WEEK 54 Seaford, East Sussex to Margate, Kent

121 miles walked

(total 3,276 miles walked)

I think this might be the most mileage I’ve walked in a week. What a varied week, passing through so many towns with tales to tell. This was the week I travelled through the ancient Cinque Ports (Hastings, New Romney, Hythe, Dover and Sandwich), established in 1155 by Royal Charter to maintain ships for the King in return for trade privileges. 

The De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea
My overriding feeling was that I walked too far, too fast and didn’t do it justice. There was always more to see and experience than I could fit in. Why did I cover so much ground? Mainly I think it was because I was struggling to find campsites (or other accommodation) that I felt was reasonably priced. I was finding the SE less friendly, very expensive and, of course, I was also suffering from the ground rush that comes with nearing the finish line. 

Fishermen’s Huts, Hastings
I found myself probably more frustrated this week than I had been for a long time, and yet there were still so many highlights. 

Seven Sisters Country Park
This week’s natural world highlights included a naked rambler (Seven Sisters), a grass snake (White Cliffs Country Park), a kingfisher (Royal Military Canal), and the stunning beauty of the Seven Sisters, Cuckmere Haven and the White Cliffs of Dover.  

a grass snake
The Sussex and Kent coastline that I walked this week is the closest to mainland Europe and was very heavily fortified in the 1800s. Some of the 74 Martello Towers that were built along this coastline still remain, as well as forts, redoubts and the Royal Military Canal. Napoleon really had us worried!

another Martello Tower, Eastbourne
I spent much of the week following long distance footpaths, mainly the Saxon Shore Way but also the Royal Military Canal Path, the North Downs Way and the Thanet Coastal Path. I began the week with white cliffs and ended it the same way, taking in the flat coastline in between. 

WEEK 53 Southampton to Seaford, East Sussex

111 miles walked

(total 3,155 miles walked)

A lot of distance covered this week, even though I slowed down at the end. It wasn’t my favourite week by any means and one that bust my weekly budget. 

This week everything suddenly got more expensive. East of Portsmouth the going rate for a campsite more than doubled, despite the facilities offered certainly not being better than further West. Cafes are also more expensive, and so far most have been of a worse standard than I have been used to. Add to that the slightly boring aspects of walking long, flat promenades and that goes some way to explaining why it wasn’t my favourite. 

worst walk this week was past the lorries at Portslade-by-Sea
All in all this week felt like a bit of a battle; a battle to find campsites that would squeeze me in, places that didn’t overcharge by more than 100% of what I felt their value was, no people to chat to. 

apparently there was a marked path!
In summary, I would not recommend the Hampshire and Surrey coastline for hiking for following reasons: 

1. There are not many coastal footpaths and they are badly signposted. Be prepared to get lost, trudge along shingle and walk through housing estates. 

2. Campsites are not hiker-friendly. You get charged full price and only if they have a spare pitch available; they will not entertain squeezing you in and people on the phone are generally rude. 

3. It is expensive and not worth it. The campsites and cafes are no better, the beaches are shingle and the sea not as clear as further West. 

4. It is crowded (which is probably why no one cares – they don’t need to). 

I could not find any favourable comparison between the South East and the South West. The only difference is proximity to London. 

still smiling; on the beach at West Wittering

WEEK 52 The Isle of Wight

67 miles walked

(total 3,044 miles walked)

I walked around most of the Isle of Wight Coastal Path. I figured I could miss out the bit between Cowes and Yarmouth as it is mostly inland anyway and this would mean I could get the ferry to Southampton. By doing this I missed out an inland walk from Lymington to Hythe, past the oil refinery. 

a stunning “Jurassic Coast” along the South of the island
Eight thousand years ago the Isle of Wight was part of the mainland and the Solent was just a river. That was before the Ice Age made it into an island. Having walked from The Needles to Foreland, I was struck by how this whole South Coast section of the IOW was really just a continuation of the Jurassic Coast. 

Bembridge lifeboat station
Finally, I can’t believe I didn’t see any red squirrels all week. Gutted. 

follow the IOW coast path signs

WEEK 50 Sidmouth, Devon to Poole, Dorset

105 miles walked

(total 2,947 miles walked)

What a fantastic week! The Jurassic Coast treated me well and I was lucky to have so many wonderful views (except at Lulworth Cove) as I walked through time. 

eroding cliffs at Burton Bradstock, looking back towards Lyme Regis
This week seems to have been the annual British heatwave. It has been very hot, beautifully sunny and stiflingly calm. I have had to manage myself more carefully this week but it’s been worth it. The sea in Dorset has been warm. 

Me walking The Warren
As ever, staying with friends made things a lot easier. Washing machines are such a great invention. 

Me and Grace (if only she make me look so dishevelled!)
I finally finished walking the South West Coast Path this week, 11 weeks after I started. I have really enjoyed “following the acorn” and think I’ll miss it. Considering it’s only a small part of my whole trip, I was surprised at the sense of accomplishment I felt upon finishing. 

I made it all the way from Minehead to South Haven

WEEK 48 Stoke Fleming to Sidmouth

52 miles walked

(total 2,842 miles walked)

A short week that took me about halfway around the enormous Lyme Bay. 

red sand and cliffs at Paignton
It was quite incredible how the cliffs and the sea changed so much, almost coinciding with leaving Start Bay and entering Lyme Bay. The sea was no longer crystal clear but seemed to have been turned opaque by the deep red sandstone cliffs. 

