Netley Marsh Workshop Manager Stuart Bailey is walking the South West Coast Path from Sunday 1st May. Sponsor his 630 mile trek via JustGiving and help fund our next tool shipment to Uganda.
When someone says they’re going for a walk on the beach, you don’t imagine they mean across 8 consecutive weeks and taking in four county coastlines. Stuart will be taking on this epic challenge to raise vital funds for our next tool shipment for Uganda, where our project partners use our refurbished tools to deliver vocational training courses in carpentry, bricklaying, welding, bicycle repair, tailoring and plumbing.
Stuart is hoping to raise a whopping £5,650 to cover the cost of shipping tools to our partners in Uganda.
Please support Stuart by donating through JustGiving – it is simple, fast and totally secure. Once you donate, they’ll send your money directly to Tools for Self Reliance, so it’s the most efficient way to give – saving time and cutting costs for the charity.
21 June 2022: Day 52 South Haven Point
A slow start. No rush today, only 7 or 8 miles to do. Swanage beach front first, then up and out to Old Harry Rocks I walk on in to the NT cafe at Studland and meet my parents for an early lunch.
Then one of the most harrowing and challenging parts of the whole 630 miles as I walk along the shoreline at Studland nudist beach. There are views here I’ll never be able to un-see. Pressing quickly on I reach the balloon arch (yes, a balloon arch) set up by my colleagues from TFSR. There is also beer which I appreciate.
Photo calls in front of the finishing sign follow, along with more photos under the balloon arch, and it’s all done. I do appreciate the support of my workmates in dragging themselves from the office and coming down to the beach on a lovely summer day to greet me. Thanks all.
I hear on the way home that the sponsorship total has exceeded £7000 which is an unbelievable amount. Thank you to everyone who has contributed.
End of Walk…
20 June 2022: Day 51 Swanage
Kimmeridge to Swanage today, around 19 miles in hot sun for the majority of the day, so quite a tough walk. I pass the tower up above the Ledges at Kimmeridge which was moved inland a few years ago. Given the rates of erosion here I reckon they could have gone a few more hundred metres to be safe. I’ve walked all this stretch before, and really like it. The views from the top of Houns Tout are fantastic in weather like this, well worth the steep climb, and the walk past the Marines memorial along the escarpment is also very nice.
Whilst trying to get a photo of the Chapel at St Aldhelms Head in the same position as the one I took during my training walk here back in Easter, I notice 2 shortish, roundish blokes sitting on the plinth of the radar memorial. They don’t register with me until I pass them, when they
jump up and make good their ambush. It’s a couple of friends of mine, Nick and John (John met me in Port Isaac a few weeks ago for 2 days). It’s good to see them and they are clearly delighted with their cunning plan. We walk together to Winspit Quarry where they turn inland for The Square and Compass and a pint. I and my walking companions sadly don’t have that option.
We eventually reach Durlston Head where some refreshments await, and then it’s the relatively short final leg into Swanage and onto the campsite. Pitching up for the final time feels strange. A mixture of relief that, all barring some kind of disaster, I’ve made it, and won’t be needing to use a tent for a long time now, coupled with the realisation that this incredible experience and challenge will very shortly be over.
Not sure how I feel, I decide to sleep on it
19 June 2022: Day 50 Steeple
Start of Week 8
Osmington to Kimmeridge Bay today. Through the range walks in the nick of time. Up early and walking by 8:30 am. Its a long stretch today, 15 miles or so, with a lot of ascents and descents around Lulworth, up over Mupe Bay and again up from Worbarrow Bay. Huge chalk cliffs and views inland over the ranges and across to Tyneham make the climbs worthwhile. Tyneham Deserted Village is worth a mention. It was requisitioned by the MOD during WW2 for training purposes, and all the villagers were relocated elsewhere, but were told they could return at the end of the war. However, the MOD changed their mind and kept the village and ranges land, and the owners were never able to move back in. Now it’s a kind of frozen in time ghost town. Kimmeridge Bay arrives at last, and the coffee van there has never looked as welcoming. A cab the final 2 miles to the campsite which is well off the coast route makes things a bit easier. I’m actually starting to get the hang of pitching my tent and sleeping comfortably in it now, so that’s progress.
18 June 2022: Day 49 Osmington
I leave today on the final few days stretch from Weymouth to Studland. Its critical to get through the army firing ranges between Lulworth and Kimmeridge before the end of Sunday, or else they are closed for the week. Why they can’t practice blowing up and shooting things in some other part of the country which isn’t crossed by a world famous long distance footpath I really can’t figure out. I’m joined by Steph and Anna, two friends of Sarah. Anna has a dog and is cycling the route. We catch up with her struggling up a hill just outside Bowleaze Cove. Its an unusual way of doing it…the downhill parts look OK though. Dexter the Dog seems to like me which is an unexpected bonus. I reach the campsite for tonight and pitch up. Its earlier in the route than I thought and get the tent up before the forecast rain arrives. A meal in the Smugglers pub at Osmington mills and its an early night ready for a long one tomorrow.
End of Week 7
17 June 2022: Day 48 Portland / Weymouth
Round Portland walk today. Very hot. Portland still as weird as ever. 14 miles ish. Saw wallabies on top of the island near the old HMP Verne. Passed by Portland Bill and returned back via the quarries outside Weston.
16 June 2022: Day 47 Weymouth
Long day from West Bay to just outside Weymouth. Walked with Mike Styles. Lots of beach walking and inland stretches. Mike tried to get me attacked by a cow when he wouldn’t let me get over a style. Picked up by Kitty and spent night at Kitty and Magnus place in Swyre where they fed me, washed my clothes and made me very welcome. Great to see them and the kids again. THANK YOU KITTY and MAGNUS.
15 June 2022: Day 46 West Bay
We have a nice breakfast with Mary and Carl, Mary at one point feeding one of their four semi-tame seagulls. They follow her around the house sometimes. In return for food they stop all the other gulls from stealing food from the tables here and in the neighbouring restaurant. Carl reckons they are cleverer than crows, and as birds go that is smart.
Phil and I meet Mike on the seafront and we start out for Charmouth. It’s only 9 30 and it’s hot already. As expected the 2 of them give me no end of abuse about my walking poles, dodgy stripy tan and and anything else they can conjure up. In return I play the Mitchell Bros. /Right Said Fred tribute act card and it temporarily quietens them down.
We fairly quickly complete the walk into Charmouth, crossing a golf course along the way which isn’t without some risk. We stop for a cold drink on the beach, then press on for the long climb up Golden Cap, the highest point on the South Coast. Its really hot now, and there are plenty of stops to ‘admire the view’ or tie shoelaces. Around halfway up Phil collapses, quickly followed by Mike. I think it was just an excuse to lay in the grass and hold hands. We reach the top and the views on such a clear day are stunning. We have a quick break, then start the descent into Seatown. There is a pub on the seafront and the thought of a cold beer is all the encouragement we need. Luckily it is open, and we have lunch and a drink there.
Phil is getting picked up here by Carl, so we leave him and climb another steep hill bound for Eype and eventually West Bay. After Golden Cap this feels more manageable, and we arrive at our guesthouse at around 4pm. West Bay is quieter than I’ve normally seen it, which is nice, and we get a meal and couple of drinks in one of the local pubs. A great sunset finishes the day. A hot and sometimes challenging 10 miles.
14 June 2022: Day 45 Lyme Regis
Today turns out to be one of those days when what you had planned ends up being nothing like what happens. Like a normal day at Tools for Self Reliance for me. I leave Berry Farm campsite planning to walk to Seaton and find a campsite there for the night. However, shortly after passing through the amazing undercliff walk at Beer Head, with it’s huge cliffs towering above the path, I understand that I’ll be reaching Seaton before 11.30am and I have far too much energy today to stop there for the night. Instead I decide to carry on through to Lyme Regis and find a campsite there. I let my friend Mike know, as he is meeting me tomorrow, and we agree a rendezvous point in Lyme rather than Seaton.
