Monday, 3 August 2020

Seven Shires Way Day 3 - 30 July - postponement

As I set off this morning across Farnborough Park, my shins immediately started feeling decidedly uncomfortable. Having suffered from shin splints before, I knew that I needed to rest my legs for a while and so I made my way into Mollington, phoning home on the way for Amanda to come and pick me up. I whiled away the time sitting in the churchyard which was as nice a churchyard as I could have wished.

Although I've done some day walking during lockdown, I haven't been doing as much on a daily basis and I haven't been attending the gym. Consequently, for me to expect my legs to carry me on two consecutive twenty mile days was asking a bit too much.

A day after returning home, I was hit by a sickness bug but am recovered now. Possibly due to water along the way although all water was filtered.

Anyway, I'll no doubt be getting out again soon.

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Seven Shires Way Day 2 - Tuesday 28 July Traitor’s Ford to Farnborough Park

Walking 6.15am to 6.30pm
Distance walked 20 miles
Distance left 191 miles

My Thermarest has sprung a leak, only a small one but I had to blow it up three times in the night.

It was a lovely morning as I made my way up Ditchedge Lane. The field edge where I overnighted last year is now rutted with vehicle use so I’m glad I stopped when I did last night. I met a friend who lives nearby walking his dogs and stopped for a chat.

Through Epwell and across to Upper Tysoe, a large village with a decent little supermarket. I refilled water from an allotment tap. Across fields and then quite a climb up to Edge Hill and through Ratley.

The view west from Edge Hill
At Shotteswell I went into the church. The organist came in to practice. John Profumo used to live in the village.

From there, I headed for the M40 pedestrian bridge. On the other side, the path was next to and parallel to the M40 for the best part of a mile, not pleasant as, apart from the noise, the path was overgrown often to shoulder height.

Mollington looked very nice but it didn’t detain me and I followed field paths northwards to Farnborough Park. I had hoped to get beyond Claydon but I’m suffering from possible shin splints which is a little painful. Perhaps twenty mile days is a bit ambitious. I’ve found some nice woodland to spend the night in and I’ll decide what to do in the morning. Having had shin splints before, the remedy is rest. The problem with stealth camping at this time of year is that I tend to walk until late and maybe that’s a bit too much.

Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Seven Shires Way Day 1 - Monday 27 July. Cornwell to Traitor’s Ford

Walking 9.50am to 7.40pm
Distance walked 21 miles
Distance left 211 miles

The SSW is a 232 mile circular walk, more or less following the boundary of Oxfordshire. I joined it at Cornwell although the guide book starts it at the Four Shires Stone, about a mile east of Moreton-in-Marsh.

From Cornwell, I followed a single track road to cross the A436 towards Chastleton, the path crossing Chastleton Barrow, an ancient fort, although there’s nothing to see. Then down the lane past the church and NT Chastleton House. My navigation went rather haywire near Chastleton Glebe and when I met a road I managed to turn right instead of left.

The Four Shires Stone has a county name engraved on each side - Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire. This was originally where the four counties met but the Worcestershire boundary is now quite a distance away.

I had a lunch stop on a bench in a tiny, well cared for fences paddock  In it is the grave of a local farmer who died in 1994 aged 30. There is also another grave, possibly of his mother who died in 2015. A beautiful spot.

Field paths and a track took me to Barton-on-the-Heath. High deer fences protecting a deer farm. I took a photo of a magnificent antlered stag. He was sitting only a few yards away and looked at me disdainfully.

On to Little Rollright comprising a tiny church and a Manor House and associated buildings. I stopped to talk to a chap on the path who happened to own the manor. The Rollright Stones were nearby although I only saw the Whispering Knights before entering the beautiful Neolithic Echoes sculptured woodland.

Skirting Great Rollright, field paths to Ascott and then some quiet road walking. I had planned to camp along Ditchedge Lane, a long bridleway but it came on to rain heavily so I dived into woodland just before Traitor’s Ford to pitch for the night.

It rained on and off for much of the day but the forecast is better for the rest of the week.

Monday, 16 March 2020


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.

Sent from my iPhone

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.