Thick fog, more rain. They’d forecast a drier day today but there was no sign of it when I got up. Since the ferry across the River Avon from Cockleridge to Bantham didn’t start running until 10 there was time for one last cup of tea with Rachel before slithering down a very muddy, steep field to catch it. Or, more precisely, to yell for it. This ferry doesn’t have one of those wooden sign boards that you open up to show you want to cross. Instead, you apparently yell and wave and generally make a spectacle of yourself until the ferryman notices you. Lingering over my tea (and who wouldn’t prolong a cosy tea and a lovely chat in the face of a wet, muddy walk ahead?) I got to Cockeridge Ham a bit later than I planned, and delayed myself further by stopping to chat to another walker (a young guy rough camping by the estuary). By the time I got to the ferry point two other walkers had done the hard part for me. Glenda and Val have walked most of the Coast Path in stages over a number of years, while saving the killer North Devon section for last. I met them yesterday when they arrived in the cafe – drenched – after bravely walking as planned.
And it looked as though another drenching might be on the cards. We huddled miserably in the little boat as the rain grew heavier, and even the ferryman looked fed up – persuaded by the ‘brightening up’ story he didn’t even have a coat on!
Once in Bantham I thought I’d go for a coffee with Val and Glenda rather than stay out in the rain and we headed into the village. But by the time we’d established that the pub wasn’t open yet and the shop had no cakes the rain had stopped and I decided to press on after all, having roughly twice as far to go as them.
As I negotiated the muddy paths round the edge of Thurlestone golf course I caught up to the young chap I’d met before and we walked along together for a bit. It turned out his name was also Chris, and he was also walking the Coast Path in stages over several years. But where Glenda and Val favoured a relaxed pace with plenty of coffee breaks and delicious lunches in good restaurants (I think they may be onto something…), Chris was aiming to walk from Plymouth to Poole (some 220 miles) in 10 days. After being so comprehensively rained on since he started this leg though, he was wondering if he shouldn’t have come in September instead.
But as we approached Hope Cove it did seem that there was cause for optimism. The brightness in the sky was starting to approach squinting levels and we agreed our waterproofs were becoming uncomfortably hot. We parted company in the village – Chris for a cigarette and me to forage for lunch – and when we bumped into each other later we were almost unrecognisable. T-shirts and sunglasses had replaced top-to-toe waterproofs and enthusiastic gesturing at the beauty of the landscape had been substituted for grousing about the unseasonable weather. We were not the only thing transformed. As we rounded Bolt Tail some spectacular cliff scenery opened up, set off to perfection by the blue sky above and the deeper blue sea below. In the sun, it was like another planet.
At Soar Mill Cove I said goodbye to Chris and strolled on happily along the cliff tops. The stretch from Bolt Tail to Salcombe was one of the most fun walks I’ve done on this trip so far, and I particularly enjoyed working my way round the rocky ledge at the base of Sharp Tor.
The recent bad weather has certainly given me a new appreciation of the good days, and not even a direct hit from a seagull could dent my mood as I pottered round Salcombe with an ice-cream shopping for dinner. Sitting outside my tent in the evening sun to eat it, looking out on a fabulous view of the Kingsbridge Estuary, I could hardly remember that the day had started out in fog and rain. With a long day ahead tomorrow I really hope the weather holds.