Tuesday, 13 May 2014

South West Coast Path - Day 10

The magic of the SWCP disappeared for me when the sea on my right became estuary and the hills ahead levelled out. The path between Braunton and Westward Ho! will bring variety to the longer distance walker but it is not a route that particularly appeals to me.

So after a semi-idle day in Barnstaple today, I'm heading back to Minehead by trains and bus tomorrow and will make my way home on Wednesday.

I've covered modest distances hampered somewhat by a dodgy left knee. I had treatment for it earlier in the year when for a time I wasn't able to walk at all. It seems the knee needs more time or treatment to mend.

There are inspirational words by Charles Kingsley in his "Westward Ho!" which make me want to pick up this path again from there ...

"To landward all richness, softness and peace; to seaward, a waste and howling wilderness of rock and roller, barren to the fisherman and hopeless to the shipwrecked mariner."

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Monday, 12 May 2014

South West Coast Path - Day 9

Sun 11 May - Braunton to Barnstaple.

Cyclists!! I could fill this page and more about them today. But I won't because there wouldn't be a kind word anywhere and it'll do no good.

The five and a half mile route from Braunton town centre to Barnstaple follows the former railway once used by the Atlantic Coast Express. It is also a public footpath, a National Trail (SWCP), a Recreational Trail (The Tarka Trail), and it's the tarmac'd National Cycle Network (NCN) Route 27. Regrettably, MOST cyclists use it as their own with special disregard for pedestrians.

I now need a plan, to change the plan that I don't really have. The 10 mile route ahead to Bideford is almost wholly NCN 3 and I don't want to risk another day spoilt in the same fashion as today.

I'm spending the day in Barnstaple where there is much to explore, eat and drink. There will be time to review my options.

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Sunday, 11 May 2014

South West Coast Path - Day 8

Sat 10 May - Woolacombe to Braunton

I'm carrying the AZ Adventure SWCP 1:25,000 OS Map which is a strip/booklet map. Book 1 covers Somerset and North Devon in a very handy size because it fits nicely in the smaller Ortlieb weatherproof holder. It's easier to turn pages on a wet and windy day (as it was at times today) than it is to refold a sheet map, and it's lighter too.

A map is a must of course but it also creates greater interest of the surrounding area. However, signage on the SWCP is excellent.

Here in North Devon some finger posts even have a small engraved plate displaying the grid reference of that location.

The nature of the path varies according to the geology. Noticeable differences today are the sandy beaches, sand dunes and broad grassy hill tops -  not many of those though. Over the 15 miles of this section there is only 1225 feet of ascent. (Did I just say "only"?)

I probably walked nearer 12 miles having taken a short cut, avoiding a southern loop down to the estuary of the Rivers Taw and Torridge. Another good reason to carry a map.

[Image: Looking back towards Woolacombe Sands - through the rain]

PS. Will reply to comments when network availability more favourable.

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Saturday, 10 May 2014

South West Coast Path - Day 7

Fri 9 May - Ilfracombe to Woolacombe.

Today's route was about seven and a half miles. With just over 2,000 feet of ascent it's graded moderate and strenuous and it took me nearly five hours - the hills and a pub off-route at Lee slowing me down among other things, as well as conversations.

A lone walker's walk is not necessarily a lonely one. There are remote stretches on this path giving rise to solitude but, in fine weather at least, there tend to be opportunities for conversations along the way.

Today was typical; chats with two separate dog walkers, a long discussion with a lady sowing wildflower seeds in a border outside her garden wall, and several other interesting, and just as important cooling down periods whilst passing the time of day with others. Including the lady at the Woolacombe Tourist Information who phoned around and booked my b&b for the night.

That was good news. The weather forecast wasn't/isn't good and a night under canvas wasn't appealing.

There are lots of eating places here in Woolacombe (locals call it Wooly) and I have successfully fueled up. Off to bed now, hopefully for some peace and quiet.

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Friday, 9 May 2014

South West Coast Path - Day 6

Thu 8 May - Day Off

A wet and windy day in an English seaside town doesn't always present a pretty picture, in fact it can look quite miserable. But the sights weren't foremost on my mind today; I fancied a break from routine and my nagging left knee needed a rest, and Ilfracombe has provided both.

Despite not having "a plan", I do have to consider where best to finish up on Wednesday 14th in order to get back to Minehead on Thursday. If I maintain my current average daily mileage then I'll make it to Westward Ho! where transport connections seem favourable.

Off I go then.

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Thursday, 8 May 2014

South West Coast Path - Day 5

Wed  7 May - Heddon Valley to Illfracombe

Food has been a major feature today. And a pattern is emerging with breakfast. Easygoing in nature for a start. I can recognise the look of relief when I immediately agree to the suggested meal time. "Half eight Sir?" "Yes please - that's good for me." Rather than barter for an early getaway.

