Rugged Tales

Wherever my feet may take me…


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On top of the world

Or at least, the highest point on the South West Coast Path – the summit of Great Hangman (318 m).

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The last ascent of a tiring day, there were times when I thought hanging might have been preferable! But fortunately the steepest, slipperiest sections were at the bottom where the path climbs out of a deep gully at Sherrycombe while the top was a gently rounded done and much easier on my weary legs. Although none of the hills on the Coast Path are particularly high in themselves it’s the number of them to be tackled each day that makes it challenging and I was certainly feeling the accumulated effects by the time I tottered into camp!

The signage also reached a new high today. The sign makers seemed to have given up on distances – probably for the best! – or indeed much other information at this junction near Woody Bay.

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It turned out there was some information on the other side, but it wasn’t much more helpful!

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But although it was tiring, it was absolutely worth it – on day 3 the path delivered everything I’d hoped for when I decided to walk it. Glorious sunshine lighting the spectacular views of rugged cliffs plunging to a sparkling turquoise sea – the view of Castle Rock as I headed out of Lynton was just one example.

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I finished the day in Combe Martin, and will be leaving the walk here for a while as I have a job interview on Monday. Wish me luck!

While I’m a little frustrated to take a break so soon it’ll be a good opportunity to refine my gear and let a worsening blister on my right heel get better. Having walked all the Exmoor coastline it’s a neat place to pause, and I plan to be back soon…


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Which way’s west?

Not the direction I went this morning, as it turns out. Entranced by the unusual thatched archway heralding the start of the Worthy Combe private toll road, I totally failed to notice the second archway that I should have walked through. Despite a nagging sense of unease I was too lazy to stop and get the guidebook out of my rucksack. Only after I’d hauled myself all the way up to the top of the steep road did I remember that I’d uploaded all the Ordnance Survey maps for the region to my iPhone before I set off. The app even popped a helpful little blue ball on to mark my – wildly off course – position. D’oh!

At least it was just the steeper side of a hill I had to climb anyway so the uphill effort wasn’t wasted. I got some great views from the hilltop as I worked my way back to where I was supposed to be, and the tiny back roads were virtually traffic free and a lot less muddy than the designated path. I lost maybe half an hour but by the time I rejoined the proper path I was quite pleased with my forethought in taking an alternative route!

Even less reliable than my sense of direction were the distances on the signs. Porlock Weir remained stubbornly 1.5 miles away for a good 30 minutes after I started walking in the morning, and Culbone (which I never actually saw thanks to my detour) remained a steady 4 miles behind me for half the afternoon. I was excited to see that Countisbury lay only 1.5 miles ahead, only to walk round the corner and see another sign telling me it was 2 miles to go. What with that, my unintended detour, and another, more deliberate, diversion to take in Devon’s most northerly point – Foreland Point- I’m not quite sure how far I walked today. Perhaps 15.5 miles? But since not all of them were to the purpose I figure there are 608 left to go.

My over-riding impression of today, however, was of forests and streams rather than dramatic coastlines. For much of the day the path wove through woodlands and I saw so many beautiful small waterfalls I lost count. Perhaps without all the recent rain they would not have been such a feature, but today, they made the walk worthwhile on their own.

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But the final stretch into Lynmouth was exactly what I’d envisaged: a narrow path winding along the cliff tops with dramatic views along the coast and a quaint harbour to top it off.

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As the sun came out and the views opened up I was so enjoying myself that I only just made the last departure on the historic water-powered cliff railway. If I’d known it stopped at 6 I’d have hurried up a bit – clambering up there at the end of a long day was definitely not high on my wish list!

Once at the top it was just a short walk to the campsite and in keeping with the mood of the day I found a really beautiful pitch by the side of a rushing stream – and even a small waterfall opposite. Just the thing to lull me to sleep…

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