Friday, 17 September 2010
Ascent: 590 metres
Time: 5.5 hours including stops
Just a brief entry for now, as we return home tonight and I can't do this whilst driving.
After another good breakfast, we set off on a blue sky day, so the waterproofs were deployed for just five minutes of this four day excursion.
Today's hills were small and early on, so presented no difficulties.
Then, after passing under the geologically remarkable and visibly crumbling East Cliff, I went over and Notchy went around Burton Cliffs.
We hit the beaches, backed not by cliffs but by gently rising arable land; any cliffs hereabouts having been eroded away aeons ago. These must have been prime targets for foreign invaders in days past (as evidenced by numerous pill boxes). First, Burton Beach, then Cogden Beach, before we headed around unseen Burton Mere and along a long section of beach prior to turning inland to the posh town of Abbotsbury (reminding me of the Cotswolds with all its thatched cottages), and our 3.30pm taxi back to Exeter.
As usual, the folk we encountered today were almost all retired. It's still holiday season, and most B&Bs are fully booked. "It's all the grandparents, taking a break from child minding now the kids are back at school" commented one proprietor.
Mind you, many of the folk we've seen look as if they need their own minders!
We've also seen a few younger backpackers. Wild camping appears to be the favoured approach, due to the high cost of campsites and the cleansing properties of the sea.
Today's picture was taken early on - it's the view back to Seatown and Golden Cap.
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Thursday, 16 September 2010
Ascent: 950 metres
Time: 8.0 hours including stops
After Notchy's early morning Light and Sound Show, and a fine breakfast from Gaynor, another 9am start, and we were soon crossing the oldest, but not very picturesque, concrete bridge in England. Up a hill past a golf club where dire warnings gave the impression that if one's car was lucky enough to evade being clamped, it was highly likely to be stolen.
Soon afterwards, more dire warnings, this time the gist being 'it's a long and bumpy muddy way to Lyme Regis with no escape routes so think carefully before you tackle this path'.
This was the Axmouth-Lyme Regis Undercliff, a 304 hectare National Nature Reserve. Several miles (with no escape) of lovely deciduous woodland with lots of ferns, broomrape and pheasants. It reminded me of the rain forests in New Zealand, with ivy instead of mosses and lichens, it being much dryer here. The whole area was created by a massive landslip in C19, following which it became a mecca for Victorian sightseers.
Today's first image was taken in this woodland. A visit to Chimney Rock looked as if it would yield scenic views, but I left that until next time and pressed on in Notchy's anxious wake.
Towards Lyme Regis we met various folk engaged in short forays into the wood, and by 1pm we had reached that town. I enjoyed coffee and a pastie at The Old Boathouse on the seafront, whilst Notchy preferred to seek out Tesco for his supplies.
Reunited on the long path to Charmouth, diverted due to a landslip and unable to follow the beach due to high tide, we slogged through another golf course and along minor roads to reach this sunny haven.
From Charmouth, more undulating ground, past dog walkers (including a swallow chasing labrador) and a man with a basket containing a mushroom (it filled the basket), then a steep path led to the summit of Golden Cap. A sun-drenched spot where we lingered for a while admiring the view in today's second image.
The final descent to Bay Tree House (www.baytreechideock.co.uk) in the historic village of Chideock, was down an ancient sunken lane. It was 5pm. Time for cream teas, which luckily are served by Sarah, our host at Bay Tree House.
Then it was off to the George for a meal. Did we really need those cream teas?
Meanwhile, Baz Gray spent the whole day moving slowly towards Poole, completing his epic 176 mile run along the coast path at 6.30pm, over 50 hours after starting his mammoth effort a couple of days ago. Brilliant.
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Wednesday, 15 September 2010
Ascent: 830 metres
Time: 6.5 hours including stops
After yesterday's gloom and overnight rain, we woke to blue skies and a warm north westerly breeze. Breakfast was marred only by our host (David - not Dave) calling Notchy 'Andy', which those who know my dear companion may well recognise is a heinous crime!
By 9am we were busy negotiating our way to Tesco and then across the ford and up the hill to rejoin the coast path. Today's image is the view back, from the hill out of Sidmouth.
Shortly after this we were passed by a couple of runners. They were Royal Marines doing their 22 mile relay section of an 88 mile course from their base at Lympstone, near Exeter, to Poole. "You won't see anyone else, except for Baz, because we are the last of quite a few teams" one of them explained, kindly slowing to a strolling pace to protect my legs from undue exercise.
