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.



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.


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.






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


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.


It was back up hill, yet again.


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.



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.


Naturally there was a climb out.



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.


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.


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.


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!


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.




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


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.


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


This boat has definitely seen better days…


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


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.


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


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!




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.


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.


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.


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 !


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.


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 !!


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!!!



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.


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!


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.


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.




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


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.



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.


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.



On the other side of the path was farm land.


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


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.


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.





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.




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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.


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 !


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!


SWCP Walk Part 2, Day 0. On the way to the coast.

Thursday 09 June 2016 – Barnstable, Devon.

I almost cannot believe it was August last year that I started my walk of the South West Coast Path (SWCP), the longest walkway in the UK, I also cannot believe that I have not been back to walk any more since. Well I suppose I can, as I have been a bit slack, and / or busy, in the past 11 months. I did venture down to Falmouth for a few days just before Christmas, but I did not really do any path walking then, so it does not really count.


Anyway, I am now on the train heading back to Barnstable for the night. Tomorrow I will catch the bus to Braunton and start three days of walking, ending in Clovelly on Sunday. I am only expecting to do 4 or 5 hours walking a day. Not massive distances, but I am not really massively fit at the moment and have been suffering from aching legs for weeks. I am hoping that the ache is caused by inactivity and zero stretching rather than anything more serious.  So starting small seems like a good plan. I am also staying in B and B’s for the four nights I am away. The weather forecast has not been great and I am not ready to get soaked over three days of walking and then sleep in a wet tent. I will save that for later. If all goes well I am planning on doing a longer walk in August and will camp then.  So just consider this a tester walk.

This is where I left my walk in August 2015, on the side of the road just before Braunton. In a bus stop, waiting for a bus to Barnstable. Hip and foot pain ending my walk early.


I am hoping to see a few views like this on day three. The first two days are flat walking around the Rivers Torridge and Taw and they do not sound overly interesting. One of the reasons for walking them now is to get these two least interesting days of the entire coast path out of the way.  Day three from Westward Ho! to Clovelly should be much nicer and will hopefully give me views like this one from Great Hangman.


Though I suspect the view will be more like this one over Watermouth Bay, low clouds and rain 😦


At least I am out on the road again, it has to be better than work 🙂

SWCP Walk day 6, Woolacombe to Saunton.

Tuesday 11 August 2015, Barnstaple, Devon.

I was surprised to get off to sleep reasonably quickly, sort of anyway, but I was awoken at 3:00 by a small sick child, coughing and crying, crying and coughing for a good hour. I did sympathise a bit, but really could have done with the sleep. Earplugs only blocked half of it. My penance for some prior life sins is to be a light sleep who is easily distracted by noise. At least it was not cold !!

My original plan was to cheat a bit around here, walk to Braunton and then catch a bus to Westward Ho!, skipping the entire section along the River Taw. I have been here before and it is flat, and a bit dull and a lot of it is on the road and through towns. I would then walk from Westward Ho! back on the coast proper. This morning I decided to vary this a bit further and stay the night in Barnstaple. I want to send some stuff back to London, lighten my load by a kilo or so, plus I realised I only had map and guide as far as Bude and no idea beyond. Even though Bude is three days walking away, Barnstaple is the last decent size town so it seemed like a good idea, so I booked a room in a cheap hotel, which was only slightly more than this camp site.

I was up at 8:00, breakfasted, packed and on my way in under an hour. My knee is really sore this morning and I also appear to have a slight blister forming on the top of one of my toes. Volterol on the knee and band aid on the toe. Sorted.

The official path follows the beach along the back of the sand dunes, rising and falling with them. I thought stuff that and walked along the beach. It is a lovely beach and very quiet at this time of day. It is still not easy easy walking, at least it is flat !



Though that did not last that long, and it was soon back up on to some, admittedly, quite low hills as the path meandered around Baggy Point. The camping ground I saw from the Woolacombe end of the beach is a caravan park, so I am glad I did not make my way here last night in the hope of a smaller and quieter place to stay.


I don’t think I took the official SWCP path across the point as I ended up pretty much in the middle of the point rather than on the edge, with my knee still sore I decided to not head off in search of the proper path, but carried on going along the one I was on. I did find this old standing stone. Apparently there are four standing stones on the point and no-one knows what they were for. They just are, always have been, and hopefully always will be.


I was soon down on Croyde Beach, this is a bit more my sort of place than Woolacombe, a bit more proper surfy and outdoorsy. I sort of liked Croyde for the few minutes I passed through from Baggy Point down to the beach. I picked up a coffee and stopped to do some running repairs on the band aid on my toe – and to shake all the sand out of my shoes to prevent any further damage.


