Monthly Archives: April 2018

“what’d you think of cardiac hill?”

The farmer shouted the question above the roar of his 4×4 farm vehicle and switched it off but the racket continued. His two Collies, protective of their domain, continued in their protestations as to my presence.

He had no doubt watched me from afar, toiling up a slightly inland slope that had garnered a local reputation. By the time we met, I had regained both composure and breath,- “it was, interesting, it certainly made me… think”. We had a brief chat and just before restarting his Kawasaki and roaring off, he replied “some of these hills do make you think about what you are doing”

The walking on the South West Coast Path is superb. Amongst the best I have ever done. However the terrain, with continued ascents and descents, often rocky paths and that damned mud in the first fortnight means that I cannot manage high mileage days. The most I have done so far on this trail is a tad over 24.5 miles, and that was simply because of a lack of camping opportunity and a ferry to be caught. Daily ascent has varied, the most ascent so far has been 4516 feet on day fourteen.

Most days have been far shorter and I see I am currently averaging around 13 mile days. I am not overly concerned by this as it will pick up once I move inland after the SWCP.

Spring is very much here. Flora has been changing and increasing. Now into Cornwall, Bluebells are prevalent. A bank of Early Purple Orchid was an unexpected joy, Spring Squill is a west coast beauty and Thrift is THE flower of both headland and grass covered stone walling.

I continue to take a few minutes out when I can to both explore what I pass, and to chat to people I meet. That is, after all, one of the primary aims of my adventure. And come on, who isn’t thrilled to come across a skull and crossbones on a 17th C. memorial slab in a church?

My weight hasn’t exactly, ahem, dropped dramatically. But I put that down to a conscious effort to keep the calorific intake up.

The Cornish Pastie was, or should have been, made for hikers. And I am pretty much convinced that the Cream Tea is the perfect lunch time meal- calories, mix of carbs and protein, even some vegetable for vitamins. And I can ask them to refill my water bottle, all essential hydration.

My gear is mostly holding up well with few failures other a hole in the heel of one sock, a tear in the left sleeve of my hiking polo shirt, courtesy of thorn bracketed paths, and a small failure on the seam of a Z-Packs stuff sack that holds my quilt. Easily repaired with a square of cuben repair tape.

My continued use of campsites and hostels, where present, means that I am keeping on top of clothes washing to an acceptable level. Socks and skiddies get at least a daily rinse. If they aren’t dry in the morning, they go on wet.

I have managed one additional wild camp since my last blog. That was purely due to a lack of ‘official’ sites and my need to hit a low tide, early morning, to make one particular ‘wet feet’ crossing of a harbour.

The weather has mostly improved, as has my ‘hill fitness’ and as a result the walking, while not easy, has been mostly superb. I have taken one zero , today, as a result of torrential rain.

This gave opportunity for rest, repair, a decent meal and a bit of exploring. Beside that, I can only report that my First Point of the Compass- Lizard, the most Southerly Point of Mainland Britain, has been passed. Suitably celebrated with a steak and a bottle of wine in the excellent Witch Ball Inn in nearby Lizard village

The first thirteen days- done

I forgot about the mud!

I am still gently easing myself in to my hike. Not a lot of miles pounded this year prior to setting off on this walk, mostly due to work commitments Muscle memory not withstanding, I still felt it prudent to keep an eye on the miles during the first week or two. A pretty gentle internal itinerary was required but the mini ‘Beast from the West’ that dumped a good part of the ocean on the West County not only ensured that spring was going to be a wet one, but also ensured my baptism to the South West Coast Path was not going to be gentle.

For the first week or so, the mud has been horrendous in parts. Dorset mud I recommend to no-one, slippery stuff that takes you down as soon as you lift your eyes from the path to look at the view. I fell once, not heavily, enough to swear inwardly (there was an audience), so no damage done. No accidents please, not this early in to my trail. However Devon mud- OK, if I have to have it, then that red stuff is far more preferable. More glutinous, doesn’t slip so easily beneath your feet.

The path has been fantastic. The views as good as I expected, except on the odd misty day. It has rained on at least three days, but more frequently at night. Don’t we all love being cosy in a tent, from the warm comfort of a quilt, listening to the rain hammering down, and trying to find a reason not to move for just a few more minutes?

I won’t lie, I have finished many of my first days, short as they were, pretty tired. That does not concern me. ‘Hill fitness’ will come with time. My shortest day was 6.85 miles, my longest 18.58. Day thirteen, a fairly short section of 11.48 miles from Brixham to Stoke Fleming has delivered my greatest ascent in one day on trail so far- 3516 feet. But every day has seen steep ascents and descents at some point. That is the nature of a coastal path. My knees, which concerned me prior to setting off, have been holding up. Though my left knee occasionally says hello on some more dramatic steps up.

I have been doing mostly a mixture of official campsites and YHA so far, all providing hot showers for a mud besplattered hiker, I’m a softie you see. I even splashed out on a B&B in Brixham.

I stayed in an International Backpackers Hostel in Torquay (interesting) and have managed one wild camp. I won’t say it was while crossing the Lulworth Ranges, as that would be illegal of course.

I’ll keep you updated on how things progress.