Monday, 16 March 2020

Update

The rapid onset and constantly changing coronavirus situation has convinced me to end my walk of the South West Coast Path. Apart from the fact that rail companies may start reducing services, thereby making my return home by train from Poole uncertain, I believe that my time can be better spent back home helping any initiatives within my community. I shall, therefore, be returning home in the next few days.

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South West Coast Path Day 10 - 15 March 2020 Tintagel to Port Isaac

Walking 8.30am to 3.30pm
Distance walked today 9 miles
Total distance walked 130 miles
Distance remaining 476 miles

Heavy rain in the early hours although it was easing off as I packed up. I was only a minute from the coast path. I spoke to a local fellow walking his dog. He was younger than me. He said he'd never walked any of the coast path, citing a bad back and knee as his excuse.

I saw no-one else till Trebarwith Strand. Here, the public loos were permanently shut and the Strand Café was closed. I was looking forward to a coffee. It was a long pull up from here. A dog walker here told me there were just a couple of ups and downs and then an easy walk into Port Isaac - he was wrong. There proved to be five.

I caught sight of the village from afar as I came around to Port Isaac Bay. It never seemed to get any nearer. There were stretches of mud on the path. Here and on descents, I became aware that my boots weren't gripping enough and I was slipping a bit. They are by no means new but clearly aren't up to it. I'd hoped they would last a little longer but they don't feel safe.

I think the combe at Lower Hendra was the most challenging. I timed my ascent at 9 minutes. If you zoom in on the second photo you will make out the path. A couple of areas were under water but my ageing boots didn't let water in. The weather is improving and the sea is changing to that lovely greenish blue. The sun came out for a while although at one point I saw rain approaching from across the water but that didn't last.

Eventually, I arrived in Port Isaac after a very long 9 miles. I bought a pasty and had just sat down to eat it when Amanda texted to say that she was quite nearby in the car. There was no way she should have tried to drive into the village so I stuffed my part eaten pasty into my backpack and began the long haul up Church Hill to meet her.

South West Coast Path Day 9 - 14 March 2020 Crackington Haven to Tintagel

Walking 7.20am to 4.30pm
Distance walked today 13 miles
Total distance walked 121 miles
Distance remaining 477 miles

Only a 10% chance of rain today but it rained just before I packed up and several times during the day.

Quite a bit of mud but some lovely cliff top walking. The long ascent of Rusey Cliff was punishing. I met a lady from New York who was walking from Penzance to Inverness. At one point there was a sign indicating four miles to Boscastle - it took three hours. When I eventually got there, I did a resupply at Spar and then eased a beautiful large pasty down my throat outside the bakery and then over the road to the Bridge Tea Rooms for a coffee before thinking I ought to be on my way.

Above Bossiney Haven, I took the path to meet the road at Bossiney and walked into Tintagel which I don't recall visiting before. It didn't detain me and I made my way to the church. I chatted to a lovely lady preparing the church for tomorrow's service. She said I was welcome to camp in the very large churchyard which is now where I am.

Saturday, 14 March 2020

South West Coast Path Day 8 - 13 March 2020 Hobby Drive, near Clovelly to Crackington Haven

Walking 6.20am to 5.00pm
Distance walked today 14 miles
Total distance walked 108 miles
Distance remaining 496 miles

When I walked this route in 2001, it was with my daughter, Philippa, then aged 18. In fact, we started from Lee Abbey (where she was at a summer camp) and so we didn't start from Minehead. I recall that we didn't walk the Taw estuary to Barnstaple and not did we estuary walk to Bideford either as we caught a ferry from Instow to Appledore. In addition, for as far as Boscastle, we only carried daypacks as we were met each evening and taken off to a campsite. Also, it was August and I don't remember any mud. Consequently, for me to reach St Ives by the end of next week is an impossibility.

I needed to reassess. My original intention was simply to make this walk a personal challenge. To raise money for Ucare was a last minute decision. I hope those who have kindly donated won't object if I change the plan a bit. Having made the decision last night, I got up extra early this morning (very loud owl nearby) and caught the 7.45 bus from Clovelly Visitor Centre into Bude, leapfrogging some 25 miles and getting me into Cornwall. A benefit is also that I've avoided the punishing stretch between Hartland Quay and Bude, about eight steep descents and ascents. I've done it before so I know what I've missed! Anyway, it's my walk so I decide what I'll do! To celebrate, I bought my first Cornish pasty to eat at lunchtime.

I stopped for a coffee at the café at Widemouth Bay and phoned home to announce the new plan. Amanda's commitments at home are falling by the wayside due to the Corona virus and so she's intending to revise her plan to come to St Ives at the end of next week. Instead, she's travelling to Newquay this Sunday, where she'll base herself for three nights and ferry me about as necessary. She will also arrive at St Ives on Thursday instead of Friday. This walk was originally unsupported but that won't now be the case for the next couple of weeks. I'll also get to sleep in a comfortable bed and won't be camping after tomorrow night and can walk with a daypack and hopefully cover more miles.

The new plan settled, I resumed walking. I had lunch (the pasty was good and won't be the last) on a bench before the descent to Millook. A couple came by and stopped to chat. They asked if I'd read The Salt Path. I replied that the book was the reason I was walking the SWCP now. So many people have read it.

