Friday, 28 February 2020
Tuesday, 25 February 2020
Back briefly to my SWCP project. Here's the Polruan Ferry on 29 May 2005, transporting some of our 'team' across one of the many estuaries that have to be crossed during the undertaking of this walk.
We've been back from Canada for a week now, and I still haven't downloaded the photos. It has been raining for much of the time we've been back here, so I've been concentrating on a huge backlog of 'indoor projects'.
I'm conscious of not having updated topwalks.com recently (the Windows XP computer that houses the Dreamweaver software is out of action due to decorating) and I haven't arranged a programme of bike rides and walks. I'm not depressed, just haven't got around to those jobs, for which I won't have a vast amount of enthusiasm until the weather improves.
Meanwhile, TGO Challenge vetting continues.... and yesterday I discovered that I have a place in Andrew's taxi from Inverness to Torridon on 7 May. So I booked a train from Manchester to Inverness on that day. The seven hour journey came up at £22.95, so I didn't feel inclined to carry out the usual detailed costing exercise involving different routes and splitting the journey!
I've noticed that I left our Pyrenees HRP 2004 postings in a state of suspense that nobody seems to have noticed. I'll try to reach the end of that walk tomorrow.
Thursday, 2 January 2020
Sue and I have both enjoyed reading about a homeless couple, one of whom is terminally ill, walking the South West Coast Path with inferior equipment and a budget of about £30 a week.
It's rather a contrast to Simon Armitage's (also an entertaining read - I wrote about it ), if rather amusing when Mole, Raynor's husband, is mistaken for Mr Armitage.
When homelessness is forced upon this hapless couple, they embark on a long walk. Raynor must have kept some sort of diary, or how else could she have written so vividly about her experiences on the coast path? In authoring this book it must soon have become apparent that she's a talented writer, and no doubt she is now making some sort of living by employing that new found talent.
Raynor and Mole certainly have my admiration.
Friday, 20 September 2019
Wednesday, 18 September 2019
Here's a picture taken on our 2005 trip to the SWCP. Most of that route was undertaken in May - over a period of years - during which the cliff top meadows are laden with Thrift (Armeria maritima).
A delight to behold.
Thursday, 15 August 2019
Over a period of several, if not 'many' years, Sue and I just about completed the South West Coast Path (SWCP) on numerous trips with a group whose common connection was Johannesburg Hiking Club (don't ask!).
Here's a picture taken on 7 October 2004 (so we did make it back from the Pyrenees) near the Devon/Cornwall border at Marsland Mouth.
It's the view from near the hut of a playwright, Ronald Duncan, 1914-82. The hut is high on a cliff, with this magnificent view, a fifteen minute walk from the car park at Marsland Mouth.
And the Project? That would be collating reports and photos from the various SWCP trips into one volume. Not a 'five minute' job. Unlike this 'fill-in' posting after a busy day when I have insufficient time to do much else.
The picture was taken with an early digital camera - 1600 x 1200 px, but other pictures in this project will be mainly from slide and print film.
Thursday, 5 October 2017
I don’t often read ‘proper’ books these days, thanks to a lack of shelf space and a very convenient electronic gadget, but Nell lent me this book before we went to Canada, and I’ve very much enjoyed reading it.
I still have to produce a compendium of our own visits to the South West Coast Path, which finished back in 2012, and that will have minimal literary stature compared with Simon’s offering. The Troubadour is Professor of Poetry at the University of Sheffield, and not somebody who regularly undertakes long walks. His walk is fully ‘orchestrated’ with his ‘Galapagos Tortoise’ (a giant case full of poetry books) necessarily being transported from B&B to B&B whilst Simon trots along the route with a variety of companions in a disintegrating pair of boots. The plan is to pay his way by giving poetry readings every night, after each of which a sock is passed around for donations.
His starting points each day are advertised so that he gains the company of random people from the previous night’s readings, plus a few longer term hangers on such as his wife, who appears from time to time, and a chap called ‘Slug’.
I don’t know the time frame for writing the book. Perhaps Simon had a notebook or a dictating machine with him, or a fantastic memory, as he captures every nuance of the walk. As a poet, he is entitled to ‘poetic licence’, and he demonstrates that on a few occasions, for example when he describes a blackbird singing at the end of September. No matter, his descriptive prose is consistently wonderful…
“The spilt mercury of the moon’s reflection extends from the head of the lake right to our feet.”
It’s absolutely crammed full of such prose, even when relating anecdotes about any number of situations and characters.
An excellent read, as was the other book Nell lent to me – ‘Dad You Suck’ by Tim Dowling. (Yes, I already got that message!)
Tuesday, 5 June 2012
Numbers increased again today, with Colin, the original organiser of these trips, arriving with Simon at Primrose Cottage. Meanwhile, Sue, Andrew and I picked up Gaynor and Jacqui from Ammonite B+B. G and A then strolled into Swanage whilst Sue and I provided Jacqui with a tour of the Bee Orchid beds that she'd missed yesterday.
