A little slice of Devon Heaven

Sunday 29 October 2107 – Budleigh Salterton and Dawlish, Devon, England.

Up early again. On a Saturday. Again. This is becoming an unhealthy habit! El and I are off to Exeter to visit Charlie’s flat and drop a load of stuff off that he could not take down on the train. We were in the car and off by 7:30, stopping for breakfast and a coffee on the way. It was a good run down to Exeter and we were there by 12:00.

Charlie lives in a big old house; there are seven students in it, in a street full of big old houses full of students. We were lucky to be able to park the car pretty close to his front door and after unloading we were off to the student bar in the university campus to watch football and eat lunch. Not bad, nice food and cheap beer, but I was driving.

Once the game was over (a Tottenham loss to Man Utd.) El and I headed out of town to the very nice B and B I had booked for the night. We dropped the bags and carried on down to the coast. We passed through Budleigh Salterton on our July south coast road trip and liked the place enough to want to come back for a longer visit. I tried to find somewhere to stay the night there, but there wasn’t anything available, so we are staying in Clyst St Mary on the edge of Exeter. I parked on the sea front and we wrapped up and went for a walk; it is cold.

The light was marvellous as we walked along the side of the pebbly beach and up to the cliff top viewing area to admire the views.

The sea front at Budleigh Salterton is nice, we both liked it. However; when we walked into the small village to find somewhere to have a meal, it seemed to be all shut. Hmm, there were a couple of places open; but as a place to move to, well we need more choices for food. We jumped back in the car and headed to a pub near the B and B and had what turned out to be a pretty good carvery for tea. I haven’t done a carvery pub meal for ages. I enjoyed it.

We were back at the B and B really early, not long after 7:30. It was dark and cold and we were tired, so heading in to town was not really an option. As we arrived a great fireworks display started at, I am guessing, the local school. Even better was we could watch it from our room, which was very sound proofed !

It was another glorious day on Sunday, we had a bit of a lie in with breakfast booked for 8:30. Full English, yum. We were not picking Charlie up until 1:30 so decided to take advantage of the sun and go to the other side of the River Exe and visit Dawlish. I have passed through Dawlish numerous times on the train but have never stopped there. This section of the railway was design by Brunel and runs right along the coast, across causeways and through tunnels, a wonderful piece of engineering. I have always wanted to visit, though parking the car was more expensive than London and made me a little grumpy 🙂 We parked at the station.

We walked along the sea front to the very nice Cove Cafe at the end. We briefly enjoyed sitting in the sun drinking the best coffee in days along with a piece of un-needed, but very much desired and enjoyed sweet cannoli each. It was a shame that the family with the loudest voices in the south of England were sitting right next to us.

I was hoping to be able to walk further along the train line, though had to settle for just looking and marvelling at the engineering feat that Brunel managed on this rugged coast line.

There was even a bit of street art nearby. I am liking Dawlish!

It is a lovely town, it has everything in my book, apart from being too far from anywhere, and rather ‘elderly’. It is clean and tidy, not too ‘seaside shabby’, has some marvellous views, and a seawall that would make for some excellent photographic opportunities in stormy weather.

The weekend was slightly ruined for me by the seven hour drive back to London. It was the last day of the mid-term school break and the traffic was mad, so many accidents, so much traffic. We went back to London via Oxford to avoid the snarl ups on the M4. It was tiring and horrible.

But the weekend made it pretty worth while.

South Coast Road Trip–Part 1

Monday 10 July – Tuesday 11 July 2017 – Devon and Dorset, England.

I am writing this after July turned into August and the big news is that I have finally started my new job; the job I applied for in January. I am now a civil servant, at least for the next two years, working in an IT role with the Cabinet Office in London.

Four weeks ago, back in blog time, my daughter arrived from her extended stay in India and Nepal. I haven’t seen much of her in the past 18 months; she was in a different part of India when I visited there and New Zealand last November and we all know what happened on my India trip. So I did not get to see here then. It was with much excitement that I headed out to Heathrow Airport to meet her and bring her back to our place in Walthamstow.

It was kind of bad timing as El and I had a holiday booked for the following week, however Meliesha and I got to hang out for a few days before we went away, including a walk in my favourite forest.

Meliesha had been living in Bristol when I arrived in the UK five years ago and she still has numerous friends there. Bristol is sort of on the way to Exmouth so we dropped Meliesha there on the way, and I suspect now she is with her crew I won’t see much of her again for a while!

Our plan for this week-long break was to drive along the south coast of the UK from Exeter in Devon to Rye in East Sussex. We are scoping possible locations to buy a property, and escape some or all of the time from London. The idea is to find a few potential places and then go back and spend a few more nights and see how it ‘feels’ over a longer period. While the overall distances are not vast, there will be a bit of driving each day, but it’s a good excuse to go and hang out in a variety of places on the coast. I love this part of the UK.

I thought we left home at a reasonable enough hour to miss the worst of the M25, but I got that call badly wrong. It was a really slow drive to Bristol, taking close to 4 ½ hours. This set the whole journey back and we did not arrive on the coast at Exmouth until almost 2:00. Lunch time. We stopped for a pub lunch by the quite nice beach – lime and soda for me. Even though I am in my mid-fifties I still find it weird/uncomfortable ordering a non-alcoholic drink in a pub.

Lunch was very average, setting an unfortunate precedent for the rest of the week. It was here that I discovered I had failed to pack a camera! I had originally planned on bringing the big Canon DSLR, and then rejected it in favour of bringing the small G16. This was a holiday and not a photography trip. I just failed to pack the G16, though I did have the charger, a spare battery and the tripod… So all photos were taken on my Samsung S7 phone.

Our next stop, and the first on our new list of places to return to, was Budleigh Salterton, just along the coast from Exmouth, but with a totally different feel, and a totally different beach. Budleigh Salterton was also where I started my 50th birthday 50 or so km run. A place that has ‘good’ memories for me.

