Stage 15



Stage 15

Map of stage 15 Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 Day 6 Day 7 Day 8 Day 9 Day 10
(Click on the map section to jump to the description of the day)

Getting There - Thursday 2nd and Friday 3rd July 2009

We're starting a bit earlier this year, a whole day to be precise, and it's all down to travel. For the first time in a good few years we will have to drive to start our walk. Trains are expensive, and the planes just don't seem to fit into any sensible itinerary. So I leave work on Thursday afternoon en-route to Crewe via Guiseley where I will pick up Brian.

We spend the night in a road side hotel on the outskirts of Crewe, where Brian displays his initiative by producing two glasses and a bottle of wine from his overnight bag. After a gentle nightcap we get to bed and are up early and back on the road before 7.30am. We stop for breakfast in Gloucester before arriving at Tiverton Parkway to complete our journey to Woolacombe by train and bus. The sun has really become warm by the time we reach Exeter where we have an hour's wait for our train to Barnstaple.

We stroll into Barnstaple to the bus station and get the bus to Ilfracombe. The connection at Ilfracombe is a little tight for our onward bus to Woolacombe. We need not have worried though. Although we need to change buses, the driver parks our first bus; locks it and then strolls over to open up the bus for Woolacombe. After a day of travelling and a fish supper in the evening sun we are ready to resume our love-hate relationship with the coast of England. We both hope it will be a little cooler than the last two days.


Day 1 - Saturday 4th July

Woolacombe to Berrynarbor

Day 1 walk map graphic Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph

Over breakfast we learn a little more about our host - a builder by trade. We were fortunate to get the room as his daughter was due to be staying but had to change her plans. Our host had had a bit of a scare on one of his sites a week or so earlier when he blacked out. A quick trip to the hospital revealed no major problems, but falling over on a building site is not to be recommended!

We eventually leave about 9.15 and head off to Morte Point. The going is very easy for the first hour or so. The day warm and breezy with sunny spells - pretty good walking weather. Ten days of this would do very nicely thank you!

As we swing to the North-West we amuse ourselves by looking back across Morte Bay and Woolacombe Bay to Baggy Point. The visibility is pretty good and the distant coast of North Devon by Clovelly is visible on the horizon. It is a good job nobody is close when we start discussing the dark smudge on the horizon more or less in front of us. Is it South Wales - the Gower perhaps? The obvious course of looking at a map is not allowed to intrude as we enjoy the speculation and theorising. The smudge becomes clearer as we round Morte Point but the possibility of it being Lundy just doesn't enter our consciousness. As we peer out we are grateful that the squalls are content to chase each other up the Bristol Channel and give Devon a miss.

After rounding Morte Point the terrain changes -. We loose the views inland as the path wends its way about half way up the cliffs. To our left a steep rocky drop to the sea; to our right a less steep slope covered in a variety of vegetation. Along this stretch we glimpse some seals basking on the rocks below us and are then buzzed by a radio controlled model glider. We can just about see the "pilots" on the cliff top way above us. We also get caught by a shower that has got lost and not followed its friends up the middle of the Channel.

We reach Bull Point lighthouse by about 11 o'clock, and the shower is but a memory. Just after 12.15 we stop just short of Lee. Our lack of preparation is beginning to tell as we both feel quite tired. We have seen more than 20 other walkers in the last couple of hours. Most look as though they are out for a couple of hours although we do pass a couple who are out for the week walking the path.

Just as we are getting a little complacent, and agreeing that the nice people at the South West Coast Path website have got this stretch graded just right [moderate], we are woken up with a jolt. The climb out of Lee is a tad severe and comes as a nasty shock after what has gone before. To be fair, although steep and fairly long, it is on a road with good footing and the view from the top is worth the effort.

We do have a bit of a scare though. As I dragged my body up the hill my right calf started to ache horribly. Even after a rest at the top there was a dull throb. Brian thought that the muscle was probably just "tired", but didn't rule out the possibility of all manner of other possibilities - all with dire consequences for the walk. Nothing for it but to push on and "see how it goes".

In the event the pain subsided to a throb to a dull ache and eventually just the normal walking pains settled in. Nothing fell off or went Twang! We made a steady progress to the outskirts of Ilfracombe via Torrs Park.. We get a good view across the town from the heights to the west, before making our way to the streets.

Ilfracombe is a bit of a mystery to us. We were obviously in the wrong part of town as we saw nothing of the sea or a prom, and the closest we came to a beach was the intriguing sign pointing out the path to the Tunnel Beaches.

What we did find were some attractive gardens and several buildings that looked like oversized kilns with flat roofs. We also found a pub for our orange squash and some International Rugby on the big screen. We settled down to the last 20 minutes of South Africa v's the British and Irish Lions [to give them their full title]. It was a cracking game made all the sweeter because the Lions won. Although losing the series 2-1 they had the moral victory of scoring the higher aggregate points total and more tries.

Eventually we realised we couldn't stay watching continuous repeats of the best bits and set out Eastwards once again. We passed between the town on our right and formal gardens backed by a large hill to our left, and eventually came upon the harbour.

The coast path on towards our pre-booked digs in the Saw Mill Inn at Watermouth largely follows the road with a few diversions off to the coast. We decide to stick to the road, particularly as shortly after we left the harbour the rain showers arrived and stayed - getting us nice and wet.

We reached the pub just before 6pm and the band performing "from 9" [as part of the local music festival] were already setting up. We resolved to get showered, changed and fed before they started. We not only did all these things but also were able to avail ourselves of the pub's offer to put our wet gear into a drying room. We caught the first 30 minutes of the band's act before retiring. They were a fully amplified 7 piece playing a mix of blues/reggae type music. Quite good and worth listening to, but we have walking to do in the morning and staying up would mean more beer than would be good for us.

The Saw Mill at Berrynarbor
The Saw Mill at Berrynarbor
- shelter for the night

Day 2 - Sunday 5th July

Berrynarbor to Heddon Valley

Day 2 walk map graphic Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph

My notes for today are a little patchy, for reasons that will become apparent as I relate the saga of the day. From what remains we left later than intended - being after 10 before we left the pub. Despite the band pumping out Lord knows how many watts down in the bar Brian and I had had a good night's sleep.

Breakfast was pretty good and the rain of the previous afternoon and evening had cleared. Although our wet gear had spent the night in the drying area it was still a little damp, but not too bad.

We decide not to follow the Coast Path away from the pub but take to the road. The path goes round in a largish loop out to the coast before following the cliffs back to the road on the outskirts of Combe Martin. Our decision is influenced by the late start and the rain of the day before.