Somehow the whole group eventually managed to coagulate - for the record:
Organiser Sue and David
Stalwarts Betty and David
Sisters Jacqui and Gill
Gaynor and Hilde
Liz and Rachel
Martin, Sue and Andrew from 'up north'
Nelia and Jonathan
Colin and Simon
The very scenic stroll around Durlston Head got the three of us off to a great start, though I think others may have short-cut this section. After admiring the orchids and the sea birds - mainly guillemots and gulls, plus a few scavenging jackdaws - we found ourselves back at the car park 50 minutes after setting off. A fine walk to Peveril Point (pictured - top) and its National Coastwatch Institution lookout point maintained the quality of today's outing. Then it was a stroll along the sea front to Swanage and a morning coffee.
The rest of the party had long since moved on from here, so we continued as a threesome out of the seaside town, past beach huts whose occupants were sporting Royal Family masks. It's QE11's diamond jubilee weekend.
The rocky spikes of Old Harry soon beckoned, beyond a golden buttercup meadow (pictured - middle) and by the time we reached the headland (pictured - bottom) known as Handfast Point we had caught up with half of the rest of our party. Lunch was taken here, in a zone of wide tracks, vertiginous cliffs and whizzing mountain bikes, whilst the vanguard had moved on towards Studland for lunch on the beach.
Wonderful wild flower meadows on the stroll to Studland sported a variety of species, including broomrapes and lilies - providing Sue and me with a foretaste of our forthcoming Alpine adventures.
From Studland the SWCP ends in style, with a stroll along the beach all the way to its conclusion at South Haven Point, where one sign indicates the start of the classic trail and another sign alerts one to the fact that it's 650 miles of coastal walking to reach Minehead.
Today we traversed the beach soon after high tide, so the sand was firm enough to grant us an easy passage. There's a nudist zone where today a lone elderly man played (frisby) with himself in a rather ostentatious manner. Not a pretty sight!
We all finally met up at the end of a walk that only two of our party, Sue and David E, had actually completed in full. Congratulations were in order. And self-timed photos. Then a tanned gent turned up and watched as many of us fumbled to find our old age bus passes.
"I started from Minehead on 26 April" he observed "it has taken me six weeks. And you?"
"We started in May 1997" chimed Sue E, proudly demonstrating her mathematical expertise by adding "it has taken us fifteen years..."
A number 50 bus curtailed that conversation and whisked us back to Swanage, where a street party was in full flow. We adjourned for tea and cake/biscuits at our various lodgings before reconvening at Primrose Cottage for a barbecue and beer celebration. Sue and Colin both received presentations in recognition of their organisational efforts and I think I spotted the odd bottle of champagne being quaffed.
The evening climaxed after dark, when most of us (Sue, me, S+D, B+D, J+G, Andrew, Liz, Simon + Jonathan) took a stroll under a full moon up Knowle Hill to admire a selection of firework displays and try to spot some of Dorset's many jubilee beacons. It was a perfect activity with which to round off the mini era of our SWCP travels.
What next for this group? Who knows?
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Sunday, 3 June 2012
Gaynor, perhaps distracted by yesterday's memory of prostrating herself in front of a pirate, missed the crocodile and headed off in the wrong direction, but by the time of our CCS stop below Eldon Seat she had caught up and could enjoy the goodies.
Today's weather forecast foretold of steady rain all day. Luckily for us the legendary pessimism of the BBC's forecasters proved to be the case. Not a drop of rain fell on this pleasantly temperate day.
It was a classic 18km section of coastline. A few ups and downs put paid to some of the less fit members, and Liz, Betty and Jonathan soon headed off to a strategically placed car in Kingston.
The rest of us continued on past some warblers - whitethroats I think - to a sheltered spot for lunch in a field to the south of well named Emmett's Hill.
Shortly afterwards, National Coastwatch Institution volunteers provided more tea and cake in return for a small donation, though I suspect that we and they do not approve of the government cuts - minuscule in general terms - which are forcing coastguard operations to rely on charity.
Nearby was a field of poppies and St Aldhelm's Chapel, a unique and fascinating place dating from before the 12th century.
The walk to Dancing Ledge was easy and uneventful apart from a short appearance of the sun. Numerous climbers were enjoying the warm rock on the cliffs above the crashing waves.
As we progressed towards Anvil Point, Sue spotted some Bee Orchids, the first time she has seen them in the UK. Quite a find, although my reference book describes their occurrence as 'frequent, locally common". One of them is pictured above, underneath some cliff scenery typical of today's walk.
Tea and cake at Primrose Cottage was followed by another meal at the New Inn with coffee and chocs back at PC before the long drive home to Norden House.
