- Phuture UKWeb Developer / Designer, present
- UK Coastal Trek (current)
16th July day 497
I wasn't far from Paignton and Torquay where the long sandy beach is not yellow but instead red. Mary shelley who wrote the novel frankenstien after spending a summer in Geneva with lord byron also enjoyed holidaying in Torquay although when she died she was buried in my home town of Bournemouth.
As i hiked along the promenades from one town to the next i kept thinking about how far i still had left to go. It was still quite daunting. Reaching Torquay i was met head on by waves of people. I just wasn't used to it. The noise of the cars and lorries and buses. Having to dodge children and dogs. No longer could i smell the fresh clean air it was polluted by fumes and burger restaurants. Passing the giant ferris wheel overlooking the harbour i began to feel uneasy, clostraphobic i needed space.
It seemed to take a lifetime to make my way round the headland where at least i was away from the bad air and once again was able to breath. A thick mist rapidly blew in from the sea. It was nearly 4pm by the time I'd managed to feel comfortable again up on the cliffs and heading away from the town. I couldn't understand it i was feeling tired and found it hard to motivate myself to hike.
Making situations worse was the fact I'd now lost another 2" off my waist and my trousers were beginning to feel the stresses of the trek. I always kept my pocket knife in a pocket with a zip. Unfortunately the zip had now broken and somewhere along the way my knife had fallen out. Morale was starting to hit rock bottom. The day wasn't over yet though and a poorly waymarked route would soon have me flipping a coin at forks in the path to determine the way to go. Often ending up with me deep in woodlands faced with vertical cliffs. Mentally and physically i was slowly dieing.
At the end of the day i felt disappointed with the progress I'd made during the previous days. I was severely dragging and well below the mileage i wanted to cover. I felt confused and drained of energy. I wondered why i was feeling like it. I needed to get my head back in the game. I was so close but feeling defeated.
Dinner was simply rice with some chicken I'd bought a couple of days earlier and a couple of rolls I'd picked up in Torquay. It wasn't much but welcome none the less.
17th July day 498
I woke particularly early, around 5:30am. That was quite unusual for me. I made myself a coffee and two portions of porridge conscious that i needed to try and get some weight back on. It had lightly rained during the night and parts of the outer flysheet of the tent were damp but that didn't matter. I packed up and set off immediately faced with an ascent. That was promptly followed by a descent. This continued, "who ever told me it would be flat from here on can kiss my ass" i muttered "the path can kiss my ass, the hills can kiss my ass, if there is a god he can kiss my ass, those thistles can kiss my ass...". I wasn't in my usual chirpy mood and i respect anyone who has walked the whole of the south west coast path in one go. Its a killer.
Then it began to rain. Reaching Shalden i decided to stop for a coffee and put my jacket on before heading across the bridge to Teignmouth. Just as I'd crossed the sun came out and a wave of heat swept across the town. The skies began to clear. I made my way through the town and down to the coast again. The promenade ran alongside the railway and along the coast. It was a pleasant break from climbing the cliffs. A train passed me i could smell the burning diesel and felt a little nauseous. I kept going and reaching the end climbed down a set of steps to the waters edge and through a tunnel towards a lane that eventually took me back to the tops of the cliffs at Holcombe. I wasn't far from Dawlish which meant i only had a few more miles to go before reaching the river ex.
Reaching Dawlish Warren a little way from Dawlish, but not to be confused with, i met up with martyn. Martyn had been following my progress online and was a great fan of walking himself. Having walked the south west coastal path himself martyn assurred me the I'd already tackled the worst of it although there were still a fair number of climbs ahead. We walked the short distance from his home near to the path along the sea defences to a small leisure complex where we had a couple of teas and martyn treated me to a bacon and egg roll. He was unsure about my crossing over the ex and intrigued about the next challenge paddleboarding the nile. The mouth of the ex narrows dramatically and is notorious for strong currents.
Having relaxed and refreshed we said goodbye and i headed off along the beach of the nature reserve towards the narrowest point. The tide was still going out but I knew i could use that to aid me in my crossing, a small sailing dingy was struggling against the flow of the water unable to make any progress forward. I picked a good spot to launch and set off. I paddled out from a small eddy and caught the current which took me at a good pace down the beach on the far side. As i paddled children from the local school were out collecting hermit crabs and sea weed for a school project, they waved as i passed.
After landing hoolley i packed her away and continued on to Sidmouth looking along the red sandstone cliffs at where i had yet to conquer hoping to see the familiar outline of portland bill but it was too hazy. It was there somewhere. I'd now arrived at the jurassic coast, an ancient coastline that I'd be following until i reached Swanage.
By the end of the day i was exhausted and once I'd climbed yet another hill just beyond Sidmouth i found somewhere to pitch and had rice before bed.
10th July day 491
It was sunny outside and after a shower and bite to eat stu and i headed back into the city so i could pick up the trek again. As i reached the harbour where stu and i met i began to look around for a place to launch hoolley from. I wanted to save myself a long hike through the city and cut across the harbour to mount batton. I found a set of steps near to the bar we'd had a drink at but it would have been a difficult launch and even more difficult getting hoolley ready. There was also alot of water based traffic. Speed boats and ferries were coming and going so i decided that on this occasion a crossing would be simply out of the question. I had no choice but to follow the little acorn around and hike the additional miles.
It didn't take me too long to follow the path and the signs were easy to follow unlike my experience in Cardiff. Having reached mount batton i looked back at the city and across the bay towards the old fort built on a small island. It was time to move on once again although I'll admit i wouldn't mind coming back to Plymouth sometime in the future.
Again the hike was relatively easy going and pleasant. It didn't take long before i was away and out of sight of the city and back looking across the channel at open waters. I was now heading towards the river tamar.