The walk into Beer is spectacular, along the top of Beer Head cliff. I spot the outline of Portland on the Eastern horizon, familiar to me from many walks on Chesil Beach and the Purbecks, and it dawns on me how close to finishing I now am. Beer has nice feel, and then it’s a shingle beach walk on into Seaton where I stop for an early lunch/second breakfast of chicken and chips. I share the table with a family – baby, parents and grandparents. The older lady asks me where I’ve walked from and I reply “Minehead” , to which she says “what, this morning?” I realise that maybe Geography wasn’t her strongest subject at school.
I call another old mate, Phil, while in Seaton. I know he has friends in Lyme so I guess he could be visiting them. After berating me for not letting him know sooner, he tells me to give him half an hour and he’ll see what he can sort out. Half an hour later he has sorted out the following:
He and his wife are on their way to Lyme to meet me
We are all staying at his friend’s place tonight, an old BnB which overlooks the Cobb, me in a private garden cabin.
We are eating tea and breakfast tomorrow with the same friends… I always knew that boy would come good in the end.
I also bump into Sarah again in Seaton, and we walk the 7 miles along the strange Undercliff section into Lyme. This is an old landslip from the mid 1800s which has regrown with forest and undergrowth. It’s a bit dark and jungle like, and once you start, there are no exit routes, you have to press on to the other end. We complete it in good time, and meet my friends for a drink in a beachfront pub before Sarah catches a bus to a relative she is staying with tonight. Phil introduces me to Mary and Carl, the owners of the best located property in Lyme Regis. We have a great meal of Chicken Majorca prepared by Mary, and Carl tells us about the ghost tours of Lyme Regis he used to run, full of stories and information he used to make up on the spot.
A great day today, full of unexpected twists and turns, and one I’ll remember as a highlight. THANKS CARL, MARY AND PHIL.
13 June 2022: Day 44 Branscombe
I fill up on the full English breakfast which is included at my BnB and then get underway by about 10am. I’m soon climbing the steep path up and out of Sidmouth (this stretch is rated Severe all morning- I thought those days were long gone). I bump into 2 couples walking together who take my photo with the view over Sidmouth and Ladram Bay in the background. They are from Coombe Martin and Appledore, and we discuss the route I walked 6 weeks ago at the beginning of this trip. That seems a very long time ago. I’m only doing 6 miles today and stopping at Branscombe. Part rest day, part because a friend will meet me in Seaton on 15th and I would be a day early if I got there today. It feels good to have a short day after the recent long marches. I pitch up at Berry Farm campsite and explore the local area. Branscombe turns out to be quite a place for somewhere I’d never heard of.
Here is what this approx. 2 mile long village contains :
A pub at either end. That’s 2 pubs
A natural freshwater spring
A huge church that looks like a castle
A tea room / bakery
A working forge, where you can watch the blacksmith making things
A nice looking village hall
A beach (Branscombe Mouth)
A beach cafe (The Sea Shanty – pasties a 6 on the SWCP Scale)
A working water mill
And, best of all, A brewery. Branscombe Brewery as it’s alliteratively, if somewhat predictably called.
I wonder why I, and I’m guessing most other people, have never heard of this place. It proves to me that taking a bit of time with this walk, rather than marching it out at 20 miles per day, is how you really get the most from it. On the way back from the beach I bump into the 2 couples again, and they offer to sponsor me. They have been in the pub for a long lunch and are waiting for a bus back to Sidmouth. I hope its not the beer talking. (Tomorrow the path passes through a place called Beer. I’ll have the camera ready).
12 June 2022: Day 43 Sidmouth
Start of Week 7
Some familiar places and poignant memories in todays walk. I’m away from The MT Wallit Campsite at 8am as I am determined to get the first ferry over to Exmouth at 10.10am, and I don’t know how long the walk to the ferry pier will take. Turns out it’s an hour, so I have plenty of time. 10.10am seems a late starting time for a ferry service, but I guess we are still on Devon Mean Time down here. As expected I bump into Ian and Helen who have exactly the same thought as me. We are the first 3 on the boat, and it’s a pleasant trip across the estuary to Exmouth. A shortish walk along the promenade and up an incline brings us to Sandy Bay holiday park. My Aunt and Uncle from Sidmouth once owned a static caravan here, bought just so members of the family could use it. We had 4 years or so of use during the Whitsun half term holidays, kayaking, walking and going to the beach. Good memories.
The grading of the route now changes, becoming strenuous all afternoon. I pass the red earth cliffs around Budleigh Salterton and on to the amazing stacks at Ladram Bay. Brandy Head was so named for its smuggling heritage, but was also used as a control and observation centre to test RAF gun sight development during WW2. Over the last high cliff climb and then it’s a long descent into Sidmouth, through semi urban areas as we get closer. I take a detour to photograph the beautiful old regency terrace my Aunt and Uncle had a flat within when they retired to Sidmouth. Both have now had to move into a care home and it’s a sad thought they had to leave the flat and town they both liked so much. I book into The Dukes Inn where I have a single room for the night and get something to eat. It probably ended up around 16 miles today and I do know it.
11 June 2022: Day 42 Dawlish
Well, that was an interesting hotel. 40 quid for a twin gets you a room which in fairness is ok, set in a rabbit warren of corridors and landings, with an 80s style pub singer in the bar doing his best to murder ‘you spin me right round baby right round, like a record baby, round round’. Dead or Alive did the original I think, this guy was more dead than alive. But, after all is said, still 100% better than kipping in a damp tent on a deflating mattress.
Brian and I are up early for the buffet breakfast, and I manage to replenish my tea bag stocks from the hot drink area. That’s the least they can do to make up for that singer. We have a strenuous mornings walk from Babbacombe to Shaldon. Lots of ups and downs. We pass a school group, maybe a geography field trip, and the teacher is asking the kids “look around at the landscape, the cliff structure and fields, what do you see?” One observant girl offers “It’s all just a load of hills, Miss” She has a good point.
Another river, another ferry, this one linking Shaldon and Teignmouth. We cross and walk along the sea front, the going a lot easier now as we head for Dawlish. Brian says goodbye at Dawlish Station as he has a train booked home, and I complete the last 3 miles or so to my campsite in Dawlish Warren. On the way I pass the rebuilding works underway to replace the railway embankment which collapsed into the sea in the storms a few years ago. I stop at Leadstone Camping and pay rent for a 2m x 2m patch of grass. Nice work, Leadstone.
I have my tea at a neighbouring farmshop who have a bbq running from a groovy converted fire engine. The staff all have beards and tattoos. It’s more Dalston than Dawlish but the crispy chicken leg, fries and ‘slaw I order are very good. I return to the campsite to make full use of my patch of grass.
End of Week 6
10 June 2022: Day 41 Torquay
Brixham to Torquay today. I meet Brian, a friend from home who has come down for a couple of days walking just outside the town and we head along the coast path towards Paignton. There are some nice bays and beaches, also quite a bit of urban walking for a change. We stop in Paignton for lunch at a Las Iguanas restaurant and it’s probably the best midday meal I’ve had on this walk. We carry on towards Torquay, the route getting more steep and we stop at Babbacombe beach for a tea before heading to the hotel Brian has booked. £39 for a twin room so it must be good. I check out my sleeping mat in the shower to find the leak. I had to blow it up 7 times over the last 2 nights so I’m happy to find a small pinprick bubbling away. I’ll let it dry out overnight and try the patch that came with it. Sounds easy.
09 June 2022: Day 40 Brixham
I fell asleep last night while typing. Dartmouth to Kingsclear on the ferry starts the walk, then it’s a relatively steady walk all morning passing more WW2 gun emplacements and bunkers. Stop for lunch at Mansand Beach and then the terrain changes to steep ascents and descents before approaching Brixham. It also starts to rain. I put the tent up before it gets too bad, then head into downtown Brixham to get some food, new gas for the stove and a beer. There is a full replica of The Golden Hind on the Quay which looks tiny.
