Rugged Tales

Wherever my feet may take me…


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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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First steps

Laying in bed last night, listening to gale force winds tearing through the trees and flinging rain by the bucket-load against the windows, this whole project seemed like one of my less stunning ideas. And when my alarm went off at 5am my enthusiasm dimmed still further. But despite the low start to the day, once I’d set off for the station I rediscovered some excitement. Probably just as well given the scale of the task ahead!

The journey to the start was smooth and uneventful – but it’s definitely not one of the highlights. The final bus journey from Taunton to Minehead was especially tedious, as if First had instructed the driver to show passengers the maximum number of villages on the way, whether or not anyone wanted to go there. But eventually, just as I was about to give up hope, there was the sea! I was happy just to get up from the knee-crushing bus seat, and even happier to find the monument that marks the start of The Path.
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And wait…could it be…no, it was just…wait!…yes!…I think it’s actually…SUN!!

Faint with excitement I sat on one of the many sea-front benches and ate my lunch, both to recover from the shock and in preparation for the first ascent of the walk – 290m up (the rather muddy after last night’s rain) Selworthy Beacon.

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After what would have been an easy stroll across beautiful gorse moors, had I not been fighting to stay on my feet in the wind, I dropped back down to Porlock: my home for the night.

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I found Sparkhayes campsite and picked out a good spot for my tent, only then discovering I’d landed in the middle of a West Midlands motorcycle club. Fortunately, the Moonshiners turned out to be some of the friendliest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of sharing a campsite with. I hope I’m equally lucky tomorrow night.

So 9 miles down, 621 to go – after that crack of dawn start I’d better get some sleep…