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Saturday, 2 June 2012
There were some steep undulations - totalling around 1000 metres for the day, hence the 'roller-coaster' analogy. Some found these enjoyable - one of the Davids romped on ahead so far that he missed his lunch. Others suffered, particularly Liz, who claimed not to have been for a walk since last year's portion of this coast path. So she and Rachel baled out at Arish Mell and strolled up to the pub in East Lulworth for a taxi back to Church Knowle, where this year's SWCP HQ is situated in Primrose Cottage, next door to the New Inn.
The pub is so close that they offered to serve dinner to the 13 of us either in a private room, or a Very Private Room - Primrose Cottage's garden. That would have been good if today's hot, humid, mainly overcast weather hadn't deteriorated to the extent that waterproofs would have been needed for the 'garden' option.
Sadly the dull weather precluded stunning images from our amateur photographic skills - there were however a plethora of stunning white cliffs (pictured above), and Durdle Door (the lower picture) is a coastal rock feature that probably looks good in any weather.
From time to time one of the Sues slewed to a halt and brought out a gas stove. This allowed everyone to catch up and rest for a while. Andrew's crappy (sic) legs were consequently able to last until the very last stile before cramping up. It took him several minutes to hobble across the car park, before being whisked with the rest of us back to Primrose Cottage for tea and cake.
Earlier, the other Sue, a staunch Royalist, had produced a huge slab of CCS (chocolate caramel shortbread) emblazoned with a Union Jack that she claimed was food colouring. But why had my box of Humbrol enamel paints been left on the kitchen table?
Anyway, now there's only half a Union Jack.
The walk didn't have the sublime scenery of the Cornish sections of this trail, but it was enlivened by rugged coastal features and by the colourful flora - particularly dominant amongst which was Viper's Bugloss, Thrift, Herb Robert, Kidney Vetch, Bird's Foot Trefoil, Spurges, Red Valerian, Dog Rose, Speedwells and many more.
Today's route was highly populated between Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove. I have a clear memory of a visit to Lulworth Cove a few years ago. I'd spent a while compiling a report to the DPP (now known as the Crown Prosecution Service) on someone I considered to be a bit of a rogue. To my surprise, the case was taken up, and allocated to an enthusiastic novice in the police force. It eventually came to court in Dorchester. I was called as an 'expert witness' (I wasn't, but that meant there would be some nominal payment for my time - the police knew that there had been no payment up to that point). I waited in Dorchester for three days whilst the defence interrogated a series of bankers, and on one of those evenings I took the opportunity to visit Lulworth. Next day I was summoned and underwent extreme interrogation on the precise detail and timing of events several years in the past. I learnt a lot. Memorising my contemporaneous detailed notes during my days of waiting certainly helped. Being asked to describe 'fraudulent trading' in layman's terms to the jury was an ordeal. Fraudulent trading cases are not usually understood by juries, they are notoriously difficult to win. My evidence ended at lunchtime on the second day. I drove back to my office in Manchester without stopping. A message awaited me from the policeman who I'd been helping on the case. 'Plea changed. Guilty. Five years for Richard Lee.' The defence's abortive efforts to discredit my evidence had been their 'last throw'. So, Lulworth Cove brings memories.
Apologies for that interlude in this rather disjointed posting... Today we passed numerous burnt out tanks, and for part of our walk we were directed between a narrow band of yellow posts. The left hand posts warned of unexploded shells should we venture beyond them. The right hand posts warned of eroding cliffs that would deposit us into the surf far below should we stray beyond their bounds.
Single file seemed appropriate.
Tonight we enjoyed our private alcove and our meals at the New Inn. Especially Betty, who took great delight in slowly consuming her lonely dessert in front of twelve slavering spectators.
That's - sleep is taking over, but first - congratulations to the 'pixies', Andrew and Kate, on getting up Skiddaw, and thanks to Andy for all your comments - I was quite excited when I turned the phone on and found so many comments....
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Friday, 1 June 2012
I still didn't manage to process all the TGOC photos though. One day...
But our bathroom leak has been fixed. Thanks again JJ.
Norden House, pictured, should prove to be an excellent base for our final assault on the SWCP - the section from East Chaldon to Poole will complete (apart from some missing links that vary from person to person) the route from Minehead that we've been following for the past dozen or so years.
There's a campsite here that would have been fine, but Andrew appears to have booked us into a luxurious guest house. Not that we are complaining, we trained hard for such indulgences on our TGO Challenge route.
There are up to 14 of us doing this section of the SWCP. We should meet up in the morning. Perhaps...
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Tuesday, 31 May 2011
Monday 30 May 2011 - SWCP Day 3 - Warwick Court Guest House in Weymouth to The Old Bakehouse in Winfrith Newburgh
Weather: dreich, in a gentle south coast sort of way.
As expected, today dawned wet. But it was only vaguely drizzly as Andrew, Liz, Jill, Sue and I set off down Weymouth's esplanade past hungry herring gulls that one member of our party thought were albatrosses! Even the beach huts were being tarted up in preparation for next year's Olympics, when the sailing events are being held here. In fact, some of our fellow guests are members of the Spanish Sailing Team, on their fourth 'reconnaissance' visit!