Descending from the clifftop walk i could clearly see the river. It wasn't too wide but it was certainly too deep to walk across. Looking around I found a path that led to a small beach. Next to the beach was a secluded cottage. In front of the cottage I could see a couple laid out enjoying the sun.
" Is this beach private?" I enquired. "No. We only rented the cottage for a week. Its of no consequence to us" came the reply. Colin and nicki were from Dorset and had come to the village for a break. They were heading home the following day. Their dog seeing my pack began to bark so i took it off and went over to make friends.
We began to chat about the trek. Colin suggested the ferry a little further along could take me across so i explained that i wouldn't be using the ferry as no mechanical assistance was allowed. Nicki made me a coffee and showed me a picture of an adder she'd seen just behind the cottage while i began to get hoolley ready for a paddle. "I don't suppose we could row you across in the boat we've been given the use of with the cottage? " colin asked. I smiled. "Yes you can" i said explaining how I'd been rowed across a river before shortly after I'd stopped at shingle street in kent.
I packed hoolley away again and we all climbed into the little boat. Colin rowed, nicki navigated and i sat on the bow pushing other little boats out of the way as we reached a set of steps on the far side. Small gestures like this were for me what made the journey extra special.
After saying goodbye and pushing colin and nicki off i climbed the steps and hiked towards the Erme estuary. Cloud cover now cooled the air and it was easy going following the farmers track around the coast. Reaching the Erme estuary at a little after low tide i was able to simply make my way across the river towards a slipway. The river was only ankle deep with the tide out.
Reaching the other side i sat down on the slipway for a break and thanking my lucky stars that my timing had been perfect. It was now early evening and i needed to find water and a place to camp. I was about to head off when i met kate. Kate was camping on a small beach just around the corner and out of sight with her two kids, shaun and holly. They were there for a birthday party which was being held on another beach a little further down.
I asked if she knew where i could find a stream so i could top my bottles up. They'd brought with them a 5ltr bottle and offered some to me. I was then given a small rum followed by fresh vegetables, salad and a chicken drumstick. It was beginning to get dark as we sat and chatted about a multitude of things so i decided I'd pitch up on the little beach and join their camp for the night.
With my tent up i began to hydrate my evening meal conscious i needed to eat as much as possible the others headed off to find the birthday party but soon returned announcing the tide had come in and we were isolated on our little sandy beach for the remainder of the night.
As the night rolled in and the rum and champagne guzzled kate said "I'm not entirely sure but i think my mind has been compromised". I was beginning to feel the same way.
8th July day 489
I woke around 8:30am so much for getting up early. It was still raining outside. I pulled back my sleeping bag and looked at my stomach. It was thin, really thin. My hips and ribs showing promenantly through my skin. I was eating well but still below what i needed to gain some fat. Beside me lay the necklace, a good luck charm joanne had given me years before. I'd never taken it off.
Gradually over the past 15 months the string that wrapped round my neck had been fraying and during the night finally snapped. With the cord lay out on the ground sheet i could see how the cord had split into three and how each had slowly worn away. It felt strange not having it dangling below my neck rubbing against my chest.
I had breakfast and it stopped raining. The sun peered between the clouds. I wasn't superstitious but somehow simply putting the talisman away in my wallet didn't feel right. I took it out again and reached into my trouser pocket and pulled out a length of paracord i always kept close to hand. I cut it to length and threaded the good luck charm on before tieing two slip knots. I then put my head through the loop and tightened the necklace so the charm rested against my chest.
Leaving camp i began my first ascent of the day. A zig zagging path back up high above the sea. The skies were threatening but i still sweated as i made my way towards my first descent of the day. I'd covered a mile. One lousy mile. Had i reached my limits, the limits I'd been searching for. Not possible, i was still breathing, my heart was still beating. I held my breath to listen to it thump.
Ahead was my second ascent. It was higher than the first, a set of steps that reached towards the sky disappearing out of sight. It was getting warmer so i took my rain jacket off and attached it to my pack.
I wanted a mochaccino or how ever you spelt it. I wanted a steak with Yorkshire pudding followed by strawberries and clotted cream. I wondered how many mount everests I'd climbed since Minehead. After the third ascent i was given a short reprieve. The trail was reasonably level as it wound along high above the sea but this was short lived.
By the time I'd arrived at Polperro I'd lost count of how many ascents I'd made that morning. I could smell chips. I wandered the narrow streets following my nose.
The way to Looe was relatively kind to me and arriving at the town marked quite an important milestone. I now had less than 300 miles to go. At 10 miles per day it would take me 30 days to reach Southampton, at 20 it would only take 15. But could i keep that sort of pace up.
Leaving the wilderness behind me i began to walk past the row of housing leading towards looe. Seeing the Island view cafe i decided to celebrate the milestone by treating myself to a coffee. While ordering i mentioned my achievement to the lady serving. As it turns out her colleagues father had been responsible for creating one of the most famous coastal paths in the world. She gave me a double hit espresso and treated me to a couple of packets of dried fruit to go and a slice of chocolate torte.
Fueled by caffeine and chocolate i left the cafe and headed towards the harbour to meet the guys from the local lifeboat. It was the launch of the rnli's respect the water campaign. Their philosophy was that prevention was better than rescue or fatality. After being shown round and introduced to the crew who had an excercise on that night i was handed some badges and stickers and helped hoist the new respect the water flag.
It was getting late by the time the excercises were over and too late to make any further progress so under advisement i headed up to the old gunnery emplacement at the top of the hill to find somewhere to camp. Reaching the top i came out onto the grassy fields that had been described to me. They weren't level though. I looked around and saw a couple of lads laid out on the grass watching the sun set.
Cameron and Alfie were around 18 yrs old. Young and free. They'd dropped a couple of micro dots and some ecstasy earlier that evening. I went over to ask them if they knew anywhere I'd be able to pitch up and ended up sitting with them chatting away as the lay on the grass gurning their faces, loved up and completely tripping out.