Rhizocretions – fossilized root remains embedded in the rock (Budleigh Salterton)
The cliffs at Tor Bay are even older than the Triassic cliffs that begin at Exmouth. It seems that Lyme Bay is one long geological history lesson. 

Otter Sandstone cliffs

WEEK 47 Polperro, Cornwall to Stoke Fleming, Devon

90 miles walked

(total 2,790 miles walked)

I finally left Cornwall this week after more than 5 weeks walking around its diverse coastline. It was a bitter-sweet moment. 

the beautifully clear Cornish sea, near Portlooe
The weather has not been conducive to packing up and starting walking early each day as it has generally been poor in the morning, before brightening up significantly later on. Mostly this hasn’t mattered too much as lots of ferries have been required and they don’t seem to run before 10 am anyway. 

amazing slate cliffs at Bigbury-on-Sea
I have struggled to find decent campsites by the coast so far in South Devon. Indeed the combination of poor facilities, mizzle in the morning and indifferent service from people, did not endear me to South Devon. And I haven’t mentioned the non-existent phone signal in this county, nor the large number of horsefly bites that cover my body. 

I found some of the week hard going, and then of course there was the terrain; in some places it was as steep as the North coast of Devon and Cornwall. In fact it was steeper than the amount of ankle flexion I have. I enjoyed the challenge. 

As ever, the views were stunning and I saw a reasonable amount of wildlife. Kestrels were in abundance and I did see the odd seal, fulmars and even a gannet over Plymouth Sound. I also saw another adder this week; it was skinny but quite long and curled up on the path. I startled it and went to step over it before I checked myself, stepped back and watched it slither off. 

stunning Start Bay

WEEK 46 Coverack to Polperro

83 miles walked

(total 2,700 miles walked)

The Walking seemed hard again this week, although not like the North coast. Lots of beautiful scenery.  

Gerrans Bay, looking at Portscatho
I have been getting the impression that Cornwall is a land on a slant, tilted South. The cliffs in the North coast (from Hartland Point) are very high and so the rivers are small and dig deep gullies to reach the sea. The South coast feels lower and more rolling hills with huge great estuaries. I can’t quite believe how diverse the scenery is on the SW Coast Path. 

look at the colour of the sea! Nare Head and Gull Rock
I saw lots of ponies this week; lots of different types (Dartmoor, Shetland and others) are employed  to graze the cliffs. On the whole they do a good job, but the Highways Agent still need to get their strimmer on those paths!

Dartmoor Ponies on the path
Strange weather again this week. I have even heard Cornishmen exclaiming that they can’t read the weather at the moment. 

Unfortunately my heart wasn’t in the walking at the end of this week. I temporarily fell out of love with this country and felt my values diverged from this Nation’s. Considering my aim has always been to see more of the country I love this presented a problem. I’m working through it. 

the Red Rocket in Fowey

WEEK 45 Penzance to Coverack

43 miles walked

(total 2,617 miles walked)

Only half a week, but enough time to get all the way around Mount’s Bay and to Britain’s most Southerly mainland point. Rounding Lizard Point I felt like I’d turned for home. 

looking back around Mount’s Bay
The good weather finally broke this week, although hopefully it will return. 

a memorial to all mariners lost at sea and buried on the cliffs around about Porthleven
There has been another change in the landscape this week. Firstly the sandy beaches have been much coarser, more grit-like than before. Secondly, the rocks changed around the Lizard Peninsula. I learned that I was seeing a lot of Serpentine rock as I walked through the, quite extensive, Lizard National Nature Reserve. 

In my latest map pack-up I also received a new pair of sunglasses (an emergency purchase after kneeling on my other ones and breaking them) and a belt for my increasingly baggy shorts. Finally I no longer need to wear my shorts as if I’m a teenage boy. 

rocks that look like lizard skin on the Lizard Peninsula

WEEK 43 St Agnes to Penzance

69 miles walked

(total 2,574 miles walked)

What a fantastic week. The weather was amazing and the views absolutely stunning. I can’t quite believe my luck. 

new signs in North Cornwall…
…West Cornwall’s are different again
Yet again the scenery changed this week. I moved from the big, sandy, surfing beaches to the rugged, granite cliffs of West Penwith. St Ives was the point where it changed. 

I liked St Ives, even though it was very busy. It was nice to spend extra time around Gwithian and St Ives. 

a new (or very old) take on dry stone walls in West Penwith
The rock-strewn cliffs of West Penwith look green as they are covered in lichens (there are over 80 species of lichen at Land’s End). This indicates a healthy atmosphere as lichens are very sensitive to air pollution. 

West Penwith felt like the land that time forgot. Unconquered by the Romans and the Saxons, it is alive with myths and legends. 

standing stones on the cliff top in West Penwith
This week I passed through some protected breeding grounds for the Cornish Chough, Cornwall’s national emblem. I saw lots of gulls and plenty of fulmars. The cliffs were also covered in flora and fauna, particularly pink flowers such as sea pinks, thrift and eyebright.  

Gwennap Head, Porthgwarra tucked in the dip