I was one of a large group of people today who met to celebrate Pete Bursnall’s life. It was very touching and fitting to see how much Pete achieved and how many people valued and loved him.
Close friends led the ceremony at the crematorium, raising a few laughs and remembering all that Pete achieved.
I want to explain how I ended up amongst those people.
I’d been fortunate enough to have been introduced to Wales by a passionate climber whilst I was still at school in the South East of England. I immediately felt at home in Wales and would try and work out how to make the journey without a family of outdoor enthusiasts. My parents were hunted by the same “black dog” (as Pete called his cancer) before the end of my teens. My mountain bike got me out of the house and away from some of the goings on that were associated with chemotherapy at that time. During that time I became good at hunting down little used bridleways and occasional footpaths in a wide radius about my house.
One hill walking trip I was camping at Garth farm at the end of Llynau Mymbr and had poked around in Joe Browns in Capel Curig at the books on the way back of the Glyderau. Its here that I “met” Pete first through his guidebook. I sat in the tent in the rain reading his book and realising that I had to ride in Wales. His writing was inspirational and fitted with my thoughts about what mountain biking should be. Biking created a pace and rhythm that I found incredibly therapeutic and this guy in the book could lead me around routes with simple narrative. Brilliant. So, invariably, trips to the hills ended up with a bike and so I started ticking off Petes’ routes.
I went sailing for a while, but always went back to Wales when I was in the UK and it wasn’t long before I settled in Wales and really started exploring South Snowdonia for myself.
I started working for the Welsh Canoeing Association (now Canoe Wales) and quickly bumped into Dave Bursnall. We were talking about the use of Wales for adventure tourism and Dave said “you should talk to my son Pete, he’s into tourism and building connections.” I called and met Pete at Snowdonia Active-a story about Petes love for the outdoors in itself. I was immediately impressed by the guy; his passion, his beliefs and his easy going nature. We quickly found ways to meet, chat about business, but generally chew the cud about a bunch of random stuff, always on a bike. Walking into our house for the first time he heard my wife retching and just smiled and shouted “congratulations!” down the hall-he knew morning sickness when he heard it! A family man through and through! As always humour like this found its way on to Pete’s blog-“Blog 42”.
I was fortunate to spend a number of days with Pete researching new mountain bike routes. Falling off, being laughed at by Pete, laughing at Pete and getting to know how each others mind worked. During these rides I learnt about a number of people he knew and loved. Pete had an effortless way of making everyone feel part of his team.
We went canoeing once with Pete’s Dad, his daughter Noni and son Owen and my eldest daughter, Ciara-there may have been some Cherry Bakewells too! Seeing three generations of the Bursnalls out was terrific to be a part of. Seeing the family effortlessly enjoy the Dwyryd was a memory I will cherish, always.
I learnt that day why Pete was so good at influencing the tourist industry when it came to adventurous activities. He was be able to tell stories to the guys about calmly packing his paraglider after a horrific crash in the Glyders-calling a mate to collect him because things weren’t bad enough to get the lads out from Mountain Rescue (despite lots of broken bits). Or his ability to bike up and down loopy steep hill side, some would call him extreme. However, Pete could and did use those skills to allow anyone to enjoy Snowdonia.
His illness never stopped him until the very end, he never complained. He was fearless or if he had fear he had a good control of it. He had drive and passion and a never ending love of his Family and his homeland. Pete always gave pertinent counsel, something that was raised during today. We often talked work/life balance-something Pete seemed effortless in the way he achieved. His goals, energy and passion were combined and used in efficient and productive ways that have created a legacy few will achieve with more years in the saddle; something I will always be inspired by.
After the crematorium a group of us rode back to Plas Menai for the food and a yarn. It was brilliant to see Owen, wearing his Dad’s yellow jersey riding at the head of the peloton spinning along, hopping off curbs and weaving through his Dad’s friends.
I know Pete would have been especially proud of all his family today as he always was.
Pete talked me out of coffee and onto “hippy tea” so every day starts with a reminder, after today though, I learnt he even talked people out of eating meat, so perhaps I got off lightly? Then again I hadn’t planned to publish this blog, but Pete inspired change.
I feel truly lucky to have known Pete and will miss his physical presence greatly.
Pete leaves his wife Aila, children Owen and Noni and parents Chris and Dave to whom I send my deepest sympathies.