"You look familiar, are you famous? " Alfie kept asking. "Not as far as i know " i replied each time. As the night drew in the temperature fell. Eventually Cameron and Alfie decided it was time to head home and listen to some tunes in the warm. We headed over the fields and Cameron showed me a secluded spot among the trees just large enough to set up camp. It was perfect and i felt sure I'd be undisturbed during the night. They guys headed off still enjoying their psychedelic experience as i pitched the tent and settled in.
4th July day 485
Considering the nights festivities i woke surprisingly early. It was sunny outside and there was barely a breeze. I got my tent which had been drying out over night hung on carls washing line and packed my gear into my rucksack. I then headed up stairs to clear away any mess left from the night before and to say goodbye to amanda. Carl had already got up early and had headed off to meet his son at a festival.
I'd just cleared the table when amanda appeared from the bedroom. "I forgot to take the bacon out of the freezer last night, fancy a steak sandwich? " she said. Every day should be started with a steak sandwich it should be made law. With fresh coffee and a medium cooked steak we sat on the balcony chatting and delaying my departure as long as possible. "Its calling you isn't it" she said. I'd been gazing across the bay at the headland opposite. It was a gorgeous sunny day with very little wind. Very different to that of the day before.
I could have happily stayed another day but I knew i had to get back to the trek and not get too comfortable. It didn't take long to reach Falmouth where my rations were waiting at the local lifeboat station. Alan was the LOM I'd called when i arrived and it only took ten minutes for him get from home to meet me and open up.
We discussed where i had planned to cross in hoolley to the other side of the estuary and with very little wind and the tide just turning things couldn't have been more perfect. Alan then escorted me down to the quay with my kit and box of goodies. When we arrived Alan went off and was chatting to a young lady, i was trying to rearrange my kit to fit the food into my pack ready to head towards the slipway and get hoolley ready for another mile wide paddle. I'd just about fittedit all in when i was approached by another young lady. "I think what you are doing is so inspiring " she said as she handed me a small white piece of card. It was a ticket for the passenger ferry to pick up the coastal path at Place. I didn't know what to say. "It'll be leaving in about a minute, i wouldn't want you to miss it" she said.
I grabbed my pack and slung it over my right shoulder and headed down to the ferry. It felt quite strange getting on board and although I'd been looking forward to another relaxing paddle i also couldn't refuse such a lovely act of kindness. I guess sometimes its ok to bend or break the rules as long as its for a selfless reason.
It was an easy hike round st Andrews point and although the sun was out it wasn't too hot for hiking. Making my way back from the headland i could see what looked like a nice secluded beach some way off. I made up my mind it would serve as a place to stay the night.
Getting closer to the beach i could see another tent, then another. I could hear music. I could see people. My secluded beach wasn't as secluded as I'd thought. In fact it was the venue for a beach party that night. I headed inland away from the music and chatter. I simply wasn't in the mood to party. In fact i wanted an early night to myself.
Away from the crouds at the back of the car park i found a little patch of grass. I could still hear the laughter and the boom boom boom of the bass from the hifi system in the beach but it was muffled and i was tired anyway. Settling in to the tent i broke open a packet of freeze dried sweet n sour chicken, my favourite.
5th July day 486
I was woken by a loud clap of thunder. Britain's summertime is notorious for being wet and while the rest of the country were experiencing a heat wave i seemed to be getting the worst of it. I took my time having breakfast and waited for the weather to improve.
Around 11am the wind suddenly dropped and the skies cleared. The sun shone down and quickly dried the tent. I jumped into action and got things packed away and set off back up to the clifftop. The day would be spent hiking the increasingly undulating coastal path. Although I had eaten a good meal the night before i was still massively under weight and by the afternoon i began once again struggling to make my way up the hills.
Arriving at doddmans point and well into the evening i looked ahead along the coast. I could see cliffs as far as the horizon. It didn't feel like I'd made any progress but deep down i knew that wasn't the case. Unable to make out any good spots ahead to set up camp i decided that the small level area where i was stood was probably the best i could hope for so i took off my pack and decided to stop for the day.
6th July day 487
Every morning for as long as i can remember it was the same routine. Boil a saucepan of water, rehydrate breakfast and make a coffee. Have a second coffee then put my clothes on while my sleeping mat deflated. Lay out my sleeping bag, fold it in half and roll it up tight to squeeze bag into its stuff sack. Put the sleeping bag into its dry bag. Squeeze the remaining air from the matress, fold it in three and roll it tight so it fitted into its bag. Pack away the stove making sure it fitted inside the saucepan and put the saucepan into its bag. Take everything out of the tent and go around removing the pegs putting them into their bag. Remove the tent poles and put them into their bag. Fold the tent searching for the best way to fold it before settling on what I'd come up with and stuffing it along with the pegs and poles into its bag.
With a pile of gear on the floor, locate the pockets of the backpack and squeeze everything inside. Finally putting my life on my shoulders and walking away from my home keeping the sea to my right searching for my next temporary camp site.
It was much cooler today and clouds hung motionless in the sky. A couple of miles away was Gorran haven and down on the beach a welcome cafe. I needed to put the weight back on that I'd lost so having a second breakfast was welcome excuse for a break.
From the cafe i headed on for Mevagissey. As i dedcended down towards the neighbouring village, a small cove about a quarter of a mile before i passed a man leant over his garden wall gazing out at the sea. Xle was a musician and singer who lived there with his partner. A chat ensued and i was invited in for a tea and some tesco finest shortbread from Aberdeenshire, arguably the best shortbread anywhere. He simply couldn't believe the journey i had undertaken and almost finished. That is to say i only had about another 350 miles to go. Before i left i was given a bag full of fruit and ghe rest of the biscuits to chow on later although I did attempt to eat as much of the fruit as possible by the time i reached Mevagissey.