We also liked Sidmouth, and will return there as well, though it was a drive-by liking, as we could not find anywhere to park and I was getting tired and we still had a way to go. We did stop in Beer, for an ice-cream. I like Beer, and beer, though it is a little too remote for us to consider buying somewhere here, plus it is a bit pricey.

Plan A, before we left home, was to lunch in Lyme Regis, but that was blown right out of the water by the traffic leaving London. We have both been to Lyme in the past, so decided to skip it today. It is a lovely town, too expensive for us, and there are so many other places to explore. I was tired, and getting over the whole driving thing, so we carried on through Bridport, where El’s sister once lived, and then down to West Bay. I finished my birthday run in West Bay so while my memories of Budleigh Salterton are good, my memories of West Bay are clouded in pain and tiredness. Not really, I was very happy to finish my run, and my memory of West Bay was filled with the joy of completing something pretty amazing. Shame it did not live up to that memory. We didn’t stop.

We didn’t stop again until we found our B & B for the next two nights in Piddlehinton, Dorset, so small it could hardly be described as a village. It had a pub, but nothing else. Naturally we went to the pub for dinner. It was a lovely building, had some pretty good beer, though the food was disappointing. It had been a long day, 10 hours in the car.

We are staying in a 16th century house that is now a B & B. As we had such a long day we called it a night pretty early, and it was great to just be able to blob out on the bed and watch TV for a while.

We had breakfast booked for 8:30 on Tuesday morning, we are on holiday so no rush. Today’s weather forecast was not looking too good, and after 10 hours of driving yesterday I had no real desire to spend a lot of the day in the car.

Our first stop was the village of Cerne Abbas, to pay our respects to the Cerne Giant. We arrived in Cerne Abbas about 9:30, and it was very quiet, a beautiful old English village, we both immediately fell in love with it. So we parked up and went for a short walk,

Past the old church and its lovely little garden,

Through the grounds of the old abbey,

And into a field of wheat, so far un-trampled by our illustrious leader!

The Cerne Giant was just above the field, though the view was not very good, so we walked back to the car and drove round to the viewing area. The Cerne Giant is a 180 feet tall human figure carved into the chalk hillside. It is the largest hill figure in the UK. There is much uncertainty over the origins of the giant, it could be pre-Roman or it could be from the English Civil War and a mockery of Oliver Cromwell, a mystery yet to be solved. The figure was quite unclear and my cell phone hardly did it in any justice either.

Our next stop was Abbotsbury Swannery. I wanted to visit here last time I was in the area, but did not get the chance. As we arrived it started to drizzle so we stopped in the cafe for was the first in a seemingly never ending run of awful cups of coffee. When the rain stopped we walked around the swannery, it was not overly exciting, lots of swans! It started to rain more heavily as we left, and that was pretty much the end of the nice weather for the rest of the day.

The swannery is the only place in the world where you can visit an active swan nesting sight. It was established by Benedictine monks in the mid 11th century as a source of food for the many banqueting halls in the area. The monastery was destroyed during the dissolution in 1539, but the management of the swannery continued.

It was raining quite heavily when we left. We did not stop at the ruins of the abbey as I had intended, and decided to go on to Weymouth for lunch. It was tiring driving in the rain on these narrow and quiet roads, but I don’t mind too much, there are so many little stone villages, like Fleet.

I love driving like this, so much nicer than the busy roads of London. We arrived in the outskirts of Weymouth and it was madly busy. It was raining heavily so we decided to turn around and go somewhere else for lunch. The thought of parking and walking miles in the rain did not appeal. I did stop, nip out of the car and take a photo up Chesil Beach, an area I wanted to explore more. Another day.

We decided to go to Sherborne, inland and north of where we are staying, it was another nice drive through the lovely Dorset countryside, even though it was constantly raining. El has been to Sherborne before, with an old friend living here, though we did not make contact this time. We parked the car (so many bloody parking metres – is there no free parking left in the UK ?) and had lunch and a quick walk around. Sherborne looks really nice, though with only one hour of parking we did not stay in town long. Shame.

We did stay local and went to visit the ruins of 12th century Sherborne old Castle. There is a newer privately owned ‘castle’, but the old one is the one that interested me. Though it was pouring with rain we still chose to visit. I somehow managed to set my phone into some weird setting that made the photos look like they were taken on some old Holga type camera. I am not sure if I like these or not, but I could not edit them back to ‘normal’. We will be back to Sherborne, and I will come back to the castle as well.

It was getting late in the day so we went back to the B & B for a rest before heading into nearby Dorchester for dinner. We wanted to explore the town a bit, but it was absolutely tipping down by then so we found a big car park near a mall and had dinner in Carluccio’s. It was better than the pub the night before. I will leave it at that.

Emptying the nest.

Sunday 11 September 2016 – Torquay and Exeter, Devon.

I am an empty-nester yet again.

I don’t talk on here about my family that often , and even less so about El’s, so I am not going to go into much detail now as I do not want to intrude into their privacy.  El has two sons, Joe and Charlie. Joe has been away from home for four years, has completed a degree at Oxford and is starting his masters in Nottingham. Charlie finished his last term of school in July, got the excellent grades he was expecting and this weekend he too left for university, starting a history degree at Exeter.

Charlie is going down to Exeter with his dad and El and I are going to make our own way down and stay the night, slightly further into Devon, in Torquay. There is a music festival on in Exeter and with a lot of students turning up with their families to add the temporary population explosion there was no where to stay on Saturday night; and to be honest it is far nicer being by the sea!

We left Walthamstow about 8:30 on Saturday morning, I was expecting it to be a five hour drive, and I was not disappointed at all, or evenly pleasantly surprised. It took five and half hours to get to our hotel in Torquay.

We had a room with a view of the sea and down the coast path to Paington and Brixham;  fabulous. I love seeing the sea, only a blue sky over it would have made this better 🙂

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After unpacking we took to the roads and explored Torquay. It is an interesting town on the wider Torbay, and part of the ambitiously named ‘English Riviera’. I am guessing it is an old fishing town, that embraced tourism back in the 19th century. The port is full of private yachts and motor boats now. It is part faded glory and part modern tourist spot. It took a while to warm into it, but we really liked it in the end.

