Friday 07 August 2015 – Lynton, Devon.
It was not a good night’s sleep. I expected that, but hoped for otherwise as I was physically tired from the walking. I was really surprised with how cold it was in the early hours. I was freezing. Colder than I had been when I camped out much later in the year. I knew I should have bought a new sleeping bag!
It was a clear night, which led to the cold temperature as well as quite a hefty morning dew on the ground. I learnt my first lesson of choosing a tent spot. Always look for somewhere that gets the early morning sun so the ground and the tent dry off as quickly as possible. I had chosen a good spot, but my neighbours moved their van in the night and created a long shadow right across my tent.
I was up at 7:00 and had my first camping breakfast. I had brought with me some packaged oats that just need boiling water added. My stove is really just a water boiler – a really fast water boiler. Two minutes, water boiled for oats and coffee, and not too bad a breakie either.
When I finally got out of the tent and vertical I found I was a bit stiff, but otherwise fine, walking up to the supermarket to buy some sandwiches for lunch was enough to shake out the stiffness, and by the time I stripped my camp site down, loaded up my pack and headed off I was feeling OK with the world. The sun was warm, the day just starting and I had about 14 miles of stunning coast to walk.
Leaving the campground I immediately (probably) took the wrong, and longer path down to Porlock beach. A narrow band, nicely hedged off from the road.
The path goes through the inland side of a marsh area that comes and goes over the centuries with a skeleton forest that is significantly old, the remains date back 5000 years. Cool !
The final section before the small village of Porlock Weir was along the top of the stony beach and was quite tough to walk on, after yesterday’s small wobble on an uneven rock I took extra precautions walking across the stones.
Porlock Weir is tiny and cute and also has the last coffee stop before my destination at the end of the day – Lynmouth. So I made use of the facilities and had a final coffee before finally setting off on the trail at 10:00, with 12.5 miles to go. The book says it is moderate to strenuous…
The walk out of Porlock Weir is quite nice, up a hill, but quite nice. Once out of town there is another nice long section of shaded woodland, I did not realise there was so much tree cover on this early section, I expected the moors to be far more open, but apparently Exmoor has one of the largest coastal forest sections of any park in the UK. It is really nice forest – and I was also glad of the shade.
The lovely old toll gate at Worthy Toll collects a small fee for cars wishing to use the private road, built in the 1840s to provide an option for travellers to avoid the steep Porlock Hill road. The gate for walkers passing by is free
Ashley Combe house has long been pulled down after being in ruins for many years. The grand house was built for Ada Lovelace (look her up, she is very interesting, especially if you are interested in computing) by her husband and included a series of tunnels linking the tradesman entrances to the house so that they and their guests could look out over the magnificent gardens without having to see the servants and tradesmen. A few of the tunnels remain and are part of the coast path, it looks like some of them must have been quite long.
Culborne Church was the next stop, for a long drink of water and a nut bar, as well a look around. I did not linger here too long as there was an incredible amount of flies, an unwelcome feature of most of the rest of the day. I caught up with the Dutch ladies here and as I was leaving the family group I saw last night were arriving. It is good to know there are people on the path – just in case !
There is an unproven story that suggests the steeple on Culborne Church may have come from the missing section of the steeple at Porlock Church…
Culborne Church is the smallest parish church in the UK, it has a capacity of 30 and still has weekly services. To access it you have to make the hour long walk from Porlock or risk driving down what is essentially a four wheel drive track. There has been a church here for many many years – in fact it is one of only a handful of buildings mentioned in the Doomsday Book which was written in 1086, so as well as being old it must have been quite significant. It was a shame about the flies as it was a really nice place to relax.
The walk out of Culborne was all up hill, up hill, up hill and more up hill. It started off through some nice woodland which was great.
Finally breaking out into a long rolling hilly section through farmland, which was probably the worst section of all the walking I did. It was just a bit dull, long sections down narrow roads with high hedges and walls on either side. Frankly, it was just boring. There was also a very large and unavoidable mud hole full of cowshit to cross so I also ended up with wet and smelly shoes, socks and feet.
I did see some sheep – and some deer.
Once I was back under the forest canopy there were plenty of little waterfalls and streams for me to stick my feet, it did not fix the wet socks and shoes, but it did mean I got to clean the mud and cow shit off. Thankfully.
Somewhere in this section I passed from the county of Somerset in to Devon.
This section had lots of short and sometimes steep ascents and descents so I finally got to break my walking poles out and use them, I think they made a difference on some of the climbs. I tried to stop for lunch at the top of one of the climbs, but as soon as I stopped moving I was inundated with flies. I ate a sandwich on the move, which didn’t give me the rest I wanted, but it did fill my tummy and provide a bit of energy for more walking.
The 19th century stone cross near Sisters Fountain.
Just past the hogs head topped gateposts to Woodland Lodge I found a patch of sun on the grass and stopped to eat my sandwiches and change the wet socks for dry ones. My feet feel OK, but any precautions that can be taken to prevent blisters should be taken.
There was still a fair bit of walking to go before I got my first view of today’s final destination – Lynmouth and Lynton, way in the distance.
On the way I passed another, very tame, Exmoor pony and her foal, who seemed to not like the very bright sun too much !
By this stage I was quite close (or so I thought) to Lynmouth and there were a number of day walkers and families out and about on the cliff tops. Just past the St John the Baptist church of Countisbury, I saw there was a large car park and a pub – which probably explains the number of people…
From here it was pretty much down hill all the way, and I mean that in the positive sense too ! Looking back I just see the path rolling along the edge of the horizon. Stunning !
The good news was I was soon in the nice, but very busy town of Lynmouth. The bad news was the campground was in Lynton, at the top of the hill – a big hill, a soul destroyingly big hill !
I didn’t take the funicular – that would be admitting defeat. I walked another 45 minutes, getting lost and then a bit grumpy, before I found the lovely little campsite.
After checking in – and paying my 6.50 (note this for a later post, I sense a rant coming in a few days) for me and my tent, I picked up two beers and an ice cream from the shop before flopping unceremoniously onto the ground next to the stream that flowed past the campsite.
I was knackered – this was a much harder day than yesterday!
Once I had my tent assembled and myself and my clothes washed I decided to go to the pub next door for tea. There was no cell phone reception in the campsite and the pub had wifi. Except it didn’t, it was broken. I was really thrown by this, bizarrely thrown, I must have been tired. I knew this was likely to be the case on the path, but knowing it may happen and it actually happening are two different things ! I had told El I would let her know each day when I arrived at my destination and finding I couldn’t easily do it was frustrating. I decided to have a really early dinner and then walk back into town with the hope of getting reception there. Luckily as I sat eating my very average Thai noodles a bar of mobile reception appeared and I managed to get a couple of messages away. Relieved, I am not sure I wanted to walk any further today. I did manage to get El to find me a guest house in Combe Martin for me to stay in tomorrow night. I am going to have a rest day on Sunday – nothing to do with it being the first Arsenal game of the season on the telly, honest…
After eating I went back to the campsite and had a bit of a play with some long exposure photos in the stream.
After that it was bed time, I was quite tired. It had been a much longer and harder day than yesterday. But apart from the wee moment when I had no reception I had another good day.
Tomorrow is supposed to be really tough, Gulp !!