After walking such a long way already this week it was nice to enjoy a lazy morning before my early afternoon train back to Brighton. I wasn’t sure how far I was going to walk in the afternoon.
Despite the South-East train strikes that had been going on earlier in the week, my train was on time. I picked up my bag and got on board. It was only when I arrived at Brighton and picked up my bag to disembark that I realised I hadn’t got my walking poles. Where were they? I must have left them on the platform at Clapham Junction. That was the second time is left my poles behind when catching a train (remember Barrow-in-Furness?). This time I was able to get a station worker to phone Clapham and my poles were still there. Phew. The bad news was that I had to go and collect them so I endured another round trip to Clapham Junction and back. What an idiot. I’m so glad I retrieved them though, and relatively easily, as I couldn’t put my tent up without them and the cheapest bed and breakfast in Brighton was well over £100.
It was almost 6pm when I finally left Brighton train station. I walked down to the sea front and along the esplanade to the Marina before turning inland to the only available campsite. It was my most expensive campsite stay at £26.40 for 15 hours. There was nothing I could do and I was tired so I put my tent up and went for an early night.
I didn’t get much sleep as I pitched next to a group of profoundly deaf people who started barbecuing at 10 pm. They were incredibly noisy, which I guess was because they couldn’t hear how loud they were. I was too tired to care.
It was nice to be home. The garden had grown a bit! I enjoyed a few days doing very little except washing and mending my kit. Everything (including me) was getting a bit tired. For example: the rubber was wearing off my walking poles, my t-shirt had developed an irreparable hole and I had to order a new one, my shorts needed sewing up yet again, and my sandals had to be washed and soaked 3 times to rid them of their foul smell.
I also took the opportunity to visit my mum as I hadn’t seen her for over 6 months and I don’t want to be written out of her will. Plus, she’s good at sewing. Love you mum.
Only three and a half days at home, but it was just what I wanted. I didn’t go anywhere (well I don’t have a car). I did manage to wash everything, including my rucksack, which I think was possibly more smelly than my t-shirt, and all footwear. Finally I can no longer smell my own feet, and that’s a really positive thing.
I took the opportunity to sort through my kit and I ditched my cooking equipment. I have only been using it as a last resort and have found the SW Coast Path to be well populated with cafes, pubs and shops. I decided to follow the example of all the European walkers I have met and not carry any cooking equipment.
My unexpected trip home was a wonderful pick-me-up tonic. It also enabled me to try and do a bit of gardening (hampered by very heavy downpours and a lack of desire). Most importantly, my EU Referendum postal vote is in.
I really liked the North Devon coast (and the bit of Somerset coming West from Minehead). It is the only coastline I’ve seen that has cliffs covered in beautiful deciduous woodland, so it felt rather unique. The woodland pretty much stretches right from Minehead through to Hartland Point, except for the section of sandy beaches between Woolacombe and Westward Ho!.
The added bonus of walking through woods day after day in springtime has been the proliferation of bluebells. It really has been a beautiful section of the walk.
This week I was forced to change my walking t-shirt as the one I’d been wearing every day for several months just became too smelly. My spare was promoted to walking t-shirt and I now have a new spare.
There has been a lack of accessible campsites so far on the SW Coast Path. Oftentimes the campsites are a couple of miles inland (and always up a hill!) e.g. In Ilfracombe, or else there just aren’t any e.g. between Westward Ho! and Hartland. Fortunately I don’t mind staying in B&Bs!
An opportunity to spend the Bank Holiday weekend with Oli and Laura was not to be missed. Besides, it rained pretty much non-stop from Saturday evening onwards.
Lots of eating, some drinking and plenty of relaxing. I took the time to go shopping in Cardiff for new boots (the same ones as my previous two pairs). The pair I got in August were cracking around the toe joint (a recurring issue) so I managed to get them replaced, despite the obvious wear. I had my feet measured again in Cotswold Outdoor and this time I left with a size bigger as the assistant was convinced mine were too small. So now I have size 8 boots (or boats!), and I wear size 6.5 shoes. I also replaced my inner and outer socks and my superfeet insoles; the only thing I didn’t replace was my feet!
