Day 290 Bideford Bay

Thursday 19 May 2016

Appledore to Clovelly

18 miles

Pillowery Park Guest House, Burscott

Porridge with drinking chocolate powder mixed in it made for a good breakfast as I packed my tent away. It was 9 am when I set off down into Appledore and around Northam Burrows. I had intended to camp again tonight but closer investigation revealed the only campsite within any decent range had closed last year. Fortunately it wasn’t hard to find a reasonably priced B&B with space for me. 

looking at Westward Ho! across the low-lying Northam Burrows
the spit at the end of Northam Burrows, facing Braunton Burrows across the Rivers Taw and Torridge estuary
This spit of low-lying land seems to be stuck onto the end of the cliff that leads up to Bideford. It is protected by a pebble ridge that is made from rocks ripped from the Hartland cliffs and moved here by long-shore drift. 

Appledore from Northam Burrows
The burrows sticks out into the Rivers Taw and Torridge estuary. Opposite me, at Braunton Burrows, the Royal Marines were playing with their landing craft again. 

the pebble ridge, the estuary and Braunton Burrows (a RM landing craft on the water)
As I walked along the wide, sandy beach to Westward Ho! on a grey school day I was amazed how busy it was. I saw a kite buggy, two land yachts, kites, loads of kids having surfing lessons and yet more kids rock pooling. 

Westward Ho!
I stopped in Westward Ho! (such a brilliant place name) for a second breakfast: coffee and a bacon and egg bap. I needed the energy for the next section as it was quite tough; up and down the cliffs. 

the cliffs from Westward Ho!
It was a fairly grey day but I could make out Lundy Island and it seemed to be in the middle of Bideford Bay, albeit 19 miles offshore. I could also see both ends of Bideford Bay: Baggy Point to the East and Hartland Point to the West. It was low tide and the rock striations at the base of the cliffs were similar to those on the other side of the Bristol Channel. 

looking East to Baggy Point…
…looking West to Hartland Point
It started raining at midday but it was too warm, and too much effort required up the hills, to wear a waterproof so I just got wet. It wasn’t long before I was back in the trees that cover the cliffs. The woods on the Devon cliffs are so old and beautiful, and I have been lucky to see them when they have been carpeted with bluebells. 

More big cliffs and rock striations at the base
I reached Buck’s Mills, a tiny settlement in a cleft in the cliff. The houses were crammed in and there was an old artist’s retreat, a cabin, sat right next to the water. 

Buck’s Mills
Three miles out from Clovelly I found myself on The Hobby Drive. I marvelled at the fact that this cobbled road, built 200 years ago, had survived all this time partway down a cliff in the woods. Little did I know that this was just the beginning of the quaintness that is Clovelly. 

walking along The Hobby Drive
I had never heard of Clovelly but it seemed like lots of foreigners have as I passed many on my way down the narrow, very steep, cobbled street into the village. 

a view of Clovelly from The Hobby Drive
What a place, locked in the 1800s. It was built by a rich family in the 1700s and has retained its olde-worlde charm that drew in the tourists 200 years ago. I particularly liked all the homemade sledges that are still used to transport stuff into and out of the village, sometimes pulled by hand and sometimes by donkeys. 

Clovelly’s narrow, cobbled main street (note the sledge on the left)
It was a bit too much of a tourist Mecca for me but I still walked to the bottom for a half of Clovelly Cobbler in the Red Lion pub. I also bought the most over-priced crab sandwich ever. 

Clovelly harbour and the Red Lion Hotel, down a steep, switch-back, cobbled street
the view around Bideford Bay from Clovelly
It had been a long day and I had to walk all the way up the steep cliff side, through Wrinkleberry (another brilliant name) and across the field to my B&B at Burscott. The rain had slackened off, until 5 minutes before I reached my destination. I arrived soaked. Fortunately I didn’t have to go out again as the rain and fog came in for the night. I was glad I wasn’t camping. 