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I am not a big fan of the sight-seeing wheel that now seem to dominate the horizon in every town, though I liked the relationship this one had with the surrounding buildings and land.

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I think this photo shows the changing fortunes of many a seaside town. The good old pavilion, ‘THE’ place to hang out for many decades, shuttered and closed and the money is spent going (slowly) round the wheel.

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Though tourism has not quite fully replaced fishing – yet.

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We had not banked on Torquay being so busy. We went out to look for dinner at 8:00, thinking we would walk in to  anywhere we wanted, only to discover that most places were full. We ended up sparing no expense and having a small pizza each at Pizza Express, no complaints though, it was good pizza and the service was excellent. There appears to be lots of stag/hen type nights in town, lots of groups of blokes and women prowling the streets and filling the bars and restaurants, I think it is that sort of town now.

It does have a nice waterfront to walk along and the lights around the bay are lovely.

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We didn’t linger in the hotel on Sunday and were on the road soon after breakfast, heading off on the slow road into Exeter. it was very nice being by the sea, I really miss it, and just being near it again does give me a real lift.

Charlie is staying in halls for the first year and had an arrival slot of 12:30-13:00 to unload his stuff into his room. El and I wanted to have a look around Exeter, so parked up and had a walk around the centre of town. Starting down by the really nice quay.

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I have been here before, almost four years ago to the day, and explored all the historical places back then. Though we did pass a few on the way up to the cathedral, starting with the wonderful medieval bridge, crossing a piece of grass that is a hundred or so yards from the river.

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We stopped for a coffee in the square, the church behind the cafe is the last church Saxon Church in England, consecrated in 1065, the year before the Norman invasion.

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After coffee we walked up to the university area on the edge of town, I left El at Charlie’s home for the next year, to wait for his arrival and went off for a walk on my own.

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I walked up past the remains of the castle walls.

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A wonderful piece of street art, I am assuming by Vhils, it is in his unique style. He uses small amounts of explosive to blow out tiny sections of the wall, leaving behind a wonderful piece of art.

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Passed an ancient alms house.

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Ending up back at the cathedral again.

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Soon after arriving in Cathedral Green I had a call from El to let me know that Charlie was settled in, so I went back to the car and drove up to the uni for a look around his room, before we all went for a late lunch in a nearby pub.

This lovely day out was followed by a less than nice five and half hour drive back to London and home. We arrived knackered at 8:30 and didn’t stay up much beyond that!

For the next wee while, during term anyway, El and I will be empty nesters. A new chapter in our life.

A holiday in Ilfracombe

Thursday 28 July 2016 – Ilfracombe, North Devon.

In a break from tradition I will add a bit of news that is current as of today, 07 August. My short period ‘between jobs’ ends tomorrow when I start a three month contract doing systems analyst and support work for the software house that supplied the package I have been supporting over the past two years. This was anticipated as I left my last job, but as always there was plenty of detail to sort out. I am expecting to only work three or four days a week as well, which of course suits me perfectly.

The three month time frame was what I wanted as I am going to go to Australia and New Zealand in November as my eldest son, and middle child, has a baby due at the end of October. My daughter is going to be in India in November so I may do a two week side trip there as well. Exciting times ahead!

Of course by any standard there has been plenty of exciting times recently, with photography tours to Orford Ness, three days in Valencia with friends and now, two days after returning from Valencia El and I are off to Ilfracombe in North Devon for a week of relaxing.

We chose Ilfracombe as there is not a lot to do there, there are few sights to see or sites to visit, or much else really. The idea was to relax and do as little or as much as we felt like rather than charging around doing touristy things as I tend to do on holiday.

We were not in any particular rush leaving London on Friday, as I was driving I decided to leave it until after the morning rush hour. We had a good run till just before Bristol, this was the first time I have travelled from the M11 to the M4 on the M25 without actually stopping. The journey from Bristol was bad, bad. It took almost three hours to get to Ilfracombe from there, a six and a half hour journey all up. We had organised a really nice flat for ourselves, so something to look forward to when we got there. We were on holiday and not rushing.

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The plan for this holiday was not to do much. I wanted to walk up one of the headlands outside Ilfracombe and when El is spending time in a spa in nearby Woolacombe I will walk out to Morte point. Apart from hanging around Ilfracombe we had not much else in mind. Reading, writing, eating and drinking was about it.

The weather forecast for the week was not great, so with a fine morning on Saturday we took the opportunity to walk up the headland we could see from our flat, Hillsborough Hill. I had walked down the headland last July as it is on the South West Coast Path (SWCP). The view back from the top is magnificent, Ilfracombe in all its glory, with Lundy Island in the distance.

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As was the view towards the east.

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Near the top there was a tiny shrine, almost under a rock, I am not entirely sure who it is for, though it is quite touching and someone was obviously well loved.

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It was nice walk, good to be walking up and down some grass hills for a change, though it was warm!

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Once down from the hill we took a walk around Ilfracombe and picked up a few groceries. One of the reasons for getting a holiday flat rather than staying in a hotel or a guest house was to be able to cook for ourselves rather than eat out every night. Something we actually achieved!

We did not do a heck of a lot the following day, it was raining so we went into Barnstable for a walk and a coffee and then just mooched for a while. We had a table booked at one of the restaurants in Ilfracombe. We left early so we could stop on the way and see Verity without there being too many people in the way.

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Ilfracombe is a small fishing town, now dominated by tourism, with a natural harbour. People having been living here for a very long time. While not quaint in the ‘olde worlde’ way it is a nice little town, and the harbour is very well organised !

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Verity is a 20 metre tall statue created by Damien Hirst and erected in 2012. It is a stunning work and completely dominates the small harbour. I found her quite a challenge to photograph.