There was another small climb up out of Croyde Beach and on to the headland at Downend .


There are lots of little gates and styles on the path, most of them are OK. This one was not too bad, but some are so tight that I could not fit through with the pack on my back, which was a bit frustrating. Most come with a nice combination of stinging nettles and thorn bushes, and the best ones have a nice unavoidable puddle in the middle as well!


The view down over Saunton Beach, to the River Taw way off in the distance.


At the bottom of the hill and on the road in Saunton I decided to stop for the day. My knee was still a little sore – my left knee, which is unusual. If it had been pain in my right knee I would have just gone on as it always gives me grief – though there not a twinge from it on any of the days of walking. There was miles of flat walking to Braunton which was where I was going to stop, so as I was right next to a bus stop and the next bus was 7 minutes away I caught it.


That effectively, was the end of my walking. My plan to do 16 days ended after 4 ½.

I caught the bus in to Barnstaple and dumped my pack at the guest house I was staying in, I took all my dirty clothes and a shopping list and went in to town. I got everything done, except find a book on the path from Bude. Laundry, lunch, posted a box load of stuff back home, a good administrative afternoon. Wasted really.

I made the mistake of checking out the weather forecast while lounging in my room waiting for tea time. A bad mistake as the forecast was pretty awful for the next week, showers tomorrow and then thunder storms over the weekend. This put me in a bit of a slump. I was a bit sore, I was a bit lonely and the weather was not looking bright. I went off in search of solace, or wine. Whatever you want to call it. I found a nice quiet bar, had a few drinks (not too many) and some really excellent food , which perked my spirits up.

It was still early when I made my way back to my lodgings, I walked along the path alongside the River Taw and its lovely medieval long bridge.



I liked Barnstaple, it had a pretty good feel to it, I liked that it was not pretentious and showy, it is what it is, a working rural town, but with some interesting stuff. I liked that it had an old closed cinema, just like the one at home in Walthamstow. I hope it gets reopened one day.



I decided to see how I felt in the morning, if my knee was still playing up after breakfast and a gentle walk then I would quit and head back to London, tail between my legs. I was not overly happy with that decision as it was a big dent in my pride, but it seemed to the right thing to do.

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 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.

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.


The path goes through the inland side of a marsh area that comes and goes over the centuries with a skeleton forest that is significantly old, the remains date back 5000 years. Cool !




The final section before the small village of Porlock Weir was along the top of the stony beach and was quite tough to walk on, after yesterday’s small wobble on an uneven rock I took extra precautions walking across the stones.


Porlock Weir is tiny and cute and also has the last coffee stop before my destination at the end of the day – Lynmouth. So I made use of the facilities and had a final coffee before finally setting off on the trail at 10:00, with 12.5 miles to go. The book says it is moderate to strenuous…



The walk out of Porlock Weir is quite nice, up a hill, but quite nice. Once out of town there is another nice long section of shaded woodland, I did not realise there was so much tree cover on this early section, I expected the moors to be far more open, but apparently Exmoor has one of the largest coastal forest sections of any park in the UK. It is really nice forest – and I was also glad of the shade.



The lovely old toll gate at Worthy Toll collects a small fee for cars wishing to use the private road, built in the 1840s to provide an option for travellers to avoid the steep Porlock Hill road. The gate for walkers passing by is free Smile


Ashley Combe house has long been pulled down after being in ruins for many years. The grand house was built for Ada Lovelace (look her up, she is very interesting, especially if you are interested in computing) by her husband and included a series of tunnels linking the tradesman entrances to the house so that they and their guests could look out over the magnificent gardens without having to see the servants and tradesmen. A few of the tunnels remain and are part of the coast path, it looks like some of them must have been quite long.


Culborne Church was the next stop, for a long drink of water and a nut bar, as well a look around. I did not linger here too long as there was an incredible amount of flies, an unwelcome feature of most of the rest of the day. I caught up with the Dutch ladies here and as I was leaving the family group I saw last night were arriving. It is good to know there are people on the path – just in case !

There is an unproven story that suggests the steeple on Culborne Church may have come from the missing section of the steeple at Porlock Church


Culborne Church is the smallest parish church in the UK, it has a capacity of 30 and still has weekly services. To access it you have to make the hour long walk from Porlock or risk driving down what is essentially a four wheel drive track. There has been a church here for many many years – in fact it is one of only a handful of buildings mentioned in the Doomsday Book which was written in 1086, so as well as being old it must have been quite significant. It was a shame about the flies as it was a really nice place to relax.



The walk out of Culborne was all up hill, up hill, up hill and more up hill. It started off through some nice woodland which was great.