beautiful scenery, even on a wet day

Day 289 The Tarka Trail around the River Taw

Wednesday 18 May 2016

Croyde Beach to Appledore

15 miles walked

Marshford Camping Site

Today’s walk was going to take me up the River Taw to Barnstaple and back down the other side. Most of the walking would be along the Tarka Trail, a Tarmac cycle path following the disused railway line. In order to get the most out of the day (and because it was raining when I left) I decided to get the bus along the North side of the River; that way I could fit in walking from Croyde to Braunton and also reach a campsite. 

looking back at Croyde Beach
It took 2 buses to get to Croyde, into- and out of- Braunton. I started where I had left off on Sunday, on Croyde Beach. The rain had stopped and the sun was coming out. I walked around the small headland and came face to face with the big expanse of Saunton Sands, backed by Braunton Burrows. 

Saunton Sands – beach and hotel
From the cliff, above the Saunton Sands Hotel, I could see down to the mouth of the River Taw estuary and just how enormous Braunton Burrows is; 1300 hectares of sand dunes at the heart of the North Devon biosphere reserve. Naturally the burrows are a SSSI and are home to more plant species than any other parish in England. They are also a playground for the Royal Marines who are based next door at RMB Chivenor (another ex-RAF base I never got to!).

the large expanse of Braunton Burrows
There were a few surfers in the sea and the waves were pretty big but I dropped down from the cliff into the burrows. I didn’t walk right to Crow Point at the end because I had too far to walk today, but instead walked halfway along American Road, an old track at the back of the burrows that was once used by the American military. In 1942, this section of coastline became an Assault Training Centre to prepare 10,000 US troops for the D-Day landings. Today it was very peaceful in the unexpected sunshine and I only saw dog walkers. 

I cut back across Braunton Great Field into the town of Braunton and stopped at the small museum to check out the WW2 history. I could also have gone to the British Surfing Museum. 

I had time for a nice coffee while I waited for a bus to Barnstaple. I was able to relax and enjoy a good view of the River Taw from the top deck. 

the view up the River Taw from Barnstaple’s ‘long bridge’
The bus station in Barnstaple is right by the Long Bridge over the River Taw, although, confusingly, there is now a much longer bridge for the road bypass. 

Fremington Quay (cyclists on the Tarka Trail)
I followed the Tarka Trail along the South shore of the River Taw. In the mid-1800s, Fremington Quay was the most important between Bristol and Land’s End. Now it just has a cafe with lovely homemade cakes. I realised I hadn’t been eating enough cream teas so here was the perfect opportunity. In the interests of science I tried one scone the Devon way (jam on cream) and one the Cornish way (cream on jam). I can safely say that both were equally delicious. 

kite surfers on the River Torridge at Instow Sands, Appledore across the river
The Rivers Taw and Torridge meet at Appledore, opposite Braunton Burrows. At Instow, for £1.50, I could catch a ferry across the Torridge (only around high tide). I had timed it perfectly. 

the ferry arriving to take me across the Torridge (it was choppy and I got soaked)
First though I had to walk past the 2 RM beach landing craft parked on Instow Sands. 

Royal Marine landing craft on Instow Sands, Appledore across the river
Instow and Appledore both seemed like Nice towns, prettily painted and well kept. I had to walk up the hill out of Appledore to my campsite but, fortunately, I was able to use my bus ticket to get back into town for dinner at the pub. It was quiz and curry night at The Beaver. 

looking back across the River Torridge to Instow
Appledore had some famous residents!

Day 288 Day Trip to Lundy Island

Tuesday 17 May 2016

A circular walk around Lundy

7 miles

Harcourt hotel, Ilfracombe

“Verity” in all her glory on the Ilfracombe Quay
I caught the Ms Oldenberg from Ilfracombe Quay, along with 207 other passengers; it was a busy crossing today. It started raining as we were boarding the boat and there wasn’t enough room for everyone to get shelter. I managed to find a spot to stand for 2 hours. Fortunately the sea was calm. 

the MS Oldenberg with Hillsborough across the bay
I had about 4 hours on Lundy and resolved to walk a circuit, just not quite all the way to the North tip. There was plenty of wild life to see, although I didn’t have binoculars. It was just nice to walk around this fairly remote, barren island and admire its beauty. 

