Saturday 08 August 2015 – Combe Martin, Devon.
Another cold, cold night, even worse than Thursday. I was freezing, and I had more clothes on, including a beanie! I also resolved to buy some earplugs when I next had the opportunity as two couples nearby decided that last night was a good night to sit outside and drink until 2 am. Rude pricks! With the cold and the noise I don’t think I drifted off until 6:00. I was up at 8:00, cooked and ate breakfast – warm food was great – packed up and out the door into some lovely warm sun for 9:00. It takes me an hour from horizontal to walking off, though I am sure I can do it more quickly if I really tried.
The Swiss woman, whose name I discovered is Sandra, and the family group, arrived in the campground after me last night, and I said a sprightly hello before leaving. I see all of them again over the next couple of days.
I stopped in Lynton to buy some sausage sandwiches and a coffee to drink from the only open cafe, there is nowhere to stop for lunch on this long leg so taking food was essential. I am carrying a few emergency rations that I can cook if for some reason I have to stop somewhere. I also picked up a couple of bananas as I started to get some very slight hints of cramp yesterday and the potassium in bananas helps to keep it at bay. Like a lot of other towns on the path that I have visited, getting out and back on the path is confusing and sometimes frustrating. It was not too bad here, but I did take one wrong turn before finding the right path.
Just outside of Lynmouth is the wonderful Valley of the Rocks. I would like to come back and explore here one day, as it is quite interesting and totally different to anything else on this section of the coast. The path is also quite narrow here, having mild vertigo and a large pack I took this slower than some, and didn’t look up and down and around as much as I should. I did, however, take a few photos.
And I did spot a couple of goats as well.
Sadly the walk out the other side of the valley is on the road, though this did allow me to make some really good time as I got up to a cracking pace. I caught up Sandra walking out of the valley and we walked together for half an hour before she had to beg off as my pace was too fast. I wanted to keep going, so we bade farewell for the morning and I sped off into the distance.
Not sure what this is for or why it is where it is, but good to see New Zealand referenced on the path…
I stopped for a snack bar and to admire the view and spent a few minutes talking to a couple of blokes (Rob and Rich) from London who are also walking the path, but like the Dutch Ladies they are having their bags carried and are staying in guest houses.
This is another lovely section of Exmoor forest which also includes Hollow Brook Falls, one of Britain’s tallest waterfalls, though sadly the 200 metre drop is over a 400 metre distance so it is not quite like Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and Zambia ! it is still nice though.
Out of the forest, the view back along the coast is wonderful, just before dropping into Heddon Mouth. There was some quite tricky walking here and I am glad I had my poles. The path was quite narrow and where it was right on the cliff edge I was a wee bit nervous. I think if I did not have the pack on I would have run these sections with no worries at all. Well, maybe a small worry
The Hunters Inn is in Heddon Mouth, but about half a mile up the valley from the bridge, I met Rob and Rich, who decided to go there for lunch, but as I had food and was not keen to add any more miles I declined to join them and carried on going.
The walk out was tough! The steepest section on the path so far, I was passed by a young couple on an afternoon walk, he was wearing jandals (flip-flops) on the rough and steep terrain. I thought he was mad ! The kindly took a picture of me from the top of the climb.
I love the view back over the path I had walked down into Heddon Mouth.
Though the view forward was less lovely… OK, it was lovely, but it also looked challenging!
There was a long section of wonderful rolling cliff top walking from here, I stopped for lunch on the cliff tops and just sat and admired the view for a while, and tried to snap a photo of a hunting kite.
The moors are really nice here, wild and scrubby and colourful, though ahead was the big climb of the day, the highest coastal cliff in the UK, Great Hangman, at 318 metres. I knew I had to drop down a way, only to walk back up it again. I pulled my pack on tighter, drank some water and carried on going.
I saw the most unusual thing here, and stupidly I did not sneak a photo. I was stopped as I walking by an English gent, who was heading to Hunters Inn for lunch. He was dressed semi-formally – better than I do for work – and he was pushing a bike. Not a mountain bike either. he was going to ride back to Combe Martin on the road. I have no idea how he got the bike down the hill. It was such a surreal experience.
I soon arrived in Great Hangman park, and prepared to drop down into the valley.
Over the other side I could see the path climbing out. It looked steep, but not as steep as the path down. I was really glad it was dry as it would have been quite slippery on the clay and grass path down to the river in the valley.
I stopped for a drink in the valley and a chat to a nice English couple who were out for a couple of days walking. We were joined by a German woman who I had said hello to a couple of times over the course of the day as we occasionally passed each other. I stupidly forgot their names.
The climb out of the valley was brutal, after a tiring day carrying a pack. I was shuffling up the steep section, leaning on my poles as I went, and it was some relief to get to the flatter section towards the top, and even more of a relief to get to the top. There were some more walkers there when I arrived and one of them took a photo of me on the top of the cairn as I mimicked their more youthful celebrations.
My destination for the night, Combe Martin, is down there, in that bay somewhere and just under another hour’s walking. It was quite a tough walk, going down hill can be harder than walking up, especially if you are carrying a heavy load.
I arrived in Combe Martin just after 4:00, which really surprised me, it was way quicker than I expected after yesterday’s slow walk. Maybe the time I spent walking quickly on the easy sections made up for it. El had booked me into a guest house and luckily it was right next to the path. The owners welcomed me with a cup of coffee and a piece of cake – wonderful…
I was knackered with really sore shoulders and a good rub down with some Volterol after a hot shower was just what they needed. I took a bit of a rest, had loads of water to drink and in the early evening I ventured out to one of the local pubs to look for food. I have the day off tomorrow so was quite happy to have a beer or two to go with an unhealthy burger and fries. I was craving the salty chips. I obviously chose a good walking pub to go to as I was soon joined by the English couple and the German woman I met today and the Dutch Ladies popped in later on as well. It was a great evening of chatting and sharing some of the joys of three or four days of walking this wonderful coast path.
I did wobble my way back to my guest house room about 11:00 pm. It was a tough day, not as tough as I expected it to be, but it was great to end it with some good company over some nice food and a glass of merlot.