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The next stage…

Three Points of the Compass has now completed the South West Coast Path. After a further three days, exploring Exmoor while moving inland, I took a small break to recuperate, rest and carry out a small number of gear repairs and replacement, primarily to the worn out Altra Lone Peak 3.5’s. Following that, I worked across country via Taunton, Glastonbury, Cheddar and Bristol. Then crossed into Wales and am now working up the Marches on the Offa’s Dyke Path.

Just a few items of gear have required a little attention. My Altra’s needed a bit of glue while on the SWCP. I carry a 1gram tube of super glue gel and that was sufficient. The heel cups wore through after 500 miles. After a further 100 miles I had to resort to a couple of strips of Leucoplast across each foot’s heel and gaffa tape inside each shoe heel, just to protect my feet from the bits coming away from the shoes. The tread was obviously very worn and absent entirely fore and aft. Not surprising considering the often Rocky terrain and the miles. I reckon I got around 680 miles out of my first pair before swapping out for a new pair.

Also, the mystery holes that appeared on my Duplex tent were identified eventually as having been caused by gulls pecking at the material (slugs, insects, the foliage pattern?). These I repaired with cuben repair tape. My Merino Polo has had a few holes ripped in the sleeves and torso by thorns, mostly on the Dorset paths, I’ll get round to poor sewing of this eventually.

Other than that, I think it is just the stuff sack that I keep my quilt and night garb in that required tape over strained seams, but that is my fault for stuffing too much into it.

My Thermarest Xtherm sleeping pad has developed a very slowly puncture. I tried to locate it in a few inches of bath water but cannot find any sign of a leak. What I do know, is that come morning and a good few hours of slow loss of air, side sleeping is enough for my hip to be touching ground. This doesn’t actually bother me that much as it is time to get up anyway.

The 630 mile South West Coast Path was a superb walk, no doubt about it. The coastal scenery is superb and only enhanced by the occasional wet days, the misty days and the changing angle of the sun throwing magnificent shadows across their heights. I never bored of them.

I found the remnants of a fishing industry now mostly gone, though a much depressed minor catch persists. The industrial remains of where copper, tin and other minerals have been hewn from the ground were also a fascinating diversion, especially on the Cornish coasts.

Engine house on the south Cornish coast of the South West Coast Path

Its often you will hear the phrase- Go to any country in the World, where there is a hole, look down it, there will be a Cornishman at the bottom hacking away…

They took their mining expertise worldwide, while the landowners and entrepeneurs made their fortunes.

Though very infrequently encountered, I did find the spoil from recent and resurrected mines an eyesore and unsympathetic to the landscape. Yes, my double standards can be breathtaking.

What I possibly wasn’t expecting was the proliferation of art and culture to be experienced on the SWCP. As I left the Coverack YHA, the Warden, sorry, Manager, told me my path would take me ‘through the Sculpture Park’. Shows how much reading ahead Three Points of the Compass does, I hadn’t a clue this existed.

Terence Coventry has placed around thirty of his sculpures in an upper and lower field, free for anyone to see. I happily killed an hour of my time wandering amongst them. Some I liked, others I didn’t. The trail would wait.

At the other end of the scale, another local boy has erected one of his pieces at the end of the harbour at Ilfracombe. This has been in place for a few years now and the stink it created, even prior to installation, passed me by. I quite like Verity, but Damien Hirst’s sculpture has divided local opinion.

Camping was mostly on recognized campsites. I have said before, Three Points of the Compass is a softee who likes a shower at the end of the day if possible, so campsites and hostels were frequently used with the odd wild camp where necessary.

Though I did stay a night in one National Trust place that was dry, cleanish and only partly open to the elements. I obviously left it cleaner than when I arrived and was gone early morning.

I have had a few stand out pieces of gear. While days were warm, the temperature rapidly plummeted in the evening and I found my insulated PHD trousers superb for those few hours between finishing a hike, getting cleaned up, and climbing into my quilt. I have never used these before on other hikes, yet found them invaluable. It is now June, warmer, and I haven’t worn them for a week or so. I will likely send them home soon

Z Packs Duplex has been excellent, quick and simple to erect. Pacer Poles were invaluable, I could not have done the SWCP without them, beside the fact that they are my tentpoles.

My choice of Full Metal Jacket tent pegs (stakes) was poor. The stones found some 5-10 cms below ground on much of this trail meant they would often suddenly lurch sideways when being eased in with a foot. Result- snapped peg. No bending, no warning, knackered. I have now switched them out for MSR mini Groundhogs for the corners, retaining my original two full size Groundhogs for each side of the tent

Cooking system has been good. Look at my Lighterpack link from my Gear page for the detail.

My Darn Tuff socks developed some holes. I have switched them out for similar replacements. I know, but I find them comfortable, if slow to dry.

So that was the end of the South West Coast Path. A grand walk in itself, but it was only the start of my Three Points walk. After a night in the Minehead YHA, I set off to explore a bit of Exmoor en route to a three day R&R with very good friends of mine at Stawley. Mission Control was also able to visit, bringing not only herself, but importantly, new shoes.

This break also afforded time to weigh myself. I had lost more than a stone on the SWCP but attempted to put a bit back on during my break. It may have seemed as though I lived mostly on Cornish Pasties on trail, especially as a lunchtime meal. Not quite…

The part of the Macmillan Way West that I followed was adequate, if inadequatly signed, however the West Deane Way is a superb walk. From there I followed part of the Somerset Way, so obsolete a route that some paths are now impassable. Also, the West Mendip Way, likewise a good route, has a few daft and superfluous turns and some visiting of downhill towns was extracted. I now find I am frequently hiking in a mix of hot (very hot, leaky, soak my baselayers) weather, or torrential thunderstorms.

I am now hiking the Offa’s Dyke Path, which has been superb walking. With the intention of completing this in 12 days. As I post this, on day sixty seven, I am camping at Knighton, the honorary half way point, which it isn’t!

I have no idea when I will post another update, but I do invite any questions, on gear, route, diet, anything, and will do my best to reply to them promptly.

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