08 June 2022: Day 39 Stoke Fleming
Leaving the campsite this morning I swap details with Nick, as he helps to run a charity who build schools in Cameroon. I also get details of the wine he kindly shared with me last night as it was very good. At Slapton Sands I stop for an egg bap and coffee, 2nd breakfast of champions, then it’s on across Slapton Ley and an ascent to the cliffs above. There is more WW2 history at Slapton; The ill fated D-Day landing rehearsals which ended in tragedy as a number troop carriers were sunk in the fog by German torpedo boats. A Sherman tank was raised from the sea bed as a memorial. A German couple stop for a chat along the way, and we discuss their walk from Poole, wild camping spots and other coast path related chat. They are very friendly.
Dartmouth fairly soon comes into sight, today’s walk being a shorter one, and I pitch up just outside the town on a Caravan and Camping club site, the most expensive campsite yet at £15 per night. I get the tent up then walk on into Dartmouth for a meal and to get some supplies. For 2 nights I’ve had equipment failure to deal with, and it’s going to persist tonight. My inflatable air mat has developed a slow puncture which means it deflates after 4 hours or so and I end up flat on the floor. Last night I had to blow it back up twice, once at about 2am and once at 5am. I’ve got a repair patch but I need to find the hole first like you would in a bike tyre.
07 June 2022: Day 38 Torcross
Salcombe to Torcross today. Another quite empty section of coastline with stunning views. Pretty long one again, at around 16 miles or so. I take a ferry first across the harbour at Salcombe, then follow a largely clifftop path for the first half of the day.
We have lunch on top of an old bunker which is open, and I have an explore inside using my torch. It looks like a WW2 defence construction of some kind. After lunch the route becomes more strenuous and takes me past Prawle Point, the most southerly part of the Devon coast, then the Start Point lighthouse.
The finish line tonight is a campsite called Beryl’s, near to Slapton Sands. It starts raining hard just after I get the tent up, but luckily I’m taken into their campervan by a nice older couple called Nick and Nicky and am plied with red wine and apple tart, bananas and they also charge up my phone. The kindliness and interest of strangers is another enduring memory I’ll take from this walk.
06 June 2022: Day 37 Salcombe
A much less strenuous affair today, with only some pathside fires providing a minor cause for concern. I’ve bumped into Sarah again and we walk most of today’s leg together, also meeting a couple she knows, Helen and Ian towards the end of the day.
First off we have to take a ferry from Bigbury to Bantham. A sign tells you to ring a bell and wave across the river to summon the boat. A lovely cheerful lady turns up and welcomes us aboard, then sets off across the gin clear water. I drop my water bottle over the side by accident halfway across, but it’s no problem for the Ferrylady. “Man overboard!” she shouts with obvious enjoyment, and puts the ferry about to chase my bottle downstream and pick it out of the water. What a star!
Back on dry land we quickly reach Hope Cove, stopping along the way for a cold drink and pasty (A disappointing 5 on the SWCP scale, we are back in Devon I guess). From Hope Cove we climb onto a moorland cliff path, with fantastic views inland and out to sea. We chat with two German ladies for a while, who suddenly point out that the path ahead is clouded in smoke. A sign from Devon Fire and Rescue states something to the effect that “we know the gorse is on fire, its only a minor thing, we aren’t worried and nor should you be”. We translate this for the ladies as we walk past burning clumps of heather and gorse. They ask us if this is normal for the coast path. In truth, no, not really, I tell them. But perhaps try to enjoy the unique experience.
The 12 mile stretch ends at a campsite just outside Salcombe with great views across the valley to the coast. I arrive first; Ian and Helen pitch up, finally Sarah and the four of us cook up some shared food of fried egg and chorizo sarnies, tea, cake and crisps. The hiking food of champions.
05 June 2022: Day 36 Bigbury
Start of Week 6
24.24 miles today. Properly done in. Leave Plymouth, ferry to Mountbatten. Walk to Wembury. Ferry across the estuary. Walk to river Erme on time for low tide. Wade the estuary. Run out of water. Walk on to Bigbury. Get food. Pitch tent at 9pm. Bed.
04 June 2022: Day 35 Plymouth
Nina drops me off at Portwrinkle in the pouring rain and nearly drives off with my walking poles. I remember just in time and she lobs them out of the drivers window as she disappears in a cloud of exhaust, homeward bound. Its been a great few days with the luxury of the van and the company of my wife, but it feels good to have a full pack on and to know that I’ll soon be sleeping in a tent again… and if you believe that, I’ve got a good investment scheme for your life savings we can discuss when I get back.
The rain clears within half an hour or so, and I fairly quickly reach the cliffs above Whitsand Bay. All along this stretch the hillside is peppered with small cabins and huts, reminiscent of Norwegian mountain cabins, or ‘Hytte’ as they call them. As I pass one an old boy comments ‘here’s a fit young man, looking very organised with all his kit‘ I look over my shoulder to see who he is talking about, but it turns out to be me. Then he asks me where my skis have got to. That old walking pole joke, it never gets old. I ask him what the deal is with these cabins, and he offers to show me round the outside of his. Roger is his name. Roger explains that the shipyard workers from Plymouth used to cycle out here in the 1920s and 30s and pitch tents on the clifftop farmland as a holiday. Then the tents became sheds, then cabins. At this point the landowner, Lord of Mt Edgecombe Estate started to charge land rent. Now they have been enlarged, rebuilt and half are freehold, half leasehold. Mainly they are passed down through the family. He tells me his lease was increased by 500% last year by the same person over the hill. He also says that a 1 bedroom freehold cabin came on the market for £850k recently. We talk a bit more about his solar panels and septic tank, but then I have to move on. The walk takes me through the twin villages of Cawsand and Kingsand, both very picturesque, and suddenly I’m at the entrance to Plymouth Sound and can see the city laid out across the water with Drake Island in the foreground. I approach the Cremyll ferry dock through parkland, where a large group of men are preparing a bbq and getting ready for a game of cricket. They offer me a vodka in a cardboard coffee cup, but its 2pm and a bit early for all that. I settle for a bottle of beer and spend 15 minutes or so chatting. They are celebrating the Jubilee weekend they tell me, and it looks like it’s going well. I take the ferry across the sound from Cremyll and leave Cornwall. Back in Devon. I walk through the town centre to the Airbnb I have booked for tonight. Sleeping in a tent in the middle of Plymouth on a Saturday night not seeming to be the best idea in the world.
End of Week 5
03 June 2022: Day 34 Portwinkle – Polperro
Today I have been walking in reverse, with the sea on my left for once. Rather than move the van off site, I take a taxi to Portwrinkle, the end point of today’s leg, and walk back to Polperro. The driver arrives dead on 8am as agreed; he drops me on the seafront in Portwrinkle and I walk back towards Polperro. Walking this way is nice as I bump into some of the people I parted company with in Falmouth. First a coffee stop in Downderry with Sarah, then I see Dave on a set of steps somewhere outside of Looe. The path is easier today, with more varied scenery such as sunken lanes and woodland, particularly before dropping into Looe. Being a public holiday, East Looe is rammed, all the pasty shops have queues outside, and I fear we won’t be able to get the lunch we have planned on. Nina meets me after bussing over from Polperro, and we eventually find a pub with a few spare seats. After lunch we walk the 5 mile cliff path back into Polperro. Its harder going than the morning stretch, and the sun is baking hot again, but we both get back in OK time. I re-pack my rucksack in the evening as Nina is dropping me back to Portwrinkle tomorrow morning and heading home. No more campervan luxury and no more light bags to carry! Tip From The Trail No. 4 (or is it 5?) Walking Pole Games You can while away a few walking hours by seeing how many leaves you can stab with your walking poles whilst moving. Like an old school park keeper with a litter spike. I managed 3 on one pole and 2 on the other one today at some point. NB: On no account attempt to skewer a small knotted black plastic bag if you see one alongside the path.