Lundy’s east coast
I had taken a picnic and I sat on the granite cliffs above Gannet Bay to eat it, while watching a seal playing below me. A great spot, but no gannets as they left their rock when the Northern lighthouse was built (it was noisy) and never returned. 

Gannet Bay and Gannet Rock – a nice spot for a picnic
The West coast was the most dramatic and it was here that there were puffins to be seen, along with other Auks. Lund-ey is Norse for Puffin Island.

Lundy’s west coast
another wonderful granite rock formation
I did climb up the old lighthouse, the first of 3 on the island. This one was decommissioned because it was too tall and so the light was often above the cloud. Today I could see the whole island from the top, although it was too cloudy to see Devon or South Wales. 

Beacon Hill Lighthouse (too tall)
looking all the way to the north of Lundy from Beacon Hill not far from the South West Point
At the SW tip was an Anthony Gormley sculpture, Daze IV, which has been there for a year and will soon be removed. It was located here to symbolise the point where the Bristol Channel meets the Atlantic Ocean.

Daze IV by Anthony Gormley
I finished my trip with a half pint of Lundy Landmark in the Marisco Tavern. This great little pub is the heart of the small village. There are plenty of holiday properties to rent on Lundy and I half wished I was staying. 

inside the Marisco Tavern
The Village
Another 2 hour boat ride back to Ilfracombe and I was exhausted. The bosun invited me back to the ship later for a drink (probably because I was at least 20 years younger than all the other passengers) but I thought it probably unwise. Besides, I was too tired to socialise. 

the MS Oldenberg at The Landing Beach in the South East
List of wildlife seen: gulls, puffins, guillemots, razorbills, cormorants, fulmars, wheatears, skylarks, pigeons, swallows, kestrel, seals, feral goats, highland cows(?), sheep, Lundy ponies, sika deer.

lots of feral goats on Lundy

Day 287 Walking Back to Ilfracombe

Monday 16 May 2016

Woolacombe to Ilfracombe (going clockwise)

9 miles

Harcourt Hotel

Keith and Cilla cooked me a nice breakfast to set me on my way. The sun was still shining and I wasn’t in a hurry as I didn’t have a long walk today. I wanted to visit Lundy Island and the ferry only goes 3 times a week from Ilfracombe (and sometimes Bideford), so it made sense to walk back there in time for tomorrow’s ferry. 

Combesgate and Woolacombe beaches
I walked through Woolacombe town, past the beach and set off along the headland to Morte Point. 

the path to Morte Point
At Morte Point the sea was bubbling as though two opposing tides were meeting. This phenomenon seemed to go out in a line, which was in line with the jagged vertical slates embedded in the cliff at the point. It was such a striking formation. 

Morte Point with a bubbling line in the sea
vertical, jagged slate rocks at Morte Point
I rounded Morte Point and headed into Rockham Bay. The sea was a spectacular deep blue and so clear that I could see the rocks underneath the water. This was perfect and reminded me of the sunny days in Scotland. I was very hot and could have done with a swim but I saved that thought for later. 

looking from Morte Point to Bull Point
the sea was a beautiful colour
Past the lighthouse at Bull Point and the path wound down into Lee Bay. 

Bull Point Lighthouse (built 1879) and Morte Point in the background
dramatic coastline (Lee Bay in the middle)
I stopped at the Smuggler’s Cottage tea room for a homemade burger, a cake and a coffee. The food here was excellent and the building used to be Hannibal Richard’s cottage (infamous smuggler). There is rumoured to be a tunnel from the cellar to the little cove where the smugglers brought their loot ashore. Apparently, in the 18th Century, all the villagers of Lee used to work together to encourage shops to their doom on the rocks and then plunder them. (A light on the headland here might be confused for the safety of Ilfracombe harbour.)

