Sunday, 2 March 2014

Got to Start Somewhere

Day One - Minehead to Porlock Weir.  14.3km (8.9miles).
Walking time 4:30hrs.

Saturday 01 March 2014

You've got to start somewhere, sometime. Walking the South West Coast Path (SWCP) has always been something I knew I was going to do. Having lived in SW England for 24 years it has been part of my adulthood. Any trip to the coast would touch on this path; it is impossible to avoid. I'd always thought I'd walk it when I retired but with teenage children who are increasingly independent/likely to leave home in the next couple of years and a husband who is frequently away with Ten Tors/Duke of Edinburghs at weekends I was looking at something to occupy me whilst the rest of the family were busy.

The SWCP bubbled very quickly to the top of my "next challenge to do" list so I started planning.  Living in Exeter means I am naturally placed to be able to hit a good chuck of the SWCP in day runs.  I work full time and my annual leave is already well pretty much spoken for with family dates, so I expect to do much of this on adhoc days.  It doesn't make it terribly efficient from the transport point of view but it's either that or wait forever for a chunk of free time to do it.

The plan is, wherever possible, to drive to my end point, get public transport to my start, and walk back to the car.  I have no idea how feasible this is but I'll see what I can do.  I suspect I'll do the days as broken down in the SWCP route guide.  I may go off piste from the guide book after a while but, again, we'll have to see.

Other decisions are
  • I will do each section of the path in order and in the right direction, starting each leg from the previous walk's end.  By 'right direction' I mean Minehead to Poole.  I know the other direction is not wrong, but the guide book routes it that way so I'm going with the flow.
  • I am a metric woman so I will work in km but blog in both as most of the web sites about this path use miles.
  • I am not going to count each mile/km fastidiously so each day's distance count will be according to the official Ordnance Survey guide book, not the distance I actually wandered.
  • And, of course, no cutting corners.
And Here We Go

I'd intended to start in January but the weather to date has been pretty fierce in the South West.  It wasn't only the high winds that put me off but knowing that the path may not be safe (Day Two involves a wood where there are known to be mud slides) so I wanted the path to have a chance to settle down.  However, the stars all aligned yesterday and, as a bonus, my husband Roger was free to walk with me on Day One.

We parked at Porlock Weir.  It's free to park on the road until 01 Apr.  Caught the Webber Bus 10 to Minehead.  As we alighted the bus the driver smiled at us and pointed left.  "Go West" he helpfully said.

We did the obligatory photoshoot and met another couple who were also starting the walk.  I bet they are already further on than me!
14 03 01 SWCP Day One (3) Minehead
14 03 01 SWCP Day One (7) Minehead
And stepping over the 'start line'.
14 03 01 SWCP Day One (9) Minehead
It was a beautiful day.  No wind, occasional sun and not too cold.  Lovely views across to Wales.
14 03 01 SWCP Day One (11) View to Wales
As the weather was so mild we took the alternative 'rugged' route.  Not really rugged but a lot more hilly than the official path which has gentle undulations.  My first river crossing - umm?
14 03 01 SWCP Day One (14) Grexy Combe
Ancient wall by East Brockholes.
14 03 01 SWCP Day One (16) Eastern Brockholes
View across Porlock Bay.
14 03 01 SWCP Day One (17) Porlock Bay
The coffee shop at Bossington looked closed, as we'd expected.  Mind you, we didn't closely inspect and this review suggests we may have struck lucky?  At this time of year I am not going to expect teashops to be open however I was will always plan to be self sufficient whatever the time of year.  Cafes and pubs will be bonuses rather than relied on for sustenance.

The path across Porlock Marsh has been moved due to flooding and continual innundation by the sea.
14 03 01 SWCP Day One (18) Porlock Bay
It really does look quite desolate with dead trees still standing.
14 03 01 SWCP Day One (20) Porlock Marsh
14 03 01 SWCP Day One (22) Porlock Marsh
It was pretty muddy underfoot and I was grateful for gaiters.
14 03 01 SWCP Day One (23) Porlock Marsh
Porlock Beach looks as if it suffered from the storms this winter.
14 03 01 SWCP Day One (25) Porlock Beach
From what we can tell this is a full height route marker.   The power of the waves must have been incredible.
14 03 01 SWCP Day One (24) Porlock Beach
Back to the car after only 4.5 hours walking, including a short coffee/sandwich stop.  Time for a celebratory pint of something in the Ship Inn.

So a short and easy day.  I don't imagine they will all be like this!  However it was a gentle start.  My back and achilles heel are playing up from a sports injury so I was pleased not to have planned a massive expedition from the start.  Now to plan Day Two.

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