02 June 2022: Day 33 Polperro
Another walk of 2 halves today. Morning easy, afternoon brutal. Nina drops me where I finished up yesterday and I’m soon walking past Par docks, Polkerris Bay and on round to the headland at ‘The Gribbin’. There is a day-mark shipping navigation beacon here, like a lighthouse with no light. The walking is relatively flat and undulating, along beaches and clifftops. I reach Fowey by lunchtime and hope to see Dawn French (who lives here) waiting with a cold drink and a cheese sandwich for me. Surely she must have heard about my walk?! I’m disconsolate when there is no sign of her… I cross over to Polruan via a very organised ferry this time, and stop for a picnic in the headland ruins of a Chapel. Things now get far more challenging as the path drops and ascends from one steep ravine to another, whilst the sun reaches its full strength and stays that way. I pass Lantic Bay which looks lovely, and press on for Polperro. Its a long 6.7 mile stretch from Polruan, and I’m glad when I make it back to the campsite, hot and tired. A little later another volunteer from the TFSR workshop, Terry Morris, arrives with his wife Rosie. They have driven up from Plymouth for a quick visit, and drop off some biscuits for us. Early night, tired today.
01 June 2022: Day 32 Polperro
A pizza on the campsite, 2 Belgian beers and 10 hours sleep, and I feel like the energiser bunny this morning. Around Dodman Point, early in today’s walk I meet a youngish couple with the woman carrying a dog in backpack. It’s one of those Cocker-doodle-shita-poo crosses, with a bow tied between his ears. I wonder if he’s thinking ‘10,000 years ago I would have been a proud member of a wolfpack, running down caribou and deer across the tundra and forests of Northern Europe, and now I’ve evolved to being carried by an odd human along the SW coast path with a ribbon tied round my head ‘ Probably not, he’s probably just thinking ‘Eazzzy Life!!‘ Karma gets its own back 10 minutes later when I’m confronted by a snarling, muzzled land-shark of a dog, who looks like he’d be happier working crowd control at a West Ham v Millwall derby. I retreat behind a kissing gate until the owner gets him reined in. ‘Don’t worry, he’s a rescue dog and just has a problem with blokes with sticks‘ he tells me. ‘His bark is much worse than his bite” I want to say 2 things; Firstly, I’m glad of the poles, as they represent my sole form of defence against such a creature. Secondly, even if his bite is a mere 10% as bad as his bark, if he gets that muzzle off, I don’t want to be any part of it. Instead I mumble something about dogs not really liking me much, and crack on.
More great sea views, deserted coves and azure waters follow, and then I drop down into Mevagissy where I meet Nina for a coffee. She is meeting Shaun and family (of Port Isaac accommodation fame) for lunch, but I push on. There are miles to cover today. The second half of the walk is less spectacular as the path takes a more inland route, sandwiched between bushes and farmland. Eventually I arrive at Charlestown, a picturesque old port outside St Austell where vintage tall ships are docked. From here it’s a short walk to Carlyon Bay where Nina meets me in the van. We drive to our new campsite in Polperro, pitch up, then walk into the village to meet Alfiia; a volunteer work colleague who has come to Looe for a couple of days. We have a bbq back at the van and a few drinks before she has to get the bus back to Looe again.
31 May 2022: Day 31 St Goran
We leave the rest site by 7.30 am and have a good run down the A35 and A30 which means I am walking again by 10.30am. The coast path is deserted, and its a massive contrast to last night with 25,000 people in one place. My wife, Nina, drops me off in Portscatho, a couple of miles from the official start point of this leg, but the last village reasonably accessible to a campervan. The route takes me through and above numerous empty coves, all with clear turquoise water and the odd cormorant drying is wings on a rock. This is an empty and unspoilt corner of Cornwall for sure. I have lunch in the sleepy fishing port of Portloe, where a few locals seem to be sitting in gardens and chatting or drinking tea. Since the Lizard that seems to be the occupation of choice round these parts. That and running disorganised ferry services. Nina meets me in Hemmick Cove, where I have a quick beach swim, and we return on foot to the luxury of our campervan for a solid night’s sleep. It’s been a long few days and a hot 16 miles or so today, and I’m feeling it.
30 May 2022: Day 30 – Killers Concert
Back home last night, for a much needed bath and clothes wash.
A busy one today: sort out any kit problems, pay some bills, test out the new boots (they seem good). Then it’s down to St Mary’s for The Killers concert. The band were great! Home, jump in the van, and head off for an overnight van rest stop at Bridport if we can make it, to get a head start on tomorrow’s drive back to Falmouth to pick up the walk where I left off.
29 May 2022: Day 29 Falmouth
Start of Week 5.
A short walk today. Out of the campsite and about 1 mile to a beachfront cafe. 2nd breakfast, then it’s a couple more miles into Falmouth. We say goodbye to Sarah and Dave, then catch a bus to Helston, pick up John’s car, and head home to Southampton. I have a concert to go to tomorrow, The Killers, twice cancelled due to covid, then on 31st May my wife Nina and I are heading back to Falmouth in the campervan to continue.
28 May 2022: Day 28 Budock
A long day today, 18 miles or so, but I pass the halfway point so all good. Leaving the campsite at Coverack we fairly quickly cover the 3 miles into Porthousestock, where we stop for coffee at a converted horse box. The lady running it has the most amazing turquoise eyes and a cheerful manner. We suggest she sells rucksack sized packs of teabags and coffee powder for walkers, and flapjacks, etc. She seems to like the idea and promises us a free cup of tea each when she makes her first million. Next stop is Porthallow, where a plaque marks the exact half way point of the Coast Path. I’m happy to reach here on the exact date, 28th May, that I first had the idea to undertake this walk back in 2013. Must be cosmic alignment or something like that. We walk on through an inland diversion due to path erosion, and reach the beautiful Gillan harbour. The river can be crossed here close to low tide using stepping stones, otherwise its a 3 mile detour up to a bridge and back. We arrive as the tide is coming in, and the stones are getting submerged. Undaunted, we remove our boots, hang them round our necks like marines (where ‘bootnecks’ comes from, according to John), and wade the estuary. Its an adventure, and what could really have gone wrong? Another river crossing, this time by the slowest and most disorganised ferry afloat, takes us across at Helford, another beautiful little bay. I reckon Chris De Burgh visited here before he wrote that song about not paying. We make the final trek to our campsite, stopping at Mawnan Smith for a meal en route. Dave and Sarah are here already, and we catch up on the days events. A nice easy one awaits tomorrow, 5 miles into Falmouth.
End of Week 4
27 May 2022: Day 27 Coverack
We leave Henry’s campsite at 9am, ready to buy one of Annie’s famous pasties each for lunch. Unfortunately they are late opening, and tell us the pasties won’t be ready for 15 minutes ‘or so’ . From experience, in Cornwall that means we could still be waiting there now, so we decide to press on and seek out pasties on the trail, like our hunter gatherer ancestors would have done. Another scenic and mainly moderate walk today. The route passes numerous small inlets and bays, all with crystal clear turquoise water. It helps that the sun is shining all day adding to the effect. We reach the Devils Frying Pan, a collapsed sea cave, and then drop down into a small fishing port, Cadgwith, for a coffee stop. The path takes a turn for the strenuous after lunch, and we climb a seemingly endless set of steps, before following a wooded trail to an open air, free sculpture park. Nice. We pitch up in Coverack at a newly refurbished campsite, just opened today, pop down for a swim and get some sausages to cook as we can have campfires on this site. Very nice. My friend John produces some kind of Slovakian mountain dew that could be used to strip paint, luckily it’s only a miniature.
26 May 2022: Day 26 Lizard
Up and away early today, courtesy of the dawn chorus which sounded incredible, a huge cacophony of noise, like the birds had turned it up a couple of notches on the tweet dial. I leave Porthleven via the harbour, and soon cross Looe Bar, a sandbank trapping a large lagoon. Its a long but relatively easy 5 or 6 miles into Poldhu, mainly cliff top walking. Along the way there is a memorial to Marconi who sent the first transatlantic wireless message from nearby. Jackie the super walker bumps into us at an NT cafe where we stop for coffee. There’s also Dave from Launceston and Sarah. The 4 of us complete the rest of the day together, stopping at various cafes along the way for cream teas and a late lunch. Its around 14 miles in all, so we need the sustenance. Calories are key. The walk ends up near to Kynance Cove, which is packed and not as scenic as its made out to be, in my opinion. I pitch up at Henry’s campsite in Lizard, another very unusual site where every pitch has its own name, each one set in small pockets of lush vegetation. Another friend from home, John Fahey, joins me today for a few days, and we make use of the local pub for a meal.
