Sunday 24 April 2016

Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts

Walking the entire length of magnificent South West Coast Path was a wonderful adventure that I'll never forget. I am so glad I did it. The path really did live up to it's reputation; endless beautiful scenery, delightful coastal towns, friendly people everywhere. I absolutely loved every minute of the journey and could not wait to go back between visits.
There is so much variety that each of the thirty days had its own distinct character, no two days felt alike, I can't think of a single section I found even slightly disappointing.
The South West Coast Path often makes lists of the top ten trails in the world. Now I've seen it all with my own eyes I fully understand why. If possible why not get out there and see some of these amazing places for yourself? Smell the sea air, see the wildlife, listen to the seabirds and the waves crashing on the shore. Looking at picture galleries is great, but nothing is ever as good as actually being there and taking it all in yourself.
Raphael Cliffs
Best Bits
There were so many highlights I've found it very difficult to single out favourites. Maybe the one place I enjoyed walking through above all others was Porthcurno Bay on Day 18. My first ever visit here fell on a lovely sunny day. The sea was a deep shade of blue, the white sand absolutely glorious. In the bright sunshine it looked more like somewhere in The Caribbean than a far-flung corner of Great Britain. Add to that the amazing story of Logan's Rock, the history behind the Cable Hut, international submarine cables and wartime tunnels, and the Minack Theatre carved into it's dramatic location on the headland above. A truly magical place.
Porthcurno Bay
After much thought I've decided to go with Day 24 Tintagel to Bude as my pick of the thirty. This tough but exhilarating walk was the perfect way to spend my 49th birthday. Again I had the good fortune to enjoy fantastic weather that day while exploring a series of breath-taking places I'd never seen before; Rocky Valley, Boscastle, Fire Beacon, Rusey Cliff, High Cliff and more. A rugged, isolated region with fantastic scenery that really tests your legs. Coast walking at its very best.
Day 24, view north from Rusey Cliff
Worst Bit
The least enjoyable section for me was going inland on a long-term path diversion on a steep busy road linking Lyme Regis and Charmouth on Day 4. I walked it in heavy rain on a cold, windy day. A thoroughly miserable experience in an otherwise delightful area.
Day 1, South Haven Point to Lulworth Cove was easily the toughest of the thirty. To make sure I made it through the Lulworth Firing Ranges that Sunday before a five day closure meant I had to walk a hilly 30 miles. It was turned into an even bigger test by two unwanted complications. First the failed lunch meeting that left me short of food and fluids. Then the arrival of a fierce Atlantic storm that battered Dorset all afternoon, by far the worst weather I encountered in the entire journey.

Best Pub

The Ferryboat Inn at Helford Passage. Great atmosphere, excellent service, delicious food, a good choice of local ales, reasonable prices. The perfect place to refresh yourself after a day on the path.

Best Fish & Chips

The Harbour Lights Restaurant in Falmouth. Delicious freshly-caught Cornish fish, the best I've ever tasted. Huge portions, great views over Falmouth Harbour, excellent service. So good that we went out of our way to go back for more when I was walking in North Cornwall the following year.
Porthleven Sands


The South West Coast Path is always being described as being 630 miles in length, yet according to the GPS devices which recorded my tracks I managed to walk a total of 667 miles. The extra distance is in part explained by my decision not to use every ferry available. In particular the Exmouth to Starcross Ferry. I opted to walk between the two towns on the excellent Exe Estuary Trail adding about 15 miles to the total. Quite often I came across path diversions around obstructions that necessitated extra walking. Sometimes I would divert a little off the path to visit a viewpoint or place of interest, other times to meet Lea for a lunch break. No matter how good you are at map reading it's impossible to walk 630 miles without finding yourself having to retrace your steps a few times after taking a wrong turn. It all adds-up.
One of many path closures caused by landslides, this one alone added an extra 2 miles to official 630 mile total.

Advice to other walkers

The South West Coast Path really is as good as it sounds. Whether you want to get out there for a day trip or take on the whole trail in one go you will not be disappointed.