I dropped down into another couple of steep combes. Then instead of another pointless climb and steep descent from Castle Point, I took the path to the tiny village of St Gennys, visiting the church and then rejoining the coast path a little further on. After that, there was a long descent to Crackington Haven. It was now around 5pm and rain was forecast imminently and into the evening. I found a grassy area close to where the coast path resumes and asked a person nearby whether she thought I might get away with camping there tonight. Better than that though she directed me to a very secluded spot which is where I now am. The day has ended rather nicely, occasional traffic noise and constant sound of the waves. It's been a strenuous day but exhilarating.

I'm asked sometimes about the food I eat. My evening meals for the last three nights have been: 1. Batchelors noodles (I discarded the chicken flavouring), a tin of sardines in tomato sauce and shavings of cheddar - a bit like a Mediterranean fish stew and very nice. 2. Chopped up pieces of cooked chicken in Uncle Ben's pilau rice. 3. Chopped up pieces of cooked chicken in Uncle Ben's egg fried rice. Not enough veg though.

Friday, 13 March 2020

South West Coast Path Day 7 - 12 March 2020 Northam Burrows Country Park to Hobby Drive, near Clovelly

Walking 7.10am to 5.30pm
Distance walked today 14 miles
Total distance walked 94 miles
Distance remaining 536 miles

Although I'd pitched in a horseshoe patch of ground surrounded by bushes it was still a very blustery night. In spite of that, I managed to sleep well until 6.15. As I was packing up I caught sight of someone with a pack walking out of bushes a little distance away. Another wild camper perhaps.

I set off to continue along the park road to do a circuit of the park but ran into problems. An area was fenced off with danger notices. Going around the fenced area, I encountered floods with no way round in sight. Therefore, I retraced my steps past where I'd camped and set off across the flat land for about a mile to reach the park road on the other side.

Wednesday, 11 March 2020

South West Coast Path Day 6 - 11 March 2020 Barnstaple to Northam Burrows Country Park

Walking 12.10pm to 6.10pm
Distance walked today 16 miles
Total distance walked 80 miles
Distance remaining 541 miles

For anyone interested, Phil's account of his SWCP walk is on Facebook - just search for Phil's Thru-hike of SWCP and Rest Month on Isles of Scilly. He hasn't got the impressive beard now.

After breakfast, we walked into Barnstable. First stop was a phone repair shop where I left my phone for a new battery to be fitted. Then Mountain Warehouse for an inexpensive waterproof jacket. After a coffee at Costa, we collected the phone and went off to join the trail out of Barnstaple, now on the other side of the Taw estuary. It's a hard surface and there were dog walkers and cyclists. At Fremington, we stopped at the café on the trail and Phil then left to return home. It's good to have made a new friend and I hope we keep in touch. Many thanks Phil for your hospitality and good company.

Today's walking was mainly level and on good surfaces, with just a few muddy stretches towards the end - and it didn't rain, although it's raining as I write this.

I walked by industrial jetties and then sand dunes as I came into Instow. I then followed the former railway line alongside the River Torridge into Bideford. The town didn't detain me but it's reserved for a future visit. Crossing the river, the trail passed through Bideford alongside the other side. The path wound through some woodland. I stopped to chat with a lady who was sketching the ruined hulks perched on the mudflats. I then skirted Appledore Shipyard before entering the delightful village of Appledore, which brought to mind the narrow streets of St Ives.

South West Coast Path Day 5 - 10 March 2020 Woolacombe to Barnstaple

Walking 7.30am to 5.30pm
Distance walked today 16 miles
Total distance walked 64 miles
Distance remaining 558 miles

Although I was sheltered behind a tree, it was still a very blustery night with some more rain. As I was getting ready for the day inside the tent there was a yapping of a small dog outside but, apart from that, all was peaceful. I put on all the wet clothes from yesterday, not pleasant but they soon warmed up. 

I didn’t go back into Woolacombe but had a brisk road walk towards Croyde. It rained and was very windy but I was sheltered from the wind much of the way by high walls and hedges. At the village of Georgeham I found the church open and, not only that, there was an available loo! Perfect. There was also a small village shop, a limited stock but I bought a couple of flapjack bars for two breakfasts and stuff for my meal tonight. On then to Croyde where I rejoined the coast path. 
I passed above the expanse of Saunton Sands, a little misty and one rider on a horse and a few other people. 



Then the path went through Saunton Golf Course which was almost deserted. Just past the golf course I encountered two stretches where the path was completely under water with no way to get around it. I’d packed sandals so put these on and waded through with boots tied together and around my neck. A bit of a palaver and I had to gets boots off and sandals on as I didn’t realise there were two waterlogged stretches. At its deepest, it came half way up to my knees so boots weren’t an option. 



On reaching Braunton Burrows car park I could see that my intended route was under water. As I had no idea of the state of the path around Horsey Island, I opted to avoid it and, instead, road walked to Velator, just outside Braunton. I’d looked online and seen that a campsite I’d been considering (Chivenor Caravan Park) is now permanently. I therefore phoned a friend, Phil, who I’d previously contacted via Facebook, as he did the SWCP in 2018 and suggested I get in touch when near to Barnstaple. I did just that which resulted in an offer of overnight accommodation. I just had getting on for six miles to walk along a hard surfaced trail, a former railway line alongside the tidal River Taw estuary. As it happens, there would have been many opportunities to wild camp on grass beside the trail and two grassed areas set back. There aren’t really any camp sites around Barnstaple. 

I made my way to Phil’s house and we’ve spent a great evening chatting about the coast path and other topics. He’s planning to walk with me tomorrow morning. 

If you look closely, you’ll see that the mileages above don’t quite tally. This is because I’ve happened to cut a couple of corners and not necessarily by choice. I think the miles remaining figure is correct.