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IMG_4482After a very nice dinner we took a stroll up Capstone Hill, a small hill overlooking the sea. I was hoping for an amazing sunset as it looked like the view to the west would be great from up there, but there was no stunning sunset tonight. The light looking back over town was magic though. ‘Magic hour’ indeed. As I said on my Orford Ness post, I really should get out for this light more often. I do like the look of a town that grows up a hillside.

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The statue of Katy remembers the short life of a young Russian girl,  Ekaterine who tragically fell to her death walking in the fog when she was studying English here in 2000. The statue has such a lovely smile and I was quite taken by it. I wonder if the shrine on Hillsborough Hill that we found yesterday is related, it was in that area that the accident occurred.

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Walking back down the hill I finally got the angle I was looking for to get this image of St Nicholas’s Chapel with Hillsborough Hill behind it. Lovely light.

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The following day El had a spa session booked in nearby Woolacombe. I took the opportunity to go for a morning walk from Woolacombe, along the SWCP out to Morte Point. I was hoping to see seals.

Woolacombe is the start of proper sandy beaches on the stretch of coast from North Devon to Lands End. Woolacombe Beach is massive and very popular. Though it was sunny there was quite a strong wind blowing and it was not really a lying on the beach day. Most swimmers were in wet suits!

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I had walked around Morte Point last year on my walk, it was at the end of a day of walking from Combe Martin so I was quite looking forward to going back and taking a more leisurely stroll, unencumbered by a large pack.

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It took me about 40 minutes from the spa to round the end of the point and the view up the coast. There are no massive and dominate cliffs here, but those rocks are sharp and brutal and it is not called Morte Point for nothing.

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I walked along the path for a little bit, looking for and hoping to see some of the seals that are known to frequent the area. For a change I was rewarded with the sight of two seals just off the shore. Without a big lens and not being able to get too close to the edge here, this is a heavily cropped image. But I did see seals, so very happy!

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I watched them play for a while before turning round and heading back the way I came, at the end of the point I decided I would head up the rocky spine and get some height and take the upper track back.

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From the sea the point must look incredible as its spine is topped by rocky shards pointing out, like a stegosaurus, unusual. As were the plants growing in the rocks.

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The view from the top of the point was brilliant, it was cool being able to see the coast path winding in both directions, I was trying to get a photo of both sections of the path with walkers on them, but the timing was never quite right, though there a lot of people walking today.

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There were also a lot more people on Woolacombe Beach when I got back there, I love those wind breaks, and how so many people are huddled inside them – and you can buy chips on the beach. Perfect!

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Ilfracombe does not have many scenic wonders or tourist attractions. The tunnel beaches are one of them, though I am not sure why. Maybe it was the day was a bit grey, or maybe I am just cynical! But I was not overly excited. Ilfracombe is not really a swimming town, the best beach was cut off from the town by cliffs so in the 1820s Welsh miners cut tunnels through the small hill from the town to the beach.

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I must admit I was not stunned by the beach…

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The Landmark Theatre is quite a cool building, known as ‘Madonna’s Bra’ by some, for obvious reasons.

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It was Eleanor’s birthday while we were away, but the weather did not really play fair. We decided to go to Lynmouth and Lynton for lunch and a look around, we had passed the towns on the way to Ilfracombe and had visiting them as a back-up, rainy day activity.

We parked in Lynton, which is at the top of the cliff, with Lynmouth below. There is a funicular railway between, which we caught both up and down. We only had two hours of parking so with lunch in mind we did not linger in Lynton before heading down. The cloud was quite low.

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Lynmouth is a pretty village, very badly damaged when these gentle looking streams were turned into raging torrents after heavy rain back in 1952. We really liked it here and enjoyed the brief time we had wandering about – and eating fish and chips for lunch.

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The funicular railway is very cool, not as dramatic as Victoria Peak in Hong Kong, but it is really steep, and is a great piece of engineering. Built in 1890 the two rail cars are water powered. The cars are linked by a cable, the car at the top is loaded up with 700 gallons of water which makes it heavier than the one at the bottom, which is emptied of water. Gravity does the rest. It really is ingenious.

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The original plan was to make the short walk from Lynton to the Valley of the Rocks, but as we could only park for two hours we decided to be lazy and drive. It is quite a cool little place to walk with its unusual, castle like rock structures.

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And goats…

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The weather really started to close in so after a short walk we headed back to the car and back to Ilfracombe.

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El and I had another great meal out, a birthday celebration. The evening was  nice so we went for another walk around, hoping for a sunset again. I had brought my tiny tripod and we took a couple of selfies on the sea wall below St Nicholas’s Chapel.

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With one last snap of Ilfracombe on the way back up to the flat – naturally up a hill overlooking town.

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The flat above our one was under renovation, it had been a little bit noisy during the week but not too bad, though as we were heading out for dinner we warned that on Thursday night new carpet was going to be laid and that lots of furniture would be moved around – and it would be noisy.

Thursday turned out to be a bit of a rainy day, so the thought of spending a day inside with noise above was too much and would have ruined what had been a good week. We decided to leave one day early and take a night in Bath on the way home. It was the right decision.

We really enjoyed Ilfracombe, the flat and our holiday. Thankfully, the holiday flat people refunded us for the night we did not stay due to the noise. That was really appreciated!

SWCP Walk Part 2, Day 3. Westward Ho! to Clovelly.

Sunday 12 June 2016 – Clovelly, Devon.

Day three of three, almost over already. However, today was what the last two days were building up to. No more tar seal, no more flat wide paths, just up hill, down hill, mud and rock. All accompanied by the sound of the sea. Yes!

I was awake fairly early and out for breakfast at the agreed time of 8:30. It was nice to have breakfast with other people after a couple of days on my own in B and B’s. Jilly the Air B n B hostess had family staying, we had all travelled extensively at different points in our lives so had some common and interesting experiences. It also helped me delay my departure until after the first shower of the day had passed.