Those of you thinking of walking the entire length please remember that I did it the easy way. Never more than five consecutive days of walking at a time spread over a two and a half year period. I had the luxury of Lea shadowing me in her car all the way, the boot always stocked with drinks, snacks and dry clothes. I had a roof over my head every night, a decent breakfast before I started walking each morning. I didn't have to worry about public transport or missing a ferry. I only ever carried a fairly light day pack.

If I were to walk the entire path in one continuous trip carrying a full pack and camping along the way I would reduce my daily average mileage by at least 25% and build in some rest days. Most people should probably allow at least 60 days if attempting the whole path in one go. If you are not an experienced long-distance walker I recommend you get in shape before attempting a 630 mile hike. You need to get out on hilly practise walks wearing and carrying all your kit. Practise the camping too, sleep outdoors in your tent to get used to it. Expect bad weather and mud. The South West Coast Path is on a peninsula that juts out into The Atlantic Ocean. Rain and strong winds will happen sooner or later, often both at the same time, sometimes all day, sometimes several days in a row.

In my opinion finding places to wild camp should be quite easy if you know what you're doing. Please be responsible and leave no traces. The South West of England is popular with holiday makers, in the more populated areas you'll rarely be far from an official camp site.

Nearly all of the ferries on the path are seasonal. You need to know if and when they'll be operating before you arrive. At The River Erme there is no ferry, the only way across is to wade through the river at low tide. The Lulworth Firing Ranges, a great section, is usually only open to walkers at weekends. All these places have the potential to force you on long inland detours.
Just about anywhere on the South West Coast Path is a great place to go walking for the day. Read this blog and take your pick. I move fairly quickly compared to most people. To fully enjoy the path you might want to take it a bit easier then me and walk a shorter section. Maybe around half of one of my 20+ mile days.

What Next?

For the remainder of 2016 I'm going to be focussing on running events. To celebrate my 50th Birthday I'll be participating in three races in three counties over a five week period to raise funds for MacMillan Cancer Support. The Cardiff Half Marathon, Exeter's Great West Run and the TCS New York City Marathon. You can sponsor me here;

I'm very lucky, I live in Exmouth, so I'm doing most of the training on the South West Coast Path and Exe Estuary Trail.
I'm hoping to take the ferry over to Lundy at some point this Summer to walk the around the island's coast. I may also walk and/or run the West Somerset Coast Path soon, a natural extension of the South West Coast Path continuing on from Minehead. It's only 25 miles in length and fairly flat, just right for a day trip.
At the moment I haven't decided what my next long-distance walk will be. There are several attractive options, the Wales Coast Path being one of them, the Pennine Way another.
This walk was an adventure shared with my partner Lea. She can't walk far because she has a permanent disability caused by injuries sustained in a car accident. However, Lea selflessly shadowed me in her car every walking day, patiently waiting at pre-arranged meeting points, always making sure I was well fed and carrying adequate fluids. I cannot thank her enough for her brilliant support.

I'd also like to thank my parents Bill and Eileen Qualter for their great support throughout, particularly at the Dorset end of the walk when I was based at their house.
Further Reading

The South West Coast Path official website, a great resource full of useful information.
Ruth's Coastal Walk. My favourite coast-walking blog, Ruth is currently walking the entire coast of Great Britain in stages. She has already completed the entire South West Coast Path, a great read.

'The Perimeter'. Professional photographer Quintin Lake is also walking the entire coast of Great Britain in stages. His superb photography gives a unique perspective of a coastal walk. At the time of writing he is making his way around the South West Coast Path.

My new Just Giving page. I'm raising money for MacMillan Cancer Support.

