I'm inspired by the Wye
When things go wrong as they sometimes will,
when the road you're trudging seems all up hill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest, if you must, but don't you quit.
Excerpt from the Poem: Don't Quit by Edgar A. Guest (1881-1959)?
Lets face it life is full of unexpected twists and turns and expeditions or long journeys don’t always run smooth. Indeed, they can run into extreme challenges, which require shear guts, determination and staying power if the traveller is to move forward and ultimately reach his or her objective.
The same applies here with Paul and Mark the guys behind the 'Wye Explorer' project becuase put simply things weren't always coherent at all. In their formative years they were talented athletes but like being in the midst of an unexpected storm they went from fit to floundering down and outs within half a decade. For the next 17 – 20 years they would be seen lay in the gutter often unaware of the world around them a far cry from athletic figures, clean poolside’s and the well run venues they once knew in the world of swimming.
Mark remarkably swimming in 2000 during a respite from the street life. It lasted 6 months and he was back.
Two places in Hereford where brothers Paul and Mark would spend their time over a 17 - 20 year period - The underside of a dual carriageway and a grave stone
Although rough they maintain
their friends had beauty - Link to image
Their feet, backs, guts, lungs, heads and hearts hurt like crazy and there the mess of life would make itself known as they fought over who was to blame. Being a real survival story it wasn’t pretty but mostly it was respite as lighter moments amid the wilderness creeped in allowing them to know that the outdoors was a real positive in life and know myth.
THE EARLY WHY EXPLORER
One birthday celebration their mother Pat asked them where they wanted to go. With no hesitation they suggested the source of the river Lugg. It’s a river they had spent hours swimming in when younger or staring at during recovery and it was also a river Pat knew as a child growing up on her parents North Herefordshire farm in the Lugg Valley at Dinmore. So off they went in 2008 to find the source, which turned out to be a great day on top of Pool Hill in the Radnor Forest.
Whilst there the idea of an event celebrating the outdoors came into view. Back home they couldn’t forget it and as the years past they were drawn back to the Lugg to walk the river from source, which they did in 2013.
Arriving at the rivers confluence with the Wye in Herefordshire they were greeted by two Kingfishers. One veered away from the confluence down the Wye whilst the other made its way upstream via the Lugg. Having spent 6 days on the river it was an awesome site, which brought into sharp focus the Wye and its other tributaries, which they rapidly felt like walking also as the discovery of the Wye now beckoned. They had just walked its main tributary and asked the question. What is the Wye really made of? It was here amid the two rivers that the Wye Explorer project came into being.
So off they went fuelled to know more. The Frome, Arrow, Honddu, Monnow, Ennig, llynfi, Edw and more came next and as they walked the high hills and mountains, found the sources of each, swam in places and explored the gullies, woods, meadows and towns of the Wye they began to feel it like never before as its intricate makeup appeared without distortion. Suffice to say their kit got better, their knowledge improved and their zest for life had, like magic, returned. Wye Explorer was turning out to be a life saver!
Things weren’t easy though because as you can imagine being former addicts their record in the jobs market was not good, well almost non -existent. Finding a job therefore, what with their reputation amid the town (Hereford) also, was tough. Out of 150 applications they would hear back from a handful (maybe 10) and always with a ‘sorry to inform you’ enclosed. They had to get something on their CV that was worthwhile and of real use to them and in their view it wasn’t going to be serving behind the counter of a charity shop although generally worthwhile and very good for some. You see their vision of life was different as it involved the outdoors, music and adventure. So they had to break the rules if they were to succeed.
Still with no offers of work they began to seriously put their energy into the Wye Explorer project. They certainly weren’t going to waste their time whilst on benefit. So they forged ahead with true grit and that spirit of adventure synonymous with non-quitters. But how were they going to fund the kit, the rations and the travel to the remotest parts of the Wye let alone the website on benefit? DWP were definitely not going to give them a grant to develop the website and open up this amazing river to other people who might be inspired by their efforts and sponsors wouldn't invest in people who simply appeared out on a lim. Boy it was tough but the answer was easy they would call upon an old survival technique and forage in the skips and bins of the city to save money.