Elsewhere in Weymouth, road changes and other works in preparation for the Olympics have caused sufficient disruption to bring some of the local populace to regret that their town is hosting such an event.
Betty and Dave had gone home due to Dave's need to work, so it was a bedraggled foursome of Sue, David, Gaynor and Hilde who joined the five of us at a typical seaside café at Bowleaze Cove. We'd reached it before the rain strengthened, so it was a rather odd sight of dryish walkers meeting the occupants of a car who looked as if they had been through a car wash with the windows open.
The coast path now rose up some meaningful cliffs as we pressed on towards Osmington Mills and Ringstead. Foghorns blared through the mist; visibility for a while was less than 100 metres - lower than at any point on my TGO Challenge route except Hound Hillock. Yellow iris and honeysuckle glistened in the weak light.
By the time we reached the picture postcard setting of the Smugglers Inn, the weather was clearing, but tables laid out for hordes of Bank Holiday visitors were deserted.
It was only noon, so we eschewed the delights of this place and continued on to a well stocked kiosk at Ringstead, where John from France joined our group for a spell.
The rain had eased by now and we enjoyed the final section of this year's tramp in fairer weather and in the fine scenery of the chalky cliffs that lead towards Durgle Door and Lulworth Cove. The path was lined with the distinctive white flowers of Nottingham Catchfly.
The sheer cliffs rise to around 150 metres hereabouts. Spectacular scenery even in today's dull weather. Others took a variety of short cuts across The Warren, past a couple of beacons, to gain the excellent footpath to East Chaldon. Meanwhile Sue (pictured above) and I continued as far as we could along the crumbling chalky coastal cliffs, finally turning inland along a permissive path shortly before reaching Bat's Head.
We soon caught up, and Colin, who instigated these SWCP trips in the mid 1990s, turned up to walk with us for the last couple of miles and join the tea party at The Old Bakehouse, where we finished this year's section of the coast path at around 3.45pm. Very enjoyable the tea party was too.
Finely honed plans to return to Weymouth were scuppered by the designated driver having left their keys in Weybridge, but a combination of Colin and the X53 bus came to the rescue, and our trip ended happily with a nice meal washed down with Ringwood Brewery's Best Bitter at The Rock.
Thanks, everyone, for another great trip.
Sent from the M5 on a gloriously sunny morning ... Ho hum!
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Monday, 30 May 2011
Sunday 29 May 2011 - SWCP Day 2 - Sue and Martin's Mini Adventure around The Isle of Portland, from Warwick Court Guest House in Weymouth
Weather: fine! But very windy.
With the rest of the gang having secured lifts to Ferry Bridge, it was left for Sue and me to stroll down from our B+B, Warwick Court Guest House. We left at 9am for the 9.30 rendezvous. It took us an hour. Luckily the others had been delayed by a 'car parking incident', so we were only ten minutes or so behind.
We had strolled past banks of red Valerian and masses of Broomrape, and were within a few yards of catching Andrew, the back marker of our group, when a sudden urgent need propelled us into the excellent Blue Fish Café, where a Sunday breakfast service was in full swing.
We emerged, half an hour later, and bashed on along Anquet's thin blue line on an A4 printed map.
Unfortunately the thin blue line that signified our intended path. was only partially supported by a red dotted line. A 'Coast Path' sign was missed. It would have drawn us up to a broad cliff top path. Instead we headed to the end of a thin path and onto a boulder field just above the high tide mark. This lasted for around 3km and took us two hours. Perhaps we should have turned back, especially where the cliff face forced us below the tide line at a time when the tide was marching up to greet us. Some quick dashes across rocks laden with lettuce wrack were required in order to dodge a dousing.
On and on it went. Over huge rocks laden with fossils - ammonites as thick as your arm, and vast quantities of shells.
Eventually we caught sight of people ahead of us. Were they the rest of our party? Surely not! We waved to them. They waved back. They couldn't be our party, though - as they drew closer it became apparent that they were wearing helmets and carrying ropes. It was reassuring to meet them in an area of huge boulders and landslips. They passed on advice about the route ahead. It would 'go' - just about.
So we continued on over massive boulders, across landslips and slimy rocks, and up precipitous slopes of grass, shale and brambles with long thorns, eventually reaching a small group of climbers perched precariously below an upper band of cliffs.
Continuing on along a thin path below these cliffs, we scrambled our way into a position from which it was possible to escape onto the broad cliff top coast path. On the way a twenty foot down climb nearly had me calling for assistance by way of a top rope, but somehow Sue managed to coax me down at the second attempt.
Today's picture is taken looking back to this whole area of our 'Mini Adventure'. I'd spent Thursday night listening to various TGO Challengers relating such adventures over the past couple of weeks without being able to reciprocate, so having finally reached safety I was delighted to have this story to tell!
