane we’ll need to continue into Llantarnam and then head down to the top of Malpas where the border is rejoined.
Leaving Malpas the route is a mix of country lanes and public footpaths through fields and passing by Henllys church and through Craig y Merchant wood eventually reaching Risca. Risca is just outside the border so the route skirts around the south of the town to Ochrwyth and another climb. The route follows a portion of the Sirhowy Valley Walk but thankfully doesn’t go as far as Machen Mountain instead dropping down to Draethen and joining the Rhymney River Circular Walk.
At the south portion of the Rhymney River Circular Walk the route leaves it and continues beneath the M4 and over the A48(M) and past St Mellons towards the coast. The border juts out a little towards Cardiff so requires a run along Broadstreet Common road just to join the Wales Coast Path and double back. It’s nice and flat from here along the coast until the route ends back at the Transporter Bridge.
Total Distance: 71.5 Miles / 115 km
The route contains quite a mix of terrain with flat trails along the Wales Coast Path, numerous country lanes and the occasional busier road, forest trails and lots of fields. Running the route in the summer shouldn’t pose too much of a problem in terms of muddy routes but it’ll probably be best to wear all terrain shoes rather than road or trail.
My Knowledge of the Route
Over the years I’ve ticked off many parts of the route, possibly 80%+. I’ve run all of the Wales Coast Path section, both west and east of Newport, the Magor, Wentwood, Caerleon, Ponthir, Malpas, Risca and Draethen sections but there are many sections in between that I’m unfamiliar with. The plan over the next few months will be to fill in the gaps so that I’m as familiar as possible with the route and particularly the terrain and any issues with paths.
A Chance for a FKT?
Has anyone ever run the entire border of the county of Newport? I’m not sure. Whilst plotting the route I didn’t encounter a blog post about someone walking a similar route but haven’t been able to find it again so perhaps nobody has run it yet. Based on that, could I set a ‘Fastest Known Time’ to complete the route? Obviously any time would be the fastest but would be great to be the first to complete a route.
This week signals the start of a 20+ week block of training following a 100k plan which should hopefully be suitable for the route. The first half will involve a mix of speed and hill work and plenty of slower paced runs gradually building up to more mileage each week. Having followed a plan last year I’m really looking forward to having more structure to my running and having something to aim and look forward to.