If you want to know what I'm up to you can find me easily on Twitter @GaryLQ. I welcome any comments and questions.
Thank-you for reading :)
24th April 2016

Monday 18 April 2016

Day 30 - April 14th 2016 - Lynmouth Harbour to Minehead

My good luck with the weather continued as I began my thirtieth and final day on this magnificent trail. When I arrived back at Lynmouth it was cool, dry and misty, absolutely perfect for walking. As I crossed the harbour I looked up at the two narrow valleys that converge here and thought about the terrible 1952 flood that killed 34 people when a freak storm dumped nine inches of rain on Exmoor.

The path was lined by lovely wild flowers where it entered some woods. A sign there said 'Coast Path, Minehead 20'. I tried not to think about finishing. After leaving the woods the path climbs steadily to around 900 feet above sea level near Countisbury. From the top I had great views back over Lynmouth, Lynton and Exmoor. On the way up I saw three deer on the path ahead of me. They dashed down the steep slope before I got too close. After reaching the highest point of the climb there were grassy rolling hills where Exmoor ponies were grazing. The path then dropped into a steep scree-filled valley at Coddow Combe. A road along the bottom leads to Foreland Point Lighthouse. I'd glimpsed the lighthouse from the cliffs at Rocky Valley yesterday afternoon, but it wasn't visible from the path today. A herd of deer high above the valley watched as I walked through.

At Glenthorne Cliffs the path entered hillside woods that went on for several miles. It stayed high up through this section and sea views were infrequent. I crossed several small bubbling streams. I found the stream at Coscombe which marks the county boundary between Somerset and Devon. There is absolutely nothing to let you know you are crossing the county border, unlike Marsland Mouth where I completed Cornwall and entered North Devon back in September. A bit further on an alternate route going inland was offered. On the coast path 'alternate' usually means easier and less interesting, so I stuck to the lower woodland route in the hope it would get more dramatic. However that section still seemed quite tame to me. Wooded all the way, just a few short steep climbs around landslips, occasional fallen trees partly blocking the path, sea views stayed few and far between.

After the two paths had merged again I suddenly came across Culbone Church in a clearing miles from anywhere, it was a nice surprise. It was a lovely spot, the 12th century chapel, apparently the smallest complete parish church in England, looked pretty and well maintained. I didn't stop to go in. A bit further on a man leading a family group of about a dozen who must have come from Porlock Weir asked me 'Did you make it as far as the church? Is it worth us carrying on?' Some of the less fit people at the rear of his party looked quite red and sweaty. I assured them they were nearly there, that it was an easy walk from here and well worth continuing. I decided not to mention that I'd come from a lot further on than the church. Annoyingly my camera's low battery warning came on at Culbone, it had shown as being full in the morning. I used my phone as a back-up camera to take most of the pictures for the rest of the day

After dropping down from the woods I arrived at Porlock Weir having passed several strange derelict tunnels on the way. Another rendezvous with Lea went exactly as planned, a 100% success rate for us this week with just the one more at Minehead to come. As usual we ate our lunch in the car while people watching and discussing the days events so far. Porlock Weir was a nice place to stop with it's quaint harbour and lovely old buildings. Despite it's fairly remote location there were plenty of people around, the hotel, pub and other businesses all appeared to be doing well.
For the first few hundred yards after leaving Porlock Weir the path crosses a shingle bank similar to that I'd walked on at Westward Ho! Then it enters a system of pancake-flat fields. Warning signs tell you the fields often flood at high-tide, in which case walkers should take the road. The slippery water-logged surface told me it hadn't been long since the last flood. After leaving the fields the path emerges into unspoilt Bossington, a small village with attractive old cottages, most still have quaint thatched roofs.
A pleasant river-side walk through woods took me out of Bossington to the bottom of Hurlstone Combe. The South West Coast Path had one last big test for my legs, an energy-sapping climb up the middle of the steep dry coombe, gaining over 700 feet of ascent with most of it at a gradient of over 30%. To put that in perspective the London Eye is 443 feet tall. I marched up, determined not to stop and made it to the top without taking a rest. With my heart still racing after the climb I had a decision to make. A sign at the top offers the choice of 'Rugged Alternative Coast Path', or 'Coast Path'. Having come this far there was absolutely no way I was about to turn all soft now, I set off on the rugged alternative without giving it a second thought.