The trip down to the village was uneventful and quite pleasant. The first stretch was between tall trees and we could still smell the dampness. The trees cleared and we were walking along in warm sunshine with the cloud s high and fluffy. We may yet miss the promised scattered showers.

Combe Martin is a pretty little village. There is a small inlet off Combe Martin Bay that ends in small beach. There were several small boats at rest on the beach or floating just off shore. We buy our lunch and, after a short rest on a conveniently situated bench in the car park overlooking the sea, we set out and soon are following the Hangman Path out of the village up to the cliffs and the Hangman Hills.

Climb Up Little Hangman
The climb up Little Hangman (218 metres)
- on the way up Great Hangman (318 metres!)

The first is Little Hangman standing at 716 feet. The path doesn't go over the summit and we are grateful to skirt round the shoulders of the hill. Even so we have climbed a considerable height [550 - 600feet] and Combe Martin is laid out below us like a model village. Our climbing isn't over however. A short distance away stands Great Hangman - at 1043 feet with a cliff face of 800 feet it is the highest sea cliff in England and the highest point on the South West Coast Path.

The climb up is steady without being desperately steep. The summit is marked with a cairn and we increase Hangman's height by a stone's thickness as we make our contribution to the cairn. The views from the top are well worth the effort. We notice that a few miles to the south someone is catching a sharp shower. Even over us the cloud has built up steadily in the last 40minutes and blue skies are but a memory. We settle down with our backs to the cairn and open up our sandwiches and contemplate the micro-mini Stonehenge that some ardent walker has built. His version is little more than 18 inches in diameter and 6 inches high!

We are just sitting comfortably as the saying goes when the first drop of rain falls. We stir ourselves and put on anoraks - no need for the full gear just yet, this will soon blow over. Within a minute we are regretting this. The rain goes from a modest little shower to a more than passable imitation of firemen spraying us with their hoses. We are absolutely soaked to the skin in seconds. We must look rather bedraggled and forlorn as we munch our sarnies huddled in the pouring rain. After about 5 minutes Brian looks across at me and asks if I like sitting in a puddle. I look down and then ask Brian the same question! We are in danger of floating away as pools of water build up around us.

Lunch is hurriedly concluded and we set off for Sherrycombe, a rather wide and deep gulley with steep sides in and out - it is the only major obstacle between us and our digs at the Hunters Inn in the Heddon Valley. On another day the walk across the "tops" to Sherrycombe would be grand; today it is a miserable experience. The rain is relentless, only varying from pouring to "who turned that hose on".

We are fortunate that the ground slopes relatively gently down to the shoulders of the steep valley in front of us. Despite the ground rapidly becoming waterlogged the path is not too slippery. We must resemble some dancers with a serious lack of rhythm though as we try to avoid the puddles left right and centre.

At this stage, just to add more interest to the situation, we hear a deep ominous rumble in the middle distance, quickly followed by another and another that sound appreciably closer. The thunder gods have come out to play! Of course in this bleak landscape there are two things that tower above the landscape - us. As we are soaking wet we are more akin to mobile lightening conductors than human beings - and the thunder is getting closer.

Rarely have we been more relieved to reach a deep gulley. The descent into Sherrycombe on a dry day would require some care being steep and narrow and twisty, with the vegetation tugging at ones boots and ankles. Today in the rain it is fraught with snares and traps for the unwary. The ground has been made so slippery by the rain, and the wet vegetation clings to ones boots and legs.

We eventually get down and as we are starting the climb out some walkers going the other way who are waiting at the bottom question why we are going up to higher ground in such a thunder storm. We have not gone Doo-lally though - Brian just wants to get about half way up where there is something of a shoulder where it will be easier to wait, one hesitates to use the words "more comfortable".

At this stage we have some good[?] fortune because as we reach the shoulder the thunder storm appears to have passed us by and we can continue with no further delay. The rain has no intention of going quietly however as we continue our climb out the other side and trudge through the continuing rain towards the road. We have decided to get off the path as soon as possible and are fortunate that there is a convenient escape route that will get us there quite quickly.

On the road we feel much more secure. We gain confidence from our footfall on the metalled surface despite the rain not relenting. The threat of slipping and doing some serious personal damage on the waterlogged coast path has been put aside. As we approach the Heddon Valley we can see smoke from various homes below us forming their own little strata just above the trees but below the valley hill tops. Just above it all are the slate grey clouds.

About a mile from the pub a car driven by an attractive young lady stops and asks if we want a lift! We must be suffering delusions, but no it is for real. We regretfully and politely decline her offer explaining that it would probably take a week for her car to dry out if we were to get in and drip dry our way to the Hunters Inn.

About 30 minutes later we have dripped [and dropped] right into the wooded valley, which would be rather attractive as it is National Trust owned, but drowned rats tend not to think of such things at the time. We round a bend in the road and our pub appears through some trees. There is a peacock strutting around the entrance - at lest he doesn't seem to mind the rain. As large puddles form around us we check in and are then shown to our room. This is large and airy with a pretty large bathroom. We are going to need all this space for our soaking wet gear.

We are both soaked to the skin. Our boots are waterlogged. When I take mine off I am able to pour about half a pint from each boot straight down the loo! Twenty minutes later another cup full is despatched in the same manner. Our rucksacks are soaked through as well. Fortunately the liner bags and plastic bags inside have done a good job and our clothes etc are more or less dry, although they all feel a little damp. One or two items near the top are wet around the edges so to speak, but by and large we have been let off lightly. So within the hour our room resembles a laundry with damp and wet clothes spread everywhere - oh yes - it is still raining. Our chief concern is that our boots will not dry sufficiently overnight, but access to a tumble dryer would be beneficial for our walking gear. One of the worst casualties is my notebook which has become sodden. I carefully prise the pages apart and manage to rescue most of my notes.

The Hunters Inn is quite expensive for a B & B, but it is about to come up trumps. There is a tumble dryer and yes we can use it. The staff even take our wet clothes from us and take them to the cellars and set them away in the dryer. Our evening meal is very good as is the beer. We discuss the day's events and start to compare them with the only other really wet days we have had. We are agreed that this is definitely the worst. Worse than the late afternoon trek into Polzeath in 2007 and the lunch time drizzle and eventual downpour en-route to Abbotsbury in 2002. These were bad and left our gear wet, but were nothing compared to the torrential rain on Great Hangman that turned into a steady downpour. Even at 9.00pm it is still raining.

