What a brilliant week I had and I was really lucky to have lots of sunshine.
This week I finally saw an adder, just a baby one, on the path near Boscastle, and I also saw a marsh harrier on the cliffs near Port Quin. There have been plenty of fulmars on all the cliffs, and I’ve heard the reassuring cries of oystercatchers several times.
As for the flora and fauna, this week the bluebells have been replaced by swathes of sea pinks on all the cliff tops and covering the ‘curzyway’ stone hedges that bound the fields.
The terrain changed throughout the week and I’ve so far made the following observations regarding the terrain since I got to England:
– Somerset had the mud flats and brown water of the Bristol Channel
– North Devon was wooded cliffs (except for the beaches between Ilfracombe and Westward Ho!)
– from Hartland Point to the Camel Estuary was defined by tough ups and downs where small rivers flowed out into the sea, punctuated by occasional fishing villages like Boscastle and Port Isaac
– the big sandy beaches began at the Camel Estuary (Polzeath was the first) and were punctuated by smaller cliffs (except for the high cliffs at Bedruthan and Watergate).
I enjoyed my trip down memory lane this week and found myself surprised by how clear and beautiful the sea looked – I did not remember it being that clear. It was lovely to be back in Cornwall, where the people exude the same pride for their country (spelt the Cornish way) as the Scots and the Welsh.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
I made it back to England! Hard to believe that I’ve completed Scotland and Wales now. I feel like I’m on the homeward leg, even though there’s still a long way to go.
A lot of miles in a short week – no wonder my feet were sore in my new boots!
What a hot and sunny week; the temperatures were way above average for the time of year. Very little wind all week (except on the hill tops) so it has made for some sweaty walking conditions.
This week has been spent skirting the edge of the Severn Estuary, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). It is made up of an intertidal zone of mudflats, sand banks, rocky platforms and saltmarsh, and I’ve seen it all.
The estuary has an immense tidal range (second biggest in the world) and a classic funnel shape that makes it unique in Britain and very rare worldwide. I have seen lots of wildlife (butterflies and insects as well as birds) and passed several reserves created to watch it. The birds clearly find the mudflats and the dirty-brown water more appealing than me. I did see first hand just how great is the tidal range. Certainly, around Weston-Super-Mare, Brean and Burnham-on-Sea (what a misnomer!) I often couldn’t see the water.
Easy walking and planning this week as I was hosted by Oliver and Laura all week (and Meirion and Ann on Monday night). This meant I carried a light pack all week and dispensed with my walking poles.
Strange weather this week. Fortunately I didn’t see the snow that lots of the UK received, but I did have my fair share of rain and hail. None of it dampened my enthusiasm for the walks though.
My favourite section of the week was the Blue Lias cliffs of the Glamorgan Heritage Coast; simply stunning. I also like Cardiff Bay and it was nice to share walking the Newport Transporter Bridge with Oli.
I spent all week alongside the Bristol Channel staring across at North Devon. The Severn Estuary does seem to extend out a long way and is muddy brown; rather different from the blue sea of last week. The channel was clearly well defended during WW2 as I have passed lots of pill boxes this week.
Thanks to a trip to Caldey Island and a couple of days off, not so many miles covered this week. For the second time in as many weeks my initial attempt to catch a ferry was thwarted by poor weather. Despite this, once again I was able to delay a day and it was worth it to see Caldey Island in the sunshine.
In other areas luck has been on my side, from meeting George and Emma at Chapel Hill Fort to arriving at Amroth at the right time.
I learnt that South-facing coastline of Pembrokeshire has almost all of the county’s sandy beaches, but that doesn’t mean the cliffs are any less up and down!
This week I also saw a herring gull with a broken wing (he was hopping to avoid me), an injured raven who looked like he’d flown into a bush and was rather bloody, and I found a dead fish on a beach.
A week of changeable weather and my first night camping this year. The Pembrokeshire Coast Path is the most popular coast path I’ve come across and I’ve passed quite a lot of walkers considering it’s out-of-season and the coastal buses aren’t running yet. Indeed I quite enjoyed that I kept meeting up with Jack and Deja this week.
The Pembrokeshire Coast Path felt more remote than I imagined it to be. Almost all of the coastline is rugged cliffs and the path mostly traces the edge, weaving in and out, up and down. There are numerous coves with small settlements that have grown up but these rarely have facilities (I think many are full of second homes and seaside lets so empty much of the time). As a consequence, the coast path only passed one small supermarket (at Broad Haven) between Fishguard and Milford Haven. Fortunately I have not struggled to find enough pubs and cafes, but it would have been a much more difficult walk if I had been intent on self-catering.
This week I passed lots of limestone kilns, almost at every cove, for providing lime for the crop fields. I also passed a number of groups of wild ponies grazing by the path at intervals and have seen one or two seals most days.
The highlight of the week was definitely my trip to Skomer.
A mixed week weather-wise but it’s been nice to be back walking after a winter at home. Blisters, aches and pains lasted for the first 3 days and then it all got easier and I settled into a routine.
The paths have been very muddy, making walking quite difficult at times, and this week has been the almost exclusively hilly, cliff top walking. A baptism of fire.
I think Cardiganshire is underrated when compared to its more popular neighbour, Pembrokeshire. I particularly enjoyed my walk from New Quay to Llangrannog. (The sunshine and icecream had no bearing on this comment.)
Pembrokeshire Coast National Park is beautiful and more remote than I expected. It seems like the town’s are built inland here, rather than on the coast, and so the coast path is quite isolated from civilisation for long stretches. However, the coast was once a hive of activity as just about every cove has a ruined lime kiln.
It seems like the Pembrokeshire coastal path is very popular, even at this time of year when it’s too early for the summer bus services. I’ve already met lots of hikers and most tell me if they’re walking the whole path. Sometimes I tell them what I’m doing and sometimes I don’t.
Unfortunately it also seems to be too early for the seabirds as I’m only really seeing gulls and the cliffs are empty. Having said that I have seen red kites, a buzzard, kestrels, a few cormorants, lots of small birds and even a couple of egrets this week.
I returned to Barmouth this week and only managed to walk 3 more days before calling it quits for this year.
My walk around the enormous Cardigan Bay from North to Mid-Wales has been dominated by poor weather; very strong wind and heavy rain. It has been good to experience for myself just how extreme coastal weather can be and I have enjoyed it. However, I would like to be able to experience this area in better weather as well, so I can see the views and the wildlife.