Having emerged onto the correct route near Southwell, it was an easy stroll to the fleshpots of Portland Bill, where we sheltered on a rock behind a shed to enjoy a late lunch after an encounter with Alfie the dog.
The thrift strewn coast path up the east side of the Isle was interesting. After passing through an area of fishermen and holiday shacks, it went past a couple of quarries and areas laden with huge blocks of Portland Stone.
Beyond a ruined church, signs routed us up to a field of white coated bowls players. Actually they were dressed all in white, with white down jackets billowing in the wind. Past the Alcatraz grey of an extensive and austere Young Offenders Institute, from where the familiar sound of an old Pink Floyd classic (concerning education) wafted inappropriately.
We tried to follow the path. We failed. Our excuse is the sign we think we misread was concealed by a group of girly jockeys.
After extricating ourselves from an unwelcome and off-route quarry we continued on to boringly regain our chosen path, admire extensive views of Chesil Beach, and eventually return to our morning route near the coffee shop.
Trudging back across the blowy causeway, I observed that today's wind was as brisk as any I had encountered on my low level sections of this year's TGO Challenge. The relative calm of the Rodwell Trail along a disused railway line was very welcome. It took us nearly all the way to Warwick Court, where we arrived at 5.30pm, not too far behind the rest of the group that we had failed to accompany all day.
An evening with a BBQ at The Old Bakehouse, a holiday cottage in Winfrith Newburgh that had been rented for the week by Sue and David, proved most enjoyable. On the way we passed the scene of the afore-mentioned 'parking incident' where Gaynor's car was still suspended on a rock intended to discourage people from parking on a grassy verge!
Alan R, you should realise by now that any let up in transmissions will be spotted by Dot, who requires daily trip updates! (I know you're only envious!)
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Saturday, 28 May 2011
Sue and I have been strolling around the SWCP (South West Coast Path) at this time of year for quite a number of years now. We have got all the way from Minehead to Weymouth, with just one small missing link for me in North Devon, and a bit more for Sue.
In recent years the TGO Challenge and other commitments have relegated this trip to the autumn, but this year a pre-prepared bag enabled me to spend just 20 minutes at home between returning with JJ and Graham B from Montrose and setting off for three days on the SWCP, based in Weymouth.
Yes, Gayle, I seem to have brought the dodgy weather with me, but I'm sure the 'Callum Hord Effect' will result in a 'reversal of fortunes', as Anne Robinson would say, shortly...
Thanks again for the comments, especially re TGOC kit, which I'll add to when I finally get some time at home. That's needed soon as, having spent the week before the Challenge in Scotland, my supply of usable kit and clothing is dwindling!
Today a bus delivered our intrepid party of ten - Sue, me, Andrew, David, Sue, Dave, Betty, Gaynor and Hilde to the pretty village of Abbotsbury.
Coffee was taken and various members of the party attempted to lighten their loads by leaving items in the tea shop. "We acquire a wide range of walking poles and prescription spectacles" commented the friendly owner.
A stroll down towards the beach afforded us a sea view. But our route today took us inland of West Fleet and East Fleet, the lagoons that are protected from the sea in all but the stormiest conditions by the high barrier beyond - Chesil Beach - along which we did not attempt to venture.
The inland route was pretty handy in today's strong winds, as it provided some welcome respite from the cold draught, which admittedly was on our backs.
Elevenses (pictured), featuring a freshly baked batch of CCS (Chocolate Caramel Shortbread), were soon taken before we pressed on past fields of Ox-eye Daisies to our lunch stop in another sheltered spot near Langton Herring.
The going was easy, much more so than on the roughty toughty coastlines of previous years' trips, so we soon arrived at a random spot near East Fleet where Liz, the eleventh member of our party, was patiently waiting after a long bus journey from Exeter.
We ambled on, along an increasingly 'industrialised' coastline, past a firing range and an army training ground - interspersed with a camp site and a holiday park. The verges were full of sweet smelling flowers.
Ferry Bridge, in Weymouth, was reached at 3.40pm. An enticing looking café - the Crab House Café - had closed for the afternoon, but a nearby ice cream kiosk provided sustenance. That gave us the energy to continue for another four km or so to our B+B.
Our walk was brightened by some chirpy chaffinches before we descended to the ferry terminal, where we were confronted by a huge black cloud. Leakage from that was surprisingly minimal, and we all managed to stay vaguely dry, for a while, until our shower cubicles were pressed into use.
So it was a very clean bunch of diners that reconvened at the Red Lion in Winfrith for an excellent nosh and a sideways glance at Man Utd being thrashed by Barca in the Champions League final.
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It's great to be back on the South West Coast Path with some of our old 'ex Jo'berg Hiking Club' friends.
This year's section started today from the picturesque village of Abbotsbury. The route follows inland paths for a while to protect the wildlife from marauding humans, eventually regaining the coast here at The Fleet Lagoon.