We are also left pondering our strategy for the morrow. By 2 o'clock this afternoon the ground was getting pretty waterlogged as we approached Sherreycombe, and it has had at least 6 hours of steady rain since. With the tales of the path after heavy rain from the Swedish couple we met at Elmscott last year and the young lady we met on Kellan Head in 2007 we do not fancy the coast path. They had spent their time slipping and sliding through the mud. Conditions like that can be very dangerous, never mind unpleasant.

We collect our now dried clothes and retire for the night. It has finally stopped raining!


Day 3 - Monday 6th July:

Heddon Valley to Countisbury

Day 3 walk map graphic Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph

The rain may have stopped when we retired for the night but had returned during the night. There is a steady drizzle as we go down to breakfast. We start discussing our plans for the day and are joined by mine host, Dave. He suggests we use the old coach road to Woody Bay. He agrees with us that the Coast Path would be difficult, if not treacherous after the rain. The Old Coach Road leaves the Coast Path a few hundred yards from the pub, and then starts to climb steadily. The path and the coach road then more or less run parallel to each other with the coach road at the higher level. The two rejoin near Woody Bay where the coach road ends. Our decision is made - the Old Coach Road it will be.

By the time we set off the rain has eased a little, but it is still a waterproofs day. Whilst our clothes pretty well dried out overnight the rucksacks are still damp, and our boots are no where near dry. The forecast is once again for scattered showers - we hope that they are not like the previous day's "scattered showers"! We find the Old Coach Road and start a steady climb. In a short while we are above the trees and if it weren't for the low cloud, light rain and misty conditions would have some rather nice views along the valley. After about a mile there is a sharp hair-pin bend in the path and we are both grateful to be walking - the prospect of taking that bend in a horse drawn carriage a century before leaves us cold.

Heddon Valley
Heddon Valley from Old Coach Road

The coach road is a wide path that is obviously still used by farm vehicles. The surface is a mixture of half buried stones and gravel and earth with the occasional puddle. A short distance to either side however and the ground is waterlogged from the previous day's rain. Fortunately the rain stoops after an hour or so and the morning passes uneventfully. From time to time we catch glimpses of the Coast Path below us and we are pleased to be up where we are.

We reach the road and determine to stay on it at least as far as Lynton. The Coast Path follows the road for the most part anyway and we feel we can do without diversions to Crock Point and the like. By the time we reach Lee Abbey the rain has pretty much gone. The Abbey stands rather grandly in its grounds and the approach from the west is quite attractive. As we approach Lee Bay the road is flanked by woodland until it suddenly swings left and one gets the first view of the abbey across a shallow valley. Away to our left we catch glimpses of Lee Bay, but the vista in front is rather grand. Lee Abbey stands at the top of the hill on the other side of the valley. The fields and grass verges on either side of the road leading up the hill to the entrance are neatly manicured. The house was built in the 1850's and saw many uses before being bought in 1945 and set up as a religious foundation.

The road becomes a toll road between here and the Valley of the Rocks and we wonder how many people actually put money in the honesty boxes. The Valley of the Rocks lives up to its name with many interesting outcrops. It is also quite a tourist attraction with many cars and a most peculiar looking coach in the car park. The coach appears to have been converted into a type of super caravan. There are a number of small windows on two levels to the rear of the vehicle with normal glazing to the front.

We continue on into Lynton and keep a weather eye out for a local hostelry for our orange squash. By 1.30 we are safely seated in the Queens Arms having had to walk right into town and ask where the pubs are! We eventually settle down and ponder our options. The next major habitation is Porlock which we judge to be a step too far today. The answer is obvious - off to the Tourist Information Office and see what may lie to the East twixt Lynton and Porlock.

Cliffe Railway
The Cliffe railway running from Lynton to Lynmouth

We are in luck. The Blue Ball at Countisbury has accommodation for us. On the map Countisbury consists of three amber rectangles; a church with a tower and a PH - not the sort of indicators that encourage one to travel on spec. Mindful that we may not find a shop near the Blue Ball we hasten to the mini-market supermarket across the road and stock up for the next day, then it is off to the world famous Lynton and Lynmouth Cliff Railway - a 19th Century development that boosted the economy of the twin villages considerably.

Lynton sits on the cliff tops and its smaller sister Lynmouth squeezes in between the sea, cliff face and the narrow gorges at the confluence of the East and West Lyn Rivers. There is only one way to travel between the two and that is to experience the romance of the cliff railway. Lynmouth has a good number of tourists milling around its narrow waterfront streets. We pick our way through the crowds as we make our way to the road out to Countisbury. Sadly for us it doesn't follow the East Lyn Valley, but heads out on course straight up to hill top. The road is flanked by trees and all the vehicles are travelling very gingerly both up and down the steep hill. Having struggled up the first mile or so at 25% we are hoping for a reprieve and get one of a sort - the hill flattens out to a mere 12% incline. Eventually the serious climbing stops to be replaced by not too gentle undulations with an upward trend. Just to add insult to injury the rain comes back for the last 45 minutes of the walk into Countisbury.

The Blue Ball is a long low rambling sort of a place and occupies about three of the rectangles on the OS map. It is our kind of place with "Kids, Dogs & Muddy Boots Welcome"! Our rooms are upstairs at the end of a long rambling corridor with many twists and turns. During our evening meal we become very comfortable and at our ease - good food; good beer; comfortably surroundings - we almost wish to be snowed in!


Day 4 - Tuesday 7th July

Countisbury to Porlock

Day 4 walk map graphic Photograph Photograph

We wake suitably refreshed, but still debating our course for the day. Last night we had only been in the Blue Ball 45 minutes when the rain returned with a vengeance. There were heavy showers all evening and whilst not raining when we woke there was 20/20 cloud cover of the nasty dark grey variety.`

So far our deliberations had ruled out the coast path for the same reasons we took the Coach Road the previous morning. We didn't fancy using the main A39 either which left us the option of going down to the Brendon Valley to reach County Gate; or if necessary along to Oareford and Robbers Bridge before re-joining the A39 for a short distance before using other paths and minor roads to reach our destination at Porlock .

By about 9.30 we are ready to start out. The day is very uninviting. The rain has stopped but the pub is shrouded in mist and low cloud. Whilst there are several footpaths down into the valley within a few hundred yards of the pub we decide to go down the main road for about a mile before taking a minor road past Coombe Farm.

The cloud and mist lift a little as we head of down the A39 and we are rewarded with some promising views to our right across the Brendon Valley and the hills of Exmoor beyond. The views become so impressive and the road so much quieter than we could have hoped for we decide to ignore the valley route altogether. We will stay on the A39 to County Gate and review the situation there.

