Stage 9



Stage 9

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

Getting Started Again - Thursday

Tynemouth - Guiseley - Swindon

This bit gets more difficult to write and make interesting. For more years than I can remember I have left the North-East and driven to Guisieley to get Brian and then move on to our start point. So having said that - on with the story.

Friday

Swindon - Swanage

This bit is different. We are to be chauffeured to our start point. Brian has persuaded his Mum & Dad to take us to Swanage and then onto Worth Maltravers on Saturday to actually start our walk. We have a pleasant drive down to Swanage, arriving mid-afternoon. After a fish supper Brian and I go for an evening walk and see a fox peering from someone's drive. We also find the route we entered Swanage on last year.


Day 1 - Saturday

Day 1 walk map graphic Photograph Photograph Photograph

Chapman's Pool - Lulworth

The day dawns bright and early - far too early for Roger as he wakes at 5.00am and finds it impossible to get back to sleep. After a reasonable breakfast we pile into the car and Brian's Mum & Dad takes us out to Worth Matravers and the car park above Chapman's Pool. After travelling for a day and a half, the walking can, at last, begin. We put on our boots and pose for the obligatory photographs before setting off past Renscombe farm.

The first mile or so isn't too bad as we stroll gently down hill in the morning sun. Once clear of the trees we can look over Chapman's Pool to the cliffs that lead to St Aldhelm's Head, and forward to Houns-tout Cliff that appears to be towering over us. As we make our way up we are grateful that some unknown and unsung heroes have cut steps into the soil. The steps make our progress a little easier and probably safer. We shall come to respect these guys as the week goes by. After a very stiff climb we are rewarded by some super views along the coast and inland. The next couple of hours see us making steady progress past the Kimmeridge Ledges toward Kimmeridge Bay. We are finding it hard going. We seem to be always climbing up, except when we are going down - with no flat bits to enable us to catch our breath. Is there some byelaw about flat land around here?

Just to the East of Kimmeridge Bay there is a tower. We have no idea why it was built here or what for. At Kimmeridge Bay there are a lot of people enjoying the sun and we take the opportunity to re-fill our water bottles at a small wild life centre. This has pleased me because my stocks were getting low and we still have a long way to go. Kimmeridge Bay gives us a bit of a respite from the so far continuous uphill & down dale terrain. The respite doesn't last long and we are soon climbing another steep hill. When we get to the top the view over the Bay is superb. It is also apparent that what we thought was flat at the start was in fact gently uphill - it just felt flat after what went before.

Looking back at Worbarrow rock formation
Looking back at Worbarrow rock formation, as we climb yet another hill!

After Hobarrow Bay the path is closed and we take a diversion inland. We continue our up and down progress past the delightfully named Worbarrow Bay; the remains of a prehistoric fort near Flower's Barrow and take another break at Arish Mell. We are gasping for a cuppa but there are no cafes before Lulworth Cove. We have made slow progress all day and we are both conscious of taking far more breaks than in previous years. On the steeper inclines we walk [stagger?] 10 or 12 paces and stop to rest our aching legs and lungs. It is now about 5.00pm and Lulworth is still a couple of miles away. As we pick up our rucksacks I begin to wonder if some mischievous sprite has been adding lead weights. We climb out from Arish Mell and at the summit we notice that the haze has increased from mid-afternoon. The view is still grand though. We pass yet another ancient earthwork and begin a long descent toward Lulworth. We meet a couple going the other way. She has walked from Land's End in the last few weeks. Her partner started with her but had to leave after a week. He has re-joined her for the last stretch on to Studland. They both look remarkably fresh.

Our descent gradually becomes steeper and steeper. Our chosen path leads us away from the coast a little. We do not get a good view of the cove as we drop down to sea level. In fact we are distinctly unimpressed - we have no sense of the almost circular nature of the cove. At the end of the lane from West Lulworth there are several hotels and restaurants - all seem expensive - but more importantly none of them is the one we are booked into. This disappoints Roger as he was told that the hotel was at the end of the village on the road to the cove. We soon realise that the village does not stretch as far as the cove. Our hotel is in West Lulworth about 3/4 of a mile away. We start the last trudge into the village and reach the hotel at about 7.30pm. The hotel is very comfortable and after a bit of a rest we persuade them to provide us with supper even though the chef has gone home.