Mevagissey was another fishing town quaint in nature with narrow streets lined with shops and bars. But as with every small fishing town or village along this stretch of coast the only way on was by going up. My catchphrase was quickly becoming "you have got to be fucking kidding me!". Reaching the top and looking ahead as far as the eye could see were hills after hills. As i made my way down i muttered "what goes down must come up".
I'd always known the last section of the trek was always going to be the hardest part but i never really thought it would be as hard as it actually was. I seemed to spend the majority of my time stood half way up a climb looking up to see how far i still had to go then turning and looking down at how far I'd come. This continued all day, climb after climb. My mind was slowly wilting, withering away.
I carried on though and as the evening drew upon me and whilst heading down a valley i heard the welcome sound of running water. A stream with fresh clear water a plenty. A seemingly rare commodity recently. I followed the sound til i could climb down and fill my bottles up ready for my evening meal and breakfast the following morning. I really didn't want to continue on but i had little choice. There was nowhere near by i could make camp. I simply didn't know how far I'd have to hike before i could call it a day.
The path now devoid of signs with the little acorn I'd been following had entered beneath the canopy of a woodland. A disadvantage of hiking without a map is the fact that you simply don't know where you're going, where you've been or for that matter where you are. A basic rule of thumb I'd been using was to turn right at every fork or junction and follow it hoping to end up hiking along the coast or at the very least being able to see ahead and plot a route with my eyes. Here all the forks in the trail seemed to lead down to to dead ends or remote isolated houses. Every time I had to turn round and backtrack to the trail and continue on to the next fork. Alot of unnecessary hiking with little progress to show for it.
I did eventually find my way free and a welcome acorn embossed into a wooden post meant i was back heading in the right direction. It didn't take long before my new catchphrase was confirmed. A steep bottomless set of steps would end at the bottom of a set of steps that reached for the heavens and now i was carrying an extra 2kgs of water i hadn't had earlier that day.
My hips were red raw and my knees were squealing out to stop but where. The path was narrow. Ahead i could see a large town but i knew that wouldn't be any good and I simply wouldn't have time before nightfall to hike passed it. Having made the climb i headed back down towards a valley following the edge of a field its back arched steeply. At the bottom and although it wasn't entirely level i found a small corner next to the path. it would do. The wind was now picking up and heavy clouds were moving in above me. I had literally just got pitched and began to inflate my sleeping mat as it started to rain. It was going to be a wet night.
I'd been hiking for several months whilst tackling my UK Coastal Trek challenge, a 6,600 mile trek to tackle Britains coastline, when I was posed a question from one of the challenge Facebook followers. "what will you do once you've finished?". This was a g...
18th July day 499
It was a sunny morning which if you're laid out on a lovely sandy beach is exactly the weather you would hope for. I was to start the day not lavishing myself in the hot rays emanating from the sun but in fact climbing steep hills. After making a few ascents i caught view of a long beach heading towards beer.
When the path descended onto the beach i seized the opportunity to see if i could get all the way. It was certainly worth a go. After a good hike and arriving at the headland at the far end of the beach it was apparent i couldn't make it all the way but it did bring me up at a small seaside resort.
Immediately i headed to the beach cafe to get an ice cream and can of sprite to help cool me down. Feeling very much refreshed i was back to hiking the coastal path and back to following the little acorns. Approaching beer i could see seaton along the coasy a mere couple of miles away.
Leaving beer i came across a couple of wild cherry trees laden with its ripe and juicy black cherries. I had to stop and take a nibble from mother natures larder. It was just after lunch time when i arrived at seaton so after a short break for lunch i set off for lyme regis. Rumours of the path had been circulating and reached me and i wasn't sure if I'd be able to use the coastal path to reach the days destination. I had to find out for myself no matter how it ended.
Reaching the section of path that descended to the under cliff i came across a sign confirming the order of closure. Thankfully leading up to the sign I'd met martin from my home town of Bournemouth who himself had just navigated that particular section of footpath. He'd warned me there were signs of subsidence however ropes had been left to aid walkers tackling the path.
I headed down feeling quite excited passing signs advising that should the path be closed for whatever reason the only exit route would be the way you came. No access was available to the foreshore or the clifftops. Awesome, an adventure.
I followed the path for a while before coming across a wooden barricade which i easily squeezed past. Then i was confronted by a sudden drop. Sure enough there was a knotted rope tide round a nearby tree. Game on. The descent was relatively easy so i continued. Coming across more steps that had fallen away i carefully lowered myself down and kept going. Then i came across an ascent. Again there was a knotted rope secured above so i hauled myself and pack up. I was thoroughly enjoying the challenge.
The rest of the path ran through a thick woodland similar to a rain forest I'd hiked in Malaysia several years earlier. I arrived in lyme regis around 6:30pm. Immediately once I'd left the forest i got a call from Marion who'd offered me the use of her summer house, a shower and a bite for dinner.
19th July day 500
With clean clothes and feeling surprisingly refreshed Marion and her husband paul dropped me back at the lyme regis lifeboat station. Walking along the promenade i came across Adrian gray who'd been rock balancing. A master of this unusual pastime Adrian had been balancing rocks for over 15 years. It was really quite an impressive skill.
Leaving lyme regis I wondered if I'd be able to get all the way to Abbotsbury the start of chesil beach staying on the coastline in front of the cliffs. It certainly looked like it as i gazed along the coastline. It was certainly worth a crack especially as the tides were on my side and had started going out as i approached the first set of cliffs.
After a few hard shingly miles i passed beneath golden point the highest point on the south west coastal path. Looking up the cliff towered to a point above me. I carried on. I still had a very long way to go before I'd reach seatown and ultimately portland bill.