Within two hours we arrive at County Gate and shelter from the wind in the bus shelter whist we plan our next move. There is a largish car park here and there are some lovely views across the valley to the south and in every other direction. Apart from the bus shelter and the car park there is a public convenience and notice boards describing the surrounding area and schematic maps of the paths etc.

The fact it hasn't rained all morning and the condition of the land around the car park persuades us to head for the coast. There are several possibilities, the coast path itself and a higher inland route past Yenworthy and Broomstreet Farm. The problem we have is that there are about 4 paths from County Gate heading toward the coast! We decide to take the coast path rather than the inland route - I think we are missing the sea - we haven't seen much of it yet this year.

We cross the road and follow the path towards the coast. The first 100 yards are easy as we don't have a choice as to which route to take. Then it gets difficult - there appear to be too many tracks through the landscape. The first is easy to reject as it goes on the west side of a small valley and soon starts to head west. The second and third pose a problem, the fourth heads off towards Yenworthy. The second looks to be the favourite and more heavily used so we head off along it. After about 500 yards we begin to have our doubts as to just where it is going, also it has become much narrower and less distinct. It does not feel like the Coast Path should. Also the longish grass is still soaking wet from the overnight rain. We decide to go back whence we came and think again. Having wasted 15 minutes or so we are back trying to decide whether to take path number 3 or number 4. In the end we decide on number 4 - the lure of the sea cannot overcome the prospect of retaining some views across the countryside.

So the next hour or so is spent traversing the rolling countryside, sometimes on well defined tracks and paths, other times across neatly clipped meadows courtesy of the hundreds of sheep we pass. We make steady progress past Broomstreet and Silcombe farms before entering Culborn Wood near the "village" of Culborn. The path gently descends and winds its way to the bottom of a shallow valley to the village which is just a few houses, no road, shops or pub, a bridge over the stream and a little church that is said to be "...the smallest complete parish church in this country." We take a break by sitting on some steps next to one of the cottages, but before we could get really comfortable the owner comes out and asks if we hadn't seen the sign? A few yards away there is a sign on the edge of his garden basically saying "Keep Off". So we move a few yards and sit on the parapet of the bridge. Our initial reaction is "What a NIMBY!" but we understand his position a little better when we spot some other walkers on the footpath next to the stream below us - the footpath runs right though his garden. The church looks very old and is a local attraction as there are several small parties moving through the churchyard and going in and out.

Tunnel in Yearnor Wood
The tunnel in Yearnor Wood

We set off over the bridge and head for Porlock. At some time in the past someone spent a good deal of money on this section of the path as we see traces of the stones set in the ground that look as though they may have been a pavement or similar, and at one stage we go through a tunnel. Culbone Wood merges into Yearnor Wood and about an hour later we catch glimpses of the sea as we approach Porlock Weir. We pass the Worthy Toll House - a rather grand structure on a very minor road - and continue on our way. We have been gradually losing height all afternoon and before too long we are at sea level and in Porlock Weir. We feel we deserve some orange squash and much to our delight find the pub almost immediately to our left.

Some twenty minutes later we are ready to do the day's last leg into Porlock itself. We get some good views across Porlock Bay with the small boats grounded on the mudflats close by and Bossington Hill and Hurlestone Point away to the East. As we set off we are praying we don't have to negotiate the notorious Porlock Hill whose steepness was the subject of boyhood legend. As lads in Swindon we thought Victoria Road up to Old Town was pretty steep, as was Blunsdon Hill a few miles to the North. Yet those intrepid late50's and early 60's holiday makers who made it to wildest Somerset returned with tales of near vertical roads that cars could barely climb at Porlock. Such were the tales told by our contempories we still had a lingering doubt about our ability to face such an ordeal some 40+ years later. In the event it was all an anticlimax as we only had to traverse the mile and a half or so over the flat land at the base of the surrounding hills to reach Porlock and the Ship Inn, our home for the night. We never did see the dreaded hill by the way. Today has been a good day. Although the weather was pretty miserable to start with the cloud gradually lifted. It was such a change not to be trudging through rain and plodging through the clarts. The scenery has been good and we've passed through places of interest. Yes a good day.

Ship Inn at Porlock
The Ship Inn at Porlock - shelter for the night

Day 5 - Wednesday 8th July

Porlock to Minehead

Day 5 walk map graphic Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph

After spending our third consecutive night in a pub [this must be some sort of record for us - we don't do it deliberately] we wake refreshed and ready to do battle with the day. Breakfast was reasonable and we are soon at the village shop getting our supplies and heading of to Hurlestone Point. Looking at the map our path leaves the village and then proceeds more or less flat through the fields towards, but not right out to the point. Just short of the point the path starts to climb the "foothills" of Bossington Hill where there is a sharp right turn up the face of the hill. The contour lines suggest this will be steep, but once we are up we should have a long stretch of ridge walking ie relatively flat.

In the event this proves to be exactly what happens. One pleasant surprise is that the there is a big yellow thing in the sky and splashes of blue amongst the white of the clouds. The streets of Porlock are narrow and twisty and require a certain level of vigilance, but we are soon in Bossington. My notes record "Bossington - olde worlde - v pretty". After Bossington we take the well defined path through the fields to the base of Bossington Hill. The last half mile or so sees a gradual gain in height and we are rewarded with some fine views of Porlock Bay.

Once at the top we are presented with alternative South West Coast Path routes - a cliff top path or a more inland route. We decide to take the inland route as this seems to offer the best views - the cliff top path in heading off to the coast a few hundred yards away loses some height. In the next hour or so we make steady progress and pass a score or so of walkers. The paths are wide and we reckon this must be one of the more popular sections. The link is full of images which give a clue as to why it may be so popular. Link

Porlock Bay
Porlock Bay from slopes of Bossington Hill

As we glory in the sunshine we start to debate where and when we need to head back to the coast for the descent into Minehead. From Bratton Ball the map suggests more than one possibility. We eventually select one of the options and end up walking through woodland. My notes record "long boring descent into Minehead through woods" The path zig-zags backwards and forwards and as we get closer to the town the woodland screen breaks temporarily to furnish us glimpses of the sea and distant coastline across the bay. At one stage our path dumps us on a roadside but we are soon on another path to continue our zig-zag descent to the sea front. We come out near the monument marking the start [or finish] of the South-West Coast Path.

End of South West Coast Path
The end of the South West Coast path (or is it the beginnning?)

This is a large affair and much more impressive than the one at South Haven Point way back in Poole. I think it is a fine piece of work.