Finally breaking out into a long rolling hilly section through farmland, which was probably the worst section of all the walking I did. It was just a bit dull, long sections down narrow roads with high hedges and walls on either side. Frankly, it was just boring. There was also a very large and unavoidable mud hole full of cowshit to cross so I also ended up with wet and smelly shoes, socks and feet.


I did see some sheep – and some deer.



Once I was back under the forest canopy there were plenty of little waterfalls and streams for me to stick my feet, it did not fix the wet socks and shoes, but it did mean I got to clean the mud and cow shit off. Thankfully.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.


The 19th century stone cross near Sisters Fountain.



Just past the hogs head topped gateposts to Woodland Lodge I found a patch of sun on the grass and stopped to eat my sandwiches and change the wet socks for dry ones. My feet feel OK, but any precautions that can be taken to prevent blisters should be taken.



There was still a fair bit of walking to go before I got my first view of today’s final destination – Lynmouth and Lynton, way in the distance.


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


By this stage I was quite close (or so I thought) to Lynmouth and there were a number of day walkers and families out and about on the cliff tops. Just past the St John the Baptist church of Countisbury, I saw there was a large car park and a pub – which probably explains the number of people…


From here it was pretty much down hill all the way, and I mean that in the positive sense too ! Looking back I just see the path rolling along the edge of the horizon. Stunning !


The good news was I was soon in the nice, but very busy town of Lynmouth. The bad news was the campground was in Lynton, at the top of the hill – a big hill, a soul destroyingly big hill !


I didn’t take the funicular – that would be admitting defeat. I walked another 45 minutes, getting lost and then a bit grumpy, before I found the lovely little campsite.


After checking in – and paying my 6.50 (note this for a later post, I sense a rant coming in a few days) for me and my tent, I picked up two beers and an ice cream from the shop before flopping unceremoniously onto the ground next to the stream that flowed past the campsite.


I was knackered – this was a much harder day than yesterday!

Once I had my tent assembled and myself and my clothes washed I decided to go to the pub next door for tea. There was no cell phone reception in the campsite and the pub had wifi. Except it didn’t, it was broken. I was really thrown by this, bizarrely thrown, I must have been tired. I knew this was likely to be the case on the path, but knowing it may happen and it actually happening are two different things ! I had told El I would let her know each day when I arrived at my destination and finding I couldn’t easily do it was frustrating. I decided to have a really early dinner and then walk back into town with the hope of getting reception there. Luckily as I sat eating my very average Thai noodles a bar of mobile reception appeared and I managed to get a couple of messages away. Relieved, I am not sure I wanted to walk any further today. I did manage to get El to find me a guest house in Combe Martin for me to stay in tomorrow night.  I am going to have a rest day on Sunday – nothing to do with it being the first Arsenal game of the season on the telly, honest…

After eating I went back to the campsite and had a bit of a play with some long exposure photos in the stream.


After that it was bed time, I was quite tired. It had been a much longer and harder day than yesterday. But apart from the wee moment when I had no reception I had another good day.

Tomorrow is supposed to be really tough, Gulp !!

SWCP Walk day 1, Minehead to Porlock.

Thursday 06 August 2015 – Porlock, Somerset.

It has finally arrived ! The day I start walking, so yep, naturally it is raining.

I had a good English breakfast in the hotel after a restless night. Loads of sausages, bacon, eggs and beans, some good protein and energy and a whole pile of food sitting in my belly to use up the extra energy consumed. It tasted good though Smile

I hung around the hotel lobby in a state of nervous tension, jumping up to look out the window every 30 seconds to see if the rain had stopped. It was still drizzling at 9:30 but I thought ‘sod it’, donned my raincoat and pack and headed out the door. I was off !

My first stop was 100 metres away at the bottom of the hill at the ‘Hands statue’. A large bronze by Owen Cunningham and installed in 2001. I stopped for the obligatory photo, luckily there were two Dutch women who were starting a week’s walking and one of them kindly took my photo for me. I meet these two ladies a few times over the next three days.

I am the only person I see wearing shorts…



I guess I go this way.


The weather was still failing to inspire though.


After a few minutes of walking to the edge of town I was finally out and in the countryside with seven miles to go to my first night of camping in Porlock. I am planning on following a commonly recognised route of walking between towns with campsites and other facilities. Today’s walk is supposed to take just under four hours. I will then be able to assess how my walking speed relates to those in the guidebook I am using. (The Trailblazer series). The acorn is the symbol of the SWCP and I will see an awful lot of them, which is a good thing.