At seatown i was faced with a headland i couldn't see past. It was uncertain as to what i would find on the other side but i thought I'd have a go anyway. Gradually the shingles were replaced by large rocks but nothing i hadn't already come across on the trek.
From west bay i spent the rest of the day hiking on shingle. After a few hours i wished i had snow shoes feeling sure they'd make life so much easier. When i finally found solid ground again the first few steps felt strange but my pace soon quickened.
Arrived at West bexington about 4 miles from Abbotsbury around 6:30pm to meet encyclopedia lee and the boys. It was great seeing the guys after being away for so long. I can't remember the last time I'd laughed so much. I had tears poring down my face whem lee had decided to show off the time lapse capabilities of his iPhone by filming the sun setting. We waited patiently and once the sun had disappeared behind the hills on the horizon he played his time lapsed footage back. It was in real time, i had the same setting on my phone it was called normal.
20th July day 501
Ahead of me was 13km of shingle, chesil beach.
It was hard going and a heavy mist was reducing my visibility to a mere few yards. By the time I'd eventually arrived at the road joining portland to the Weymouth I'd either pulled a muscle, trapped a nerve or damaged my hip. Making my way to the farthest point of portland bill was excruciating. I tried to put the nagging pain out of my head and refused to take painkillers.
Following the coastal path i came across a couple of sections that had been closed due to cliff falls but ignoring them i continued and thankfully was able to make my way through without any difficulty.
It had been misty all day with the odd patch of rain. Reaching portland bill the farthest point i had very little to see.
I continued to follow the coastal path but after a couple of miles the nagging pain in my hip was too much to bare so I decided to pitch my tent in one of the old quarries and got an early night.
11th July day 492
It was a lovely sunny morning as we broke camp. Katy and the others had to get the kids to kung fu lessions and i hit the trail again.
It was an extremely hot day as i progressed over more hills. Arriving at the avon estuary, my next crossing i decided to take some time out. It was too hot to continue comfortably so i found a little area of grass sheltered from the sea breeze and lay down. I woke a couple of hours later, made a coffee to help me regain consciousness and set off towards the river to pick a place to cross.
Getting hoolley ready everything was text book until "snap-ping". As i was inserting the final piece to the spray deck brace it snapped in two. On closer examination it quickly became apparent that salt corrosion had weakened the metal brace. It was just a matter of time before it would fail.
There was nothing I could do about it so i hopped in and made the crossing. Everything went well just a few moments later i was back on shore and packing her away. It wasn't til later that evening that i realised I'd made a huge mistake of biblical proportions. Whilst pre - occupied with the damaged brace I'd hung my fleece and jacket on a rock off the sand. I hadn't repacked them. They were still on the rock and I'd hiked for several hours on to soar mill cove. It wasn't worth hiking back on the off chance they were still there and it certainly wasn't worth crying over now. It would soon be dark. I'd have to try and contact somebody the following day to try and get replacements. I just hoped the weather stayed good until then or i could be in big trouble. Why didn't i check the area around me like i always did. How did i leave without noticing.
9th July day 490
Starting the day calmly i was eager to make my way around the next headland all the way to Plymouth which was a fair hike. As i hiked i was accompanied by Butterfly's dancing a wilderness waltz. I hadn't seen many the year before whilst making my way up the east coast but now they were everywhere.
It was really hot and i sweated as i approached portwrinkle. I guess that if Scotland was crinkly then for Cornwall to be wrinkly stood to reason. From portwrinkle i headed on towards the end of the headland passing an unusual community of wooden huts perched on the edge of the cliffs. They were most likely to be holiday homes. Some looked quite old and others new, one looked very modern indeed and quite caught my imagination. It's roof was styled like the waves and grass was growing on its roof.
Leaving the community behind i carried on towards the headland passing through a small cliff side woodland. Reaching the top of the headland i could see St Michaels chapel a small lonely building built upon the top of a hill at the very end of the point. I took my bag off and climbed the steps for a closer look. From here i could see far, the coast i had been and the coast i would be walking next. The chapel itself was very old. Inside it was small and the stone work was weathered. Cornwall seemed to have quite a thing for st Michael although i wasn't entirely sure of the connection. After taking a few minutes to look around i headed back down the steps to retrieve my bag.
The path to Cawsand was easy going in comparison to what I'd had to negotiate for the previous weeks. Cawsand was another quaint sea side village with narrow streets and a lovely old world feel.
From Cawsand i headed through the botanical gardens and arrived at the beach opposite Plymouth. It was late but still light and with very little wind i decided to risk a crossing to meet up with duct tape stu the lad who'd walked the cornish coast I'd met a couple of weeks earlier.
Landing on the slipway on the far side after quite a pleasant paddle i quickly packed hoolley away and began to walk into the city. Passing a pub i noticed the sign painted on the wall outside. "The first pub in Devon" i had now left Cornwall and crossed the border into devon. I hadn't realised the significance of the crossing til that moment. The pub was closed. It didn't matter i called stu and arranged to meet him at the barbican for a celebratory drink on the harbour promenade.
7th July day 488
Although i only had a little over 300 miles to go and was eager to finish, i dreaded it. I'd have no money left and nowhere to stay. I'd have to start living a normal life again but i was nowhere near ready for that. I had no real plans other than to start training for my next challenge and somehow find the money to make it happen. I also didn't want my journey to end, not yet, but i knew it would have to. Delaying the enevitable was futile.
It was sunny outside the tent so i went through my daily routine and set off towards Charlestown. Arriving at the harbour i was intrigued by three old sailing ships of different sizes. It must have been fantastic living aboard one while the world was discovered, hard work no doubt and I'm sure the crews often had little idea of the significance of their discoveries at the time.