25 May 2022: Day 25 Porthleven
I take the Coaster bus back to Marazion to start today’s walk. Almost immediately I bump into Jackie, the superwalker, last seen heading for Sennen Cove in a cloud of dust. We walk the whole stretch together today, joined by another woman called Sarah from Lewis in Sussex. We all agree there are far more women doing the coast path than men. Sarah says I’m the first man on his own she has seen since Minehead. Interesting observation. The walk has a bit of everything without too much of anything today. Rain, sun, ups, downs, beach, cliffs. We pass through a private estate with the most amazing curved facade gatehouse, then descend to Praa Sands for a coffee and pasty. (A solid 7 on the SWCP scale). A few more cliff ascents and the 10 miles is almost over before it began. We drop down into Porthleven with its imposing harbour of granite blocks, and I book into the oddest campsite , the reception of which is a football clubhouse/ pub/shebeen which is surprisingly busy for 4pm on a Wednesday afternoon. Poor man’s paella for tea, a trip into the village for shopping, pint in the pub, then return to the campsite where some kind of folk music session is underway in the clubhouse/pub/reception. My plans for an early night are put on hold for a bit.
24 May 2022: Day 24 Penzance/Marazion
Today feels a bit like this poem by Charles Causely. I did it in English Lit at school, and only remember it because I thought Marazion sounded like a place in the Middle East. It still does really.
“O Spring has set off her green fuses
Down by the Tamar today,
And careless, like tide-marks, the hedges,
Are bursting with almond and may.
Here lie I waiting for old summer,
A red face and straw-coloured hair has he:
I shall meet him on the road from Marazion
And the Mediterranean Sea.”
You know you get one of those days when it all goes right. I get off the bus back at Lamorna Cove, it starts raining but I don’t get wet because the walk to the coast is under trees. Then the sun comes out and its an easy enough climb and descent into Mousehole, passing a haunted looking ruin on the way, mostly reclaimed by nature. Mousehole and Newlyn almost run into one, but whereas the former is all holiday lets and gift shops, Newlyn still has a working town feel to it, the first place I’ve come across like that in coastal Cornwall so far. There are fish markets, working boat outfitters and other marine industry along the harbour sides. I walk on into Penzance and stop in a cafe for a drink. I need to order new boots as mine are beginning to fall apart. I login to the cafe’s WiFi, and find the pair I want on special with a 25% discount. Happy days. I decide to carry on through to Marazion, then return to Penzance on the bus, as I have kept my Airbnb for a second night. Its due to rain heavily tomorrow morning, is my excuse. Walking the beach from Penzance to Marazion a random dog approaches me, then drops a ball for me to throw for him. I do this a couple of times, and he doesn’t seem even close to attacking me. His owner, resembling a tattooed mermaid sitting on the rocks, thanks me. I complete the walk to Marazion, where the owner of a shore front bar with views over St Michael’s Mount convinces me that she makes the best gin and tonics in town, and she has a point. I bus back to Penzance and have a meal of fresh seafood in old boat shed turned restaurant, where I get the last unbooked table. Tomorrow it looks like rain and I’ll be on a campsite in a tent still wet from the last time I used it. Take the rough with the smooth, though, isn’t it.
23 May 2022: Day 23 Penzance
Last night as the rain cleared there was the most amazing sunset over the campsite. We couldn’t be facing any further West than here. Around 1.30am I am awakened by a low snuffling and snorting from very close by. For a split second I think I’m back home in our double bed, but shining a torch out into the porch of the tent reveals a hedgehog rooting through my rubbish bag, with an apple core in his mouth. He drops it and scurries back out under the tent flap, so I push the core out after him, and in the morning it’s gone. Close encounters of the prickly kind.
Another walk with a beginning, middle and end today. Tougher going than I expected, and with heavy rain showers. Leaving Sennen I fairly quickly reach Landsend, with it’s strange half hotel, half amusement park development. I get a photo of the famous sign (from behind the barrier, otherwise you have to pay) and then it’s along quite tough cliff paths to the beautiful coves of Nanjizal and Porthgwarra. A heavy rain squall hits and I’m soon dripping wet but the poncho does its job for me and the rucksack, and I get lots of comments from other walkers asking where I got it.
Another beautiful bay at Porthcurno, and I stop to look around the telecommunications museum there. I have a vested interest, as I used to work in a factory making fibre optic sub sea cables, and most of them come ashore here. With hindsight this was a mistake (the museum visit, not cable production), as I lose a couple of hours and get into Penzance quite late in the day. I complete the walk to Lamorna cove with a nice couple I meet along the way. Darren and Wendy, I think ( I could be wrong, but she called me Chris for most of the time, so I don’t feel too bad). They have walked the SW coast path in sections, and are adding a couple more. We pass The Minack Theatre, then drop into another stunning cove with stepping stones across the river and an ancient windlass on the slipway used for hauling up fishing boats. Another Poldark film location Darren tells me. It turns out that Wendy works for a legal firm who support Amigos in Barnstaple, a charity who do similar work to TFSR in Uganda, and whom we have supplied tools to in the past. Small world. More rain, and a surprisingly long haul into Lamorna Cove, where its a further mile trek inland to catch the Coaster bus – me to Penzance and them to Treen in the opposite direction. I have an Airbnb booked in Penzance for tonight to dry out the wet gear, and I don’t check in there until 7 30pm or so. I treat myself to a curry in the only Indian restaurant I’ve ever been to that doesn’t serve beer. Good curry though.
22 May 2022: Day 22 Gwynver, Sennen Cove
Start of Week 4
A nice relaxed 9 mile walk today. I catch the Coaster bus back to Pendeen and pick up where I stopped yesterday. The path passes through the old tin mines at Greevor. It’s a huge area. You can take an underground tour here if you like. Just outside Greevor I meet a retired lady called Jackie. We walk for a pleasant couple of hours, and she tells me that apart from the Pennine Way, this is her last UK long distance national trail. She has done the West Highland Way, Cotswold Way, South and North Downs Way(s), Welsh Coastal Path, Hadrians Wall Way, Offas Dike, Coast to Coast Way, etc. She’s a 60 year old walking machine. When not walking the highways and byways of the UK, she has also climbed Kilimanjaro and been to Everest basecamp (is it only me who hasn’t done those two??) , and walked the Inca Trail. She asks me what other long distance walks I’ve done. I go quiet and mumble about a 10 miler we did in the New Forest one time with a pub at either end. I stop for lunch and she powers on into the distance, and that’s the last I see of her. These chance meetings are one of the great things about this walk – you cross paths with some unusual people on an almost daily basis, share some facts about each others lives, then part again.
I stop for today at a campsite in Gwynver, near Sennen Cove. Its directly above the beach, so I quickly pitch the tent and go in for a sea swim. After the hot days walking it’s a real treat to plunge into 12 degree C water. As I walk down to the sea I’m acutely aware of the strange tan effect I have cultivated, brought on by 3 weeks walking in the sun wearing boots, knee supports and shorts. My legs from the feet up go: White -Red-White-Red-White again. I also have a t-shirt tan that any farmer would be proud of. With my build, it must look like a barbers shop pole has come to life and decided to head down to the beach. A scratch meal of homemade farm pasty (8.5 on the SWCP pasty scale), cheese roll, nuts and raisins and an apple, and the rain starts so I take to the tent for an early night.
21 May 2022: Day 21 St Ives to Pendeen, and back
I’m up early to get a good start on the 13.7 mile Severe Task that lies ahead. Sunrise over St Ives Bay is a small consolation. The walk today could be described as barren, boulder filled and bleak, but also strangely alluring and beautiful in a craggy, weather beaten way – a bit like Helen Mirren or Anne Marie Duff. Sometimes the path disappears completely into a granite boulder field, and I have to pick my way across, trying not to trap a foot or slide off. I chatted with an old lady in Perranporth who said she fell into a stream on this section, and I can see why.