Lee (Smuggler’s Cottage on the left)
One more big hill and then I was in Torrs Park and heading down to Ilfracombe. I checked into my cheap, but very clean, hotel on the old Fore Street. The tide was high but I couldn’t resist another swim at Tunnels Beach, even though the pool was submerged under the sea. It was wonderful. After half an hour I had to get out and spent the next half an hour with my teeth chattering. 

looking back from Torrs Park above Ilfracombe
looking down on Ilfracombe
I couldn’t be bothered to go out so had a picnic in my room. 

a sea kayaker launching at Lee Bay

WEEK 40 Shurton, Somerset to Ilfracombe, Devon

72 miles walked

(total 2,335 miles walked)

A great start to the SW Coast Path. The combination of beautiful scenery, hot weather, some sunshine and meeting other “trail walkers” made it a wonderful, and very different, week. 

a different style of way markers for the SW Coast Path
I have been shocked by the number of people I have met that are walking the SW Coast Path. I think I came across 18 people this week, 8 of them were foreigners and 6 of the foreigners were women walking alone. Most people were only doing part of the path over a few weeks but I had no idea this walk was so popular. 

Tanja and Jarmo sharing a joke by the boars near Culbone
I particularly noticed the change in terrain this week. I have had to try and forget my inbuilt distance/time calculator because this week the miles have been much harder earned. Apparently Exmoor has the highest sea cliffs on mainland Britain – my legs know it!

high cliffs – Holdstone Down on the way to Combe Martin
The Exmoor coastline is incredibly beautiful and quite different with all of the trees on the cliffs. I also noticed that entering Devon seemed to be the dividing line between the brown water of the Bristol Channel and the blue-green Atlantic Ocean. 

beautiful deciduous trees on the side of nearly every cliff
I started the week walking part of The Coleridge Way. The romantic poets of the early 19th Century (Coleridge, Shelley, Byron and Wordsworth) walked the moors together between Minehead and Combe Martin and there is plenty of their history around the area. 

Day 285-286 Weekend in Woolacombe

Saturday 14 & Sunday 15 May 2016

Rest day & walk to Croyde Bay

8 miles

Downland House B&B

How nice to have a personal delivery of my next set of maps and an excuse to stop for the weekend, particularly as the weather was so good. Sally collected me from Pete’s house in Ilfracombe and we drove to Woolacombe for a relaxing weekend at the seaside. 

someone is pleased to be at the seaside! Sally enjoying Woolacombe Beach
I don’t know why I was surprised by the large number of people on the wonderful, long, sandy beach and in the sea. There were lots of surfers, even though it was really quite calm. I didn’t see anyone in the water without a wetsuit though – everyone’s soft these days!

Woolacombe Beach and Down (it reminded me a bit of Rhossili on the Gower)
Sunday was a bit of a busman’s holiday for me as we ended up walking along the 2 mile length of the beautiful Woolacombe Beach, over the hill to Croyde Bay (even more surfers here) and then around Baggy Point headland on the way back. I walked in my sandals today and it felt like a holiday. 

Croyde Bay
walking out to Baggy Point, between Croyde and Morte Bays
After such a long walk it was bliss to go for a late afternoon swim at Barricane Beach, next to Woolacombe, and then eat a curry on the beach. The beach cafe is run by a Sri Lanken man who makes curries on nice summer evenings and they are very popular. What a great end to a lovely, relaxing weekend. 

Enjoying a post-swim curry on the beach
curry on the beach is popular at Barricane

Day 284 A Sunny Stroll to Ilfracombe 

Friday 13 May 2016

Combe Martin to Ilfracombe

8 miles

Pete’s house (Nicki’s friend)

Another hot day but this one had a clear blue sky and non-stop sunshine. Such a beautiful day to undertake a lovely walk. 

no this isn’t the Far East, it’s Samson’s Bay in North Devon
Despite my late night I was up early as it was already roasting hot in my tent by 8 am. Before setting off, Andreas made me a nice cup of loose leaf tea in a cafetière; needs must in a campervan. 

me and Bernadette setting off from the campsite
Bernadette and I walked together today. The guys were completing another stretch and then driving to meet us in Ilfracombe; however, I had other plans so would be separating from the developing group today. I was happy with that because, although I like everyone, I’m not ready to bend my trip to the whims of others. I had felt like a “traveller” the last couple of days and I’m not sure I would want that to be the norm.

looking back at Combe Martin and Little Hangman
The views across Widmouth Head and Water Mouth were incredible; such a stunning landscape. 