Then we met Baz, coming the other way, with a small entourage of ridiculously fit looking Marines. Baz is raising money for Royal Marines Charities in order to help wounded servicemen. His isn't a 10km run, or even a half or full marathon (though I do realise that such events may be a serious challenge to many folk, and deserving of sponsorship). Baz Gray's fund raising challenge is 'running' from Poole to Lympstone and back again, a total of 176 miles. His target for this was 48 hours, but that's already slipped. I will be donating - the effort involved is absolutely phenomenal, and worthy of a few bob of my money whatever the outcome. He looked tired when we saw him, and was pleased to pause and chat. Wouldn't anyone, after 77 miles and with 99 to go? If he can keep going he will be out on the very hilly coast path for a second night tonight, and for most of tomorrow. You can follow Baz's progress (and donate if you wish) at www.176milesnonstop.org
Good luck, Baz Gray...
Notchy and I meandered on towards Branscombe, which some will recall was the site of the beaching of a 62,000 tonne container ship in January 2007. The ship is now gone, but its 14 tonne anchor now sits outside the Sea Shanty tea rooms, where we enjoyed our lunch, in memory of the traumatic episode.
On the way to Branscombe I had come across Notchy (he usually goes ahead, outpacing me with ease) sitting on a bench chatting to Phil and Margaret Holmes. They had never met before, but it turned out that this jolly couple have season tickets a few rows in front of Notchy at Eastlands, home of the world's richest football team. It's a small world! We discovered that we also have mutual friends in Stockport Walking Group.
After lunch, today's short section of the coast path took us through spectacular cliff scenery with hundreds of crows, to Beer, where I enjoyed an ice cream, then on to Seaton, which lacks the ambience of Sidmouth but does have an excellent B&B, www.holmleighhouse.com where we are now happily ensconced.
The memory of today's lovely section of coast path will be dominated by red cliffs and an exhausted Marine.
We are now off to 'Monsoon', for some Indian fayre, I believe...
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Tuesday, 14 September 2010
Tuesday 14 September 2010 - South West Coast Path (SWCP) - Exmouth to Sidmouth [Aka More Adventures with Notchy]
Ascent: 850 metres
Time: 6 hours including stops
Picture: before the final section to Sidmouth, with tomorrow's route obscured by low cloud beyond the small town.
After a pleasant Sunday stroll in Styal woods with Stay At Home Hazel, The Pixies and other Hangers On (see small album here), something a bit meatier seemed in order.
So yesterday I rescued Notchy from the clutches of deepest Cheshire, from where we pottered down to Exeter.
Hotel Priddle provided excellent B&B and a fine pie - the name for which opened a lively debate. Could it really have been a Shepherd's Pie, if made with beef?
Anyway, this morning Colin, the Basil Fawlty of Hotel Priddle, helpfully gave us a lift to Polsloe Bridge Station, from where a rattly train delivered us to Exmouth, our starting point for this year's section of the coast path.
[Our progress over the past couple of years can be followed by typing 'SWCP' in the search box at the top of the blog.]
We are not purists, we didn't swim across the Exe estuary, or even get a ferry. But we did start roughly opposite where we stopped or passed by last year.
The dull day and the damp following wind did little to dampen our enthusiasm, though it does seem a little odd to be walking as a twosome in September, when most of the route from Minehead has been walked as part of a large group in late May, over the last 10 to 15 years.
The mussels of Exmouth have a hard time - seabirds hovered over the road east, past Conger Rocks, dropping their mussels from heights for which the victims' shells were not designed.
Near Littleham Cove a hillside full of mobile homes overlooks a noisy army firing range. Beyond that, Budleigh Salterton lurks on the other side of a sandy hillock that's making a concentrated effort to crumble into the sea. High brambles form a 'green lane' between the cliff and a golf course.
An early lunch at A Slice of Lyme in Budleigh Salterton - excellent pannini/toasted sandwich - set us up for the afternoon.
A marshy inlet offered good reason for a nature reserve, which we were obliged to pass through as the only sensible means of navigating a narrow passage at Otterton Ledge. Egrets and cormorants vied with herring gulls and a miscellany of smaller birds for space on the sandy banks.
Despite the lateness of the season, wild flowers abound, with some of the early spring flowers such as Herb Robert and Red Campion still going strong, along with Thistles, Clovers, Mustards, Ragwort, Thrift, Yarrow and many more.
Lots of fruits are ripe for harvesting, with a fine crop of blackberries hereabouts.
There were many folk about today; the caravan parks were busy; Sidmouth's B&Bs were mostly full. It was hot and humid.