I then continued on to par where i had to detour round the docks taking me along the road until I found the next little acorn that would point the way back to the cliffs and onto fowey. The wind had picked up significantly, blowing me from side to side. I cast my mind back to Scotland and the tornado strength gusts I'd experienced there. This was nothing in comparison. A mere breeze.
Arriving at fowey i headed down to a small beach, the wind had lifted and the waters calmed. I seized the opportunity and quickly readied hoolley for a crossing to Polruan. The paddle went well and i beached up on the other side with no dramas. The current was negligible if at all. Polruan is another ancient village built on steep hills with narrow streets and lined with several welcoming pubs.
Having packed hoolley away i ascended through the streets to the top of the cliffs and followed them away from the village and back amongst the fields and heath lands. The wind had now picked up again and as i turned to look back i could see a large band of rain heading my way. I continued with some haste ready to dive into my pack to get wet weather gear if i got caught.
The rain cloud was getting closer as i made my way round a small peninsula the winds force increased and the skies began to darken. Finding a hawthorn tree thick with foliage i decided to stop and wait, sheltered, for the rain to pass. Again poised to get my waterproofs on if the rain fell heavier than anticipated.
It only took a few minutes to pass so i set off again. The evening was now drawing in and as i looked ahead along the next piece scanning for signs of the coast path i felt unsure if i would find many places to camp before nightfall. I'd once again have to be an opportunist and take what i could. Carrying on i continued to follow the path away from the peninsula and headed along the cliffs. After a mile or so i descended into a valley I'd seen. There was a waterfall with plenty of fresh clear water and a small grass covered flat topped pinnacle (for want of a better word ) standing between the cliff walls overlooking the beach. I surely wouldn't find anywhere more suitable ahead.
I decided to call it a day and continue on the following morning. I climbed up on to the pinnacle and pitched the tent. There was very little shelter from wind coming in off the sea but it was a lovely spot to pitch. I'd just begun to eat my evening meal, freeze dried chicken and noodles in a black bean sauce when it began to rain again. It was going to be another wet night.
2nd July day 483
Trying to sleep was difficult, i was hot and clamy and my sleeping bag felt restrictive. My legs and feet hurt and despite my therm-a-rest matress being quite frankly the most comfortable sleeping mat I've ever had i simply couldn't get comfortable. I did eventually pass over to the land of nod and woke rather late in the morning. It was nearly 10am when I opened my eyes. It was raining contrary to the various reports I'd had from those I'd spoken to the day before. I didn't particularly want to pack the tent away with it wet so i slowly made breakfast and waited.
It was just gone 11am when there was a short break in the weather i put my waterproofs on and quickly took the opportunity to pack everything away. The tent was still wet but i had no choice I'd simply have to put up with damp accommodation later on.
I followed the path to flushing a small hamlet on the banks of and met an elderly couple coming the other way. They'd stopped to take shelter from the rain, which had started again, beneath a tree to have some elevenses, a couple of crackers spreading little square butter sachets i think they'd acquired from a hotel or bnb. They asked if I'd be attempting the low tide crossing and described a shorter route around the inlet using two sets of stepping stones. That sounded just up my street. I followed the couples directions and found the stepping stones. The wet weather delay had actually worked to my benefit saving me a good couple of miles hiking round to st anthony on the far side of the inlet.
Having crossed using the stepping stones without incident i picked up the path again and made my way to Helford. As i hiked the sun came out and the skies cleared. I was soon sweating and getting soaked from within my waterproofs. Feeling thirsty i decided to stop at the shipwrights pub for an orange juice and lemonade and to get a charge on my battery packs.
My plan was to use hoolley to cross the estuary before heading on to Falmouth. The tide was almost all the way in and with very little wind i felt confident that a paddle across would be really quite a pleasant experience. Choosing to launch near to the passenger ferry i inflated hoolley, secured my kit and set off paddling among the boats moored. I did feel tempted with such good conditions to head into the open waters of the English channel but knew that it could in fact be dangerous without knowing the local tides and currents so instead continued on to the village opposite, Helford passage. Landing on the shores without incident I packed hoolley away into my rucksack and located the coastal path finger sign, the acorn emblem I'd been following since Minehead and the start of the south west coast path.
The day had turned out lovely, sunny but not too hot. The hike from Helford passage towards the mouth of the estuary was easy going and looking back i was able to fully appreciate the beauty of the far side where I'd camped the night before and where i had walked during the rain that morning.
Although I was planning to get to Falmouth by nightfall i took time out to admire the coastal views and utilise the sun to charge my battery pack. It was a popular path and often i stopped and chatted with those walkers heading towards me. It was approaching 6pm when i found myself looking ahead to the castle located on a small headland near Falmouth. It was where i had planned to camp that night. Whilst peering across and picking out a good place to pitch three dogs. They seemed quite friendly and all wanted patting. Then from the undergrowth appeared Carl and Amanda.
Carl and Amanda were out walking their dogs and had brought with them their next door neighbours blind assistance dog. Seeing my save the children tshirt sparked a conversation about the challenge i had set myself.
Carl then suggested i stopped the night in their guest room and he'd cook up a meal that evening. Falmouth was only a few miles away and not being in any rush to finish the challenge i accepted. We set off together while amanda walked the dogs. Carl had quite a stomp on and raced ahead i struggled to keep up so suggested he took the pack for the last bit.
It was strange hiking without my pack and feeling light footed we headed back to carls home. The house was in a lovely situation overlooking the sea from the cliffs. The garden was enormous with unusual and interesting sculptures dotted around. The one that really caught my eye was a giant giraffe and its baby.
After having a shower and getting clean carl cooked up stir fry vegetables and bbq'd some cajun chicken. We cracked open a couple of bottles of red wine and relaxed long into the early hours of the morning. Amanda like a machine gun fired off questions about the trek some more unusual than others such as "Do you shave yourself ?".