Widmouth Head and Water Mouth…
…and from the other side (Little and Great Hangmen in the background)
We laboured up and down the steep hills in the burning sunshine and came down into Hele Bay (pronounced heel). There was a cafe here and we stopped for an ice cream and a coffee. We also had a good chat with the owners and got a tip to head for the Tunnels Beaches in Ilfracombe. 

Hillsborough looming large over Ilfracombe
Due to our late start and slow amble on a hot day it was after 3 pm when we crested Hillsborough and stopped to admire the fabulous view across Ilfracombe harbour and town.

looking down on Ilfracombe harbour
St Nicholas Seamen’s Chapel stood prominent atop Lantern Hill on the pier, and Damien Hirst’s statue ‘Verity’ also stood out. 

Lantern Hill and “Verity” (the MS Oldenberg at berth)
We walked around the quayside and climbed Capstone Hill on the other side of the town for another viewpoint. The rather unusual-looking Landmark Theatre also grabs your attention with its conical design. 

Bernadette taking in the view from Capstone Point
Finally we made it to the entrance to the Tunnels Beaches. In 1823 the locals employed Welsh miners to tunnel through the rock to the small, shale coves beyond. They dug 4 tunnels by hand and then built 3 tidal pools below the cliffs (Victorian men and women did not bathe together). The tunnels and the ladies’ pool have been preserved and were open for use. 

theough the tunnels to the beach and the pool
A swim was just what I needed after a hot, sweaty walk. There were a number of people on the beach but only one person in the sea. It was freezing; I got pins and needles in my feet. But it was wonderful and very refreshing. 

Tunnels Beach Ladies’ Pool
After a quick swim we had to leave as Andreas and John arrived to pick up Bernadette and Pete was waiting for me. I said goodbye to the others and walked back to Pete’s house. It had been 9 hot and humid days since my clothes had last seen inside a washing machine and I was so grateful to Pete for letting me wash all my kit. 

drying out post-swim

Day 283 Woody Bay and Hangman Hills

Thursday 12 May 2016

Lynmouth to Combe Martin

15 miles

Newberry Valley Park Campsite

It was misty again this morning so I delayed my start until after 10 am in the hope that it would burn off. Despite the poor state of the B&B I had slept really well, lulled by the roar of the East Lyn River right outside my bedroom window. 

looking up the East Lyn River (my B&B just on left of river)
I meandered along the main street through Lynmouth, which didn’t exist until after the flood of August 1952. Before then there was no road, only a wider river. The flood destroyed lots of the town, including the lifeboat station. 

aboard the cliff railway
Lynmouth is now a popular tourist destination but there was no queue this morning to get the cliff railway up to Lynton. It was the steepest cliff railway in the world when it was built in 1890 and it has been running every year since. It is powered using the potential energy of water from the West Lyn River. This was definitely easier than walking up the cliff!

misty on the sea side of the Valley of the Rocks
I was still enveloped in mist as I left Lynton and skirted around the cliff edge. The mist started to clear in patches and I could see the blurt-green sea below; it was a beautiful sight.

The Valley of the Rocks
I entered the Valley of the Rocks, a dry valley high on the cliff top. The  rock formations were stunning, and it was possibly more atmospheric with the mist swirling around. More smiles!

mist in Lee Bay
More woodland covering steep cliffs. I was glad of the shade because it was already hot and the sun was burning off the mist. I descended down the steep track to Woody Bay (a bit off the coast path). I wanted to see where I had been on a family holiday aged 13 months, and the rock in the middle of the beach that I had climbed up after escaping from my parents. The tide was in so there was no beach, but I could see the rock and just how peaceful this bay is. 

Woody Bay at high tide (I climbed to the top of one of those rocks aged 13 months)
It was a steep climb back up to the path and out of the woods. All of a sudden the sky was bright blue, the sea a milky greeny-blue and the views became more expansive. The walk also got tougher from here. 

beautiful bluey-green sea and green trees on the cliffs
I caught up with Bernadette, who was walking with 2 English guys: Andreas (definitely not German) and John. We walked together up to Highveer Point and there we met Jarmo and Petra who were stopped for a break. Jarmo was dishing out coffee made with his portable espresso machine!

