SWCP Walk day 5, Combe Martin to Woolacombe.

Monday 10 August 2015 – Woolacombe, Devon.

14.5 Miles.

Bad start to the day…. I slept OK, which was good, what was not so good was I left the window open all night and my pack was underneath it. Normally this would be OK, but it rained quite hard, and it rained quite hard through the window as well. Things got wet, but fortunately only a little. I picked the pack of the floor and wiped it down and put it on the spare bed in the room while I had a shower and breakfast downstairs. It was still raining so I was not in any sort of rush to start walking.


When I finally decided to get organised to get going, rain or no rain, I found the back of my pack was soaked, the duvet on the bed was soaked, and worse of all – the mattress was soaked. Bollocks !! I thought there must have been water in my stove
from the rain falling in it last night and I just didn’t notice it when I tossed my pack on the bed.. I made a very sheepish approach to the guest house owners and humbly apologised for my stupidity. It was embarrassing and stupid and fortunately they were good about it.

The rain was forecasted to stop at 11:00 so when it had ease to a mere drizzle about 10:30 I left the guest house, and soon was on my way out of Combe Martin. As is usual with these small beach communities when you leave town the first thing you do is walk up a hill. This time on the road side, so feeling good after a days rest I managed to crack on quite quickly. Watermouth Bay is about 30 minutes walk from Combe Martin and as I approached I realised I still had the key to the guest house room in my pocket. What a numbty, this morning was turning in to a disaster. I walked on wondering what to do and decided I would make it to the campground and see if I could easily organise a taxi to take the key back. Fortunately I could, though it was not cheap. Better than losing an hour, and more walking in the rain. The view back through the clouds and rain was worth it though.


There is a fake castle at Watermouth Bay, it looks good, but is a theme park. I didn’t stop.


It was about now I went to have a drink of water from my Camelbak bladder and discovered it was empty. This now fully explains the amount of water that had leaked into my pack and on to the bed. About 1.5 litres worth…. Damn. I am counting this as the third bad thing, so as bad things come in threes – that was it for the day. Whew. I did have a small bottle of water as spare, so emptied that in to the bladder and hoped it was me not tightening the lid properly and not that I had a leak. 


My first stop of the day was at Hele Beach. I needed to get rid of my rain coat as it had stopped raining and was getting to warm, I also needed a few minutes to compose myself as well after the messy start to the day. There was also a sea front cafe selling coffee, cake and water, which was the best thing. The family group were leaving just as I was arriving, so it was good to catch up with them and see how they were travelling.


I caught up and passed them at the top of the big climb out to Beacon Point, over looking Helle and more importantly Ilfracombe where I was planning on stopping for lunch. The clouds had really started to clear by now and it was looking to be a stunning day, with some lovely walking ahead.



Except for these bloody steps…


In the main I liked Ilfracombe, for a really busy holiday town it had a good vibe, normally I hate the busyness of these sorts of places but in this case I didn’t. It is definitely different, how many towns have a giant statue of a pregnant woman. Damien Hurst’s Verity dominates the skyline over the waterfront. I suspect it was a controversial addition to an old fishing town. The changing face of this part of the UK.



As I walked into Ilfracombe I saw a sign advising me to follow the footsteps on the ground for the coast path, unlike a sign, and uselessly they don’t indicate any direction change.


I stopped for lunch in a good local cafe, both the basic coffee and a bacon and egg sandwich went down a treat, I then wandered around trying to find the coast path.


Obviously it went near the coast so I just sort of walked in that direction, eventually coming across some footpath feet quite randomly so I knew I was heading the right way. Up hill of course.


Close to the edge of town I found another sign telling me to follow the feet, and on the other side of the road a different sign telling me to follow the more traditional acorn. Confusing ? not at all…. My one and only complaint about the coast path is the lack of signage in and around the towns. I have mentioned it before in posts so wont labour on it here.



Much as I liked Ilfracombe, It was nice to be back on the cliff tops, the day was turning into a stunner and the views up and down the coast were the same – stunning.



I enjoyed the cliff walk immensely, but all good things come to an end and the trail dropped down into Lee Bay where there was a large and abandoned hotel. It is a small bay and does not have the monster golden sand beaches that are the feature just down the coast, I wonder if the hotel ever had its glory days ?



There was a lot more ascending and descending over the next wee while, none of it particularly high, but some of it was quite steep.