I stop for lunch somewhere around Gurnards Head, a rocky outcrop, and watch a small yellow potting boat plying its trade. It looks impossibly frail and insignificant against the enormity of the cliffs and ocean surrounding it. I’m sorry, but Mike Scott’s lyrics come into my head again, this time the classic Fisherman’s Blues;
“I wish I was a fisherman
Tumblin’ on the seas
Far away from dry land
And it’s bitter memories
Castin’ out my sweet line
With abandonment and love
No ceiling bearin’ down on me
Save the starry sky above
With light in my head
With you in my arms…”
If I was the skipper I’d have that blaring out on repeat in the wheelhouse. Which is probably why I’m not the captain of a potting boat.
The walk continues around the coast, passing numerous old mining workings, eventually finishing at Pendeen Watch. I walk inland and catch the Landsend Coaster bus back to St Ives. Its been a tough 7 hours but worthwhile. The bus takes 30 minutes to do the same trip! A steak meal in the St Ives Weatherspoons, an ice cream in the harbour and a last watch of a few surfers on Porthmeor beach getting some sunset waves and the day is ended. I will miss it here, there is a mellow feeling about the place. Summer is probably a different story though.
End of Week 3
20 May 2022: Day 20 St Ives
A good rest day today. I get up late at 7 30am, get some laundry done, hire a board and wetsuit and have a nice couple of hours surf at Porthmeor beach. Pootle around St Ives a bit, then have a nap this afternoon. All very civilised. A guy I’ve met along the way a couple of times booked onto the campsite today. He was complaining about the beach walking sections, and his feet sinking into the sand. I’d had the same problem the other day on Gwithian beach in the wet sand. We got to talking about why camels don’t sink in the desert, because they don’t have feet but just a single large toe, and maybe if we could take the design of a camel toe and make an attachment for your boot for beach walking, like those crampon things or snow shoes, that there could be an untapped market. I’ll let him develop that idea I think. Funny the discussions you have.
13 mile Severe stretch tomorrow, St Ives to Pendeen Watch. I’m leaving the tent and big bag here, doing the walk and then bussing back on the open top ‘Landsend Coaster ‘ tourist bus. Its an approach quite a few people have advised when there is no accommodation at the end point of the walk.
19 May 2022: Day 19 St Ives
Wall to wall sunshine today – the weather is unbelievable down here. The first 4 miles are along a beach and dunes into Hayle. It’s a pleasant and easy enough route. Another dog goes for me but I fend him off with my walking pole. What is it with dogs and me? The route through Hayle is flat and pretty urban; I do however get recommended to buy a pasty from Philps, ‘the most famous pasties in Cornwall’. I’ve heard these claims before, but I have to say this was a solid 9/10 on the pasty scale, whereas pasty of Appledore rates about a 3. I whittle a couple of additional tent pegs along the way, Ray Mears style. I need them to keep my inner tent away from the outer. I think he’d be pleased with the result. Eventually I near St Ives, passing amazing beaches along the way, with views all across the bay back to the starting point today and Godrevy lighthouse. Bizarrely the path cuts right through the grounds of The Carbis Bay Hotel, and I pass a couple wearing dressing gowns at 1.50pm, en route from where to who knows where. Massage, sauna, breakfast? They look slightly nonplussed at the site of me; bearded, sweaty, almost certainly smelly and without a security guard escorting me from site. I pass a G7 sign, a memento I guess of the recent leaders summit here. The words of the great Jem Finer of The Pogues sum up my thoughts:
“The architects of our doom
Around their tables sit
And in their thrones of power
Condemn those they’ve cast adrift
Echoes down the city street
Their harpies laughter rings
Waiting for the curtain call
Oblivious in the wings
The casket is empty
Abandon ye all hope
They ran off with the money
And left us with the rope”
I book into a nice campsite which is located just above St Ives and looks out over the whole town and bay. I have managed to get one day ahead of schedule so tomorrow will be the first rest day I’ve taken since leaving Minehead. It feels about time.
18 May 2022: Day 18 Gwithian
St Agnes to Gwithian today. Another quite long stretch, 13 or 14 miles and more rain and wind in the afternoon again. This isn’t what I signed up for… Fuelled up on a full English at the Driftward Spars I make good time to Chapel Porth and Porthtowan, two renowned heavy wave spots on this coastline. The last time I paddled a board out at Porthtowan it was snapped in half by a wave. The swell is much bigger today, and I watch some guys catching a few overhead waves as I have a coffee in the beach cafe. There is loads of mining history in the landscape now. Shafts and excavations capped off with metal frames resembling witches hats, and the iconic old Wheal workings. I pass one that looks like a set from Poldark. No Demelza around though, sadly, although a guy does tell me he spotted a chough earlier. Lunch in Portreath and then a long clifftop section where the rain starts up again. Not quite as biblical in its intensity as yesterday, but equally as wet. It rains right into Gwithian, where I am forced to take shelter in the pub for a couple of hours. Eventually it passes over and I pitch up at Gwithian Farm campsite for the night.
17 May 2022: Day 17 St Agnes
I’m hoping to remember this as the worst day of the walk. It could happen.
Definitely a walk of two halves today Crantock to Perranporth is ok. I meet with Emma and we crack on through dunes and low cliff paths, in the sunshine. We have a snack at the northern end of Perranporth beach, and you can see the forecast rain and high wind approaching. We get the waterproofs on asap.
After that it’s horizontal rain and lashing wind for the 2 miles into Perranporth village, where a stop at the Watering Hole bar for cheesy chips and a tea is a welcome respite. A dog at the neighbouring table nips my leg, but I’m too wet and tired to take much notice. I’m pretty sure the owner thinks it’s my fault for wearing waterproof trousers. As we leave the cafe the wind and rain start up again in earnest, and it stays that way for the whole of the 4.5 miles into St Agnes. Paths become rivulets of water and the wind feels like it wants to tear off my poncho. Towards the end of the walk we come across a van that has slid off the road. The police are controlling the road and footpath, and won’t let us past whilst the recovery truck is in operation. I ask one of the policemen if he has any doughnuts in the car he can let us have. He sees the funny side, but his colleague in the passenger seat doesn’t look impressed. Good cop, Bad cop I guess. Eventually we and the police get bored of waiting in the rain, and they tell us to sneak by on the inside of the recovery lorry. I’ve got a BnB booked at The Driftwood Spars, a local pub in St Agnes, and it’s with relief I get into my room, hang up all the wet gear, and go to the bar to warm up and have some food.
16 May 2022: Day 16 Crantock
Tip from the Trail No. 3 Raw sheep’s wool is very effective at preventing blisters and sore patches on your feet. Just use a small pad inside your sock in the affected area. You can buy this online for 12 quid for a small bag, like those you got to dispose of Covid tests, but no need for that, as you can collect it along the way. Don’t try to harvest this stuff from a live sheep – that’s a good way to get shot at by a farmer, or end up on a register of some kind. Anywhere that sheep abound you can find it hanging on gorse bushes, barbed wire fences, etc. Natures bounty.
The walk today takes me from Treyarnon Bay to Newquay. I’m caught in a violent rain squall on the cliff top somewhere above Bedruthan Steps, and I only just get the poncho on in time. The rain doesn’t last long, and by the time I reach Mawgan Porth and stop for lunch (another pasty, another one better than the pasty of Appledore) the sun is back out again. Continuing on past Watergate Bay it looks like they are starting to set up for Boardmasters Festival. The path then enters Newquay, where I discover The Gannel ferry has been cancelled due to the operator having Covid. A bus around the estuary is the only option. I pitch up on Quarryfield campsite, Crantock and watch a pretty good sunset. I book a BnB for tomorrow in St Agnes as the weather is looking bad in the afternoon. Looks like it will be a long day, 13 miles or so.
15 May 2022: Day 15 Treyarnon Bay
Start of Week 3.