It wasn't just i who had an appetite for adventure carl, who was ceo of his own company that produces and supplies toilet paper and paper towels, also liked living life to the full having travelled the world and rowed with three others across the Atlantic ocean.
3rd July day 484
Having completely passed out at around 3am i found myself feeling as the Scottish would say "mortal". It was 11am when i finally woke. Carl had got breakfast ready, a full English. It was a welcome start to the day. Carl had been the perfect host and had arranged a massage for me. The massuse commented whilst doing a little reflexology on my feet how lovely they were especially considering what they had gone through.
After the massage i felt amazingly relaxed, almost sleepy. For the rest of the day i continued to relax and caught up on my blogs which dated back to the beginning of the previous month and the start of the southwest coast path in Minehead. Again carl cooked a lovely meal and again we opened up a couple of bottles of wine. Two red and two white.
While we sat eating and drinking amanda, carls financial director whom i think he must have won in a raffle, was prompted to tell me the story of her cat.
Amanda had a black female cat and while she was waiting for her house to be built had to stay with friends only she wasn't able to take her beloved cat pippa. Pippa was instead taken to a cattery where she stayed for several months. When the house was finished and Amanda went to collect pippa the lady who'd been looking after the cat turned to amanda and said "your cats got the biggest balls we've ever seen". Sure enough pippa had somehow grown a set of kahunas and also changed colour from black to brown. I just looked at carl, it was obvious we were both thinking the same thing. When amanda took pippa to the vets, whom obviously not noticed the feline was in fact a male, pippa was re registered as Bournville. I swear i am not making this up.
29th June day 480
By the time I'd woke up hope had gone to check the washing washing i grabbed my tiny travel towel and wrapped it round me and made a coffee. On her return she informed me that it was still damp but should be dry in a couple of hours.
I finished my coffee and headed over to the wash room. The clothes were still a little damp but i felt sure they'd dry soon enough so put them on anyway. After all i was used to wearing damp clothing anyway. When i returned to the tent I began to make us breakfast and another coffee and packed my gear up ready for another days hike.
With everything stowed and our bellies full we left the site together and headed back to the beach where we'd met. Along the way i continued testing hope on her plant identification. I hoped it would spark an interest in this londoner to learn more about nature and what it could provide. I pointed out various plants and asked her to name them. Slowly she was getting it and with less and less prompting from me.
As we continued through the lanes a large dragon fly buzzed down towards us. Hope had never seen one before and ran towards me. She didn't know how to react. Calmly i told her it was ok and this unusual insect was completely harmless.
Reaching the beach we made our way to the ice cream parlour where we'd first met, it was closed but the cafe next door was open. I thought it would be a fitting fairwell to buy us both a cone before I headed off back to the coast path. Taking a seat overlooking the sea we continued to talk and watched the activities of those who had come to praa sands for a holiday.
It was time for me to go. I had a good days hike ahead of me if i wanted to reach the lizard by nightfall and it was already 1pm. Hope decided she would follow me for a bit to see me on my way. Together we found the trail leading towards the cliffs. As we walked i spotted a plant i really wanted to show her. It was burdock, rich in starch and a good staple. We stopped and i dug up the root. Peeling off the dirty outer shell i took a bite and handed it over. Hope was hesitant at first but took a bite too. I think she was quite amazed at how good it tasted. She'd had burdock and dandelion tea but never really considered what it was made from or in deed where it had come from.
Having made our way up the first hill and a good distance from the beach I turned to say goodbye to hope. We had a hug and i sensed she felt a little emotional that our encounter had now drawn to its natural conclusion. As i walked off i concentrated on my next destination a small town called Porthleven. When i arrived i knew i needed to get more food enough to last at least a couple of days. I didn't need much more as i was aware that from now on i would be coming upon more and more villages and would never be far from a store of some description.
It was to be a very hot day with the summer sun shining down on the coast. A cool clifftop breeze was welcome as i continued to hike. Leaving Porthleven where i had sat with some chips and a roll watching children jumping from the quay side into the water and catching crabs in their buckets i knew lizard point was ahead and not beyond reach that day.
As i continued i began to feel weary, the air was clammy. A few miles from the town a came across a beach. There was a fresh water lake on one side with picturesque surroundings. Trees lined valleys either side and would prove to be a perfect place to camp and get an early night.
I wasn't in a rush to get to the lizard so decided to stop and pitch my tent near to the lake and sheltered from the wind. It was a lovely warm evening and after I'd cooked up another gourmet meal i decided to go for a little swim. Not having any swimming shorts with me i hoped that no one would pass by and if they did then i hoped they wouldn't be offended.
Leaving my clothes on the shore i waded in. It was a little chilly at first but felt refreshing once I'd gone in enough to cover the sensitive parts. Feeling quite free i swam out away from the sandy shore and away from the reeds. The sun had disappeared from sight but over the sea a full moon hung, which incidentally is what any passers by would have seen if they'd been looking at the lake when i decided to dive under the water.
30th June day 481
The skies were once again clear and the sun shining. As i sat in my tent making up a porridge sachet i heard the sound of helicopters and fighter jets flying low to the ground above me. I wondered what was going on. This continued even as i packed my kit away and headed off from the paradise I'd come across.
It was very hot indeed and unusually I decided not to wear my tshirt. It was simply too hot. Thankfully up on the clifftops there was a lovely cool breeze which helped me remain comfortable.
Having used my last porridge sachet that morning i decided that when i reached mullion cove I'd seek out a store and try to find some more. Sure enough the second place i visited did have porridge sachets but they weren't the same as I'd had before. These needed milk added but could I find any dried milk. Well maybe, by going to the last store in the village. As i wondered through mullion looking for the cost cutter i caught a glimpse of what i believed to be goonhilly. Large satellite dishes laid out in an enormous array. They were quite some way off and too far to walk too but i was happy that i had that chance of a glimpse.