It is 14.43, there is a pub nearby and we deserve an orange squash! Today marks a farewell - we must say goodbye to the South West Coast Path. It has been our companion since 2001, and whilst we haven't followed it every step of the way, it has always been a re-assuring presence.

It is mid-afternoon and our first priority is to find the Tourist Information Centre to find digs and a launderette. The map indicates we go up the main street and then turn left. The finger post on the sea front points towards the main street and so we set off. We find the main street and continue on our merry way along with sundry other tourists and the locals. We must have walked as far as the left turn by now but one thing is missing - an indicator that the TIC is this way or that way. In the end we enter a shop and ask - good job 'cos the TIC has closed and re-opened on the sea front!

We somewhat wearily re-trace our steps, pass the West Somerset Railway station and within a minute or so are inside the TIC getting ourselves sorted out. The evening passes quietly. We get our laundry done, have a pleasant enough meal in a pub, that later that evening will be holding a poker tournament. They are setting up the tables as we leave and we enter into discussions as to how the pub is allowed to host such an event. The organiser explains that there are strict rules, and the stakes are low. We don't fully understand all the ins and outs and so call it quits and return to our digs.

Today has been fun - sunshine pretty much all day with some glorious views across the land. We have also found out that we will not be leaving the long distance paths behind after all. Minehead is the start point for another - The West Somerset Coast Path. This is re-assuring as it means there will be recognised rights of way for a little further.

[We find out later that it is but one of a group that circle the West Country. The 25-mile long West Somerset Coast Path joins up several other long-distance trails to form the longest continuous circular walk in the world. It links the South West Coast Path to the lesser known Parrett Trail, a footpath which wends south across the West Country peninsula to Chedington. Chedington is the start of The Brit Valley Way which will take walkers to the English Channel at West Bay, and thereby completes the circle by meeting with the South West Coast Path on its southerly leg.]


Day 6 - Thursday 9th July

Minhead to Kilve

Day 6 walk map graphic Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph

Thursday dawns and one of the first things to strike me is that my insulin box is missing. Brian helps in the search and we conclude that it either sneaked out in the night to party, and hasn't come home or I've left it somewhere. Fortunately my second kit is available to take care of the immediate needs but it is a bit of a shock.

After breakfast we repair to the poker pub where we had our meal and the wretched box is sitting unashamedly behind the bar. Next it is to the shop for our vittles and the TIC again to explore the accommodation possibilities to the East. Armed with sandwiches and a list of Bed and Breakfasts we set out and initially make good time along the prom. Our spirits sink at the end as it looks as though we will have a mixture of sand and shingle for the next few miles. We are lucky. The sand and shingle are soon replaced by a firm path through the dunes past the golf course and the Butlin's holiday camp. In the distance we can hear the steam trains of the West Somerset railway shuttling between Minehead and Bishops Lydiard near Taunton.

In next to no time we are at Dunster Beach and sitting in the sun enjoying a nice cuppa. The terrain has resembled a billiard table since we left our digs. What a change from the previous days walking. Whilst we take our tea we set to discussing where we might end up. This next section has had me worried since we started serious planning way back in February. The list of accommodation supplied by the TIC is pretty thin after Watchet which is only a few miles away. In the end I take an Executive Decision and phone to a B&B in Klive. They have a vacancy so we take it - all we have to do is get there - we don't do 15 miles in a day very often.

We continue along the foreshore towards Blue Anchor, and as we approach the WSR comes to meet us. And so do the trains. There is already one in the station from Bishop Lydiard awaiting the arrival of the departure from Minehead so they may pass each other via the loop here on this predominately single track railway. Brian surprises me a little by asking we wait so some photos can be taken of the trains. I thought I was the train fan. {The train leaving Minehead was hauled by ex-SR West Country pacific 34046 Braunton and the one bound for Minehead by ex-S&DJ railway 2-8-0 number 88 - latterly BR number 53808.}

We have to wait about 10 minutes for the trains to pass and all this while the level crossing gates have been closed causing the traffic to build back in both directions.

We move off after the excitement of the trains and start to climb the small hill past Blue Anchor. We lose the path near the pub and take to the road. The railway takes an altogether different route to avoid the hill..

Watchet Harbour
Watchet Harbour

In the event we stay on the road all the way to Watchet where we find a pub for an orange squash,. We also find the railway again and use the station footbridge to avoid a quarter mile detour to the road bridge. The West Somerset Coast Path swings inland a good distance on its way from Watchet to West Quantoxhead via Williton . So we decide to stick to the road and take a somewhat more direct route via Doniford.

There was a bit of a climb out of Watchet then it was relatively easy to Doniford where we crossed the railway for the last time.. We get some pleasant views across the countryside after Watchet and can see the sea in the distance. After Doniford there is a long uphill climb to West Quantoxhead and we lose our views as the trees and hedges close in. The road has been quiet though except we have to cross the busier A39 near West Quantoxhead WQH. We take a rest here and debate whether to use the A39 and so use the hypotenuse of the triangle formed by the alternative route into the village. Me, being naturally more lazy than Brian, feel we should use the A39; Brian with a keen eye for safety feels the quieter lanes in and out of the village would be better. As we leave we hear our last steam train of the day echoing across the fields - presumably restarting from Doniford Halt.

In the end we take the longer quieter route. There are two problems - we lose about 100 feet we have just climbed - and will have to climb it again to get back to the main road; and I've lost my hat. I return to our last resting place but it's not there. I assume I must have dropped it somewhere between Doniford and West Quantoxhead WQH.

We get back to the main road; which we can't really avoid, and have fine view of the church at West Quantoxhead. Fortunately the verges are wide hereabouts so we don't feel intimidated by the traffic. The road swings around a wooded hill and there is the possibility of leaving the road shortly afterwards. We could take the track/road towards Perry Farm and then follow the footpaths to East Quantoxhead and Kilve. In the event we decide against going via Perry Farm - there is fairly steady descent and then a climb away from the farm. We stay on the road a little longer and we are rewarded with a footpath towards East Quantoxhead which avoids the worst of the descent and climb via Perry Farm.

The views from here are quite good across the land as it rolls down to the sea about a mile or so away. Apart from the last few hundred yards into Kilve we are able to walk through the fields on paths and tracks away from the traffic. In the centre of the village we turn towards the coast and our digs. At a quarter to six [17.47 according to my notes] we are given a warm welcome by our host Richard. By eight we have walked the couple of 100 yards back into the village and are ensconced in the village pub having our dinner. Today has also been a pretty good day - the second in a row without rain - and we are more than halfway across the section that I thought would pose us problems. The extra miles today will make the section tomorrow a little easier as well. Tired and pleased with ourselves we retire for the night.