It hasn't rained here for weeks, but as you might gather from the picture, I seem to have brought the 'weather' with me from Scotland!
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Friday, 17 September 2010
Ascent: 590 metres
Time: 5.5 hours including stops
Just a brief entry for now, as we return home tonight and I can't do this whilst driving.
After another good breakfast, we set off on a blue sky day, so the waterproofs were deployed for just five minutes of this four day excursion.
Today's hills were small and early on, so presented no difficulties.
Then, after passing under the geologically remarkable and visibly crumbling East Cliff, I went over and Notchy went around Burton Cliffs.
We hit the beaches, backed not by cliffs but by gently rising arable land; any cliffs hereabouts having been eroded away aeons ago. These must have been prime targets for foreign invaders in days past (as evidenced by numerous pill boxes). First, Burton Beach, then Cogden Beach, before we headed around unseen Burton Mere and along a long section of beach prior to turning inland to the posh town of Abbotsbury (reminding me of the Cotswolds with all its thatched cottages), and our 3.30pm taxi back to Exeter.
As usual, the folk we encountered today were almost all retired. It's still holiday season, and most B&Bs are fully booked. "It's all the grandparents, taking a break from child minding now the kids are back at school" commented one proprietor.
Mind you, many of the folk we've seen look as if they need their own minders!
We've also seen a few younger backpackers. Wild camping appears to be the favoured approach, due to the high cost of campsites and the cleansing properties of the sea.
Today's picture was taken early on - it's the view back to Seatown and Golden Cap.
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Thursday, 16 September 2010
Ascent: 950 metres
Time: 8.0 hours including stops
After Notchy's early morning Light and Sound Show, and a fine breakfast from Gaynor, another 9am start, and we were soon crossing the oldest, but not very picturesque, concrete bridge in England. Up a hill past a golf club where dire warnings gave the impression that if one's car was lucky enough to evade being clamped, it was highly likely to be stolen.
Soon afterwards, more dire warnings, this time the gist being 'it's a long and bumpy muddy way to Lyme Regis with no escape routes so think carefully before you tackle this path'.
This was the Axmouth-Lyme Regis Undercliff, a 304 hectare National Nature Reserve. Several miles (with no escape) of lovely deciduous woodland with lots of ferns, broomrape and pheasants. It reminded me of the rain forests in New Zealand, with ivy instead of mosses and lichens, it being much dryer here. The whole area was created by a massive landslip in C19, following which it became a mecca for Victorian sightseers.
Today's first image was taken in this woodland. A visit to Chimney Rock looked as if it would yield scenic views, but I left that until next time and pressed on in Notchy's anxious wake.
Towards Lyme Regis we met various folk engaged in short forays into the wood, and by 1pm we had reached that town. I enjoyed coffee and a pastie at The Old Boathouse on the seafront, whilst Notchy preferred to seek out Tesco for his supplies.
Reunited on the long path to Charmouth, diverted due to a landslip and unable to follow the beach due to high tide, we slogged through another golf course and along minor roads to reach this sunny haven.
From Charmouth, more undulating ground, past dog walkers (including a swallow chasing labrador) and a man with a basket containing a mushroom (it filled the basket), then a steep path led to the summit of Golden Cap. A sun-drenched spot where we lingered for a while admiring the view in today's second image.
The final descent to Bay Tree House (www.baytreechideock.co.uk) in the historic village of Chideock, was down an ancient sunken lane. It was 5pm. Time for cream teas, which luckily are served by Sarah, our host at Bay Tree House.
Then it was off to the George for a meal. Did we really need those cream teas?
Meanwhile, Baz Gray spent the whole day moving slowly towards Poole, completing his epic 176 mile run along the coast path at 6.30pm, over 50 hours after starting his mammoth effort a couple of days ago. Brilliant.
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Wednesday, 15 September 2010
Ascent: 830 metres
Time: 6.5 hours including stops
After yesterday's gloom and overnight rain, we woke to blue skies and a warm north westerly breeze. Breakfast was marred only by our host (David - not Dave) calling Notchy 'Andy', which those who know my dear companion may well recognise is a heinous crime!
By 9am we were busy negotiating our way to Tesco and then across the ford and up the hill to rejoin the coast path. Today's image is the view back, from the hill out of Sidmouth.
Shortly after this we were passed by a couple of runners. They were Royal Marines doing their 22 mile relay section of an 88 mile course from their base at Lympstone, near Exeter, to Poole. "You won't see anyone else, except for Baz, because we are the last of quite a few teams" one of them explained, kindly slowing to a strolling pace to protect my legs from undue exercise.