Day 2 - Sunday

Day 2 walk map graphic Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph

Lulworth - Weymouth

We have a good breakfast and set off for Weymouth. We debate about going back to the cove and taking the path from there, or going across country for a bit. In the end the decision is made for us as we miss the cross-country path. The climb out of Lulworth Cove is up a staircase 10/12 feet wide cut into the landscape. The tourist pressure must be immense for these steps to have been made. At the top we get a super view of the cove - everything the previous evening was not. We continue our roller coaster progress to Durdle Door, a rather spectacular rock formation and stacks off the coast. We have a rest here and take a few photos. This too is a tourist attraction. As we leave, a Landrover deposits a tea caravan near the cliff edge. The weather is not as good a Saturday. The sun is hidden in the overcast conditions. The air feels decidedly damp.

The going is still tough after Durdle Door with two fairly stiff climbs [and descents]. The next hour and a half bring us two luxuries - some flat walking and a cafe at Ringstead Villas. These are soon behind us and we are into the usual routine as we trek across the cliffs to Osmington Mills and a pub - the Smugglers' Inn. Life ain't that bad after all!

There follows a bit of farce as we leave after our orange squashes. The path has been diverted inland and although there are signs pointing up the road, we cannot see any after that. After some wandering up & down the lane we find the right way and we are off. The terrain is much less aggressive now and the diversion takes us through some wooded country.

A well earned rest at the Smugglers Inn
A well earned rest at the Smugglers Inn

Brian's Mum & Dad were planning to stay in Dorset for a few days after leaving us. They hoped to book into a Holiday Camp on the outskirts of Weymouth. We eventually reach the holiday camp but calls to their mobile phone elicit no response so we walk on by and onto the coast road/prom into town, still a couple of miles away. There has been a change in the weather and it is now quite overcast, but warm. Portland Bill, so clear in the morning light, now has his dirty white hat on. We arrive in the middle of Weymouth at about six o'clock. The tourist information office is closed so we are relying on Brian's list. We wander around for a bit getting more and more tired. We decide to stop and have something to eat while we think about what to do. Truth is we are both past it [me in particular] and clear thought is difficult.

After something to eat Brian phones a guesthouse on his list and we can have a family room. Brian gets directions and we set off. Unfortunately Brian has mis-heard the directions so we end up going up the wrong road [and I mean up as it was a very steep hill!] After a few hundred yards we recognise the error of our ways and head off in the right direction with the help of a passer by. We both spot the local supermarket so lunch will be easy to get tomorrow morning.

At about 7.00pm we arrive at our digs. Today has been another long hard day. Thankfully the last five miles have been relatively easy. As we unpack I discover that I have left my sun hat in Lulworth.


Day 3 - Monday

Day 3 walk map graphic

Weymouth - Abbotsbury

The day starts rather dull & grey. We have a slow start - it is after 10.00 by the time we've bought our sandwiches in ASDA. [They have a logistics problem this bonny morning - 7 large artics in the yard and road outside]. We then set off through the streets of Weymouth towards Ferry Bridge - the land end of the causeway that leads to Portland. The map indicates that the coast path follows the coast but we get diverted through the streets for a while. We eventually get onto some sort of walkway and get chatting to a local lady. She gives us some useful information about the route into Abbotsbury and we learn a good deal. The terrain is much flatter than the land to the East - only a few gentle uphill grades in the last three or four miles. She also suggests that if it should get wet we would be better off taking the road for the last few miles into Abbotsbury, as the ground can become quite slippery. We eventually reach Ferry Bridge, cross the main road to Portland Bill, who is still wearing his cloud hat. The next few miles are fairly boring following the meanderings of the coast alongside the lagoon created by Chesil Beach. Chesil Beach is higher than we anticipated, and we lose sight of the sea. Our path takes us through a couple of caravan parks and we have a welcome cuppa at the second. Despite being relatively flat we are finding it quite tough. We have the waterproofs on for a short while but the rain passes us by.