Day 7 - Friday 10th July

Klive to Combwich

Day 7 walk map graphic Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph

In the morning we retrace our steps to the main road and the village shop to provision up for the day. Although they can provide food and drink they are decidedly short in the hat department. This won't be an insuperable problem unless we get Saharan sun and temperatures, but too much sun could embarrass me. We eventually leave the shop and head down the lane towards the ruins of the Chantry, a mediaeval religious establishment that has been used as a barn and a smuggler's warehouse.

Here the lane turns into a metalled track and just off the coast we pass the remains of an old oil retort building. At the start of the 20th century attempts were made to extract the oil present in the local shale deposits and Kilve was at the heart of the Somerset oil industry.

Just before the beach we head of into the fields and the path along the low cliffs towards Hinckley Point. We later find out that the beach at Kilve is designated as a geological Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and is famous for its exposed rock formations and fossils - sadly not famous enough for us to have heard of it! We have almost certainly missed a trick here.

The sun is blessing us with its presence, and mindful of my hat-less condition is choosing to be a benign influence. There is a gentle breeze and the walking is very pleasant with good views to the nearby hills and across the Bristol Channel we can see Wales.

During one of our rest stops we are passed by a large party of walkers who invite us to join them, sadly they are going in the opposite direction. At one point we are entertained by what we think are swifts or swallows swooping over the fields in a craftily choreographed display of intricate flying.

Near Lilstock we make our one and only error of the day by missing our path near the outfall - the path goes through the gate and on the other side of the hedge up onto the "cliffs" whilst we stay close to the coast. The path soon runs out and we are on the beach at the foot of the low cliffs. We have to retrace our steps for a couple of hundred yards, fortunately this doesn't cost us much time.

Hinckley Point nuclear power station is the next landmark we pass. It is one of Britain's first generation of nuclear power stations. The place is surrounded by high barbed wire fences and signs warning of dire consequences should we be found where we didn't ort to be. One consequence of building the place is that there is a decent public promenade all along the coast facing side. Sadly [or otherwise depending on your tastes] there are no benches or ice cream stalls or vendors of Kiss me Quick hats that one normally associates with sea-side promenades.

The scenery changes dramatically after Hinckly Point. The rolling countryside is replaced by a large expanse of flat lands reminiscent of Lincolnshire - but not looking as prosperous. At the far end is Steart the centre of an area of Special Scientific Interest, but the walking is pretty boring. The sun has been replaced by almost total cloud cover with some pretty grey stuff inland from us. The tedium is broken by the first appearance of large numbers of butterflies in some of the adjacent fields. The path is on the relatively high banks of the flood defences.

The path follows the coast past Steart village to the mouth of the River Parrett where it changes its name to the River Parrett Way, turns through almost 180o to head up the river to pass the other side of the village. We do not plan to do this and we will take the path marked on the map across the fields that can save us quite a dog-leg. As ever though in the excitement of walking across a flat landscape we miss it and hit the road about a mile south of Steart. Here we take a rest and turn right towards Combwich - our first target for the day. Our plan is to go down the road for a few hundred yards and then turn left on the path marked on the map towards the river. We find the start of the path with no difficulty, but the grubbing out of a hedge or two makes it difficult to pick its line after a hundred yards or so. We eventually work it all out and join the River Parrett Way and head along the built up banks of the Parrett. During our passage of the field Brian insists we take a break. Only after we down rucksacks do I realise just how tired we are. Another good call.

At about 4.00pm we reach the Anchor Inn at Combwich, which brings us good news and bad news. The good news is that the pub is open and with only three other customers we will not be waiting too long to get our orange squash. The bad news is that there is no room at the Inn or any where else in the village. The place is full of contractors working on the decommissioning of Hinckly Point A [the original reactor at the power station]. The three other customers in the pub are some of these contractors, but they discuss our predicament with the young barman and within minutes the barman is phoning places suggested by the others to find us some digs. After several abortive attempts he finds us a room at the next village of Cannington a couple of miles away. We sup up our squash and we get even better news one of the lads in the pub is going that way and will take us there! This prompts some further debate as to exactly how to get to our digs.

Cannington
Cannington - B&B for the night

Eventually it is all sorted out and we are piling our rucksacks into the back of his 4x4 and we are off. Within 10 minutes we are at Cannington and it is but a further few minutes before we are knocking on the door and being shown to our room. I doubt we would have found the place left to our own devices. Almost as soon as we entered Cannington we swung left and were soon on un-metalled tracks that bordered the Eastern edge of this small town / village.

Our room is very comfortable. The digs are a farm conversion, our room is one of several that look like they have been converted from a run of out-houses; whilst the main room and kitchen have been converted from a barn. It is all very impressive and comfortable. It is but a short walk back along the track to a convenient footpath into the heart of the place and thence to the pub and our evening meal, where we plot the next day's activities.

It is 25 miles from Steart to Highbridge by following the River Parrett trail and although we have probably covered a quarter of the distance we really don't fancy following the river. The scenery at the end of the day was not inspiring - flat with the hills do distant they were but a smudge on the horizon. So with a lack of suitable inland paths we decide to get the bus into Bridgewater and then another to Highbridge. There we can set off along the River Brue and the coast proper at Burnham on Sea.


Day 8 - Saturday 12th July

Highgate to Brean Down

Day 8 walk map graphic Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph

We take our breakfast in the marvellously converted barn. The space is large, with a large dining table laid up for all the guests at one end with the far end tastefully decorated and furnished as a lounge. After breakfast we take a different route into the village across some fields and are soon at the bus stop. Before the bus can arrive however our host of the previous night appears in his car and offers us a lift to Bridgewater.

Once in Bridgewater we make our way to the bus station without passing a shop selling sandwiches or the like. We think little of it as we are bond to get something in Highbridge or Burnham on Sea. The bus duly drops us off on the southern outskirts of Highbridge and we promptly miss the path to the river. All is not lost however as we are following the road that has been built on the track bed of the ex-Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway Highbridge branch, The line of the route has been developed as parkland and there are a number of displays giving details of the area .

