Y ‘Swimhiker’

Byddai sgwrs gwrtais rhwng gwirfoddolwyr, sy’n clirio sbwriel ar Gamlas Abertawe, â cherddwr y llwybr halio pob tro yn cynnwys y cwestiwn, ‘Pa mor bell ydych chi wedi cerdded?’ Pan fydd y sgwrs yn digwydd ar ein camlas ni, nid ydych yn disgwyl yr ateb, “o Landudno, tua 175 milltir i’r gogledd”. Ond dyna’r union ateb a gafodd Sharon a fi gan heiciwr wrth i ni gymryd hoe o lusgo chwyn y gamlas ychydig i’r dde o Barc Coed Gwilym yng Nghlydach. Peter Hayes oedd y cerddwr, gwarbaciwr brwdfrydig ac, fel y darganfyddais yn ddiweddarach, nofiwr dewr iawn. Hwn oedd y deuddegfed diwrnod o’i daith o Landudno i Fae Rhosilli er, gan ei fod yn gorfod teithio ar drên o’i gartref yn Durham i Ogledd Cymru, dyma’r trydydd ar ddeg i ddweud y gwir.

Dywedodd y byddai’n cerdded i Abertawe ac yna’n parhau ar hyd yr arfordir i Fae Rhosilli lle byddai’n nofio. Tynnais lun o Sharon a Peter ac yna cychwynnodd ein hymwelwr unwaith eto ar hyd lwybrau’r camlesi, afonydd a beicio i Abertawe. Cefais fy nghyfareddu gan ein cyfarfod a chan fod gennyf ei enw ac enw ei dref enedigol, gwnes ychydig o waith ymchwil. Mae’n amlwg bod Peter Hayes, yn Uwch Ddarlithydd mewn Hanes ym Mhrifysgol Sunderland ond, yn fwy diddorol fyth, ef yw un o’r grymoedd y tu ôl i’r cynnydd ym mhoblogrwydd ‘Swimhiking’. Yn syml, mae hyn yn golygu eich bod chi’n dechrau cerdded a phan fyddwch chi’n cyrraedd afon, llyn neu gorff o ddŵr, nid ydych chi’n cerdded o’i gwmpas ond yn nofio ar eu traws. Anfantais fawr o’r fath yma o deithio yng nghefn gwlad yw bod gennych ddillad gwlyb iawn, yn ogystal, wrth gwrs, y risg o foddi. Arweiniodd hyn at rôl ganolog Peter Hayes yn hanes ‘Swimhiking': Dyluniodd y ‘Swimsac’. Sach deithio yw e yn y bôn, gyda thu mewn ‘waterproof” (i gadw dillad yn sych) a sachau arnofio ar gyfer cydbwysedd a dosbarthiad pwysau. 

Yna dechreuodd y jyggernaut ‘Swimhiking’ ennill momentwm yn Ardal y Llynnoedd, lle mae digonedd o ddyfrffyrdd a llwybrau cerdded. Erbyn 2005 roedd Peter Hayes wedi creu’r her ‘Round Frog Graham’, rhediad/cerdded 40 milltir gyda nofio gorfodol ar draws y pedwar llyn mwyaf Cumbria. Roedd Peter bellach yn ‘Swimhiking’ dros ran fwyaf o Ogledd Lloegr, ac aeth ymlaen i ysgrifennu llyfr am yr holl ‘swimhikes’ yr oedd wedi’u cwblhau, dan y teitl ‘Swimhiking in the Lake District and the Northeast of England’. Heb fod yn ddigon hapus â hynny trodd ei sylw wedyn at Ewrop ac mae ei gyfrol ddiweddaraf, ‘Swimhiking in Britain and Europe’ nid yn unig yn gyfrol hynod o ddoniol ac addysgiadol ond hefyd wedi ei ddarlunio’n hyfryd gyda mapiau dyfrlliw o’r llwybrau. Rwy’n meddwl y gallwch chi ddyfalu pwy beintiodd y rheini. Ydy, mae Peter Hayes yn ddyn dawnus iawn. Efallai y gallwn edrych ymlaen at weld hanes ei daith o Landudno i Fae Rhosili yn ei lyfr nesaf.

 PeterHayes1

The Swimhiker

A polite conversation between canal volunteers clearing duck weed and a towpath walker will invariably include the question, ‘How far have you walked?’ When the chat is taking place on the Swansea Canal you are not expecting the answer to be Llandudno, some 175 miles due north. But this is exactly the reply Sharon and I received from a sunburnt back packer as we took a break from drag-forking the canal weeds just south of Coed Gwilym Park in Clydach. The walker was Peter Hayes, an enthusiastic backpacker, and, as I found out later, a very intrepid swimmer. This was the twelfth day of his journey from Llandudno to Rhossili Bay although, as he had had to travel by train from Durham, where he lives, to North Wales, it was technically the thirteenth.

He said he would walk into Swansea and, then continue along the Gower coast to Worms Head where he would swim in the Bay. Sharon and Peter posed for a photo and then he set off once more along the various footpaths towards Swansea. I was intrigued by our meeting and, as I had his name and that of his home town, I later did some research. Peter Hayes, it turns out, is a Senior History lecturer at Sunderland University but, even more interestingly, is one of the instigators of the rise in popularity of the outdoor pursuit of ‘Swimhiking’. Put simply, this means you start walking and when you reach a river, a lake or body of water, you do not walk round it, but swim across it. The great disadvantage of this approach to rambling is that, apart from the risk of drowning, you have very wet clothes. This led to Peter Hayes’ pivotal part in Swimhiking history. He designed a Swimsac which is basically a ruck sack with a waterproof interior for clothes, and flotation sacs for balance and weight distribution.

The Swimhiking juggernaut then started to gain momentum in the Lake District, where waterway and footpaths are, of course, ten a penny. By 2005 Peter Hayes had created the Frog Graham Round challenge, a 40-mile run/walk with a compulsory swim across four of Cumbria’s larger Lakes. Peter was now ‘swimhiking’ most of Northern England, and he went on to write a book about all the swimhikes that he had completed, entitled ‘Swimhiking in the Lake District and the Northeast of England’. Not content with that he then turned his attention to Europe and his latest book, ‘Swimhiking in Britain and Europe’ is not only a very funny and informative volume but also beautifully illustrated by water colour maps of the routes. I think you can probably guess who painted those. Yes, Peter Hayes is a very talented man. Perhaps, we can look forward to seeing an account of his route from Llandudno to Rhosilli Bay in his next book.

Martin Davies

Cymdeithas Camlas Abertawe, Swansea Canal Society