As we reach the ranges near Charlestown the weather closes in a little and we don full waterproofs at the sentry box. It is 1.00pm and we feel a little down. We set off as a steady drizzle falls. By 2.00pm the drizzle has turned to rain - not hard but persistent. Portland Bill has pulled his cloud hat further over his ears. By 3.15pm we are passing close to Langton Herring and the rain is getting harder and harder. Our path swings inland here and heads off towards Rodden Ridge and Wyke Wood.

The rain is getting heavier and heavier by the minute. Our spirits are pretty low after the hard work of the last two days and the rain of the last three hours. We decide to leave the footpath and take to the lane as suggested earlier. What makes this thing worse is that there is nowhere to sit and take a rest. The ground is sodden with large puddles forming all over the place, and the tops of the surrounding low hills are covered with cloud.

We trudge along the lane from New Barn Farm toward Abbotsbury, the rain gets a little easier but it does little to raise our spirits. We eventually get digs in the Ilchester Arms in the middle of the village. Our first port of call only had a double and the second had no vacancies. By the time we reach the Ilchester Arms we were too tired and wet to worry about the price and end up paying more than we would have liked. Our room is in a converted stable block and is very nice. There is an electric fire and we need it to dry out our clothes. The rain has been so severe it has soaked through our rucksacks. My clothes feel damp but the plastic bags inside have done their job and kept the rain off. Brian is less lucky the rain has gotten inside his plastic bags and most of his clothes are soaked. We spread our gear out as best we can. The room looks like a laundry. We eventually stagger across the yard for an evening meal. The pub has delusions of grandeur, trying to be something it isn't. It wants to be grand and doesn't quite make it. The meal is nice enough but poor value at the price. We eventually retire to the bar and proceed to get as wet on the inside as we were on the outside. The Hotel staff let us know there is tumble drier we can use if we want to.


Day 4 - Tuesday

Day 4 walk map graphic Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph

Abbotsbury - West Bay, Bridport

The day starts with rain. It has not stopped since lunchtime yesterday. It is more of a drizzle, but still rain. The clouds are so low they shroud the summit of a small hill about half a mile away. This prevents us from seeing St Catherine's Chapel - she of Catherine Wheel fame - as we cross the yard for breakfast.. Once inside the main building we have to dodge the buckets and bowls as the staff mop the floor where the roof has leaked. We are fed up. Another day of rain and it's off - we're going home. In such high spirits we settle down to a less than average sort of breakfast. After breakfast, although it has stopped raining, we still can't see the chapel. But when we leave the hotel, the Chapel can be seen - things are looking up!

Our start is a little slow and it is after 10 before we set off. The grey start has cleared to a watery sun and our spirits are rising. We don our leggings and buy lunch in the village shop. Our route back to the coast is along a bridle path and it is quite pleasant, although some care is needed as the path is strewn with large pebbles. When we reach the coast it really is the coast. Chesil Beach has ended a few hundred yards to our left and we can see the waves breaking. Portland Bill, some 14 miles away, still has his hat on though.

The day is getting better and better - the sun is now shining properly, there is a gentle cooling breeze in our faces and when we reach West Bexington we come across a cafe. Our blue mood of earlier has faded as fast as the sky changed to blue. The only slight blots on the landscape are the big puddles lying everywhere and the stony nature of the ground. Since last year I have a real worry about turning on my ankle again.

We negotiate some muddy fields and continue along on the relatively flat ground. We are alone for the most part. On the first two days there were a lot of walkers out and about, but this stretch is pretty deserted. The only company we have are the occasional cars moving along the road about a mile to our right. At Burton Bradstock we find another cafe down by the coast. So yet another cuppa in the sun - we are being spoilt! We set off from Burton and suddenly the worm has turned! Where has all the flat land gone? Don't they know we want an easy day after the exertions of the last three days? Obviously not! We have to climb up to the top of a cliff [in truth nothing spectacular compared to the first two days] and about a mile further on we have a steep descent into West Bay, Bridport. We meet a few walkers during this last stretch - folk coming out of West Bay for a stroll. The sun is shining and the place looks very pleasant. It is a small town, with a few shops; pubs etc to the east of the river and what looks like a solidly residential area to the west. There is a small harbour along the river where workmen are strengthening the sea defences.