The alternative path skirted around several deep scree-filled valleys. It was scenic and had an isolated, rugged feel. There were no buildings, no roads, no people. I had good views across to Wales where I could now make out towns, beaches, cliffs and a large industrial complex. It was growing increasingly overcast. I only felt a few odd spots of rain, but I could see what looked like a slow-moving shower over Porlock Weir, another was visible further up the Severn Estuary somewhere near Cardiff. This section didn't really feel that tough at all, if you can make it up Hurlstone Combe it's a piece of cake. I enjoyed having it all to myself, when I re-joined the easier path I still hadn't seen another person since the bottom of Hurlstone three or four miles back.

When I started to see dog walkers near a car park above Burgundy Chapel Combe I knew the end was getting close. I made my way down towards Minehead through grassland then woods. Whoever erected the frequent signs has a sense of humour. You see ' Minehead 1 3/4', then 'Minehead 1', soon followed by 'Minehead 1/2'. By now you're expecting to arrive in town at any moment, but the next sign then says 'Minehead 3/4'.
In the final mile a section of the path goes along the drive of Greenaleigh Farm. It's quite narrow, so when I heard a 4x4 vehicle approaching from behind I stepped aside to let it through. The driver stopped and offered me a lift! I couldn't believe it, this was the first lift I'd been offered in the whole 630 miles. We couldn't hear each other because his window wasn't wound down. I tried to gesture back something to the effect of 'thank-you, but I've got only 1 mile to go!'. He smiled, nodded knowingly then went on his way. I wonder if he suspected that might be the case before he stopped. I don't think I looked like someone out for a casual late-afternoon stroll.
Suddenly I noticed the tall white canopies of Butlins ahead and knew I was entering Minehead at last. The way into town wasn't exactly glamorous, a path through a scruffy grassy area with very prominent signs warning dog-owners to pick-up. I came out onto the seafront, in the last quarter mile I saw the small harbour. The tide was out and the boats were resting on mud. Then I saw the sculpture that marks the start/finish of the South West Coast Path just ahead. Lea was waiting and walked the final few yards with me. I finished this amazing walk with tears in my eyes and a mix of emotions. I was very proud to have successfully completed this wonderful adventure, the 630+ miles, the 4x the height of Everest worth of climbs, and all the rest, I'd loved it all. But I was also sad the path had to come to an end. I'd enjoyed the walking so much I truly wished it could just carry on forever.
I'll be back soon with one last blog post containing my final thoughts :)
Distance Walked Today - 21.70 miles (34.92km)
Cumulative Distance Covered - 667.72 miles (1,074.59km)
Lynmouth Harbour on a fine morning, The Lynton and Lynmouth Cliff Railway rising behind.
Deer on the path ahead of me flee down the hill near Countisbury
Exmoor pony near Foreland Point
A herd of deer watch me from the top of Coddow Combe
I left Devon and entered Somerset when I crossed this small stream in the woods at Coscombe
A tree across the path in the long wooded section between Glenthorne and Porlock Weir
Culbone Church
Porlock Weir
Leaving Porlock Weir on the shingle bank, the last big hill on the South West Coast Path ahead
The sign at the top of the steep 700+ feet climb at Hurlstone Combe (I turned left of course)
One of the valleys I had to myself on the rugged alternate path
The final countdown begins as I descend towards Minehead
The driver of this vehicle offered me a lift in the final mile.
My first glimpse of Minehead
The very last of around 2,500 waymarks I've passed since leaving Poole Harbour

Me moments after completing the path. Mixed emotions, all good things must come to an end.