A day spent waiting for my old rucksack to arrive in the post and hanging out with family. It was nice to see my cousin again and not so good for my ego to be soundly beaten at Monopoly by his 7 year old son.
Parcelforce delivered my rucksack and I remembered just how much heavier than my new one it is. Time to repack and do some planning.
I was dropped off in Llandudno yesterday and what a lovely seaside town it is. All the grand seafront buildings were nicely painted and looked well-kept; I could not find a single shabby frontage.
The promenade is the widest I’ve seen and there is lots to do, including skiing?! (There is a cable car that heads up to the ski slope!)
With 2 small children in tow I walked along the pier in the rain (avoiding the amusement arcade) and then, when the sun came out, we took the tram to the top of the hill on Great Orme. The views were fantastic: back to the town, Conwy Bay and across to Anglesey.
I stayed in a B&B a couple of streets back from the front and this morning walked back along it to Great Orme’s Head. A sunny Sunday morning and there were lots of people out strolling along the promenade. Small dinghies were being prepared on the water’s edge and the pier was alive.
I walked around Great Orme via Marine Drive, which is a toll road. I was passed by several cyclists and also a road train that was full. I passed them all again at the Rest and Be Thankful cafe halfway around the head.
Climbing is a popular activity on these cliffs and they have a large, rounded look about them.
The view was lovely, the sea green and the sun shining…time for something to go wrong. My rucksack broke. It could have done this a week ago when I would have had a week, and help, to sort it out. But no, it waited until today. I had noticed a problem with one of the fixings a while ago and had tried to ameliorate the issue. It had worked until now but this break meant a fixing rod became detached.
I spent a while trying to fashion a temporary fix so that at least I could continue to carry the rucksack properly on my back and then spent ages pondering my next move as I walked.
I continued walking to Llandudno Junction and across the Bridge over the Conwy estuary into Conwy town. The town is on the banks of the estuary and a line of hills lies behind it. Conwy Castle is rather splendid and guards the mouth of the river.
Today there was a food festival going on and the town was packed with people. I had a quick wander through it and then went in a empty tea room for some dinner and a re-think.
Firstly, I had wasted too much time to walk all the way to Llanfairfechan before dark, which would be just after 5 pm. I decided to catch the train – it ran next to the coast path anyway. Secondly, after a few phone calls my plan was to get my old rucksack sent to my Aunt’s house near Chester (after recent experiences getting it sent to a Post Office is out of the question) and I would divert back there to collect it so at least I could carry on. What a faff.
I wandered along the bank of the Conwy estuary watching the waders enjoy the pickings at low tide and then back through Conwy town to catch the train 2 stops to Llanfairfechan.
Thanks to the owners of the guest house for providing me with tape and tie wraps to temporarily fix my rucksack.
Today was to be the first time on my trip that I would be joined by friends for a whole day’s walk. I met Ade and Jackie when we were all camping opposite Holy Island, Northumberland. They are friends of Maggie, and now also of me. They are experienced walkers, climbers, mountaineers and expedition leaders, so I was in good company for the day that was to unfold. It was nice to have good company for the walk and to have someone else navigating.
We drove a couple of miles back to Drumburgh, from where we could pick up the Cumbria Coastal Way and we set out to follow this all the way to Skinburness. The main thing I want to point out is how pleased I was that someone as experienced, and qualified, as Ade had the same navigational problems as I’ve suffered and several times we lost the non-existent path. Hallelujah, it’s not just me!!!
Things started off ok but it wasn’t long before the signposts disappeared, the path disappeared and we were fighting our way through, almost impenetrable, thick reeds and other vegetation. We saw a couple of deer, who seemed very surprised to see us. Jackie found a stile – it was buried in the head-high vegetation with no sign of a path either side, but it did have a CCW sign.
We worked hard for our 15 miles today; it should have been shorter but crossing the Skinburness Marsh at the end was a wiggly affair. There were dykes crisscrossing the plain and finding places narrow enough to cross them was sometimes difficult.
We all got wet feet at some point. We also had cows to worry about (some are really inquisitive) and fences barring our way that needed to be crossed. I managed to rip my waterproof jacket in one fence that we had to climb through (fortunately Ade mended it later).