We have a bit of a wander around and a drink in the pub before finding some digs. We have an early finish - it is only just 4.00pm - but there is nowhere else to go to within an hour or so's walk. We book into our digs and then have a fish & chip supper sitting on a park bench. We walk down to the river mouth and watch the waves race into the river mouth and harbour. The sluice gates prevent the water rushing inland. Looking back we spy a women sitting half way down the large shingle bank - we wonder what thoughts are running through her mind as she sits motionless staring intently out to sea. Although the sun is still casting a golden glow over the land the temperature has dropped significantly and we return to our digs for the night.


Day 5 - Wednesday

Day 5 walk map graphic Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph

West Bay, Bridport - Lyme Regis

The day starts nice & bright - a lot brighter than us anyway. After walking 200 yards or so I remember I still have the room key in my pocket! So it's down packs and a brisk[?] walk back to our digs. We cross over the river and go past the harbour and walk along the sea front to the base of the cliffs at the Western end of town. At Thorncombe Beacon we look back over West Bay and realise how small a place it really is. We have our photograph taken by some folk going the other way.

We continue our up & down progress as the day becomes quite hot; but the air is so clear that the views from the cliff tops are wonderful. At Seatown we stop for a drink in the Anchor Inn and after we regain the cliff top we are amazed at the deep blue colour of the sea lapping against a truly golden beach. Lunchtime sees us at Golden Cap - a large cliff area to the East of Charmouth. It is a popular walking area and we meet a lot of people out for the day. On the way up we pause to gain our breath as a group of military types run past us the other way. Each one of them says "thank you" as they pass. First time I've been thanked for taking a rest. We take our lunch on Golden Cap and the views in all directions are superb. Is that long shadow jutting out to sea to the East Portland Bill? If it is he definitely has his hat off today.

The section today is quite short - 10 miles or so, and we are in danger of falling into a trap of idling along. With this in our minds we set off down from Golden Cap after a leisurely lunch that would have been perfect with a bottle of wine and someone else to carry our packs. The West face of Golden Cap is quite steep and some care is needed. This has been a feature of the walk this year - the slopes have been very steep as well as long in places.

The path gradually swings inland and we are soon on a metalled track, which turns into a lane and then the road through Charmouth. It takes us nearly 2 hours to get to Charmouth, and we are soon gratefully slumped in the beer garden of one of the pubs slurping at yet more orange squash.

The weather is closing in a little now as the clouds build up. We continue out of Charmouth and as we reach the by-pass, our route takes us steeply uphill once again as we head off cross-country through a wood to Lyme Regis Golf Club. At the top of the hill we come out of the trees & straight onto the manicured fairways of the golf club. We interrupt one four-ball match as we stride out; and then delay them further when the rain starts to fall and we don our waterproofs.

The entry into Lyme Regis is somewhat of an anti-climax. The path follows the road into town and we have none of the spectacular views of the morning and early afternoon. It is raining quite hard as we make our way through the narrow streets lined with old buildings en-route to the Tourist information office. We get some digs booked; enquire about a laundrette - yes they have one - and yes we passed it on the way into town. Still our laundry needs doing before the hum gets so loud that all can hear it.

Lyme Regis is a pretty little place and is built on two steep hills that meet at a narrow bit of flat land at sea level. So we walked down into town, back up the hill to do the laundry; then back down again before climbing out the other side to find our digs. Mind you the digs are worth it. They are in a large, old house with a charming small garden hidden behind high walls. Inside the rooms have wonderful mouldings and other period features. One can imagine having one hell of a party, with room for most of the town. It is a very aspirational house - I want it!

Earlier in the day I had a laugh at Brian's expense. He discovered a hole in the crotch of his trousers. This is not a disaster as long as it doesn't get too big and he remembers to sit like a lady i.e. knees together. There are also some advantages on a warm day..... Anyway come the evening and I get my come-uppance - my trousers have come out in sympathy with Brian's.


Day 6 - Thursday

Day 6 walk map graphic Photograph

Lyme Regis - Beer

After a good breakfast in the super dining room we set off into town with a breeze blowing gently around the Trossachs. The order of business is to find one pair of lunches and two pairs of trousers. We have a 50% success rate in that we get lunch. All we have to do now is to remember we are ladies when we sit down.