Dennis Cove Campsite in Padstow turns out to be a bit of a SW coast path walkers reunion centre. There is Dan and Neil, Emma and Lisa and of course me and John. We have a bbq and then sit there in the rain for a couple of hours. The sunrise over Padstow is lovely when the birds wake me up at 6 am. We are away by around 9, and walk down the Camel estuary for a few miles in bright sunshine. Emma has joined us today, and the 3 of us make good time into Trevone Bay where we stop for coffee. Its a nice little spot, very relaxed. We continue on to have lunch on a headland, passing through some old holiday destinations of mine like Harlyn Bay and Mother Iveys. Just past the lighthouse we spot seals, and then we finish the days walking at Treyarnon YHA. We meet Lisa who got here half an hour earlier than us. Its raining heavily so we decide to upgrade to a shared yurt at £48 per night for up to 4 people rather than pitch 3 tents for £15 each. I’m hoping no one snores too much, including me. We say goodbye to John, and it’s suddenly a lot quieter! He’s been good company and did us all a favour with shuttling the big bags over today. THANKS JOHN.
14 May 2022: Day 14 Padstow
Morning arrives and Shaun and Carolyn prepare us a huge fry up before we set off. We walk round to Port Quin, and I fill up my bottle from a communal tap I spotted years ago, and one day vowed to return to when walking the coast path. The weather is fantastic today, and we make good time around to The Rumps, on the way passing some old mine shafts and a huge collapsed stack cave As we approach Polzeath the path gets busier and busier, and we hear people in nautical themed clothing calling dogs with names like ‘Lettuce’ and ‘Pancake’. Suddenly it dawns on me – we are nearing Rock, or ‘Kensington on Sea’ as its called, and this is the weekend, so it’s all perfectly normal. Rounding the cliffs towards the beach at Polzeath we spot a pair of Choughs. There are only around 300 pairs of them in the UK, so it’s quite rare. They are the national bird of Cornwall, even though its only a county. We have lunch on the beach, and I spot a fantastic vintage 4wd Toyota Hiace campervan in the car park. They are even rarer than Choughs. It’s an easy walk on round to the Rock to Padstow ferry. We take the boat across, then its up to the campsite to bbq a few sausages and have a couple of beers.
End of Week 2
13 May 2022: Day 13 Port Isaac
I hear Dan up and on the trail by 6am this morning. Blimey. I am still in my sleeping bag thinking about getting the first brew of the day on the stove at this time. I’m packed and away by about 8:30am ish, so not too bad. Today’s 9 mile leg is classified as ‘Severe ‘ the whole way, which really means ‘knees, you’re in for it today’. Lots of steep descents into river valleys follow, coupled with equally as steep ascents. I pass through the small beach village of Trebarwith Strand. You know you’re approaching deepest Cornwall when the place names mainly start with Tre, Tol, and Pol, and the locals start to refer to you as an ‘Emmitt’ and sometimes chase you from the village with sticks. Bless them. It’s very windy, and I’m worried about my cap getting blown away, so I create a tether from an unused rucksack strap and the mitten clip previous used to dry socks with. I’m so proud of this piece of improvised lanyardship that I get a passer by to take a photo. The views are as awesome as ever, particularly inland, where you can imagine glaciers 20,000 years ago in the last ice age scooping out the valleys we see now. I pass a bunch of friendly Swedes who are here walking for 4 days or so. They seem very enthusiastic. Eventually I reach Port Isaac and check in with Shaun and Carolyn, family members who live here and who do my washing for me. They also make a fresh seafood meal which another friend from home, John Guest arrives and shares before heading heading off to Padstow. We are meeting tomorrow morning for a couple of days walking together. Shaun has promised a big brekkie in the morning and sandwiches for the walk. THANKS SHAUN & CAROLYN.
12 May 2022: Day 12 Tintagel
Great news today, the Londis in Boscastle has fruit flavoured boiled sweets, and my original supply ran out in Hartland. Apart from cheese they are my hiking food of choice. And as they’re fruit flavoured, I’m pretty sure they count as one of your 5 a day. These even have some blue coloured ones in the pack. I’m looking forward to trying those – I’ve seen what blue food can do to kids at birthday parties. I suppose it sounds strange to class a 5 mile walk with a 12kg pack a rest day, but that’s exactly how it feels. No sooner as I leave Boscastle it seems I’ve arrived in Tintagel, put the tent up, and gone to get a pasty for lunch. This one is far superior to the ‘best pasty I’ll ever taste’ of Appledore. The walk is pleasant, not too strenuous, with good views and a descent into a nice rocky chasm. I have a wander around Tintagel centre. If you’re after cosmic witchcraft trinkets, pasties and replica Excalibur swords then this is the town for you. I meet Dan and his mate Neil on the campsite. Dan is doing the whole walk in one like me to raise funds for a charity, Neil is supporting for a couple of days. There is also Lisa, who is doing the walk solo, and has 8 weeks like me. There are a lot of people doing the SW Coast Path in one go, more than I would have thought. We go to the pub for a couple of drinks and discuss the usual subjects of tents, pack weights, hardest bit so far, etc.
11 May 2022: Day 11 Boscastle
At breakfast I bump into the 2 Israeli ladies whom I met at Elmscott in the guesthouse, and another girl, Emma, who is seeing how far she can get in 6 weeks. We discuss tent pitching techniques, weight of rucksacks and the use of compeed blister pads. A retired couple sitting close by are visibly bored to tears by the conversation and start to eat their breakfast faster. Bad weather starts the day, but it’s forecast to blow over at around 11am. I set out at 10am with light rain still falling, using my Snuggpack poncho for the first time. It seems to keep me pretty dry. I have decided to make it a long day today and go through to Boscastle, 16 miles in total. Its a long walk, with a good few ascents into deep ravines and up again. Along the way I pass a bunch of van dwellers who have set up home in a clifftop car park. I always regret not giving it a try myself for a year or two, I reckon I could have been ok at it. I have a late lunch in Crackington Haven, then complete the equally as strenuous final 6 miles remaining into Boscastle. Near to the end of walk I disturb a fox who is foraging in the gorse at the side of the path. He takes off like I had a red jacket on and a hunting horn under my arm. Reach the YHA around 6.30pm, grab some chips from the local chippy here and collapse into a chair. Might have a shorter one tomorrow.
10 May 2022: Day 10 Bude-Stratton
The coast path is overcast and chilly this morning when I first join it. I walk along windswept cliff tops, completely alone, quite struck by the brooding, powerful and indefinable attractiveness of the place. I come across a tiny hut set into the cliffs, built by a poet called Ronald Duncan who wrote poetry there in the 1920s and 30s. It is left open, with a visitors book and a desk, and people can add their comments and thoughts as they pass by. I’m suddenly filled with a poetic muse, and I record the words in the book before they are blown away like sand by the wind. Its a deeply emotional piece, but I feel I can share it here: “I sit on this chair And rest a while Fish a stone from my boot Then press on with a smile.” I like to think everyone will take something uniquely personal and different from that… The path rises and falls into numerous deep river valleys. At some point I cross a bridge from Devon into Cornwall, and my first county is completed.
I stop for lunch at a teashop in Morwenstow recommended to me by the warden of last night’s YHA. Fuelled up on a pint of tea and cheese, my hiking food of choice, I push on. The ups and downs continue, but the views from the high points are always worth the effort. Bit of a metaphor for life there. Eventually I reach Bude, where I do a top-up shop for essentials. I have booked into a cosy guesthouse as the weather looks awful tomorrow.
9 May 2022: Day 9 Elmscott
We start with a full fry up today in the BnB, my first since I started the walk. I’m glad to start the day on a calorific high point. Today’s walk takes us around the coast to Hartland Point, with great views back to Woolacombe in the distance and Lundy Island offshore, one time base for the Marisco Pirates. We make lunch in a closed cafe at Hartland Point, together with an Israeli lady and her mother who are walking 6 days of the path. They tell us about the Israel National Trail they both have completed, 3 weeks of which is spent crossing the desert where you have to arrange people to go ahead and cache water for you. Luckily it’s not so extreme here, and as we complete the final 2 miles or so into Hartland Quay. I have a farewell drink with Chris and he heads off. The next section, Hartland to Bude, is 15 miles and has the reputation of being very tough. People we meet coming the other way have delighted in telling us how hard going it is. I decide carry on a bit longer today and to book into the YHA at Elmscott to knock a couple of miles off the distance, and get a good night’s sleep to prepare for tomorrow’s ordeal. Incredibly the volunteer warden at the hostel turns out to be an ex volunteer at TFSR Crickhowell.