All too soon the park runs out and we are back on the road. We eventually reach the sea-front at Burnham-on Sea and we still have not found any lunch, still no need to worry there is plenty of time and town to go through before matters become pressing. The other thing we do need to do is to find out about accommodation for the night. The map suggests that Berrow and Brean are rather small places with no guarantee of digs come the evening. We take a slight detour South along the prom to the Tourist Information Office. Some 15 minutes later the business is done and we are booked into digs at Brean. We take a few minutes to identify as many landmarks as we can on the Welsh shore across the Bristol Channel. We both think we can make out the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

We head North along the prom admiring the views over the Channel and keeping a weather eye open for our lunch. About an hour later we have left Burnham with its large Victorian / Edwardian villas and are approaching Berrow - still sandwich-less. The need for lunch has kept us on the road, but in truth the alternative is a long stretch of beach walking which is hardly more appealing. At Berrow there is a footpath through the dunes, but we stick to the road so we stand a better chance of trapping some lunch. We take a break in a pub, but the only solid sustenance they have to offer are crisps. We push on getting a little more peckish with each step. Fortunately the weather has been kind so far. Warm and slightly overcast so we are not embarrassed by my lack of a sun hat.

We continue along the road towards Brean and finally leave suburbia behind and have fields to look at for a change. Alas this respite is soon behind us as we hit holiday-park-land. The fields are replaced by neat rows of caravans behind tall fences and hedges. The population count rises as we proceed further into holiday-park-land as hundreds of holiday makers throng the pavements as they go about their pleasure seeking business.

There is one big bonus as far as we are concerned - lunch!. At about 2.15 we stop at the entrance to one of the parks and take our lunch by availing ourselves of their most excellent bacon sandwiches. I even manage to find a hat to fit my head - all we need now is a bit of sun to justify wearing it.

We continue down the road to our digs and arrive at about 3.00pm. We are a bit tired but decide to go on to Brean Down, a large limestone lumps that surely belongs to the Mendip Hills a few miles to the East. As it is this great lump of rock stands isolated on the coast dominating the local landscape. It almost looks as though the giants who built the Mendips just couldn't be bothered to lug this last piece all the way and just dumped it here instead.

We decide we can save a couple of hours tomorrow by just popping along the road and climb the Down this afternoon, returning at our leisure before getting changed for our evening meal in one of the local hostelries. So we dump most of the contents of our packs in our room and we are off. Chastened by our experiences in procuring fodder earlier today we decide prudence is required and purchase tomorrows lunch from the shop over the road as we leave.

We stick to the road rather than take to the dunes and beach to our left and are soon climbing the "foothills" of Brean Down on a wide path. We confine our exploration activities to the eastern end and are joined by a group of lads who have ridden their bikes up the path. This is the highest point on the coast hereabouts and gives some excellent views across Weston Bay to the north; the beaches past Brean and Berrow to the south and across Bleadon Level to the Mendip Hills to the East.

Having taken in the views and added some shots to the photo collection we descend to the cafe for a cuppa and a sticky bun. We are just getting settled in when the drizzle that started as we approached the cafe turned into a downpour. We delay our departure as long as we decently can but the rain just gets harder and harder. There is nothing for it but to don our waterproofs and get wet. After 40 minutes of plodging through the ever increasing puddles we eventually arrive at our digs thoroughly soaked on the outside and hot and sticky and sweaty on the inside. We get changed and await the rain to ease off - it doesn't. At about 8.00pm we decide to have tomorrow's lunch for dinner this evening and so settle down to an impromptu picnic in our room, definitely not what we had planned. By about eleven the rain is easing, but it is all a bit too late.

The two weary travellers on Brean Down
The two weary travellers on Brean Down


Day 9 - Sunday 12th July

Brean to Weston Super Mare

Day 9 walk map graphic Photograph

We have been planning our route with some care today. The result is pleasing:-

Easy-peasy!

Of course life ain't that simple. We duly get food and reach the caravan park and as we search for the path out we are approached by a member of staff enquiring if he could help us [sub-text "what are you two doing in my caravan park"]. We explain our plans and are told that there is no path across the rive via the sluice gate. Time to scrap Plan A

We return to the road and decide on Plan B. This is not too difficult and doesn't add too much to Plan A's route

All goes well for a while. We find the track at Tarr's Farm which is a little overgrown but clearly visible. Despite the heavy rain of the previous evening the undergrowth isn't so wet we need to put on our leggings. We reach a gate and enter a field. It is here that Plan B fails. The field is full of bulls and Brian in particular is very reluctant to proceed. After a short debate we re-trace our steps to the road and consider Plan C. In truth we have to make Plan C as we go because if things had gone our way we should be passing the waterworks away to our north and well on our way to Uphill by now.

Plan C is simplicity itself and if this fails us we are gonna give up walking! We will follow the road round the three sides of the squarer we'd hoped to avoid and pick up the bits of Plan B and Plan A that are needed to get to Weston.

There is one bright spot in this tale of woe though. As we make our way along the road we see a sign for a cider shop. Hopeful there may be a cafe here as well so we head for it. We are in luck. There is a cafe of sorts and we are soon sat down under a covered patio watching some local anglers set up their rods and nets and other paraphernalia. They seem to be carrying as much stuff as us.

Whilst we are here a short shower passes by as we sip our teas. There is a certain humour watching the anglers diving for their waterproofs as we are sitting in the dry. Our only regret at leaving the place is that we have no room to carry the alcoholic wares on sale.

We continue on our way, the walking is easy on the roads, but the "climbs" up to the bridges over the railway line come as short sharp shocks in the otherwise flat landscape. The railway line from Weston to Bridgewater is clearly visible and we see 5 trains in the next 40 minutes - quite impressive for a Sunday morning. We easily find the track to take us towards the waterworks, and more importantly the paths across the fields to Uphill. There is one slight sting in the tail as we miss the path to Uphill which necessitates us backtracking for a few hundred yards. Despite our set backs and meanderings it is still not lunch time and after the shower at the cider farm the weather has been good.

After the road the field paths make a pleasant change and before long we are approaching Uphill with its church dominating the scene above us. We walk past an old quarry area and so reach the marina. It is but a short walk down to the beach and we continue on the beach where the sand is firm enough to lay out a track for the land yachts - they look scary to me - overgrown skateboards with a seat and a whopping sail.. We walk alongside the track for a mile or so then go onto the prom for the last leg into Weston.

The tide is about half way out and is just about visible which is what we would expect if our childhood memories are true. We both visited Weston as kids and our boyhood memories are that when the tide is out the sea disappears into the distance. For us primary school kids the sea looked miles away [and probably was!] Some things never change. One thing that has changed is Weston itself. Weston is another of those coastal towns that owes everything to the railways. At the start of the 19th century barely 100 souls lived at Weston, by its end Weston had over 20,000. Also there is a fair bit of renovation work on the prom which is good to see. Technicians are also busy setting up a large stage on the beach for the next week's T4 on the Beach pop concert which will be recorded and shown on Channel 4 a little later in the summer.