Brian is keen to go back to the centre of town and find the cannon he sat on as a lad. Having found the gun we set off along the sea front towards the small harbour. All too soon we leave the sea behind us as we climb some steps and enter a narrow strip of woodland. Unfortunately this narrow strip of wood is to be our companion for most of the day. At first it is quite pleasant as we are out of the direct heat of the sun. However the rain of the previous days has left the path littered with puddles and swathes of mud. The humidity is also high and of course there is not a breath of wind.

Brian soon becomes disenchanted with the damp wood, whilst it takes me a little longer. After a spell of dry weather this could be a pleasant walk, but today it is hot; humid and horrible. It is true to say we didn't spend all morning slipping & sliding, but it felt like it. As it was, the concentration required to stay vertical just added to our general dislike of this bit of country. To cap it all the ground is far too wet to sit down. We pass several groups and individuals out for a walk - including a couple from our digs. I manage to scratch my arm on a thorn bush trying to avoid a particularly large puddle and end up looking like an extra from Rambo as the blood mixed with the sweat running down my arm. To make matters worse we can hear the faint sound of the surf and get occasional tantalising glimpses of the sky and sea through breaks in the green umbrella - or is it a shroud.

After two or three hours we finally leave the woods behind and have a pleasant hour or so walking in the sun to Seaton. We stop for an orange squash in the pub and enquire about Gents Outfitters. Looks of blank puzzlement on the faces around us. Eventually they come up with a shop about a hundred yards away. Yes they do sell trousers, no they don't have fitting rooms and the trousers are not quite right. We leave empty handed with the breeze blowing slightly stronger through the Trossachs. Back to the sea front and at the far end of town Brian suddenly veers inland down a shopping street. I call him back saying there is no point. But miracles of miracles amongst the shops selling kiss me quick hats; shoddy souvenirs and cheap tee-shirts there is a shop that not only sells trousers it sells outdoor clothes. And yes; they've just had a delivery; and yes they have our sizes! Half an hour later we stride out of the shop and Seaton full of swagger in our new keks. The wind has stopped blowing through the Trossachs.

We head out of Seaton towards Beer. The first mile or so is on the road and unfortunately we miss the path along the cliffs to the village. We end up taking the long way round on the road. Beer is a quaint place at the foot of a steep hill. The first couple of places we enquire at for digs are full, but the second one says that mum-in-law runs a place at the top of the High Street. A quick phone call - yes they have rooms - we're in. We re-trace our steps and marvel at how we missed the place on our way into town. When we arrive we are surprised to see the son of the house already there. We had spoken to him not 15 minutes earlier. He was surprised we were not there when he arrived - although the remains of some very tasty ice cream on our beards explained that.


Day 7 - Friday

Day 7 walk map graphic Photograph Photograph

Beer - Sidmouth

Today turns out to be a pleasant day, with a silly sting in the tail. The day starts well and we are soon on the cliffs with good views all around us. We also have the luxury of a cup of tea after two hours or so as we find a cafe when we reach Branscombe. The terrain is a bit up & down but not too severe until we reach Weston Mouth. We have to cross Weston Coombe here and we are faced with a very steep descent and an equally steep climb out. The only big decision we have to make is our destination for the day. After some debate, and for no better reason than it's there, we pick on Sidmouth.

We eventually reached Sidmouth at about 4.00pm. At first all went well. We found the Tourist Information Office; booked some digs about a mile from the town centre, and received directions to the digs via the nearest pub. We had had a hot day toiling uphill and down and were ready for a couple of pints of orange squash. The pub we were directed to even has a brown tourist sign to itself. Things are looking up. To our amazement and disgust the pub is closed! We plod thirstily on towards our B&B and pass two more pubs that are closed and two closed cafes. What is it about this town? We eventually reach our digs and they are very good.

We get washed and changed and set out for our supper. Fortunately the pubs are now open and a bar meal and beer seem to be in order. I have made very few notes during the day, and unusually, nothing much has been dragged out of the recesses of our minds as we mull over the day during our meal. Even the stroll through the town to our digs and bed fails to stir the memories. So hear endeth the shortest day report yet! All in all quite a pleasant, if uneventful day - until we reached Sidmouth.


