Day 1, Minehead to County Gates
In the last few years members of the East Lancs LDWA have been allowed out of their home county for a week each year. They’ve been spending this week of freedom walking their way round the South West Coast Path, starting from Bude in 2012. Last year the group got as far as Coverack.
Plans to continue from Coverack this year were thwarted by logistics, the group just couldn’t arrange suitable accommodation or sort ferries etc for 40+ walkers. Plan B was put into action: go to the very start of the route in Minehead and walk from there for 4 days.
Transport and accommodation is provided by a coach holiday company: the club guarantee to fill 40 or so seats on the coach and in turn the coach holiday company transport us to their hotel, feed and house us for a week and provide daily transport to and from each day’s walk – all for norralot of dosh.
Compared to the Bude start in 2012, this Minehead start was more gentle – that’s not to say it was flat, it was anything but that.
The group had the use of a couple of my 446mhz PMR walkie-talkies, the idea being that the walk leader could contact the back marker – quite handy with such a big party. The problem with UHF is that it’s really only useful for line-of-sight communications. There were a few times on this trip that this limitation was a problem we could have done without. I may try to get hold of a couple of 27mhz FM handhelds for the next trip. Hills and UHF don’t mix too well.
Rubber Duck (aka our Norman, 71) shot off, leaving a good number of ladies in the queue for the loo. It wasn’t so bad for the blokes, there were plenty of bushes on the route.
After the first big climb of the day the path evened itself out, lovely walking on Somerset’s gently undulating north coast. It was warming up and it wasn’t long before our normally chilled group were, er, perspiring – glowing even.
The coast of South Wales was visible across the Bristol Channel through the haze. Welsh sheep farmers could be heard chatting on the walkie-talkies, some of their language was colourful to say the least!
From the Lynton and Lynmouth website:
Lynmouth Lifeboat launch from Porlock
At approximately 1830 hours on the evening of January 12th.1899, a distress call was received in Lynmouth indicating that the 1900 ton, three masted, fully rigged vessel, the Forrest Hall was foundering off Porlock. One of the severest storms ever, it was the night that the Woody Bay pier was destroyed, was being experienced in the Bristol Channel and it was quickly ascertained that it would be impossible to launch the Lynmouth lifeboat, the Louisa in Lynmouth.
OVERLAND LAUNCH OVERNIGHT January 12th /13th1899 An immediate decision was taken that if the lifeboat could not be launched in Lynmouth, then it would be launched in Porlock and so commenced one of the most remarkable events in the annals of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. The boat was pulled, pushed, cajoled or come what may up Countisbury Hill, over Exmoor and down Porlock Hill the thirteen and a half miles to Porlock Weir where she was launched at 0630 hours on January 13th. The lifeboat then escorted the Forrest Hall to a safe anchorage off Barry arriving at 1800 hours. The Lynmouth lifeboat then had to return to Lynmouth, this time by sea, finally arriving at her home station at 1130 hours on January 14th. Thus completing forty-one hours of true heroics.
Don’t say you don’t learn anything when you visit here!
The stumps of ancient trees form this submarine forest at Porlock Bay. It’s said only to be visible when the tide is fully out. Judging by the surrounding saltmarsh the tide hasn’t reached this far inland in quite a while.
We were allowed nearly 20 minutes for lunch No2 at Porlock Weir, very generous! As soon as Norman had finished eating we were off.
Nestling in a small but deep valley is Culbone Church which is reputed to be the smallest church in England, seating a congregation of ‘about 30 in great discomfort’. Only Chris L, and I went into the church for a nosey around, it was worth the effort.
Not long after leaving the church the sound of baby ba-lambs, objecting to being being inoculated against some dread-disease. The whinging was clearly audible for quite a distance:
This was a walk with a sting in the tail: in order to meet up with our chara to get us back to the hotel, we needed to negotiate a steep climb over a distance of around 500 yards. Not nice, but there you go.
The day’s walk finished at County Gates, the border of Somerset and Devon. Tomorrow’s walk would be entirely in Devon.
16 miles with 3800’ of ascent
Day 2….well there wasn’t really a Day 2.
Not if you count a day off.
The coach wasn’t available for this day so time was spent exploring the town, eating cream cakes, looking at naked ladies…well the statue of one naked lady actually (and she was up the duff), and conducting Quality Control checks on Ilfracombe’s very fine JD Wetherspoon pub, The Admiral Collingwood. The pub and the beer passed muster. :-)
Day 3, County Gates to Trentishoe Down
After a day’s revelry in Ilfracombe a decent day’s walking was needed to bring us all back to reality. We weren’t here to enjoy ourselves, this walking lark is a serious business. The steep descent from County Gates to rejoin the SWCP woke us all up. The path here contours the coast for a few miles making for easy walking.
Foreland Point is Devon’s most northerly point:
The relatively easy walking of the first part of today’s walk soon came to an end as we approached Lynton where a bit of downwards steepness was encountered – followed by some severe uphill steepness.
Navigation continued to be straightforward – keeping the sea on the right seemed to be a rule that worked for the group. Well, we didn’t lose anyone. I don’t think.
Day 4, Trentishoe Down to Ilfracombe
A shortish day but a really lovely walk. At the appointed hour, 8.30am o’clock, our bus trundled off to the end of the previous day’s bimble, Trentishoe down.
Lovely sunshine but a slightly murky sea mist hid the coast of South Wales. The Welsh sheep farmer’s colourful language was still breaking through on the walkie-talkies.
As the day wore on our party stretched out. We arrived back in Ilfracombe in the early afternoon. A large proportion of the group were later seen to be imbibing in the very fine JD Wetherspoon pub, The Admiral Collingwood. Tsk.
Day 5, Ilfracombe to Croyde Bay
Today’s walk started from the hotel, this meant we were moving by 8.30am. There was some confusion regarding where we were going to walk to, the original plan was to walk around 19 miles. We ended up cutting it short….so we could get back to the pub at a sensible time.
The BBC reckoned that the weather was going to be wet – for the first time this week. As it happened, although it was a little murky from time to time, the rain only rained for 10 minutes.
Not many words, but lots of pictures.
Ilfracombe’s Landmark Theatre – across the road from our hotel.
Ten past elevenses
Chris and Norman
This was the day where we turned to walk in a southerly direction rather than the westerly direction of the previous days. The bearing changed as we rounded Bull Point and Morte Point.
The group split at Woolacombe on the north end of Morte Bay. Some chose to walk along the beach, the 2 mile long Woolacombe Sand, whilst others followed paths that ran parallel to the beach.
The shortened day meant we were back at the bus in good time. Derek, our driver, whizzed us back to, er, The Admiral Collingwood pub in Ilfracombe where the were presentations, speeches and, er, more beer.
And after the walk:
This was another cracking week of walking in good company. Thanks to Barbara and all her little helpers for working so hard in making the trip work so well – everyone appreciated it!