Following the instructions of someone I'd asked I came across Denton. Denton was a colourful character with long curly grey hair, a beard and wearing a blue neckerchief with white spots and dungarees. He looked like a typical cornish folk singer. "Save the children" he said looking at my tshirt I'd now put on to enter the shops "the cornish eat children. When you save the children bring em here we're not greedy, one will feed many". He was quite a character. He then burst into song. "My fiancee is 14 years younger than me, and i have one leg shorter than the other and it only has two toes". He showed me as he pulled up a trouser leg revealing a small prosthetic stilt before starting a little jig. I'd met many colourful characters on my journey but Denton was by far the most unusual.
Leaving Denton who had now turned his attention to two ladies working in a shop we'd walked to together so that i could get a couple of things for later i headed back to the cove and picked up the coastal path. The day was getting hotter by the minute and once again i removed my tshirt to help cool me down very aware that if i wasn't careful i could end up getting burnt again.
I followed the path determination was all that was driving me. The views were lovely but as i rest i didn't pay them much attention all that was on my mind was the intense heat, the dusty trail and the enevitable climbs ahead. As i reached kynance cove i saw three young adults on a small island they had been cut off by the tide, something i was known for by now. They weren't me though so i went close enough to call out and make sure they were ok. "We're fine, ok" one of them cheerily replied. I wasn't entirely convinced but the tide had begun to turn and as they were well above the water line and in no immediate threat i signalled back ok and continued on. I wanted to reach the lizard at least by nightfall and as i turned each headland it still seemed quite a way off.
Inevitably the miles were covered and the climbs conquered. Arriving at Britain's most southerly point was well not quite what i had expected. I had expected it to be barron with a sign or something saying that I'd arrived at the most southerly point but instead i found a gift shop and a cafe which were both closed. I felt a little disappointed.
As with lands end I'd hoped i would be able to camp up but as with lands end this was not going to be the case. It was still light and I had a couple more hours of light left so i decided to keep going to see if i could find somewhere interesting and secluded to stop.
I followed the coastal path on around the cliffs looking back every now and then trying to find something magical about the lizard, something that would make the place rememberable. To be honest it was truly uninspiring. Gradually the lizard disappeared from sight and i eventually came upon Cadgwith a quaint and old looking fishing village which reminded me of Clovelly. Tightly packed houses and steep cobbled streets. Passing a pub with a sign outside welcoming walkers, muddy boots and dogs i decided to stop for an orange juice and lemonade before carrying on.
The light had now begun to fade and if i wasn't careful i knew I'd find myself having to walk the cliff path with my head torch. Night time was now upon me. i was about to pass an old disused quarry but luckily for some reason i stopped. A small path led off from the coastal trail down alongside it and to a lovely patch of grass large enough for the tent. It was quite well sheltered and seemed a perfect place to camp.
1st July day 482
Waking to the droning sounds of a fog horn is not really how I'd imagined starting my day with fantastic weather the day before. But then again I was still in Cornwall and should have been used to the weather patterns by now. After turfing out an army of ants from my tent i headed off along the coast. The thick mist was lingering but it was also very warm. After walking only a short way i had already begun sweating.
The coast although shrouded in the vale of white had quite a mystical feel about it. I couldn't see far as the landscape faded off into the distance.
While i hike the footpaths cut off from society the wind gently blowing in my left ear and the sea whispering in my right, the odd sound of birds singing, the thud of my boots against the dry earth and the swashing of water in my bottles i often felt like i could be the last man on earth.
Drawing closer to caverack i began to see signs of life. An electric fence, the tops of roofs, a tarmac road. Then there were people. I headed down to the harbour and made my way around. I was looking for a local store to get some meat to add to the savoury rice I'd left in my pack. Caverack just wasn't that sort of place. It was a tourist village. There were pubs, restaurants and expensive art galleries. I had my doubts i would find anymore villages along the way so started checking over in my head what i had left in my pack. I had savoury chicken flavoured rice, porridge and chocolate. That'll do i thought.
I could now feel the sun trying to break through the mist as it slowly burnt away. I carried on away from the harbour safe in the knowledge that Falmouth would only be a day or so away and that i would soon be picking up the much needed supplies jo had sent on.
Having gone round the next headland a rather unusual piece of land that stood a little out of place in Cornwalls landscape in that it was low, it was cliffless, it simply didn't fit, i found myself passing a rather large quarry. The mist had all but dispersed and the sun was beaming brightly. My backup battery packs were both almost void of power and as i was in need of a rest i decided to take some time out to relax, top up my tan but more importantly get some charge on my power monkey solar battery pack.
Its a slow process charging from the sun but at 30% i decided it would be enough to do me for that night. The coastal path soon after inexplicably now veered away from the coast. I had no choice but to follow it. After navigating the roads for a few miles i was then redirected to a seaside village and the path returned to follow the coast once more. As i looked back it became apparent that the rugged cliffs and banked woodlands were too steep for a path to be cut and that was why the diversion was required.
Time was now passing and evening drawing in. My legs were aching and my hips felt sore once more. Ahead but across the water i could see large ships anchored off shore. There was a town situated on the coast, it had to be Falmouth. I knew though to get to it i would first have to paddle across an estuary and with the night drawing in i knew it would have to wait til the following day.
Keeping an eye on the coast i began to look for a viable place to launch. As i continued to hike i found myself at Nare point. Nare point was a coastguards observational point and a place that had been used during the war as a decoy docks which had been so successful it had been bombed nine times. I carried on now heading up the estuary and towards some woods where i found a nice quiet spot with a stream following nearby. Home.
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