I left as soon the rain stopped and got down to the waterfront just as the next shower arrived. Westward Ho! has its own haunted house on the edge of town, I wonder how long it has been for sale? Right next to a massive, and expanding holiday camp; I wouldn’t buy haunted or not, though it is right by the beach. I had to stop to put on my jacket and pack cover. They stayed on for quite a while. My jacket is hopeless, it keeps the rain out well, but it is not designed for warm weather walking. I was wetter inside than out, no breathability at all, I am going to have to invest in a new summer jacket before I start my next stage of walking.

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The first kilometre out of Westward Ho! follows a cliff side path that seems to be popular with dog walkers, local runners and all sorts of people, there were even two couples that looked to be doing a long walk as well, carrying heavy packs and walking poles. I was hoping it was not going to be that crowded for the entire day. The view towards Clovelly, my destination at the end of this 17 or so KM walk was rather gloomy. I knew it was out there somewhere.

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This was to be the toughest of the three days walking, there is a lot of up and down to complete and with a slippery trail underfoot precautions needed to be taken. I will say that I was glad when I did arrive in Clovelly, my legs were done. It is a stunning section of coast, and though the weather did not come to the party and it was a bit miserable out there, I was relishing being out in the ‘wild’ again. I was mostly on my own, there were a couple walking at a similar pace to me and we chatted on the numerous occasions we passed each other. The view, both in front and behind kept appearing and disappearing, along with rain showers all morning, fortunately the rain was light for most of it and I did not get overly wet, but I did have to stop and I took a lot of photos today. The cliffs, the path, the flowers and the old lime kilns.

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Clovelly still refused to make an appearance, though Bucks Mills was a small dot half way along the cliff side..

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The path dropped down close to the beach in a couple of places, and in both there have been efforts to corral the vast amount of rubbish washed up each year. At this particular spot someone had made a crude shelter and this great seat out of drift wood and netting, nearby there were piles and piles of washed up plastic junk. Well done to the volunteers who go out to clean our beaches and park lands. It started to rain again just as I was taking the picture so I did not linger, much as I needed the rest.

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It was back up hill, yet again.

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Peppercombe Beach was my next break stop, the red cliffs here are quite unusual so worth the extra few minutes walk down to the beach, though my legs were cursing a bit as I walked back up again.

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There was still no sight of Clovelly in the distance. I had caught glimpses of it earlier in the day so knew it did actually exist.

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Naturally there was a climb out.

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Bucks Mills was the next stop point, and where I had planned on taking lunch. As I was coming down the wooded hill in to the village I knew I had been here before and exactly where I was going to pop out. This was one of the stop points where we met Malcolm and Tom when they ran the entire 630 Miles of the path back in 2012 and I was support crew. This was also when my obsession with the path started, I blame them.

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The preceding two days walking had lulled me into an act of complete stupidity, something I am slightly prone to. I had got used to just walking from town to town, picking up water and snacks as I went. Well there was nowhere to pick up food and water on this entire leg. I had almost no water left in my tiny water bottle, though I did pack energy bars so was not completely bereft of food. As I dropped down into Bucks Mills I was hoping there might be something open. There was something. It was just not open.

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At the top of the path down to the beach sits Look out Cottage a tiny studio used by the artists Judith Ackland and Mary Stella Edwards, it was their cabin and studio from the 20s to the 1970s and is now locked up and empty. I am not sure who owns it but I believe it to be left fairly much as it was when it stopped being a studio. I snuck in through the gate and took a photo in the window. It looked so rustic inside, that candle holder just harks back to much simpler times.

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I carried on down to the sea front, even if I couldn’t drink I could at least take a break, east a snack, have a sit down and enjoy the sea for a few minutes. I was so glad I did as there was an old boat shed at the end of the jetty and low and behold there was a tap. Wonderful. I drank two bottles of water while I munched on bars, and then filled up once more before I headed off again. Thanks Bucks Mills!

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There was a festival (and a party) going on in Clovelly today, I could hear loud music as I walked for most of the morning, I must say it did not inspire me to set a cracking pace, I dragged my feet a bit with the hope of arriving after it had all quietened down. The seaweed festival wasn’t really my thing. The walk from Bucks Mills was lovely, mostly through gorgeous wood lands, with rare and ancient cliff oaks and bizarrely gigantic rhododendron bushes on the way. None of my tree photos were particularly good, so here are some shrubs.

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Finally after about five hours of walking I was on Hobby Drive, the roadway into Clovelly. I sort of thought this was going to be a short road way in, but it took almost an hour to walk it. It was not a short walk in.

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As I approached the cliff top above Clovelly I caught my first glimpse of it through the trees. There were a few walkers up here from their day out in the village and I saw a few more puffing their way up the hill. You can see some of the gazebos from the fair on the wharf, luckily things were quietening down for the day.

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I have been looking forward to visiting Clovelly, I did not go down to the village in 2012, but have heard a lot about it. I am booked into an inn for the night, it was expensive as you would expect in such a small place. There is no way to get back to London late on a Sunday, so this was the price I paid – a lot, to do my walk. Clovelly is basically one narrow cobbled street down to the sea, it is part of a private estate and there are no cars. It sounds idyllic and I imagine it can be, though I really surprised myself by not liking it much. Maybe it was the price of everything – justified as things have to ported by hand, maybe it was the aftermath of the festival and there had also been a Queens birthday party so there were a few folk around that were a bit worse for wear. Maybe it was me being tired after walking, I don’t know. I was just disappointed.

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After checking in, I grabbed a pint from the bar, went to my room, divested myself of wet clothes and shoes, made a coffee and then plopped myself on the bed with beer, coffee and free biscuits. I didn’t move for a while. It rained. Heavily. This is the second time it absolutely poured down minutes after I had arrived somewhere. I was so lucky while I walked, while I got damp a few times I was never utterly soaked, though I had prepared for that with my packing.

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After a shower I discovered the towel rail was on, and very hot. Perfect. Towels off – shoes on. Dry shoes for tomorrow, an unexpected bonus, especially as my flip flops fell apart when I went for my walk.

