Day 6 –Newport to Chepstow
The day started with a bit of a panic when I woke up to find no sign of my hosts Ryan and Laura and seemed to be locked into their house with no way to get out. After a few panicked phone calls, Ryan appeared and explained that he normally only got up very shortly before he left the house. He dropped me off at the Red Wave where I waited to see if anyone would turn up to walk with me today. I checked with Anita who was once again going to provide vehicle support later in the day; she confirmed that no one was due to walk with me so I set off shortly after. The morning was bright and sunny as I set off out of Cardiff, heading east up Christchurch Road which involved a bit of a climb for the first stretch. I had a brief chat with one passer-by who thought that I had come from Sunderland (confusing me with the Leave supporting march that is being organised there later in the month.) He turned out to be an Iranian immigrant who surprisingly seemed to have very strong views about Brexit, most of which seemed to hinge on the loss of sovereignty and not having a say in things. He annoyed me at one point by suggesting that of course I must have been paid to walk from Swansea to London.
A little further up the hill, I bought some food for lunch and got out my hat to protect my head from the sun. I stopped near the crest of the hill to talk to a reporter from a media organisation who wanted to arrange a pre-recorded interview for radio later in the day. At the top of the hill, the road levelled out and headed on to cross over the busy M4 motorway. A continuous drone of traffic noise was obvious for a considerable stretch along this road. I stopped for a mid-morning break at a viewing area on the edge of the village of Christchurch which is another one of the hidden gems that I have discovered on this trip. There was a wonderful view out over Caerleon and the surrounding area from the picnic area where I had my snack. I then walked through the village which consists of a church, pub and a few houses to follow a minor road which cut across the golf course associated with the Celtic Manor resort. I got a different rear view of the hotel building which is a conspicuous sight for westward-bound drivers on the M4. At this point I realised that I had left my hat somewhere but decided that I did not have time to go back to look for it and would do so in the car after I met up with Anita later. After crossing over the busy A449 and climbing another hill, I descended down a slope to join the A48 where Anita was waiting with some food and drink.
After having a quick lunch in the car, we retraced my steps of the morning to see whether we could find my hat. Unfortunately, there was no sign of my hat at the two places where I had stopped so it may have been taken away by someone else or dropped somewhere else. We stopped for a time in the car park by the picnic area in Christchurch so that I could do the pre-recorded radio interview with Global Media, a media organisation with an office in Cardiff. After this was over I set off along the A48 heading to Caerwent where I was due to meet up with a team for BBC Wales to record some material for television. This was another dead straight Roman road. The weather continued to be dry and sunny and felt quite spring-like. As I approached Caerwent, I could see the supports of the First Severn Crossing bridge, which I will be crossing tomorrow, rising about the trees in the distance. The Roman wall surrounding Caerwent is very prominent and I entered the village through what was formerly the West Gate, through which numerous people must have passed from Roman times onwards. Annie, who was to be my host for this evening, was waiting in front of the Church in the centre of the village and we both then headed to the carpark of the Coach and Horses where Anita, and Kevin (the media coordinator for Swansea for Europe) and a BBC Wales reporter were waiting (his cameraman having gone to a pub with the same name in Chepstow!). After a short break, Anita and Kevin joined me heading east to rejoin the A48 and to continue eastwards. The BBC Wales team did their interview and filmed quite a bit of footage of myself and the others walking along, on a straight stretch of road to the west of the village of Crick. This held us up for a while, and during some of the breaks whilst they sorted out equipment issues, I did an internet search to find out what the fenced site to the north of the road was. It turned out that this is a military establishment called the Caerwent Training Facility, previously called the Royal Navy Propellant Factory, where ammunition had been manufactured and explosives had been stored in the period from 1939 to 1993.
After BBC Wales had finished their work, Kevin headed back to Caerwent to return to Swansea, whilst Anita continued on with me to Chepstow, where Annie had offered to drive her back to collect her car at the end of the day. This was a much less pleasant stretch of walking than in the morning, particularly after a roundabout where there was a restaurant called the Indian Empire, with no pavement or verge along a very busy road. Nevertheless, we continued on and after climbing a final hill, we descended into Chepstow at dusk. We took a few photographs at the arch in the centre of town and then descended to the river where I ended the day’s journey standing in the middle of the bridge by the castle on the border between Wales and England. Amazing to think that I have now completed the Welsh leg of my journey. Although I have one or two blisters, I am feeling in much better shape than I thought I might be at this stage of the journey. Mentally the walk so far has been highly beneficial, as the physical activity, plus the lack of time and opportunity to listen to television or radio news programmes, has made me much less stressed about Brexit.
Today we covered 17.0 miles (27.4 km), starting at 9:00 and finishing at 18:20.
As I was walking on my own for most of today I did not have any official theme, so instead, I have chosen one which arose from a discussion during my walk this morning
My discussion with the immigrant, who I met on the Christchurch road shortly after I started walking, got me thinking again about what the word sovereignty means and how different people interpret it in different ways. In a strict sense, I would interpret it as referring to the powers of the sovereign (“a supreme ruler, especially a monarch”), however, checking the dictionary I find that it has a broader meaning, namely: “the authority of a state to govern itself or another state”, the sense in which it has generally been used in the Brexit debate.
In this context, I think that discussions about sovereignty should not assume that in the modern world any country (even North Korea, Venezuela, the USA or the Russian Federation) have complete unrestricted sovereignty over their affairs. Most countries are members of international organisations, such as the UN, the WTO and others, where it is recognised that decisions on certain issues should be taken jointly since the outcome of the decisions will be mutually beneficial. In the context of Brexit, this boils down to balancing the benefits and opportunities we gain from shared decision making, as opposed to having total control over everything ourselves. At one extreme is very close integration into the EU where decisions on a lot of matters are made jointly, and at the other is a situation where we have much greater freedom. However, thinking of sovereignty in this manner makes one realise that any form of a trade deal, or membership of a trade organisation such as the WTO, involves some shared decision making and hence loss of sovereignty.
The conclusion of my thoughts on sovereignty is that, in the modern world, it would be almost impossible for any country to have total control over all decisions that affect them, hence the Brexiteer dream of regaining total sovereignty is an illusion.