Sunday 17 April 2016

Day 29 - April 13th 2016 - Ilfracombe to Lynmouth Harbour

Leaving Ilfracombe this morning I met Verity for the first time. She's the controversial 66 foot (20m) tall sculpture that stands over the entrance to the harbour, created by local resident Damien Hirst. When Verity was erected in 2013 I must admit I didn't like her much based on news coverage I saw at the time. Having now seen her with my own eyes I've warmed to her and decided I do like her after all. She does somehow remind me of the Statue of Liberty on a smaller scale. However I'd rather not see her insides, I much prefer the side with skin, and would like her even more had both sides been made that way.
I knew a hilly day lay ahead. My legs were duly tested in the first half mile by a steep climb up to Hillsborough, the site of an Iron Age fort. I was rewarded with great views over Ilfracombe and the harbour from the top. Verity now seemed quite small viewed from high above. As I started my descent I was impressed to see a runner in a charity t-shirt coming up the other way, still going strong as he neared the top. He had enough breath to wish me a good morning. I wondered if he was in training for the London Marathon which was being held 11 days later.
Between Ilfracombe and Watermouth the path briefly re-joins the road several times before dropping down again. It was quite muddy here in places after yesterdays storm. This section was fairly unremarkable until I reached Widmouth Head where Water Mouth looked great viewed in the misty morning light, the tall headlands of Exmoor looming beyond.

I didn't know I'd be passing a castle at Watermouth, so that was a nice surprise, though it didn't look particularly old. I found out later it's not a real castle, a 19th century country house built to resemble one. Opposite the castle the path goes uphill on grass through a caravan park where there were no caravans. I assume it hadn't opened for the season yet. After seeing a nice hotel, re-joining and leaving the road yet again, I dropped down into Combe Martin, the last town I'd be seeing for a while. You don't see much of Combe Martin, a couple of minutes later I was already on my way out passing a sign marked 'Exmoor National Park'.

Ahead of me was a long strenuous climb on grass up to Little Hangman. The official path doesn't go to the very top, but being so close I couldn't resist making the extra effort to go all the way up to the summit. There is a small plateau with a bench, a dramatic spot with amazing 360 degree views. I rested briefly and took in the fantastic vista before continuing my ascent up to Great Hangman.

Between Little Hangman and Great Hangman the gradient is less steep and relatively easy. When I reached the cairn at the top of Great Hangman I stopped to savour being at the highest point on the entire South West Coast Path at 1,043 feet (318 metres), a few feet higher than The Shard in London, currently the tallest building in the European Union. To my surprise I had a good mobile signal. I took a panoramic picture on my iPhone and posted it to social media. Great Hangman is also the highest sea cliff in England, with a cliff face of 800 feet (244m). But the summit is somewhat disappointing, you can't actually see the cliff face at all, it just feels like you're on  the top of a hill that gently slopes away in all directions. I enjoyed being at Little Hangman summit more, one of those special places where you really do feel 'on top of the world'. A much finer place for a set of gallows!
Moving on I soon came to a deep valley named Sherrycombe where there's a very steep descent and climb back out for walkers to tackle going in either direction. The rocky path now went through moorland going around Holdstone Hill for a mile or two before returning to the cliff-tops. A well-equipped walker with a large pack I met going the other way had several questions for me. 'How far is it to Combe Martin?', 'do you think I'll make it that far today?'. I don't think he believed me when I said I'd left Ilfracombe this morning and had made it this far from Poole in 29 days of walking. Just around the corner was the dramatic scree-filled valley of Heddon's Mouth. The path was fairly narrow and tricky underfoot. I loved the great views it's but not the kind of place for those with a fear of heights. I left the path and found my way up the valley to Hunter's Inn where Lea was patiently waiting as always with lunch. We watched the resident peacocks while we were there.
After a short walk down the opposite bank of the river from Hunters Inn I re-joined the South West Coast Path and walked up the other side of the valley to Highveer Point with more wonderful views across Heddon's Mouth and the small beach at the end. The path was high up again, but not too tough. After a while I entered a long stretch of cliff-side woods with limited sea views. I saw a lovely waterfall and several bubbling streams coming down from Exmoor as I made my way through. Above Woody Bay the path joins a road for a while. Then you drop down into some fields, a somewhat pointless exercise because you have to climb back up and re-join the road not much further on.