Out nearly every night rooting through the rotten skips in dark corners of the city they would spend hardly any money on food and were able to put that aside in winter and go out every month or so during season. They felt tired, sick sometimes and desperate a lot of times but carried on exploring and adding content to a website and project they hoped would one day get noticed.
However, they were still under extreme pressure from the lack of resources, the projects isolation and their poor record and things did get really ugly. They were fighting to get out of a situation after years in the wilderness and as their SAS family would say: it’s ‘Who Dares that Wins. There were no plaudits coming in, there was no attention, no money, no status or clear prospects and no partnerships to speak of. But they knew that the test was to find the will inside regardless of what it looked and felt like and it felt miserable a lot of times.
Like a wall that you keep hitting it eventually comes down. They had been in the wilderness for twenty years almost, they were recovering addicts on the fringes of community, they had no job and it appeared few prospects of one but they had imagination, will and the determination to turn a passion into a project worthwhile to people, nature, regional tourism and the Wye. This wasn’t just a 1,000-mile journey to explore the Wye it was the transformation of two lives also that had taken to many arduous routes to explain or share here. It was a real adventure and a survival story that would see that wall come down.
Today as a result of their solo efforts and journey they have managed to get the support of world leading experts in the field of adventure, exploration and survival such as 'Ranulph Fiennes' who says: I have travelled a lot over the years and been lucky to see some of the remotest and most beautiful of environments but there is still a thrill in exploring our own back country. The River Wye is one of the UK’s most pristine and dramatic rivers. Exploring its ecology, its wider waters and its history is well worthwhile. I encourage anyone to support the Wye Explorer. It has my moral support and I recommend it as a highly commendable project
See Home Page for Photo with endorsement of the project
Pat & Mark on the Left near the source, the embryonic Lugg (middle) and Paul and Mark at the Lugg source in 2008
Mark on the Frome having picked up something additional - Black Mountains & The Monnow & Paul with outdoorsmen and friend Chris Loanwolf
Closer to home 'John Lofty Wiseman' best selling author, survival expert and former SAS RSM backs this up by saying: It’s very rewarding to see the River Wye receiving some recognition for all the joy and beauty it brings. I think that ww.wyeexplorer.co.uk have done a grand job of doing just this. The Wye is the main artery in Herefordshire and Mid Wales, creating a magnificent landscape wherever it meanders. The abundant wild life it supports is so diverse from plants, birds, fish and many other creatures making it appealing to everyone. Seeped in history it records the past and with this publicity can help to shape the future. Keep up the good work boys, you are doing a brilliant job.
Lofty (Wiseman) http://www.loftywiseman.co.uk/
We are hugely proud of both and eternally greatful for their support. Beyond the well known the project has of course received some encouraging words from friends and ordinary folk alike. For their thoughts go to People Support.
As athletic twins they stood out before but as down and out twins they became the ideal target for ridicule and bullying on multiple levels, which added to the complications making for two very desperate and depressed human beings. On the brink something had to give. They never forgot how fit and healthy they once were and whilst languishing in the filthiest of places they would dream of its return. As they continued tapping for money on the street, foraging in bins, recovering from brutal sessions and coming into conflict with a world that deemed them a
social disaster the split between this and their dream was agonising. It would not go away.
Throughout they found themselves amid the rivers, the meadows, the woods and the hills in recovery. Slowly but surely nature became a powerful source of 'conscious inspiration' and healing and it was here they would feel a sense of belongng and even acceptance as identical twin brothers because nature simply didn't discriminate. They wanted more of this good feeling and so with basic kit (heavy) they would go off on hikes and overnight camps into the mountains and countryside having to stop regularly on the way to catch their breath and rest. Twenty years of abuse had taken its toll and they were clearly out of shape and enamoured with the negative thinking that comes with such neglect.
The actual skips. Foraging - Surviving - Hunting & literally trying to keep a dream alive