Walking with Ade and Jackie meant regular breaks with treats, sandwiches and hot chocolate. What a luxury. The route did take in New Abbey and we took a look in the magnificent building that was destroyed by fire in 2006 and has been rebuilt. It was worth a look.
By the time we reached the (second) car at Skinburness we were tired. It had been a long day fighting the lack of paths. We made it back home just before the rain came. It was nice to have an evening in front of the fire.
It was a misty start to the morning but the sun was going to burn through. I walked down the road to the River Sark and the border. Just before the border is the first (or last) house in Scotland, The Old Toll Bar. Another scene of many weddings.
Unlike when I crossed the border into Scotland on the East coast, this time it didn’t rain. I’m hoping that’s a good omen.
Having walked across the border (where were the pipers and Dougie MacLean to bid me farewell?) I promptly walked back into Gretna and caught a bus to Carlisle to avoid a road walk. I was in Border Reiver country and all day I was to be reminded of the incessant tribal warfare that blighted this area for about 300 years, mainly between 1296 and 1603. It wasn’t just between the Scots and the English, but was tribal in the 40 square miles of ‘Debatable Lands’. I have learned the origin of the term bereaved (be-revived).
I needed some new inner socks as my feet have been a bit sore and I worked out that it was my threadbare socks. I popped into Cotswolds to buy some new ones and then walked down the High Street. I couldn’t resist stopping at Watt’s Victorian Coffee Shop and was rewarded with an excellent coffee and cake.
The place is full of Victorian knickknacks and a visit to the toilet involves walking through a basement that could be a museum! It was a shame the man who roasts the coffee wasn’t in as apparently he happily shows customers round his tiny office.
Carlisle has an historic quarter, a castle, a Roman fort and of course it is Hadrian’s Wall country. There is a lot to see in Luguvalium!
I walked past the Norman castle that was once the temporary prison of Mary Queen of Scots and headed out of the city along the River Eden and out to the the route of Hadrian’s Wall and Vallum.
I passed through the villages of Beaumont and Burgh-By-Sands, and stopped in both to look at their respective churches. St Mary’s in Beaumont was built on the site of a fort, the only church on Hadrian’s Wall, and has great views over the surrounding countryside, including Carlise and the Solway plain.
St Michael’s church in Burgh-By-Sands is typical of many of the local churches in having a tower at one end where the locals used to barricade themselves in when their village was attacked by Reivers. This was also where King Edward I (The Hammer of the Scots) lay in state after he died whilst his Army was crossing the Solway Firth to wage war on the Scots in 1307.
I took a detour out onto the marsh land to look at the monument that was erected on the spot where he died (he was old and ill). I can’t believe an Army attempted to cross this marsh land; surely it would have got stuck in the same mud I have sunk in!
The last section of the walk was along the road that crosses the edge of the tidal plain and evidently gets covered regularly during high tides.
The Hadrian’s Wall Path was well signposted all day; it makes such a difference.
I had booked to stay in a bunkhouse and was the only one so I had plenty of room to spread out.
The old lady who owns Kirkland Farm, Daphne, keeps the cleanest Bunkbarn I have ever seen and we had a lovely chat. She has lived in Port Carlisle all her life and she was showing me photos of her at school in 1952. Funnily enough nearly all of her school mates also still lived in the locality; this is one of those places where people never leave.
Needing to relinquish the hire car, getting close to leaving Scotland and just wanting to go home all combined into a plan to drive back down South, drop the car at Heathrow Airport and have some time at home.
I had a lovely couple of weeks off from my trip, didn’t give it any real thought and lapsed on my blog. I did however manage to do the following: see my mum, do the gardening, visit friends and family, go to my local pub, see Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet (thanks Donna), take a guided tour around Westminster Palace (highly recommended), visit Birmingham library (also recommended), watch 2 Eurohockey matches and go to a wedding. I also ate and drank too much. I need to get walking again!
To aid my walking I managed to exchange my boots for a new pair, thanks to Cotswold Outdoors for that. The pair of Salomons I bought in Norwich had developed a split near the little toe (down to over use!) and because I’d only had them just over 3 months I was able to exchange them for free. Fortunately the shop assistant didn’t ask how much they’d been used as I’ve walked over 800 miles in them and worn them every day through sand, salt water and bogs. Bonus.