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I wanted food but was too late for lunch and too early for dinner, so I went for a walk down to the waterfront to look around the village and hopefully find some food. There was no food, but I did take some photos.

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Clovelly is mostly a traditional white and grey Devon fishing village, but there is always one that has to stand out.

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I took a photo back to where I started this morning, hidden in the low cloud.

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Back in the Inn I had another pint before heading down to the bar the minute it opened for food. I had dinner with two other guys solo walking the path. Both of a similar age to me. It must be a thing, I guess if you cannot afford a Ferrari and hate golf then walking long distances has to be up there in the list of mid-life crisis things to do. It was an enjoyable, though early evening as we were all knackered.

I met the same guys over breakfast, where we all seemed a little more chipper. I was feeling OK Monday morning, the legs were tired but the walk up the cliff and out of Clovelly was not too bad and I knew I could have carried on if I had the time.

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I caught two busses from Clovelly back to Barnstable Station, maybe the last time I will be catching a train back to London from here. Hopefully my next walks will get me further down the coast where another station will be closer.

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The walk took me 6 hours, quite a lot more than guide book suggested. It was harder than I expected, though I knew it was going to be tough, a lot harder than the preceding days that is for sure. The next two legs are supposed to be the toughest on the entire path, so I plan to be ready for those when I come back. Sooner rather than later.

I loved my time on the path, three days was long enough, but not long enough too.

SWCP Walk Part 2, Day 2. Westleigh to Westward Ho!

Saturday 11 June 2016 -Westward Ho!, Devon.

I left the B and B in Westleigh at 9:30, after waiting for the rain to stop, and to let the monster breakfast go down, fuel for the day. My legs felt good after yesterday’s walk, which pleased me. I haven’t done a lot of walking; or much else this year, and had anticipated seizing up after a day on the road. I felt better than I had in weeks. Fresh air makes so much difference to how I feel.

I joined the SWCP and Tarka Trail where I left it yesterday, by the side of the River Torridge just outside Instow. The path follows the river all the way to Bideford passing under another huge road bridge. This one with added mermaid.

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There were a few more old and rotting boats just outside Bideford. I think I could do an entire post on old boats. Which might be something to explore if I ever come down this way for a length of time, I am sure they have a history. Even if it is not that interesting at all.

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At the defunct Bideford Station I said goodbye to the Tarka Trail as the coast path heads across the river and into Bideford. I will not say it was sad to say goodbye, we had fun while it lasted, but our time was up, I need some hills, mud and the smell of the sea.

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I stopped for coffee and  a brief rest before heading off again, I was trying to maintain a reasonable pace today as rain was forecast for late afternoon and though I was prepared for it, it did seem silly to get wet if it could be avoided. Now we were not joined with the old railway line that is the Tarka, the coast path was allowed to amber up and down small hills, through woods and fields and get all muddy – and a lot more fun.

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At the top of the hill there was a nice view across the Torridge to where I started this morning in Westleigh.

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This boat has definitely seen better days…

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Though it looks like this old tug (is it a tug?) has someone living on board and is being renovated.

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The path takes an inland route for a while to bypass a large dock site. I have heard that our councils have all been struggling with massively reduced budgets in these times of austerity, and it was obvious in this section of North Devon, an area particularly struggling that clearing paths was not on any sort of priority spending list.

I walk in shorts, I have not really been a long trouser walker, maybe if it gets cold I will put leggings on, I have always wondered why so many walkers in Britain walk in long trousers. Today I found out why. The nettles through here were pretty bad, I got stung on the stomach – through my shirt. Picking my way through to avoid the worst of the stingers slowed me right done, and meant I spent a lot of time looking at the ground.

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I soon arrived in the lovely little village of Appledore, there were a number of pubs and cafes as I entered, and though it was lunch time I thought I would walk through town and find somewhere on the other side.IMG_4244

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Which was sort of a mistake as there wasn’t anything on the other side to stop at. Eat when you can is my new motto. I liked Appledore. Especially this narrow cottage!

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Popping out the other side of the village I could see Westward Ho!, my destination for the night just up the road, however I had to walk around the Northam Burrows Country Park first, an extra couple of miles I suspect. Not that I was complaining at all, the sun popped out for a while so I took a break, shoes off, muesli bar snack and some water and I enjoyed lying on the grass looking back at Instow for a while. I haven’t done that in ages.

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Once the sun disappeared I took a glance towards Westward Ho! and saw that the threatened rain was looking to be a reality, so it was shoes and pack back on again and I dragged myself reluctantly back on to the path.

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The Burrows is an area of significant scientific interest for its mix of salt marsh, grassy plain and pebble lined beach. It was an interesting place to stroll and if it wasn’t for those very dark clouds I would have taken a bit more time to explore.

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The Burrows also contains the course of the Royal North Devon Golf Club, the oldest links club in England. What makes this course special to me is that there are horses on it. Grazing right next to a tee… Lovely !

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At the tip of the park, after approximately eight hours of walking the South West Coast Path I finally hit the actual coast. Yay! It was great to hear waves hitting the beach, I really miss that sound.

The walk to town was made at a cracking pace, hoping to get there before the rain arrived on me, I could see it was pouring down in town, so I am not sure why I was rushing into it! What a great beach.

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I was pretty lucky, I just caught the end of the shower, and though I had to put a coat and bag cover on I didn’t get too wet. By the time I had found a coffee shop to sit in the sun had come out again and it was a pleasant half an hour spent drinking coffee, a banana milkshake and noshing on a piece of cake. I stopped to take a photo of Lundy Island before heading up the hill to my room for the night. Why,oh why are they always at the top of the hill !!

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I was staying in an Air B and B for the first time. I had found it really hard to get accommodation for this trip, I guess I left it a bit late and it is supposedly summer. So many places were booked out on the usual web sites I use to find places. I really enjoyed the Air B n B though. The walk up the hill was well worth it for the view. These clouds – Yum!!!