Day 8 - Saturday

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

Sidmouth - Cockwood

Today will be one of the best days of the walk. We don't know it yet but the omens are good. The skies are blue with a few high puffy clouds and it is not too windy or too hot. We set off back into town and through the town centre to the sea front. After buying our lunch we set off along the prom towards Chit rocks. Shortly after this we start a steep climb up to the aptly named Peak Hill.

We make steady progress past Tortoiseshell Rocks on to the holiday camp near Smallstones Point. We arrive just before 11.00am and are due a break. We stop outside the bar and are its first customers of the day. Yet more orange squash to quench our thirst. We consult the map and debate whether we will save time and miles by heading inland just west of Brandy Head - about 11/2 miles away. The problem is that to reach Budleigh Salterton we have to cross the River Otter. The lowest crossing point is about a mile inland, and a route past South Farm will cut off something of a dogleg. In the end we decide to stay on the coast and accept that we will have to trek inland and back. When we reach the river mouth a first glance suggests that fording it is a viable option, but the current is fast and there are little swirls and eddies to warn us off.

Brian on Sidmouth Sea Front
Brian on Sidmouth Sea Front

We reach Budleigh at lunchtime and I for one am glad to take another break. If memory serves me right we treat ourselves to an ice cream before setting off along the sea front. The next debating point is coming up - the River Exe. Several years ago I had visited Dawlish Warren on the other side, and about twenty years earlier I had visited Exmouth. On both occasions I had seen signs for a Dawlish to Exmouth ferry. The OS map however only shows a ferry from Exmouth to Starcross - about three miles or more up the river from Dawlish. Ideally we would like to be in Dawlish tonight, however that will be impossible if we have to go via Starcross. Either way with the morrow being Sunday crossing the Exe today is essential. All this puts a bit of pressure on us to get to Exmouth as soon as possible. In the event we reach the tourist information office about 4.00pm. They confirm the only ferry goes to Starcross, one will leave about 5.30pm; but they cannot help us with digs on the other side except to say that there are some B & B's in Starcross.

There is a marina development at the ferry landing and the artist's impression of the flats and apartments on the advertising hoardings are very inviting - the asking prices are not. We chat with the ferry staff and there is a water taxi service. It used to cross to Dawlish Warren on a regular basis up to few years ago, but he Dawlish Council stopped them landing on the beach, so that service had to stop. The crossing to Starcross is very pleasant. We see the Commando training base Lympstone from the middle of the channel. From the people on the ferry we learn a little more about potential accommodation. Unfortunately when we reach them we find they are full. Starcross has a relic of one of Brunel's few failures - a building that once housed one of the steam engines for his ill-fated atmospheric railway through South Devon.

As 6.00pm passes we set off again with the promise that there are several places on the road to Dawlish. I don't feel too concerned as I have a souvenir from the Tourist Information Office in Exmouth in my pocket - the Exeter to Torquay bus timetable.

About a mile out of Starcross we find some digs just over the river from Cockwood. Our host tells us that the two pubs in the village both serve food and if we present this leaflet we will get the price of our meal reduced in that pub; and if we show our room key at the other pub we will also get a reduction.

An hour or so later we set off to the village, across the bridge; past the fields where the village fete is coming to a close [the smell of the B-B-Q had been particularly inviting when we arrived]. The first pub is a hundred yards or so past the fete field and it is very busy. We eventually find a table outside overlooking the road, river mouth and railway. It is a wonderfully sunny summer's evening and the place is packed.

We then enjoy a most wonderful evening. The beer is excellent; the food, when it arrives, likewise. We watch the tide come in, the birds circling the little estuary; the occasional train go by. After an hour or so we hear the unmistakable sound of a steam whistle and instinctively look to the railway. Wrong - a steam lorry suddenly toots again as it hurries past the pub. During the course of the evening, the largest platter of shellfish seen this side of a fishmongers, is delivered to an adjacent table. It is a starter that is ostensibly for two but would keep most of the terrace in food for a week. As night is falling we make our reluctant way back to our digs


Day 9 - Sunday

Day 9 walk map graphic Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph

Cockwood - Maidencombe

The day starts very warm as we set off down the B road to Dawlish Warren. We will be on concrete for most of the day, be it road, sea wall or prom. The road runs roughly parallel with the railway to Dawlish Warren, where we join one of the most photographed sections of railway in the country - the sea wall at Dawlish Warren. Along this stretch the railway runs within 50feet of the sea and there are spectacular photos of the sea crashing over the sea wall when the storms do blow. Several trains pass us as we plod along.