The walk from Bull Point Lighthouse along the cliffs to Morte Point was one of the highlights of a day with lots of highlights, after the dodgy start of course.



Morte Point had some amazing rock formations and would be another place to come back and explore one day, but the day was getting late, mainly due to the late start, so I continued on to Woolacombe which I could now see, as it was my home for the night.




Just before I reached town I caught up with Sandra again, we stopped and had a discussion about where to stay the night. There is one campsite in Woolacombe and apparently it is a bit of a walk inland. We talked about the virtues of walking another couple of miles – up that glorious beach to a campground we could see right at the end.


Some local advise suggested it was caravans only, so I decided I would walk to the Woolacombe Sands Holiday Park, about 20 minutes walking – all up hill.


I rocked into the campsite about 6:30pm and asked for a single tent, one person site and was advised they had a 2 person minimum and it was 18.50 per person. So for my one tent it would be 37 pounds… Yep 30 f**king 7 pounds for one night for one person. I paid less than this for a room in a B and B – with a cooked breakfast! Back in Lynton I paid 6.50 for a lovely spot by a river. Not this hell hole of shouty families, cheap lager, pokie machines and fat dogs. I should, I really should have told them to stick it and walked off to free camp somewhere, but I was tired and hot and wanted to sit down. So I caved. Like they knew I would, the bastards.

I put my tent up and had a shower – I was expecting gold plate and endless hot water – I was disappointed. Sandra had arrived while I was in the shower and was unamused as I was about the cost. We were offered a ride into town with a young couple who were camping between us, but we declined as I needed to charge my phone and my camera, so I ended up eating a poor burger and drinking lager in the campground bar and being tortured by the kids entertainment, the dance off and who is the loudest, the boys or the girls competition. I am sure it was fantastic if you were 10 or the parent of a 10 year old. I am neither so I hated every second of it. I left as soon as I had enough charge…


I was hoping for a sunset over Lundy Island, but it didn’t happen, almost, but not quite.


I bought earplugs, a bottle of beer and retired to my tent to read, write up my notes from the day and listen to some loud nasty punk rock to calm myself down for sleep.

It was a mixed day, started and ended not as good as the bits in between deserved. Loved the walking, and my Camelbak was not leaking either, so it must have been me ! My notebook didn’t tell me how my body felt after the walking, so I am assuming I was feeling good.

SWCP Walk day 4. Combe Martin rest day.

Sunday 09 August 2015 – Combe Martin, Devon.

No walking today, no official path walking today anyway. I did walk, but only to the pub – but just to watch the football. Honest.

I decided to take a day’s rest, no point in rushing into these things. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to walk as far as Mawgan Porth in time to meet El so there was no point in over stretching myself early.

I also didn’t fancy a night in a big noisy campground like the one at Watermouth Bay, which was a correct decision, I discovered, when I walked past it the next day.

I didn’t do too much after breakfast, I didn’t sleep particularly well, better than last night though, so I rested this morning and read my book for a while. I felt OK though, which was good. My shoulders did not hurt at all, which was even better.

I left the hotel at 12:00 and had lunch in a nearby cafe before having a small look around the very small waterfront of Combe Martin. It was forecast to be a damp day – another reason for not walking, and the forecasters got it pretty right, as it rained in the evening. The sun never did break through, so the beach was quiet all day.


Combe Martin supposedly has the longest high street in the UK and the only pub showing the football was right at the far end of it. Away from the waterfront, the town is basically the high street. I did get a couple of miles of walking done. A good leg loosener.


On the way to the footie pub, I passed the Pack of Cards hotel. The legend is that in 1690 George Ley won a significant amount of money playing cards and had this house built to commemorate his victory. It has 4 floors, 13 rooms per floor, 52 windows and 53 stairs and was designed to look like a house made of cards. What a neat story. I love reading these things.


This was the highlight of the day. My football team Arsenal, lost at home to West Ham on the opening day of the season. A season that I thought was going to go really well. Gutted!

I moped back down to the guest house and read some more before having a far healthier pasta meal for tea with nothing to drink. This was followed by a great Skype call with El, God bless wifi!

Back on the trail tomorrow!

SWCP Walk day 3, Lynton to Combe Martin

Saturday 08 August 2015 – Combe Martin, Devon.

13.5 miles.

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 Smile


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.