At the age of 32, Ursula Martin was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Treatment was drastic but effective and Martin found herself out of immediate danger. Years of worry, scans and check-ups lay ahead, however, so Martin sought a way to ‘make an unpleasant and restrictive experience more tolerable.’ She determined to walk from her home in mid-Wales to her hospital appointments in Bristol. From this core, an even more ambitious odyssey emerged: a 3,700-mile trek, over 17 months, around much of Wales, taking in the mountains, the rivers and the urban sprawl. Martin would raise funds for charity and spread news of the symptoms of ovarian cancer along the way.
The journey was tough, with Martin’s feet being the most conspicuous victims, but she also encountered many ‘moments of splendour’. Many people were kind. Though wild camping was Martin’s standby, she received offers of a bed for the night from complete strangers, and the owners of one caravan even threw in an Indian takeaway and a £20 donation. Not everyone was quite so cheery, and some people, assuming Martin was a little unhinged, stared at her ‘as if they’d never seen a sweaty woman wearing a gigantic rucksack before.’ This was ‘undermining and irritating’ but there were always pheasants, lambs or bluebells to raise her spirits and well-deserved rewards. En route from Snowdon to the Gower, after 11 hours of slogging through strong winds and hail, it was good to bump into the Mermaid chippy. Healthy nutrition was usually Martin’s rubric, but this was a time for ‘a meal of comfort’. Such sustenance helped Martin through her captivating journey of self-discovery, during which she saw ‘five hundred sunsets from a sleeping bag’ and tried to ease her ‘tender and nervous brain’. Martin’s book may sometimes ramble, but at its core is a frank and inspiring account of how to pick yourself up after being knocked down.