The day has become very hot now and the loss of my hat earlier in the week is beginning to bug me. On the outskirts of Dawlish I suggest we leave the sea wall and follow the road into town so I may purchase a hat. So we climb some steps over the railway and up the hill to the road. We then have a gentle down hill section to the town centre and pass not one shop!

In the town centre I am able to get a hat and we find a cafe. We could have been here ten minutes earlier if we had gone straight along the sea wall. The town is gradually opening up on this fine Sunday morning. After a welcome cuppa we set off back to the sea front, go past the station and head for Holcombe and Teignmouth. We have to climb over the hill at Holcombe - if we had practised our train imitations we could have gone through the tunnel, but we would have missed a super view back towards Exmouth and to the West.

At Teignmouth we finally find somewhere to buy lunch and head to the ferry across the River Teign to Shaldon. The temperature is really high now; probably the hottest it has been all week. The morning has been, apart from Holcombe Hill pretty much flat all the way. This is about to change. There is fairly stiff climb out of Shaldon and then it is a succession of downs and ups with very little flat. One good thing is that we are in the country again. The rolling countryside prevents us from seeing spectacular vistas, but we are treated to typically English views.

The ups and downs are making me feel very tired. Our progress is getting slower and slower. In the middle of one particularly long uphill slog through a scrubby field I am telling Brian how I feel i.e. hot bothered and a little tired. Brian, who is about 20 feet above me and thirty yards in front, shouts back "Bull". I am about to shout back "It's true" when a bullock crashes through the undergrowth heading straight for me. It's a good job bulls are quick on their feet and can do a mean side step or else I would not be here to tell the tale. Before I can move the beast is past me on its crazy headlong rush downhill. Lord knows how the wretched thing got there but I was mightily pleased to see its tail disappearing below me.

At the start of the day Brian was sure we would make Torquay, or Babbacombe at least. I was not so sure but was prepared to go for it. Whether it is the exertions of the day taking their toll; or the lure of the last night calling I am getting more and more fed up. Originally we had hoped to be in Torquay by 4.00pm [a tad optimistic] and we soon revised that to 5.00pm. At our current rate of progress it could well be after 6.00pm before we got there. This is a little late to find digs, get rested for our last night celebrations and be fresh enough to enjoy them. As we approach Maidencombe I consult the bus timetable and there is a bus at about 4.00pm. We decide to catch it. Maidencombe is a collection of houses strung along a minor road that clings to a very steep hillside. We struggle up the hill to the main road, find the bus stop and have a 15 minute wait for our charabanc.

The bus drops us off in the middle of Torquay just outside the tourist information centre near the harbour. We soon get some digs and they are very close. Less than half a mile away in a straight line- but about three hundred feet above us! We are given some directions but get lost and decide to take the long way round by road. Eventually I flag down a taxi and we arrive in a modicum of comfort. We are staying in a hotel with sea views from the bar and dining room, but charges B & B rates - even has a snooker table downstairs.

We perform our ablutions and get a bit of a rest before hitting the town. We find a lovely little restaurant where we have a good meal. Then back to the hotel for a few drinks in the bar. We end up chatting to a couple of other guests and the barman till quite late. A lovely evening.

Next day we have time to go into the town to buy a few things - I am particularly keen to get some clotted cream - before going to the station for our train to Swindon. When we arrive there is a train in the platform - a direct train to Swindon. We have to buy our tickets and the man behind the window delivers them to us in record time whilst telling us the times of trains. We cross over the bridge to the platform, but with big packs and the after effects of a week's walking and a night out in Torquay, rushing is out of the question. As it happens we are lucky. Someone wants to put their bike in the guard's van. So at the last gasp we get into the train and find some seats and settle down for a pleasant ride to Swindon.

Brian's Mum and Dad meet us at the station and we then have a hard afternoon's relaxing, sitting in the garden soaking up the afternoon sun and drinking tea. Later that night we go to the pub and meet Graham, an old friend from school days. We spend the night yarning away and catching up.