We reach the Tourist Information Centre and find some digs. It is 13.04 according to my notes. Approximately 30minutes later we are knocking on the door of our digs and being shown to our rooms. Yes we have a room each - apparently this was only possible because we have decided to stay two nights. We have done rather better than either of us had anticipated in reaching Weston on the Sunday. We have a day spare so we will use it to our advantage. Rather than press on today we will get the train back to Tiverton Parkway and get the car. That will nicely fill in the afternoon. Tomorrow we will walk the relatively short distance out to Middle Hope to the north of Weston. That should occupy the morning and we will then have all afternoon to prepare for our, by now, traditional last night celebrations.

The train ride back to Tiverton was quite pleasant and the car was still sitting on its wheels in the car park when we arrived. The drive back in the afternoon sun was equally pleasant and by the late afternoon we were ready to go out and explore Weston-super-Mare. Of course by this time we had nicely stiffened up and it took some time to get into proper walking mode.

We eventually end up in Yates's Bar in the centre of town. The test match is being screened live. We had both forgotten that today was the last day of the first Ashes Test against Australia in Cardiff. The news is not good - England are under the cosh and struggling to save the match. Paul Collingwood and James Anderson are sharing an 8th wicket stand with over an hour to play, but t we still trail Australia and they still have to bat again. Shortly after our arrival Collingwood is out. When Paul Collingwood fell for a monumental 245-ball 74 England still trailed by six, but more importantly there were more than 14overs to play. Bring on the clowns - or rather the clown. Monty Panesar is as good a test batsman who ever played - tiddlywinks. His natural batting position is 12 or 13 in an eleven-a-side team. We are doomed!

Yet Jimmy and Monty produced the most important innings of their lives. First they survived long enough to make Australia bat again. Eventually the pair were unconquered after 11.3 overs to pull off a thrilling escape. The whole last wicket partnership subjected Andrew Strauss and the rest of the team, a packed Cardiff, and two nervous wrecks in a pub in Weston, to nervous clock-watching, daring to hope and finally such happiness that is difficult to describe. We were exhausted just watching! A perfect end to a good day!


Day 10 - Monday 14th July

Weston Super Mare to Sand Bay

Day 10 walk map graphic Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph

Our good progress of the last week has meant we arrived in Weston a day earlier than we could have hoped. This also enables us to do a bit extra this year that will make next year just a bit simpler. Middle Hope is a large lump of carboniferous limestone to the north of Weston. No problem getting there but if wishing to head further north one has to double back a fair distance to cross the River Banwell. By going there this morning next time we can start at the lowest crossing point on the river....

So today the plan is simple. We will walk out to Middle Hope, get the bus back; have a rest and finally decide where to celebrate our walk - and then celebrate!

We start off along the prom, passing the Grand Pier still showing signs of the fire that severely damaged it in 2008; around past the development at Knightstone Causeway and the Marine Lake. The road starts to climb here and we see the long disused Birnbeck Pier below us. The pier is unique in the UK being the only one to link the mainland to an off-shore island.

Knightstone
Weston Super Mare - Knightstone

We have left the houses behind now and the road clings to the cliff part way up Worlebury Hill. Trees flank both sides of the road as it twists and turns its way north. Fortunately the traffic is not heavy but it is still a chore having to take this route. After a mile or so of this Brian spots a path to our left that goes down to the coast. Within a few minutes we are down to sea level and can see the expanse of Sand Bay in front of us. The weather has been pretty kind so far - breezy, warm with alternate hade and sun as the clouds scud by. We have been on the go for 90 minutes or more now and are hoping to see a pub or cafe but we have no luck. Then it starts to rain. We hastily don our waterproofs as this unwelcome shower bowls up the Bristol Channel. We plod on a little further and take shelter from the rain, and a well earned rest, in a bus shelter. This is useful as this is the end of the line for the bus route back to town.

Of course within 5 minutes of leaving the bus shelter we pass the cafe we had been hoping for. We also make a promise to ourselves that we will be stopping for a cuppa on the way back! The bay has a pleasant beach, with some narrow, low dunes that protect the road and a string of houses for most of its length. There are a couple of caravan holiday parks but the area is nowhere near as commercialised as that based on Brean and Berrow to the south.

The houses run out and the dunes get taller before we reach the car park at the foot of Middle Hope. We climb to the top and explore the Eastern end noting the views across the salt marsh back to Weston and across the Bristol Channel to Clevedon and Wales on the far shore. After about 15 minutes we re-trace our steps down the hill and back to the cafe. Brian remarks that I appear out of sorts and I realise that I am and I don't know why! En-route to the cafe we are entertained by a small lorry and a car trying to pass one another on the narrow road.

The cafe is a welcome halt for both of us. Being about lunch time we both have something to eat with our cuppa as we watch the clouds blow up the Bristol Channel , some of them dropping their load of rain. The cafe's walls are home to a number of photos of local scenes from yesteryear - all very interesting.

Something in the cafe has worked well as I feel much better by the time we eventually take our leave and catch the bus back to Weston via Kewstoke. We see for the first time the convalescent home set in its own grounds part way up the hill to Kewstoke. It looks every bit as impressive as the photo in the cafe, its white walls gleaming bright in the returning sunshine.


Epilogue.

The journey home was uneventful - boring really. As the sole driver I was very pleased to be travelling from Weston rather than Tiverton. The 40 odd miles less driving made a big difference.

This year could go down as the year of the road. We seem to have spent a long time on the Queen's Highway rather than crossing England's green and pleasant land. For all that the walk was not as unpleasant as may be thought. The weather played a key part on a couple of days in keeping us on the tarmac; but the practicalities of time and place also played their part [as well as missing the riverside path at Highbridge]. Also the Coast path follows the road very closely in parts and it was easier to stay on the road than keep looking for the path.

We both got a great sense of satisfaction out of this year's walk. Although 100 miles in 10 days is not particularly taxing as an average, the location of overnight stops made it more difficult to achieve - so much so that at the planning stage we thought we would not do more than 7 - 8 miles some days and get nowhere near Weston. In the event things went better than we could have hoped. As ever we met some kind and interesting folks on the way.

One sad element is that the end of our trek around England's coast is getting to be more than a distant dream. Indeed we are already thinking of what shall we do in 5 years or so. I think we had better put the lid on that for the moment - we ain't got to the end yet!