The rain stopped soon after I hit the trail proper and just before I started up North Hill, the first climb on the path. It got quite steep in parts and was not all smooth wide graded track – honest.


By the time I got to the top I was pouring sweat through my jacket and stopped to take it off. I also needed to make an adjustment to my pack as it was riding a bit too low and restricting my hip movement a bit. It should be riding on my hips anyway, at least it is easily adjustable. I was knackered already !!


The forest is really lovely here, it is totally different to NZ forest, being a lot more open and lighter with a clear break between the trees and underlying scrub. I really like it and I particularly  like the big fern areas.



Finally I am at the top, and the day is clearing up nicely as well.


The walk across the cliff tops, on the edge of Exmoor national park is lovely, rolling coastal path, it is warm and humid and there is a constant warm head wind as well. Strong enough that I noticed the gusts when they hit me and my pack. I see plenty of wildlife, Exmoor ponies, cows and even a very hairy bug on the trail – I do not see any other people. Love it.




The moorland is wonderful, there are patches of farm land, but this early section of walking is through what I call proper moorland, grasses and wild flowers abound, it is wild and beautiful and exactly what I wanted to see when I decided to do the walk.




I stopped for a rest and a snack bar on a bench up above the beach near Porlock. Reading my notebook it says ‘I am aching all over…’ My body is not used to the hills and not used to carrying any sort of weight. I note that I am expecting to be sore in the morning – and tomorrow is a seven hour walk!


Back on the trail I am soon round the last headland and overlooking the town of Porlock, and down the coast to where I will be walking tomorrow – those headlands just keep on going!


The track down the hill in to Bossington was just screaming to be ridden down, not technical by any means at all, just fast, gloriously fast. Sadly, I was just walking and not riding a mountain bike.


At some point after this I managed to do two stupid things, I suppose it was good to get them out of the way nice and early. Firstly I didn’t pay any attention to the map and ended up on the wrong path. This was not disastrous as I didn’t go too far wrong, just ended up with a bit more road walking than I would have liked. Secondly, and another failure to pay attention, this time it could have been worse as I turned my ankle on a rock. It was a brief flash of pain, and a brief flash of ‘oh shit’ went through my mind, but luckily it walked off fairly quickly. I would have been gutted to have hurt myself before the end of day one. My left ankle is a wee bit dodgy, it is weak and turns easily. I know this, I should have taken care. Or maybe I should have bought boots?

There was no crisis either way and I made my way into Bossington to look for the small cafe there so I could stop for lunch. I had a cheese and onion toastie and a chocolate shake and they were both really really nice. I felt like I had earned them too.20150806_124206

Bossington was cute, I like a cute English village and the coast path passes through many many of them as it winds its way through Somerset, Devon, Cornwall and Dorset. I suspect I will take lots of photos.



Not far too to Porlock now, I lump the pack back on to my back and head off up the hill from Bossington to Porlock, I am not sure if I take the correct path, but end up where I want to be so no complaints. Except – why are campsites always up a hill ?


I arrive at SparkHayes campsite early in the afternoon and get my tent up under nice sunny skies. The campsite is large and quite quiet, this makes me happy. I put my tent up near a wall to try and break some of the wind, with moderate success.


It was then time to break out the new stove and make my first cup of coffee on it. Very exciting, so exciting I took a picture so you too can share in the thrill!


That was the end of day one of walking. It took me 3 hours 50 to do the 4 hour walk. I think me and the guide book will get on just fine. Especially if I actually read and follow the map.

I had dinner in the Lorna Doone hotel. I stayed there when I visited Porlock in 2012, and remembered that the food was nice. They also had a decent sauvignon blanc as well. I had a couple of glasses with dinner before making my way back to my tent, settling in for the first time and reading until it was dark. I met the Dutch ladies again in the restaurant, though they are having their bags ported a long the coast and are staying in guest houses. A solo walker along with a family group of walkers arrived in the campground while I was out. I will see them a few a times over the next few days too.


Day one went well, really well. I am thoroughly enjoying myself.

I was originally planning on taking my small laptop on the walk so I could edit photos and write posts as I went. This was a stupid idea really, and I wisely tossed that one out a while back and bought a small notebook instead. I made lots of notes as I went. It was the right thing to do.

South West Coast Path (SWCP) walk day -1.

Wednesday 05 August 2015 – Minehead, Somerset.

After a few weeks of thinking and planning I am finally on my way south west from London to start the walk. I am making my way to Minehead a day early as I want to visit Dunster Castle, I have seen it a couple of times out of bus windows and have been keen to visit, so decided to take the opportunity while I was here. Given the fact that it was forecasted to, and eventually did , rain quite heavily over night I am glad I made the choice to not start walking today. Ease my way in to it.