And I've been taking my time consuming fruit juice, tea, cereal, fried egg (two in Lynton), bacon, grilled tomato, toast and other bits. Before heading down Killer Lane this morning, mushrooms and fried bread were on my plate as well.

I made good time to Combe Martin (8 miles?) and felt reinvigorated after delicious Broccoli & Stilton Soup at The Harbour Deli. So in high spirits I decided to make it a longer walking day by continuing to Illfracombe, 7-8 miles distant including the highest point on the SWCP at Great Hangman.

Illfracombe Tourist Information Centre pointed me in the direction Acorn Lodge, a nice b&b with friendly hosts where I have a clean and bright, en suite room with a double bed (and breakfast tomorrow of course) for £35.

Dinner in town this evening was at Take Thyme where I enjoyed Dover Sole with a light sauce of lemon zest and thyme, mint buttered new potatoes and a side salad with French dressing, followed by homemade Rhubarb & Pear Crumble with a local ice cream.

Fuel for the coast path walker.

[Image is Illfracombe Harbour]

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Wednesday, 7 May 2014

South West Coast Path - Day 4

Tue 6 May - Lyndon to Heddon Valley.

Most SWCP walkers will end up in Combe Martin at this stage of their walk. That's the best part of 14 miles with about 3,800 feet of ascent. Guide books rate the route "strenuous" so I set my sights on Heddons Mouth, 7 miles from Lyndon. There's a pub a half a mile off the SWCP and a farm b&b half a mile east from there which on this occasion I had booked by landline the night before. Mannacott Farm (Grid SS 662481) is approached from the pub via Kings Lane. It's a very steep climb. Killer Lane would be a better name.

There were many differences today; a gentle downhill route out of town rather than up; even more spectacular views from cliff-hugging, narrow paths; and ferral goats rather than sheep.

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Tuesday, 6 May 2014

South West Coast Path - Day 3

Mon 5 May - A field to Lynton

I sometimes feel a strong craving for something when walking. Today it was ice cold fruit squash. At my first point of call at Lynmouth this afternoon they had none, nor at the second. The third did but no ice and it was disgusting. Their bacon and tomato sandwich and two pots of tea hit the spot though so we parted friends.

It was a hard walk - only about 7-8 miles but a roller coaster route. And breakfast hadn't amounted to much after a poor nights sleep. I thought I'd chosen a sheltered spot to pitch my tent but it wasn't when the breeze changed direction and increased it's force. I was concerned that we would be blown away but we stood our ground, both flapping in our own way.

I have found perfect accommodation in Lynton - Southcliffe B&B, where hosts, David & Ceri provided a lovely roast pork dinner with all the trimmings. A good choice - I couldn't have handled lamb. Now I've got a lovely double bed firmly set on the floor.

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South West Coast Path - Day 2

Sun 4 May - Porlock to a field.

It might seem odd that the first real contact with the sea when following this coastal path (unless toes were dipped at Minehead) is on the approach to Porlock Weir, where the path is in fact the pebble beach which leads into the hamlet.

From there it feels like mostly upwards, through pleasant woodland and past sheep-filled fields. Many fields and lots of sheep.

I found one lamb stuck up a tree! Having rescued the cuddly creature, it was heart-warming to see it belt away, when released, to it's mum for a swift half of milk.

Like I said - I'm dawdling, and today I'd had enough after 5-6 miles so I pitched my tent (Shangri-La 1) in a field, unseen by anyone I think except sheep. One of whom detached itself from the staring flock to more closely check me out. Returning it's stare, I recited:

"Mary had a little lamb,
She ate it with mint sauce.
So everywhere that Mary went
The lamb went too of course."

The Recce Platoon's detached sheep seemed to get the message and immediately reported back to Flock HQ and I wasn't bothered again.

[Some technical problems sending to blog. Reduced picture to 30% on the hope that this post is transmitted.]

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Sunday, 4 May 2014

South West Coast Path - Day 1

Sat 3 May - Minehead to Porlock

Apparently, Minehead gets it's name from an old Welsh word meaning "mountain". Those setting out on the SW Coast Path might think that fitting during the climb to the path's highest point on the "mountain" (North Hill) where there is a well used bench - and a marvellous view over the Bristol Channel to the Welsh coast.

After a night at the most excellent Tregonwell House in Minehead (where perfect hosts Andy & Sue agreed to look after my van for the duration of my walk), I have dawdled for the 8 miles or so to Porlock on a fine, sunny day. And that's the general aim over the next 11 days. No plan; nothing booked or points to get to  - stopping off at a B&B if a bed is available, otherwise looking for somewhere to pitch my tent.

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