A couple of top tips from the trail: 1) You can hang your washing to dry from your rucsack using one of those clips that kids have their gloves fixed to their coat sleeves with. 2) You can make a quick, relatively filling and reasonably edible meal using a pouch of Uncle Ben’s quick cook rice, a tin of sardines in tomato sauce, and some chopped up chorizo. Just mix it all up and heat by any method for 3 mins. I have named this taste sensation “Poor Man’s Paella”. It’s about as Spanish as Manuel the Waiter from Fawlty Towers, but its light to carry and is better than it sounds!
8 May 2022: Day 8 Clovelly
Start of Week 2.
My pal Chris is joining me today, and we leave the campsite heading for Clovelly. Quite soon we descend into a bay filled with driftwood, including a dragon or sea horse type head rising vertically from the pile of timber. We stop for a lunch break at Peppercombe, then continue our walk along an old coaching road, arriving at Clovelly – a very unusual privately owned village – and book into our Airbnb for the night.
I almost forgot to mention the nice guy in the campervan on the campsite who charged my phone this morning. We chatted about tents and homemade fire pits for a while, and he told me he had walked the coast path in week long sections a few years ago. Then he made the profound comment “You know the worse thing about doing the SW Coast Path mate? It’s finishing it.” Hmm.
7 May 2022: Day 7 Abbotsham
1 week completed, up to 7 to go.
Most body parts still fully intact, so I’m quite happy. On the way out of Bideford I spot the plaque on the wall regarding witchery. A nice easy river walk to Appledore where I stop for a coffee. I love Appledore, it feels like a French port village that you find in Brittany or Normandy. And they encourage overnight campervan and motorhome stays in the car park at the end of the quay, just like a proper French village Aire de Camping Car. I buy a pasty for my tea from a guy in the farmers market on the way out of the village. He claims it will be the best pasty I’ve ever tasted. That’s a strong statement given where we are in the world. It turns out he was only half lying – it is the best pasty I’ve tasted….today. I wander on a couple of miles to reach the long shingle beach at Westward Ho! 2 facts about Westward Ho! you might not know: 1) it’s the only British place name to end with an exclamation mark ! and 2) Rudyard Kipling was sent to military college here from India when he was a boy. I meet up with Jon Dunkley, the previous TFSR workshop manager to me, and we have a good chat. I push on a couple more miles along the cliff path and pitch up at a small farm campsite with the most amazing shower block. They even have piped music and My Generation by The Who was playing during my first visit there this afternoon.
6 May 2022: Day 6 Bideford
Did you know you can scramble 3 eggs using only a coffee mug and a microwave? I figure this out in the Campers kitchen at The Secret Spot this morning, necessity being the mother of invention. While preparing this Nigella-esque masterpiece I chat with the only other camper on site, an interesting lady with a large enduro type motorbike who is touring the off road green lanes and byways of Devon and Cornwall. Today’s walk could be categorised as flat, long and dull, in any order. I first walk down the river estuary from Braunton to Barnstaple following a disused railway, only to walk back up the estuary from Barnstaple to a point directly opposite where I started, an 8 mile round trip separated by about 100 yds of mud and water. Now I like a little bit of wanton punishment as much as the next man, but that’s ridiculous. Baileys River Taxis could be born on the back of today. The route then follows another disused railway line along to Instow. (I was thinking, while walking along these huge cuttings, embankments and iron girder bridges, how proud the Victorians would be at how their 20th and 21st century future-Brit decendants have taken care of the extensive public transport and freight shipping network they over engineered and left for us to maintain). I had hoped to take the ferry from Instow to Appledore, thereby cutting off the 5 mile round trip up another estuary to Bideford and back, but Spring low tides mean its cancelled for 3 days in May, and today is one of them. The river walk to Bideford does become more interesting, I come across a bizarre soft toy zoo housed within an electricity substation, and then a few rusting hulks seemingly being used as houseboats – I recall the words of the great Mike Scott of The Waterboys: “We came upon a stricken ship That must have once been splendid The captain, as he died said ‘Boys, Our revels now are ended‘ “- Makes you think, that, doesn’t it. As I reach Bideford I meet a cheery couple on well laden cycles, we chat for a few minutes and I find out they are cycling from Lands End to John O Groats, sleeping in hammocks along the way. Suddenly what I’m doing seems quite sensible. They agree to a photo, and tell me their names are Holly, and Im going to say Jay, although that could be wrong. I said if I forgot their names I’d call them Brad and Angelina, and they seemed happy enough with that. Book into the Airbnb I’ve decided upon due to rain forecast tonight, and have a luxurious bath. So the day ends on a high.
5 May 2022: Day 5 Braunton
Day 5 and I’m all set with clean clothes, and a 3 bacon sarnie breakfast courtesy of my stay at The Kirkby household. I set off through down town Woolacombe, and crack on for Putsborough and Baggy Point. Clearing the headland, it’s down into Croyde, and a quick stop for a coffee and some kind of supercharged date and chocolate flapjack. Walking along the beach at Croyde brings back happy memories of my many near- drowning episodes, surfing in years past with my brother and friends, and then it’s a long, hill contouring walk over to Saunton with incredible views over the beach and dunes. This was another WW2 D-DAY practice beach, and its easy to see why. The coast path walk then takes you through a golf course, and it’s all ‘fore’ and dodging sliced balls by men in strange trousers until you reach Braunton. I’ve booked into The Secret Spot campsite. It’s a bit like campsite heaven, free tea and coffee, a lounge with sofas and even a Hawaian corner. I’ve decided to recommend The Secret Spot to everyone I know. Ps. Some of you might want to see my tent set up, so there is a photo attached. Snug is a good description. Very snug might be even better.
4 May 2022: Day 4 Mortehoe
Today was an easier 12 mile leg, starting with a climb and view back over the campsite at Watermouth. Then a gentle meander into Ilfracombe, passing Verity along the way. I guess it made sense to Damien Hirst at the time. Then on the cliff path to Lee and up onto Bull Point with great views back towards my start point today. Finishing up in Woolacombe with friends the Kirkby family who’ve kindly put me up for the night and are washing my clothes.
3 May 2022: Day 3 Berrynarbor
Lynton to Coombe Martin today. Definitely a walk with a beginning, a middle and an end. Valley of The Rocks just outside of Lynton was nice. Unfortunately I encountered one of the famous wild goats with kidd, and they ate my inflatable TFSR logo’d hammer. Still, its nice to think there is a small part of TFSR somewhere on the North Devon coast. Found a random sign which mentioned Russia, among other places, so that felt apt. Then it was up, down, up down, bluebells…nice, just before up again, culminating in Great Hangman, highest point on the coast path and possibly English coast, according to a lady in the pub. A nice German couple made me stand on a pile of rocks before they’d take my photo on the top. Ended up with a late pub lunch in Coombe Martin where I watched a bride and groom have photos taken while sinking in the wet sand. Lovely memories. Pitched up in Watersmouth Valley campsite, on a harbour, a very picturesque spot.
2 May 2022: Day 2 Lynton and Lynmouth
Day 2 and better weather. Met my old mate Chris Kirkby in Lynmouth, then Nina dropped us back to Porlock Weir for the 12 mile walk to Lynton. We detoured for some wild swimming in a freezing river near Watersmeet. Seemed like a good idea at the time. Now all pitched up at Sunnylyn campsite and cooking pasta.
1 May 2022: Day 1 Minehead to Porlock
And he’s off! Good luck Stuart, you can do it!
17 & 18 April 2022
Training walks along the Dorset coast: 17 miles on Easter Sunday and 11 miles on Easter Monday.
10 April 2022
Training walk near Alton, Hampshire and testing out my pack.
06 March 2022
Training walk at Hurst Spit with my wife and ESC volunteers Alfiia and Valerie.
13 February 2022
Kit bag essentials are ready to go.
02 February 2022
The route map arrives and it looks like a jolly long walk from where we’re sitting!
01 October 2020
Stuart has a big idea.