Heddon’s Mouth Cleave – a steep walk down and up
The next section was a big descent into Heddon’s Mouth Cleave and an extremely steep climb up the other side. We all set off together but went at our own paces. Jarmo and I were so busy chatting when we reached the River Heddon that we missed the turning up the hill and did an extra half a mile to Heddon’s Mouth. 

the view along the cliffs of Girt Down
It was extremely hot scrambling up to the top of the cliff again. I worried that I might run out of water and get sunburnt. Still, the views along the cliffs were outstanding and I soon left everyone behind and enjoyed it on my own. I walked over Holdstone Down and had one more big descent (-140m) and tough ascent (+190m) to cross the small stream of Sherrycombe and reach the highest point of the day at Great Hangman on Girt Down. Although it was a bit hazy the 360 degree views were still amazing and not only could I see all along the cliff tops, but I could see right into Exmoor as well. 

another climb ahead – Great Hangman at 318m
hot and sweaty at the top of Great Hangman
The path wound down hill to Combe Martin; however, I decided to veer off and climb up Little Hangman just to be sure I wasn’t missing another amazing view. I was glad I did because I did get a great vista across Combe Martin Bay to Widmouth Head. 

Little Hangman (Combe Martin down to the left)
Lester Cliff obscuring the view if Combe Martin Bay
It was just after 5 pm when I arrived on the edge of Combe Martin. I was tired, hot, hungry and thirsty. Only a small hill to walk to the campsite! It was a lovely site, managed by a couple from Wolverhampton. No sooner had I put my tent up and had a shower than Bernadette arrived and Andreas and John were also here in their motorhome. So it was an evening of chatting and drinking beer and baileys (all the guys had) sat outside the motorhome. Eventually I did manage to drag them all to the nearest pub for some food (we only just made it before they stopped serving). It was a very late night/early morning when I got to bed. It had been a great day though, and a tough walk.

sunset at Combe Martin Bay

Day 282 A European Walk into Devon

Wednesday 11 May 2016

Porlock, Somerset to Lynmouth, Devon

15 miles

The Captain’s House B&B

So the rain that had been promised finally arrived. It was pouring down when I awoke, and misty. It was definitely not the sort of weather that inspires one to go walking. I ate a big breakfast and delayed my departure for as long as possible. 

looking out to Porlock’s shingle beach (the breach just visible)
Ignoring the heavy rain and lack of visibility I enjoyed the calm and quiet. Porlock Weir was a beautiful little village, even more quaint than Porlock. I could just see along the shingle bank that (almost) bounds in the salt marsh; the breach created by Hurricane Lili in 1996 was visible. 

Porlock Weir harbour
I entered the beautiful old woods on the side of the steep cliff, which I would spend nearly all day walking through. It felt almost prehistoric in the damp, dense wood, carpeted by moss and ferns (no bluebells). I loved it. 

the beautiful entrance to Worthy Combe toll road through the woods (£2 for cars)
St Bueno’s Church, Culbone, is tiny and hidden 400 feet up the cliff in a wooded combe. I counted 2 houses next to it so I’m not sure where the rest of the parishioners come from. Apparently this grade 1 listed building is in the Guinness Book of Records as the smallest complete church in England. It really was tucked away in the woods. 

St Bueno’s Church, Culbone
After a morning completely on my own I started to see other people on the path. Just after I crossed the border into Devon I caught up with Tanya from yesterday, and she was walking with Jarmo from Sweden. We walked together for the rest of the day. It was different walking in company, particularly foreign visitors, and I finished my day 2 hours later than I expected, but I enjoyed chatting. 

