It is six years to the day since I set off on a three month challenge to walk the perimeter of Wales. It feels like a lifetime since I took those first steps from Cardiff Bay, heading west on the Wales Coast Path, not to return until 83 days later.

While I would love to reminisce on the people met, food eaten and inlets visited, this article is not about me. Instead, it is about a feat we now tend to take for granted; one that showed how Wales can be world leading and truly radical.

Just about 870 miles long, the Wales Coast Path runs along our coast from Chepstow in the south, to the English city of Chester in the north.

Opened on May 5, 2012, it was the first of its kind in the world, creating the opportunity to literally walk every step of Wales’ perimeter on a waymarked path when joined up with the Offa's Dyle national trail.

To really take that in, we must pause and reflect on just how awesome it is. A footpath, waymarked with a shell and dragon tail logo, running right around Wales where the land meets the sea.

The US may have the Appalachian Trail, New Zealand may have Te Araroa, Spain may have the Camino de Santiago, but none of them have a continuous footpath around the perimeter of their country.

The National Wales: Head to any footpath or beach on the Welsh coast, and you will see the coast path markerHead to any footpath or beach on the Welsh coast, and you will see the coast path marker

Of course, such a feat does not simply happen overnight, nor was it always an inevitability.

As with all coastlines, where land meets the sea is varied and complex. Coast paths already existed in Pembrokeshire, Ynys Môn and Ceredigion, but there are more than a few obstacles that needed overcoming.

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In the south east you have the Gwent levels and the second largest tidal range in the world. In Port Talbot, a massive steal works that runs to the water’s edge. On Ynys Môn, Wylfa, a now-decommissioned nuclear power plant.

All projects begin with an idea, and it takes pioneers to turn that into a reality. When those pioneers sat down and looked elsewhere in the world for inspiration, they found that in order to deliver the coast path, Wales would have to be the first in the world. Unperturbed, they pushed on and succeeded.

There are still a couple of spots along the coast where the path does not hug the shore, but they are few and far between. That is testament to the cooperation of a multitude of different stakeholders.

Then, once the path is complete you have to manage it. Season after season, paths must be repaired, signposts replaced, spring overgrowth cut back. The path must also be accessible to a broad range of people with varying needs and abilities.

The National Wales: Chepstow to Chester, the path attracts people from across the globeChepstow to Chester, the path attracts people from across the globe

It is managed by Natural Resources Wales and no fewer than fifteen local authorities that contain a coastline. Two national park authorities also play into path maintenance and development. Collectively, they have a shared aim, they work together, and they deliver.

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Finally, there is the funding. In a nod of personal appreciation to successive Welsh Governments, they have continued to fund it, and in doing so, they have put Wales on the map.

In 2015, I met people from countless different countries, some walking for an afternoon, some walking the entire way around. They chose Wales over any other country that summer because we had done something different. It was bold and it was brave. Build it, and they did come.

What we are now left with is something that truly is Welsh, both figuratively and literally. You can stand on the coast in Rhyl, Trefor, Llangrannog or Kenfig and you are on the same path. Add the world renowned Offa’s Dyke national trail, and you have the infrastructure in place to circumnavigate Wales by the most primitive means possible: walking.

The Wales Coast Path is a constant reminder of what can be achieved when we work together and think outside the box. When you head to the coast this summer and you see that dragon’s tail appearing from a shell, see it as a reminder that Wales can achieve things nobody else had even dared trying.

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