El was up early to go swimming, so I had an hour at home to faff, do a final check, add to my pack the things I thought about in the middle of the night, take out the things I decided I didn’t need in the middle of the night and generally get ready to go without having to have a conversation with anyone. I am not the most social person when I am about to go travelling. I left soon after she got home and after the rush hour had passed. I will miss her while I am away.

Walking down to Walthamstow station was the first time I had walked more than ten feet with my pack on, it seemed to be OK – though heavy after not carrying any sort of weight for a while.


The train journey to Taunton was fine, and I was lucky to find the Minehead bus waiting at the station. The bus driver, who was about to depart as I was leaving the station, kindly waited for me and reopened the doors to let me on. If this was London he would have shrugged his shoulders as if to say ‘sorry mate, it’s the rules’, and then driven off leaving me on the foot path. I am liking Somerset. The bus did seem to visit every single village in West Somerset on the way though…

I arrived in Minehead and found my hotel easily enough; it was one of those quintessentially English hotels that are so endearing, and a touch frustrating. I suspect they have been what they have been for decades – and have no plan or need to change. Needless to say I was the youngest person there by a couple of decades apart from some young kids with their (I am assuming) grand parents. I had selected it as it was very close to the start of the path – plus it was a decent price!


I dumped my gear, packed a few essentials in an ultra-light day bag and headed out the door to visit the castle I had yet again seen from the window of the bus. Minehead is a funny place, it is not really my sort of holiday destination – it has a massive Butlins and not much else and caters for a different market to me. The tide was out and the skies a bit grim, which did not add to its appeal.


I caught the bus to Dunster Castle, I think there is a walkway through the hills but I was not wanting to get wet before I started. Last time I was here I spent quite a bit of time by this bus stop – as I did this time. Waiting, waiting.


Minehead is one end of the West Somerset Railway and if I had planned this part of my trip with more care I would have taken the old steam train from the town of Bishops Lydeard, which the bus passed through on the way to Minehead.


Dunster Castle is a National Trust property, as I am a member, I did not have to pay to enter. It was not my favourite type of castle, I much prefer the falling down ruined type, but it was well worth the visit and I enjoyed exploring it and the grounds. Though it was quite busy, as is usual on a holiday day when you cannot visit the beach.

There has been a castle on this site for over a thousand years. The first recorded fort was established by the Saxon Thegn Aelfric who was killed alongside King Harold at the Battle of Hastings. His land was given to a Norman, William de Mohun for his services in that battle. The older parts of the castle were built by the de Mouhn family until they were forced to sell it in 1376. The property was bought by the Luttrell family who owned it for 600 years, finally gifting it to the National Trust in 1976. Large parts of the original castle were destroyed at the end of the civil war in 1650.


I do like a good doorway, especially with some steps with an unseen ending. This gateway is from the 13th century and is the oldest remaining part of the castle.


Nice ! (though a bit of a wonky photo)


This was the toilet block…


Listening in to one of the guides talking to another visitor I heard about a roof leak a few years ago that had damaged the 19th century Italian wallpaper in this room. As replacement paper was no longer available they had to remove sections of paper behind these paintings to repair the water damaged sections. I liked that story.



The view out of the window from the upper floor over the Bristol Channel was a bit a foreboding and a reminder that I should not linger too long if I did not want to get soaked walking back to the bus stop – naturally I did not pack my rain coat….


I wanted to explore the castle grounds and visit the old water mill, but just after I got outside a light rain started to fall so I took a change of direction and headed back towards the entrance, via the small stream on the edge of the property.




I was looking to get a better angle to take a photo of the castle from, which I found.


The bus arrived at the bus stop soon after I did, though I did jog there to avoid getting overly wet. It was looking a bit grim in Minehead as I walked back to the hotel.


Though the forecast is looking pretty good for the rest of the week !


With not much else to do, and nerves not allowing me to relax too much I ended up down in the bar for a pre-dinner pint and then an early meal. The food was fine, basic 1970’s English holiday fare – served by a waiter who probably harks back to those days as well. The good old days of Basil Fawlty type service.

I retired early and had a hot bath, with a small whisky and my book – lovely, a bath and a shower in a hotel. the 1970’s were not all bad !!

I am really looking forward to starting the walk tomorrow. I am a little worried about how I go out there, not overly worried of course, as I sort of know what I am doing and I do know what I am physically capable of. I have never walked a long distance before, I have not carried a pack on a hike for decades and I am doing this on my own. Things to ponder while I tried to sleep.

I am on way into the unknown again, adventure ahoy !!!