The path from Budleigh Salterton rises over a few little nobbles through pretty woodland above high cliffs on one side, with pastoral farmland and a huge pig farm on the landward side.
After a while a sharp descent dropped us past an amphitheatre of benches to Connaught Gardens, where we enjoyed tea and cake in the Clock Tower tearooms before continuing on past the Sidmouth Fiddler and into the centre of this small but perfectly formed town.
Berwick House (www.berwick-house.co.uk), was soon discovered. Sue and David are our hosts, and they recommended the Swan Inn, a quintessential English pub. My meal was excellent; Notchy's only complaint about his liver and bacon was that there was too much!
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Sunday, 12 September 2010
It’s always good to catch up with old friends. Alan and I worked, for different firms, on the same cases in years past, with happy outcomes despite the occasional attentions from dodgy directors and Private Eye.
“Fancy lunch in town?” I suggested.
“It’s the Langley 11 on Saturday” came the reply “how about it?”
I wasn’t sure. I Googled ‘Langley 11’. Just one result – from Buxton and District Athletic Club. (See below*)
So, it was a run. “I’m not running fit” I responded. “Nor me, I’ll be walking” came the reply.
We duly met, ticketless, at St. Dunstan at 10.30 am. I’d passed the pub on my way to Alan’s house. There was no traffic. So we were taking part in an event that had been sold out, to which I was the only motorised arrival. [Suspicious!]
A suitable donation gained us access to the pub and to bacon butties and coffee. About 100 people were milling around. There were 100 tickets, sold out weeks ago, the limit being dictated by available space in the pub and by catering constraints. This local event has no ‘web’ presence - “there’s no need, it always sells out” explained Richard and Pauline, of St. Dunstan.
Those with tickets had to get them stamped as they went round the route, which was not quite that detailed in the text below (the one below is better). They would then qualify for various goodies en route and food at St. Dunstan from 6pm.
Brains whirred. ‘That’s 7½ hours for 15 miles’ thought Alan and I. Hardly running pace!
Oops, a ‘Slight Misunderstanding’.
We freely admit, we cheated. Next time perhaps we’ll do it properly. This time we were, in any event, interlopers (albeit welcomed as such). Besides, I had a car and didn’t want to finish up in the cells. So we cheated.
It was showery, so we got a bit wet. We took 4½ hours, just a brisk walking pace with a stop for refreshments at The Crag. It was about 22 km, with 600 metres ascent, and Naismith would have taken an hour longer, so we were happy with our pace.
But we’d completely missed the point (or should that be ‘pint’) of this event. We’d thoroughly cheated. If Richard and Pauline hadn’t been so polite, they’d have laid into us. As it was we did enjoy a pint in the last pub (St. Dunstan) whilst Richard explained that he had just collected vats of chilli, curry, etc, from the other ten establishments, by way of their contributions to the event, to be served after 6pm.
I should point out here that St. Dunstan is a real ‘walkers’ pub’, where walkers always receive a warm welcome and good beer. There is no need to secrete your butties under the table here. “Bring your own food and eat it inside” say Richard and Pauline.
There’s a pictorial representation of the route here (27 images); as I write this, some of those taking part are probably still stumbling from point to point.
Here’s a taster from that Album, which includes one or two other items of interest.
And here’s the route we took.
*“Good xmas run route perhaps ? Goes past various pubs in Langley, Sutton area.
Leave St Dunstan, Langley (1).
Up road to Leather’s Smithy (2).
Follow Forest Five route to Forest Chapel then down the stony track to Stanley Arms (3).
Could use road for next section but I suggest back up to Standing Stone and over Buxtor Hill, then drop down to Crag (4) from Shutlingsloe path.
Carry on down road for 1.25 miles then up path to Hammerton Knowl Farm and across fields to Wildboar (5). This is the only place where navigation skills are called into action. The clue is heading left for the wall corner from the bend in the farm track when level with the second farm.
Up the A54 for 200metres then right through Longgutter Farm and up to top road and along ridge to Hanging Gate (6).
Down steps past the toilets and down to road. Use either of next twp paths on left to drop down fields to Ryles (7).
Along road the the Lamb(8) in Sutton, the go on past war memorial and take muddy little path left beside the stream and over the fields to farm and Bullocks Lane and Sutton Hall (9).
Back to Bullocks Lane and towpath along canal for 300 metres then down steps to Old King’s Head (10).
Under canal, fork left along Jarman to Church House (11) and on to St Dunstan (1).
14 miles for the 11.”