Then we met Baz, coming the other way, with a small entourage of ridiculously fit looking Marines. Baz is raising money for Royal Marines Charities in order to help wounded servicemen. His isn't a 10km run, or even a half or full marathon (though I do realise that such events may be a serious challenge to many folk, and deserving of sponsorship). Baz Gray's fund raising challenge is 'running' from Poole to Lympstone and back again, a total of 176 miles. His target for this was 48 hours, but that's already slipped. I will be donating - the effort involved is absolutely phenomenal, and worthy of a few bob of my money whatever the outcome. He looked tired when we saw him, and was pleased to pause and chat. Wouldn't anyone, after 77 miles and with 99 to go? If he can keep going he will be out on the very hilly coast path for a second night tonight, and for most of tomorrow. You can follow Baz's progress (and donate if you wish) at www.176milesnonstop.org
Good luck, Baz Gray...
Notchy and I meandered on towards Branscombe, which some will recall was the site of the beaching of a 62,000 tonne container ship in January 2007. The ship is now gone, but its 14 tonne anchor now sits outside the Sea Shanty tea rooms, where we enjoyed our lunch, in memory of the traumatic episode.
On the way to Branscombe I had come across Notchy (he usually goes ahead, outpacing me with ease) sitting on a bench chatting to Phil and Margaret Holmes. They had never met before, but it turned out that this jolly couple have season tickets a few rows in front of Notchy at Eastlands, home of the world's richest football team. It's a small world! We discovered that we also have mutual friends in Stockport Walking Group.
After lunch, today's short section of the coast path took us through spectacular cliff scenery with hundreds of crows, to Beer, where I enjoyed an ice cream, then on to Seaton, which lacks the ambience of Sidmouth but does have an excellent B&B, www.holmleighhouse.com where we are now happily ensconced.
The memory of today's lovely section of coast path will be dominated by red cliffs and an exhausted Marine.
We are now off to 'Monsoon', for some Indian fayre, I believe...
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Tuesday, 14 September 2010
Tuesday 14 September 2010 - South West Coast Path (SWCP) - Exmouth to Sidmouth [Aka More Adventures with Notchy]
Ascent: 850 metres
Time: 6 hours including stops
Picture: before the final section to Sidmouth, with tomorrow's route obscured by low cloud beyond the small town.
After a pleasant Sunday stroll in Styal woods with Stay At Home Hazel, The Pixies and other Hangers On (see small album here), something a bit meatier seemed in order.
So yesterday I rescued Notchy from the clutches of deepest Cheshire, from where we pottered down to Exeter.
Hotel Priddle provided excellent B&B and a fine pie - the name for which opened a lively debate. Could it really have been a Shepherd's Pie, if made with beef?
Anyway, this morning Colin, the Basil Fawlty of Hotel Priddle, helpfully gave us a lift to Polsloe Bridge Station, from where a rattly train delivered us to Exmouth, our starting point for this year's section of the coast path.
[Our progress over the past couple of years can be followed by typing 'SWCP' in the search box at the top of the blog.]
We are not purists, we didn't swim across the Exe estuary, or even get a ferry. But we did start roughly opposite where we stopped or passed by last year.
The dull day and the damp following wind did little to dampen our enthusiasm, though it does seem a little odd to be walking as a twosome in September, when most of the route from Minehead has been walked as part of a large group in late May, over the last 10 to 15 years.
The mussels of Exmouth have a hard time - seabirds hovered over the road east, past Conger Rocks, dropping their mussels from heights for which the victims' shells were not designed.
Near Littleham Cove a hillside full of mobile homes overlooks a noisy army firing range. Beyond that, Budleigh Salterton lurks on the other side of a sandy hillock that's making a concentrated effort to crumble into the sea. High brambles form a 'green lane' between the cliff and a golf course.
An early lunch at A Slice of Lyme in Budleigh Salterton - excellent pannini/toasted sandwich - set us up for the afternoon.
A marshy inlet offered good reason for a nature reserve, which we were obliged to pass through as the only sensible means of navigating a narrow passage at Otterton Ledge. Egrets and cormorants vied with herring gulls and a miscellany of smaller birds for space on the sandy banks.
Despite the lateness of the season, wild flowers abound, with some of the early spring flowers such as Herb Robert and Red Campion still going strong, along with Thistles, Clovers, Mustards, Ragwort, Thrift, Yarrow and many more.
Lots of fruits are ripe for harvesting, with a fine crop of blackberries hereabouts.
There were many folk about today; the caravan parks were busy; Sidmouth's B&Bs were mostly full. It was hot and humid.
The path from Budleigh Salterton rises over a few little nobbles through pretty woodland above high cliffs on one side, with pastoral farmland and a huge pig farm on the landward side.
After a while a sharp descent dropped us past an amphitheatre of benches to Connaught Gardens, where we enjoyed tea and cake in the Clock Tower tearooms before continuing on past the Sidmouth Fiddler and into the centre of this small but perfectly formed town.
Berwick House (www.berwick-house.co.uk), was soon discovered. Sue and David are our hosts, and they recommended the Swan Inn, a quintessential English pub. My meal was excellent; Notchy's only complaint about his liver and bacon was that there was too much!
