Sunday, 13 April 2014

Running the SWCP

Day Three - Lynmouth to Combe Martin.  22.1km (13.75miles). 
Time on route 5:30hrs, walking time 5:15hrs.

Saturday 12 April 2014

I felt as if I was racing against the clock yesterday.  I had 22km to walk and the last bus from Combe Martin back to my car at Lynmouth was at 1615.  I started walking at 0850 and I knew if I did a standard 3kph I would take just over 7 hours leaving me minimal room for error.  I was aware that this was a tough route with significant climbing.  Having said that, on previous days I have averaged 3.5kph so I knew if the hills didn't slow me down too much, and I didn't stop, I'd manage it.

Tide was low again in Lynmouth as I set off.
14 04 12 SWCP Day 3 (1) Lynmouth Harbour
The weather was overcast and the wind in my face.  The views across to Wales were murky but you could still make the coastline out.  I enjoyed the nice highway skirting Hollerday Hill.
14 04 12 SWCP Day 3 (3) Path under Hollerday Hill
No need to re-scale it to find the buried block (see my blog two years ago).

The guidebook alerted me that if I was fortunate I'd see "mountain goats clinging to the cliff edge".  And so I did.
14 04 12 SWCP Day 3 (4) Goats at Valley of the Rocks
I strode on into the wind passing the entrance to Lee Abbey.
14 04 12 SWCP Day 3 (6) Lee Abbey
Very obviously a Christian retreat centre.
14 04 12 SWCP Day 3 (7) Lee Abbey
It is in a beautiful setting - ideal if you want some fresh air and space to contemplate.
14 04 12 SWCP Day 3 (9) Lee Abbey
As I'd been walking up from Lynmouth I'd seen red/white tape hanging in the trees and red/white arrows hammered to the National Trail signs.  It soon became clear, as runners came towards me, that I was sharing the trail with a marathon, CTS (Coastal Trail Series) Exmoor..  Actually it was both the marathon and ultra marathon route.  I bumped into one of their feeding stations but decided I wasn't dire need of a jelly baby.  The flapjacks looked pretty tempting though.
14 04 12 SWCP Day 3 (10) Marathon Food
I cleared the marathon runners and continued walking in the peace and quiet enjoying the light shining through these mature trees.
14 04 12 SWCP Day 3 (12) Woody Bay
I bumped into a couple walking the same leg as me at a waterfall.  So I got my photoshoot in for the day ;-)
14 04 12 SWCP Day 3 (13) Waterfall
From my rough and ready calcuations I appeared to be on schedule and I occasionally allowed myself a moment to look back from whence I came.
14 04 12 SWCP Day 3 (15) Looking back across Woody Bay
Something told me I hadn't seen the last of the runners.
14 04 12 SWCP Day 3 (16) Ultra
And indeed I hadn't.  I had just heaved myself up out of the stiff climb from Headon's Mouth when I looked back and saw a stream of runners rounding Peter Rock.  I think this was the 10k group.  Unlike the ultras, who were pretty few and far between when I met them, there must have been over 200 runners in this group.
14 04 12 SWCP Day 3 (18) East Cleeve Runners
I tried not to get in their way, after all it's one thing walking the SWCP, another thing running it.  I put away my poles so I didn't lance any of them and carried them away from the side they were overtaking me.  I tried to be considerate and, when I heard them coming (you could hear the puffing and huffing from metres away) I sort of stepped aside.  However I was on a tight schedule too and it's a shared path.   I wasn't going to sit down and read my book for 30 mins whilst they all trotted past.  I did object to someone asking me to move out of their way, but on-the-whole they were polite and thanked me for not getting in their line of run.  It was more tricky when the path narrowed and there really was only one decent 20cm path on which to walk.  I do know what it's like running a race, but I also know what it's like being the one descended upon by path users a lot faster than you.

I sometimes forgot what I was doing and nearly broke into a trot after them but, looking down at my robust walking boots, I wouldn't have done too well.  The effect of this running invasion, though, rocket fuelled me and I steamed ahead trying to keep out of their way and - quite frankly - just to get the episode over and done with.  At Holdstone Down they veered south to go over the hill. I was tempted to follow not, I hasten to add, because I hadn't seen enough runners for the day, but because it has a trig on it which I haven't yet bagged.  But I left if for another day.

Anyway, once alone again I passed a sign saying "Combe Martin 3.5 miles" and realised, to my shock, I had over 3 hours to go.  I must have been skipping round!  So I trotted down into Sherrycombe, unhooked my rucksac, and enjoyed a peaceful 10 minute coffee/lunch.  Bliss.
14 04 12 SWCP Day 3 (20) Sherrycombe
It was yet another stiff climb out of this combe and up onto Girt Down.  Great Hangman Carin is the highest point on the SWCP.
14 04 12 SWCP Day 3 (21) Great Hangman Cairn
It was pretty windy so I couldn't work out how to do a self timer.  So instead we have a selfie at this momentus point.
14 04 12 SWCP Day 3 (23) Great Hangman
I strolled on down, no longer racing anything, enjoying the views towards Little Hangman and Coombe Martin itself.
14 04 12 SWCP Day 3 (26)
14 04 12 SWCP Day 3 (30) Combe Martin
I had 1:55hr in hand so strolled around Combe Martin a bit before catching the bus back to Lynmouth.
14 04 12 SWCP Day 3 (31) Combe Martin Harbour

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