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In an effort to avoid a constant stream of fish/burger and chips meals I went to a Thai restaurant back in town for dinner before heading back up the hill with heavy legs and a full stomach to watch England play Russia in England’s opening game of Euro 16. England were ‘disappointing’. As usual. To make it worse the England and Russian fans were a disgrace, which made for unpleasant news reading after the game.

This was partly made up for by that great view from the room, over the mouth of the Torridge and up the coast to where I walked last year.

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It was another good day’s walking, a bit longer than yesterday, a few more lumps to walk over compared to all that flat walking previously. Tomorrow there will be more than a few lumps to cover, back to the coast path proper – I really cannot wait.

SWCP Walk Part 2, Day 1. Chivenor to Westleigh.

Friday 10 June 2016 – Westleigh, Devon.

I surprised myself by having a decent sleep in what was the probably the smallest single room I have ever had in a B and B, not that I need a lot of space. A good breakfast was had and I was out the door at 9:00, on a bus soon after and standing at the starting point of three days of walking before 9:30. Yeeha – it has finally arrived.

I am starting the South West Coast Path (SWCP) where I finished last July – at a bus stop!

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To be perfectly honest it was not the same bus stop. I was going to start in Braunton, but the path crossed the road next to a bus stop in Chivendor and it just seemed like a good place to start, so start there I did.

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I have three days of walking planned, the first two days will take me around the Rivers Taw and Torridge, and I won’t see the coast until the end of day two. The total distance over those two days is about 24 miles. I could probably walk the whole thing in a day, but it would have been a long day and to be honest I am not road fit at the moment and have been suffering from tight legs for weeks. There was no point in taking risks, and anyway I want to be feeling good for day three, a nice hilly walk from Westward Ho! To Clovelly, all on the coast.

Today’s walk is along a section of the SWCP that has merged with the Tarka Trail. The Tarka trail is named after the book ‘Tarka the Otter’, which was published in 1927, and describes the life of an otter living in the rivers Taw and Torridge. The section of the Tarka that I follow over the next day and half is about half tar-seal and half crushed stone. Not the ideal surface for walking with sore legs, but there were areas where I could walk on the grass verge. While not being wild and coastal, it is quite pretty in sections.

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In a few hours time I will be walking along that stretch of shore on the other side of the Taw as well…

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The path heads back to Barnstable, where I stayed last night and also where I stayed after finishing walking last summer. Rather than walk all the back into town I crossed over the new road bridge for the better view – and it was a bit shorter.

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There was a path up to the bridge on the side I started on but none back down on the far side. Rather than walk all the way up to the busy road and then back again, I jumped the fence and cut through the scrub. It seemed to be a popular route, but does not explain why there was not proper access.

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Once out of Barnstable there was a long walk along side of some salt marshes, with dozens of little water ways and channels it was something interesting to look at. I expect if I ever came this way again it would all look totally different.

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On the other side of the path was farm land.

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I arrived at Fremington Quay after a couple of hours of walking and stopped for coffee and cake in the cafe. It was good to sit down. One thing I am not particular good at on my walks is sitting down and resting. I do stop a lot to take photos, but rarely take the time to rest properly, or just enjoy a view or a cup of coffee. I need to practice that more. In truth I need to practice that more all the time, not just while I am walking

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As I was packing up my stuff to leave I had a phone call from my son in Australia, Dom. Though the news was not all good, it was great to chat with him for a while as I continued walking. The best thing about the conversation is that it took my thoughts away from work. I had spent the first couple of hours of my walk thinking about it, getting progressively angrier and angrier with myself for wasting my holiday and head space time focusing on the very thing I was trying to get away from. It did not enter my mind again.

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I really enjoyed the walk from Fremington to Instow, in parts it was quite post-apocalyptic, old jetties and ruined boats, an old electricity sub-station and rusty relics from the railway. I was alone for a while and it felt like I was the last human alive. I was waiting for ‘walkers’ to find me.

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As I was taking photos of the SS Boop, a woman walking her dog ambled by, and I realised the world had not ended in the previous couple of hours.

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I stopped for lunch in Instow, it was nice, but pricey. I had earned my lunch and its accompanying pint over the morning, though I did not have much more walking to do. The renovated station house at Instow was a nicer reminder of the the old railway.

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Instow is at the confluence of the Rivers Taw and Torridge, I could just see the coast in the distance, past Appledore on the far side. After following the Taw all morning, I was now following the Torridge and will do for most of tomorrow as well.

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I was still on the SWCP and the Tarka trail as I headed out of Instow towards Bideford. This part of Devon is famous for its old lime kilns, there are hundreds of old kiln sites up and down the coast and on the edge of some of the estuaries. They were used to make quick-lime from lime stone in the region. There are a few ruins left here and there and I will pass a few of them over the couple of days.

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I had booked a B and B in the small village of Westleigh, just south and slightly inland from Instow. As I was walking along the path I could see the road up to the village on the far side of a narrow swampy stream. I had visions of having to walk way way down the path to find a way across the swamp, but fortunately not too far ahead there was a pathway across. Phew.

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There was another old fishing boat just up the river so I carried on going so I could take a look at it today, in case it was raining tomorrow. I was talking to a couple of men collecting sea weed from the rocks nearby and they told me the boat just appeared one day six months ago. They had no idea what it is doing there or how long it will remain. A further sign of a stricken fishing industry.

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Naturally my B and B was right at the top of the longest hill of the day, it was a farmhouse on the other side of the village to the path I was walking. I have never stayed in a B and B with pillars out the front before.

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Last night I stayed in the smallest room ever, and tonight I stayed in the largest. It was also very comfortable. I have been really fortunate with the weather so far, just after I arrived it poured with rain, lying on my bed in my room, I just did not care !

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After the rain had passed I walked into the pub in Westleigh for dinner and the hope of being able to watch the opening game of Euro 16, however they did not have a TV in the pub. After eating I took a bottle of beer back to my room and watched the game on my own, it was pretty dire. 