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Friday, 16 October 2009
We have, over several years, walked most of the coast path from Minehead. Last year’s journey from Plymouth to Torcross was recorded on these pages, the index for which entries is here.
This year’s daily reports can be viewed by clicking on the following links:
Here are a few further images and additional observations and links, to supplement the postings made during the trip.
I would reiterate that anyone planning to walk on the South West Coast Path (SWCP) would benefit from the SWCP Association's Guide Book. This is updated every year.
Sadly, having made it all the way from Minehead to Torcross on previous visits, Sue was not fit enough to come this year, my only companion on this trip being Andrew.
DAY 1 – Torcross to Dartmouth
Here’s our route – 15 km, 550 metres ascent, 4.5 hours including 20 mins stops:
After being waylaid at the start by a café in Torcross, and distracted by the relics of Operation Tiger, we made our way through Strete and along the recently re-routed (to avoid roads) path to Stoke Fleming, before descending to Blackpool Sands in dull weather.
Continuing around to Combe Point, the sunlit sea drew our eyes all the way back to Start Point.
Here’s our route – 28 km, 1400 metres ascent, 9.5 hours including 1 hr stops:
The ferry to Kingswear got us off to a good start, then we progressed through Warren Woods to the old Battery Buildings at Froward Point, where National Coastguard Institution volunteers keep an eye on the vessels coming in and out of the Dart Estuary. On then to Pudcombe Cove, with grey seals in the bay and the delights of the café at the National Trust gardens at Coleton Fishacre. Undulations continued to make progress relatively slow as we continued above Ivy Cove to Scabbacombe Head, then to Scabbacombe Sands, Long Sands, and Man Sands for lunch.
Andrew refreshed himself sufficiently to storm up Southdown Cliff, nearly keeping pace with some errant mountain bikers.
It was easier going now, to Sharkham Point and thence to Berry Head, where a strange man who had earlier requested advice on walking boots very publicly offered his new mate (Andrew) a Twix bar. We escaped to the lighthouse to finish off my flask of tea before ambling into Brixham.
From the pleasant harbour of Brixham, where a replica of the Golden Hind reclines by the quay, it’s an easy walk (unless you get misplaced in Grove Woods) around the coast to Broadsands, and the start of many miles of intermittent beach huts.
Goodrington is dominated by some green spaghetti water slides, then after rounding Roundham Head and passing Paignton Harbour - there is no shortage of accommodation in Paignton – we stayed at the friendly and adequate Ambassador Guest House. We failed to find decent food in the town centre and resorted to the Harbour Light Restaurant.DAY 3 – Paignton to Teignmouth
Here’s our route – 23 km, 1170 metres ascent, 8 hours including 45 mins stops:
On a drizzly morning, I ambled along the sea front at high tide, largely on tarmac as far as Torbay.
Around Thatcher Point some old signs point the way. This marks the end of the ‘beach hut zone’ and the start of the ‘memorial bench zone’ of Torquay. ‘Fawlty Towers’ was inspired by Monty Python’s Flying Circus’s visit to a nearby hotel run by an eccentric.
Dropping down to Oddicombe Beach the path then crosses underneath a Cliff Railway then inland to pass a Model Village, where Andrew and I lunched on a bench. The old coast path is seriously eroded hereabouts, and unfortunately the SWCP has been re-routed inland.
It’s a very pleasant afternoon’s walk to Shaldon, above which there are splendid views to Teignmouth. On dropping down to Shaldon, I half expected Weird Darren to emerge from this teepee, uttering words like “Hi Martin, do you like my new tarp?”
As in Paignton, there’s a dearth of good restaurants, but we struck lucky again, finding a superb Indian meal, though officially there has been no foreign invasion of the town since 1690, when it was the most recent place in England to be invaded by a foreign power (France).DAY 4 – Teignmouth to Exeter
Here’s our route – 20 km, 310 metres ascent, 5.3 hours including 40 mins stops:
It was high tide again as we set off in light rain, so we had to head inland on predominantly hard surfaces, much to Andrew’s chagrin. The tide was too high to follow the breakwater at Dawlish, so up and over we went, to Dawlish Warren and an abortive hunt for a tea shop. Luckily, as we left the village we grasped the whiff of fresh coffee and were soon able to relax with doughnut and coffee outside an excellent little coffee shop.
The road to Starcross made further demands on Andrew’s delicate feet as we pottered slowly around the harbour at Cockwood.
He was simply unable to continue beyond The Atmospheric Railway, and pointed to a nearby ferry to Exmouth. “That’s my Coast Path route”, he exclaimed.
As Andrew bussed himself back to Exeter, leaving Exmouth until next year, I continued on along the SWCP as far as the Topsham Ferry, from where I headed across Exminster Marshes to pick up a bus to Exeter from the Swan’s Nest Roundabout.
A slide show (about 50 images) can be viewed here, if you have the stamina!