Jarmo and Tanya walking near a place called ‘Desolate’ with Old Burrow Hill behind
Unexpectedly, the rain eased off and the 3 of us eventually popped out of the woods and were able to get glimpses through the mist of the coast and the sea below. We must have left the influence of the Bristol Channel because the sea was more blue and green than dirty brown. That made me smile. The walk to Foreland Point and over Countisbury Common was more open and exposed more of the Exmoor moorland that I had expected to see. 

the view of Lynmouth as I rounded Foreland Point
As we approached Lynmouth our party of 3 swelled to 5. I had spent barely 2 days on the SW Coast Path and already I was at a European walking convention. This was getting weird. We picked up Petra from Switzerland and Bernadette from Austria. All of my companions had come to England (separately) to hike part of the SW Coast Path; an internationally well-known trail route. Petra had done most of it in 2010 and was returning to finish it off by heading to St Ives. I wondered if this was a sign of things to come – a busy path where I constantly bump into others “on the trail”. I wasn’t sure whether I liked that thought. I did like the thought that other women across Europe were happy to come here and walk alone. 

Bernadette from Austria, Jarmo from Sweden, Petra from Switzerland and Tanya from Germany
We descended into Lynmouth through the mist. The East and West Lyn Rivers meet and run through the middle of this town, which nestles at the base of the surrounding hills. There is a cliff railway to get up the hill to Lynton that I remembered from a childhood holiday visit. 

Lynmouth, surrounded by wooded hills
The 5 of us went our separate ways and perhaps I’ll bump into some of them again “on the trail”. I had booked a B&B in the morning when the rain looked set for the day. As it was so late (almost 6 pm) I was glad that I didn’t have to walk out of town to the campsite and pitch my tent. 

the cliff railway linking Lynmouth to Lynton
I ate a very nice, and expensive, fresh fish dinner in the Rising Sun Hotel. What a strange and wonderful day. 

mist surrounding deciduous woodland on the cliff – the theme of the day

Day 281 Starting the South West Coast Path

Tuesday 10 May 2016

Minehead to Porlock

8 miles

Overstream Guest House

The prolonged rain that was promised hadn’t materialised so the air felt even heavier this morning. It was misty, still, hot and very close. Perfect weather for climbing a steep hill!

eerie stillness at the quayside in Minehead
Expecting it to rain later I decided on another night in a B&B, and Carl from the Old Ship Aground Inn recommended one in Porlock. He even phoned and booked while I ate a very nice breakfast. 

This morning I started walking the South West Coast Path. The start point was right by the Quay and yesterday some fellow walkers had taken my photo in front of it. They were walking to Newquay over 2 weeks and were seasoned long distance walkers. 

the official start of the South West Coast Path (seems like I’m doing this one in the right direction)
Today I met Tanya from Germany (walking to St Ives) and a man who was just finishing the whole path on his 2nd visit. He was walking for charity and wild camping the whole way; just like Seaside Steve he had lots of tips for getting water. I wondered if this was a sign of things to come and I will bump into lots of people “on the trail”? The people I’ve met so far have asked me lots of questions and, unlike them, I haven’t even thought about walking the SW Coast Path because it hasn’t been my focus. Luckily there’s a website to help with my planning. 

Porlock is the first stop listed on the walk planning part of the SW Coast Path website, and it’s only 8 miles from Minehead. A sign of the steepness of the hills in between perhaps? I thought I might as well stop there as Lynmouth seemed too far and besides, the rain must arrive soon. 

beautiful big trees heading up North Hill
walking up the hill through the trees
I set off from Minehead, crossed into the Exmoor National Park, and immediately climbed up North Hill through some lovely woodland. It was steep. The path was over the moorland hill tops to Porlock. It was misty all the way so there were no views. 

great views from the top!
at the top of the hill
It did rain a bit and I did put on my waterproof, for about 5 minutes before I realised I was wetter inside than out. 

looking down on Porlock Bay
It was a steep walk down to Porlock Bay. The villages of Bossington and Porlock seemed quiet and quaint; I spotted several thatched cottages. 

the hills I walked over
I arrived at Overstream Guest House, in a drizzle, at midday, after 3 hours of leisurely walking. Luckily the owners let me in and fed me tea and homemade cake. 

Porlock’s quaint high street
Porlock is nestled at the bottom of Porlock Hill, which has a 25% gradient road out of it. Naturally I walked up part of it and wished I had a bike to give it a go. There were plenty of signs advising caravans to take the woodland toll road instead.