I really enjoyed today, once work had left my head and I had the space to think – and literally stop to smell the flowers it was a very relaxing day. My legs feel good after five or so hours of walking and it was just damn good to be outside again!

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A day in Plymouth.

Wednesday 12 and Thursday 13 August 2015, Plymouth, Devon – Walthamstow, London.

I had another lousy sleep. My right hip started to seize up in the night, and I ‘awoke’ to a bit of pain on the outside of my hip. My room in the guest house was on the 3th floor, in what would have been the attic before conversion. There was a really steep stair down to the main landing and then a couple of flights down to the breakfast room. Walking both up and down the stairs was agonising. I rang El after breakfast to discuss things, I hate being a quitter, but it was the right thing to do and I wanted to have her blessing as well, which she gave of course. So I quit walking Sad smile

El is in Edinburgh until tomorrow so as I didn’t bring house keys with me I decided to stay for one more day and after some faffing and searching on the interweb decided on spending the night in Plymouth. I booked another guest house, which was again cheaper than the campground in Woolacombe !

It was at this point I discovered that my shoes were pretty stuffed, I have had them for a while – I did my 50th birthday 50km run (also on the SWCP) in them almost three years ago, though I didn’t think I had completed too many off-road miles since. I didn’t think enough to check them before I left anyway. A shame as they were so comfy.

The 20 minute walk to Barnstaple station cemented my decision to stop. It was a very painful walk, there was no way I would have been able to do tough coastal sections like this.

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I arrived in Plymouth just after 1:00 and there was another painful 20 minute walk to my guest house. I was exhausted when I arrived, lack of sleep over the last week and lots of walking, left me completely drained. I had a brief lie down before heading out to find some lunch as I was starving as well Smile

Plymouth is another really old town, it is a port town and the first pilgrims to the US left from here in 1620. As a significant naval port it was heavily bombed during the second world war, so a lot of the city centre has been designed and built in that delightful post war concrete Stalinist style. Luckily the harbour remains lovely and there is still a very small old town to explore.

My guest house was not far from the Hoe so that was my first choice of place to visit, nice views out over the harbour. I spotted a tapas bar down below and decided that was what I wanted for dinner. Which meant I could have pizza for lunch. Though I could not find somewhere to have pizza…

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Smeaton’s Tower is a lighthouse from 1739 and is the central point on the big Hoe park area, it was surrounded by lots of families eating lunch and playing ball, very nice. I always like to see parks being used.

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Below the park is a big old outdoor pool, I am kinda liking Plymouth.

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I wandered around for ages trying to find pizza, my hip hurt and my foot was hurting and I was hungry and getting grumpy…. it was turning into less of case of trying to find pizza and more of a case of trying to find somewhere I wanted to eat. I finally found The Barbican area – I should have gone there first as it is one of the big tourist areas and full of bars and restaurants. I still could not find pizza so settled for chicken and chips in one of the waterfront bars. It was remarkably disappointing – the food, not the waterfront….

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The Barbican is next to the old town, so I took a very quick walk through there, it is tiny so a quick walk is all that is achievable!

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I somehow missed the Mayflower steps, I think because someone was parked in front of the sign, but I did see this plaque commemorating the sailing of the Tory, one of the first ships that sailed off to far away New Zealand to start the colony there in 1839. I loved the fact that the lighthouse was 100 years older than the start of the colonisation of New Zealand.

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With my hip and foot getting more and more painful I decided to hobble my way back to my lodgings, along the waterfront and passed the Royal Citadel – which I don’t think is open to the public, though it looks big and forty and probably quite interesting.

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After a bit of a lie down, and possibly a bit of a doze I headed out again for more food, but with some wine this time. I left early as I suspected the tapas would get quite full later in the evening. I took a detour past the lighthouse to try and get a couple of silhouette type shots, I was hoping to get the sun coming through the windows at the top, but left it slightly too late to do so.

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I got a nice outside seat at the tapas bar, overlooking the harbour and the sun setting on the day, lovely. The food was great – I ate more than I should Smile The wine was also really nice, I had a very light rose to go with the food and it was perfect, a great combination.

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As it was still early I walked back to the hotel via the supermarket and bought a small bar of chocolate and a small bottle of rioja and slobbed in bed reading and finishing my wine and chockie.

Plymouth was OK, for a city that has sooooo much history I would liked to have been able to find it more easily, or maybe so much of the history is wrapped up in the navy that it is all behind barbed wire ?

I woke up Thursday morning quite stiff, I knew I would seize up one day so I was not surprised at all. Worst though was the pain in my foot, sharp shooting pains with every step. I get this every now and then, and it is always related to walking distance in the wrong shoes. It sort of confirmed my thoughts that my old Salomon trainers were knackered.

It was hurling it down with rain so I accepted the final humiliation and got a cab to the station for the journey back to London.

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That was it. Trip over. I walked less than I wanted to, enjoyed most of the walking, enjoyed the evenings less. Still keen to do it, still keen to do it and camp on the way. As I said a few posts back, I learned a few lessons on the way, so next time will be better.

My foot was still sending shooting pains up leg four days later, so the right decision was made!

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.

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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.

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And I did spot a couple of goats as well.

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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.

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Not sure what this is for or why it is where it is, but good to see New Zealand referenced on the path…

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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I love the view back over the path I had walked down into Heddon Mouth.

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Though the view forward was less lovely… OK, it was lovely, but it also looked challenging!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

SWCP Walk day 2, Porlock to Lynton

Friday 07 August 2015 – Lynton, Devon.

14 miles.

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.

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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 !

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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 Smile

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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I did see some sheep – and some deer.

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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.IMG_2000

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.

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The 19th century stone cross near Sisters Fountain.

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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.

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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.

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On the way I passed another, very tame, Exmoor pony and her foal, who seemed to not like the very bright sun too much !

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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…

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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 !

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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 !

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 !!