For a while I'd been able to see what looked like a large country house ahead. It turned out to be Lee Abbey. The road continues on past the abbey, which strangely smelt like a Chinese restaurant as I walked by. Suddenly you find yourself entering The Valley of the Rocks. It's a great place to see, spectacular rock formations either side, dozens of feral mountain goats grazing around you. There weren't many people around, but it does feel somewhat spoiled by the road that goes through the middle complete with roundabout and a car park. The coast path leaves through a gap between the rocks and goes along the side of a high cliff as it heads on towards Lynton. It's a lovely walk with amazing views, the path is wide, safe and easy. I saw goats with their young in scary-looking places on the cliff below.

Coming into Lynton I was high up above Lynmouth Harbour which I could see far below. The path zigs-zags down steeply, crossing over the fascinating cliff-side railway three times. I watched as the carriages went up and down, a clever system powered by water that's been operating continuously since 1890. Lea was waiting on the esplanade where the path emerges next to the station. She'd had a ride on the railway while waiting. There was a fish and shop on the corner that looked rather nice so we decided to buy our supper there. Unfortunately for us it closed at 5-00pm, madness in a holiday resort, we arrived at one minute past, just after they'd locked the door. We drove back to Ilfracombe where opening times are more sensible and ate there instead.

Today had been a truly wonderful day of walking, Exmoor more than lived up to expectations. My legs were somewhat tired having managed around 4,800ft of vertical ascent, but it had been well worth every single step to enjoy the amazing scenery.

Distance Walked Today - 20.48 miles (32.60km)
Cumulative Distance Covered - 646.02 miles (1,039.67km)
Verity as you see her from the coast path, standing proudly over the entrance to Ilfracombe Harbour.
The view of Ilfracombe from Hillsborough
Approaching Water Mouth in the morning mist, the headlands of Exmoor in the background.
The bench at the summit of Little Hangman
Great Hangman, panorama from the cairn at the summit, highest point on the entire South West Coast Path
Scree-filled valley at Heddon's Mouth. The coast path comes just below the horizon, top centre.
The much easier path along the bottom gives beach access only.
Waterfall next to the path near Martinhoe
Entering the Valley of the Rocks
A bench on the cliff-side path
A feral goat and her kid on the cliff
Arriving in Lynton next to the Lynton and Lynmouth Cliff Railway

Verity's better side

Saturday 16 April 2016

Day 28 - April 12th 2016 - Braunton to Ilfracombe

It was still, cool and sunny as I made my way out of Braunton on an embankment next to the River Caen this morning. There were few people around, I soon only had sheep for company as I passed moored boats at sleepy Velator Quay, a tranquil start to the day. The walking was flat and easy. After the Caen joined the Torridge at Horsey Island I had good views across to places I'd passed through yesterday; Appledore and Northam Burrows. The two jetties I ran past just outside Instow almost seemed close enough to touch.

Suddenly I noticed movement on the path just ahead. There in front of me was an adder, instantly recognisable by it's distinctive black zig-zag markings. The snake was startled when it saw me and flipped over upside-down. After righting itself it stayed fairly still for a few seconds, kindly giving me time to take a few pictures, before slithering off slowly into the grass. It was the finest adder I've ever seen. I'd estimate it was at least 18 inches (45cm) in length, a truly magical encounter.

