He waited until darkness fell. In comfortable walking boots, warm clothing and a waterproof hiking jacket with the hood up, he shut the front door as quietly as possible and disappeared into the night. He travelled lightly, carrying only a small backpack of essentials, and moved quickly but methodically with focus and intent, zig-zagging through CCTV-free backstreets until reaching Roath Park. There he joined the footpath alongside the Nant Fawr and began following the stream’s meandering green corridor northwards out of the city.
From the cloudless sky a fat old moon angled shafts of pale beams along the path as he circumnavigated Roath Park Lake and slinked across Llandennis Oval. For reasons he didn’t really understand he paused momentarily to dip a finger in the ancient pond fed by Ffynnon Llandennis and dab the tepid water on his forehead. Slipping past Cardiff High School and Heol Esgyn bridge, he entered Woods Covert. Stands of hornbeam, hawthorn, oak, beech and alder rustled and sighed in the cool north-westerly breeze as he picked his way onwards through woodland clearings pungent with the smell of wild garlic, cow parsley and enchanters nightshade. Meadow grasses softly swished against his legs and somewhere in the distance a tawny owl crooned sonorous hoots from its lofty lookout.
At Rhydypenau Road he made sure there was nobody about before he stealthily crossed into Rhydypenau Woods. Leaving the silent, sleeping semi-detached suburbs behind him, he continued through dark coppices, marshy scrublands and moonlit paddocks before reaching the embankments of Llanisien Reservoir. Following the eastern perimeter up to Lisvane Reservoir, he stopped for a while at the viewing platform and gazed across the silver waters to the beckoning hills beyond. He looked at his watch. It was gone midnight. He must press on.
North of the reservoirs the footpath led him alongside hedgerows and damp pastures until it reached Lisvane Road. From there he accelerated via Church Road, Llwynypia Road and Graig Road through hushed and deserted Lisvane, wary of being spotted by cameras. Clear of the last houses, he crossed over the eerily empty M4’s scar of tarmac and followed the lane up the steepening gradient of Wern Fawr, remaining anxious about the possibility of any passing traffic. It was a slow trudge past the Tŷ Mawr pub before he could turn left off the road and get back onto a footpath. He breathed a sigh of relief. Now he headed due west along the ridgeway. A fox barked from the beechwoods of Transh yr Hebog and Cardiff lay spread out below him to the south, its lights twinkling through the trees.
On the bridleway at Craig Llanisien he sat on a rocky outcrop, took a slug of water and scanned the panorama. Flatholm Lighthouse pulsed through the blackness ten miles away out in the Severn estuary. Locked-down Cardiff squatted sullenly on the coastal plain, hushed and humbled under a vast, indifferent firmament of stars. He knew he was doing the right thing.
His resolve fortified, he continued westward. The soft hues of early dawn were beginning to exude from the east as he reached the ruins of Castell Morgraig. Here he set up a rudimentary bivouac using tarpaulin and groundsheet, secluded and hidden between boulders and a stump of ancient wall. All was going according to plan: move at night, follow old tracks and footpaths, try to do ten miles, sleep by day, get to the destination in a fortnight. His own body temperature rapidly generated cosy warmth within his sleeping bag and, totally exhausted by physical and mental effort, he was soon fast asleep.
A woman hiking on Y Mynydd Du with her dog came across the body four months later. Badly decomposed, emaciated and pecked at by crows, it was squeezed into a crevasse on the flanks of Carreg Lwyd north of Brynaman. The Swansea coroner determined the likely contributory causes of death to be starvation and hypothermia and noted that maps and notes found in his possession indicated that, for reasons known only to himself, the deceased was trying to walk from Cardiff to Ogof Crisial at the southern end of Clawdd-y-Milwyr on Penmaen Dewi. He had walked more than 60 miles, but his target was still at least 60 miles away. The coroner recorded an open verdict.