Rugged Tales

Wherever my feet may take me…


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Hat trick

Having already caught the bus to and from Combe Martin from Ilfracombe, today marked my third – and hopefully final – time in the town for this trip. It was, however, more interesting on foot than on the bus. Ilfracombe still has a working quay and I saw the boats coming in and piles of lobster pots stacked up ready as I walked past. Ilfracombe is actually part of the reason I decided to walk the Coast Path. In 2009 I spent a couple of days there and walked up from my B&B to the top of the cliffs. I passed a marker for the Coast Path and would have liked to walk a section of it there and then, but various factors (chief amongst them being the far from summery August weather) made it impossible. As I walked up out of the town today I passed the spot where I stood nearly 3 years ago and first thought it would be fun to walk the Coast Path. And, so far, it is.

Ilfracombe had new sights to offer amongst the familiar. Stopping for breakfast on the High Street I saw the largest number of dogs being walked by a single person I have ever seen.

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I assumed the human in charge must be a professional dog walker but, overhearing some other tourists’ query, it turned out they are all his own ‘large family’!

Ilfracombe also furnished me with one of my best lunches of the trip so far: a fabulous mackerel salad from the fishmongers on the harbour. And the cliffs above Pensport Rock provided a fantastic backdrop to eat it.

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For much of the day I walked above beaches covered in jagged black spikes where seams of slate met the sea.

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During one attempt to get a photo of myself with dramatic scenery behind my iPhone fell off just such a slate outcrop. Fortunately, it seems none the worse for wear and I spent the rest of the day grateful that I’d invested in the waterproof, dust proof, drop proof case that at the time seemed indulgently expensive!

But the day ended on the gentler terrain of Woolacombe Sand. Surfers were even more plentiful here than dogs in Ilfracombe, and the sand had that perfect firm but springy quality that made it a joy to walk on. Strolling by the crashing pale blue waves on what must be one of the most perfect beaches in England, this has been one of my favourite days do far. I know it’s only day five, but this one will take some beating.

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On the road again

Or more precisely, on the train, then another train, then a third train followed by two different busses. I had thought my difficulty getting home from Combe Martin was due to the absence of a Sunday bus service and the rail engineering works round Basingstoke, but getting back again was a challenge even on a week day.

After all that there wasn’t much time for walking: I managed only a modest 4.5 miles to Hele, where it turned out I missed the Olympic torch by just a day.

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But there were plenty of other sights to see, including the beautiful harbour at Watermouth, with the Little Hangman and Great Hangman (that I climbed over on my last walking day) rising up to the left behind.

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I stopped for the night at Hele Valley Holiday Park – possibly the most expensive campsite of my life! Despite having a miniature tent and no car (let alone a requirement for hard standing or an electricity hookup) the smartly dressed receptionist quoted me £16 for one night, though discounted it to £12 as I was on my own. The contrast to my recent Asian trip – where you could usually get a double room with air con and an en suite bathroom for that money – was striking! But it was beautifully kept and I managed to get a nice quiet pitch by a little stream. Not quite as picturesque as the first one but as good a place as any to test out my new tent…

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