Soon after that I reached the huge dune system at Braunton Burrows. At first the path was easy to follow, going along a wide straight track that is fenced off on either side. I helped reunite an excited dog with it's worried owner. She told me she'd started her walk with four dogs but had been down to three for quite a while. Soon after leaving the track I lost the official South West Coast Path and ended-up taking an improvised route. After a mile or so making my way through large sand dunes I dropped down onto Saunton Sands Beach and headed towards the hotel, a prominent white structure that I'd been able to see in the far distance when I came around Hartland Point two days earlier. Saunton Sands was a lovely spot, a long wide beach, popular with surfers in a very scenic location. I was delighted to recognise the colourful beach huts from the front cover of my guide book.
After re-joining the correct path in front of the hotel there was more easy walking along the side of Saunton Down. A pretty red butterfly on the path seemed to be playing games with me, repeatedly flying a few yards ahead before waiting for me to catch up. After dropping down to sea-level again I crossed Croyde Beach. I'd been looking forward to seeing Croyde for the first time because my brother likes to bring his young family on holiday here. There was more easy walking up to Baggy Point, this section of the coastal path is popular with holidaymakers staying in Croyde. On the way up I saw the bones of a whale that washed-up on Croyde Beach in 1915.
As I rounded Baggy Point scenic Morte Bay opened up before me. The long golden beach looked great in the sunshine. When I reached Putsborough Sand I dropped down onto the beach. I decided it was pointless religiously sticking to the official path through the dunes. When the tide is out a walk along the beach is a much more sensible option. Woolacombe looked deceptively close but it seemed to take forever to walk the last two miles before I actually arrived. Lea was parked for free on the Esplanade, we enjoyed our lunch with great views. We'd chosen not to meet at our initial choice, Putsborough, when we discovered the only place to park there charges cars £8 each to enter.

After a somewhat late lunch break it was time to move on to ominously named Morte Head. The terrain became more rugged, there were the first proper ups-and-downs I'd seen since the other side of Westward Ho! A bank of fog that had been lingering all day in Barnstaple Bay had finally burnt away, visibility was very good for a while. I could clearly make out the lighthouse and radar dome at Hartland Point. I could also see Clovelly and Lundy, and caught my first glimpse of the Wales coast. At Bull Point there is another lighthouse, unusually only the very top part is whitewashed, the rest of the structure an unattractive shade of grey.
Pressing on I came into Lee, my initial impression was that it is a pretty little seaside village. There were groups of young children having fun in the rock pools. However I soon noticed the boarded-up Lee Bay Hotel that is very prominent. It is a sad sight, apparently having been closed since 2008. Internet research tells me that at the time of writing the hotel is on the market for £6million with planning permission to be redeveloped as a restaurant and housing. Something needs to be done, it looks terrible as it is.
The coast path leaves Lee on a steep, straight country lane with high hedgerows that obscure most of the views. It's a long slog of a climb, but rather than slow down I had a good reason to pick-up the pace. Thunder that had initially seemed quite distant was now much louder and closer. I could see ominous dark clouds approaching from the east. Perhaps I could make it to Ilfracombe 2 miles further on before the storm arrived? However soon after reaching the highest point in fields, having rapidly climbed to 550ft from sea-level, the rain started to pelt down and I threw on my waterproofs as quickly as I could in front of a herd of curious cows.
There was thunder and lightning all around me as I finished the days walking. I saw two spectacular lightning strikes go from cloud to ground over Ilfracombe on my approach. I made my way down the Torr Walk, it was slippery and deserted in the heavy rain. This was not a good time for taking pictures. I followed the footprint markers into Ilfracombe as far as the two unusual conical buildings that house the Landmark Theatre where Lea was waiting in the car park. It could have been worse, there was a large modern Wetherspoons pub just across the road. Within minutes I was drying out while tucking into a delicious steak dinner and enjoying a pint of local ale. With just two days of walking left between here and Minehead I remarked that my legs were still feeling very strong.
Distance Walked Today - 23.19 miles (37.32km)
Cumulative Distance Covered - 625.54 miles (1,006.71km)
A tranquil start to the day, boats and sheep next to the River Caen.
The adder I met on the path at Horsey Island
Making my way through the dunes after losing the path in Braunton Burrows
The hotel and beach huts at Saunton Sands
Looking back over Saunton Sands and Braunton Burrow from Saunton Down, surfers in the water.
The butterfly on the path at Saunton Down
Surfers at Croyde Beach.
Morte Head
The lighthouse at Bull Point, Lundy is on the horizon.
Lee and the boarded-up hotel. Storm clouds gather in the distance.