This is a good 10 days later than I intended to write, but if you read my previous post then you’ll know that selling my car took up some brain space as well as my time and patience, along with Sofa Saga (possibly a blog-worthy experience) and a very intense work period which immediately followed which sucked up all my time and blog-writing energy…
Led by a dog called Woody, humbled by the views, blustered and blasted by the elements, yet buoyed by the positivity of walking companions: 5 humans and 1 canine walked the first 10 miles of the SWCP and despite rain water running down my shins and the wind cutting my cheeks, I (we?) loved every second of it!
Minehead to Porlock Weir
R, JC, ST, LN and Woody the dog found ourselves putting boots at Minehead Quay – with Porlock Weir 10 or so miles to our left and Butlins on the headland to our right. We were at the start of the South West Coast Path with 630 miles to go, hopefully before the end of this year… The weather was a cloudy, but not unpleasant 7C and after taking a few snaps we set off along the quay, around the headland where we quickly began the first of what I am sure will be many chest-burning ascents!
A steep learning curve
I learned many things on this walk – it would be wanky to say “about myself”, but indeed I learned about me and how I walk. Those who had not walked with me quickly learned the speed at which I walk (so slow, it’s bloody like going backwards at times!) And I learned a thing or two about all those layers and new words I had read: within the first mile, I had got so hot that I had removed a layer, swapped my fleeces over, removed my coat, removed my fleece(s), removed my gloves, drank most of my water and ended up walking to the summit in just a vest top (a “wicking” base layer!) and my insulated (thank heavens for those!) trousers. My hair was soaked, my chest was tight – it all hurt and as soon as we were out of the woods, I had to put it all back on again. This was going to be an interesting day, and yes, a very steep learning curve (with fabulous views).
The next few miles were an exhilarating, windsweeping traverse across Exmoor. With the option of the “official” inland path, or the alternative “rugged” path, we of course, took the moderate to strenuous rugged path, embracing the elements, meeting sheep, hopping over streams and enjoying a walk up and down combes (valleys) and along, quite literally, the edge of Exmoor, with a sheer drop and at times slippery path to the sea (or certain death) on our right. This was by far the more interesting route, however, (although I suspect most of it will be like this) it was not a path for those who don’t enjoy heights/sheer drops/have vertigo/might get a bit scared. I don’t know if my photos do the height justice, but it was high!
Somewhere in the middle of this section, we found a sheltered spot to have our lunch. Woody had quite a spread and tried his luck on all of our sandwiches. Baking, chocolates and sweets were shared, which I thoroughly endorse and ST and LN both had rather cleverly come along with flasks of hot coffee. Noted for next time.
At a slightly confusing fork somewhere up there, the book said something that didn’t quite match what we saw, but we made a very steep descent – slipping and sliding I ended up on my arse in front of the first and only other hiker we had seen since leaving Minehead. I scrambled to my feet and ST and I exchanged what we considered to be hiking etiquette pleasantries and I noted that he may well have been on the last leg of the path, doing it backwards. He also looked far more organised than me with his book (same as mine!) neatly/dryly placed in a plastic/waterproof folder-thing around his neck. Noted. Somewhere along this descent, the air got wetter and wetter and by the time we reached Bossington it was pouring with rain. Fucking bucketing . (sorry for the swears, but it was) But there were loos there which provided relief and a small reprieve. Thank you National Trust!
Leaving Bossington, after some small confusion, we found our way along the flattest part of the walk. Good job too as the rain at that point was relentless. Grateful though I was for my new boots being waterproof, they were put to the test with a puddle so deep, we all got soaked. No photos for a couple of soggy miles until Porlock Weir was in sight and we were greeted with another rainbow – our third that day and the knowledge that a pint was within reach! Hurrah!
Learnings from walk #1 aka things I need before the next one!
- Layers: They need to be removable and I now get it: base layer, mid layer, outer layer.
- Tissues -lots.
- I need a hat or ear muffs – Thank you to JC for lending me her Chiefs hat!
- Walking poles – I ummed and arred about these and oh how I wanted them
- tea. hot tea! needed!
- gaiters – I have these. Why were they not on legs?!
- A decent map would be better than the guide book alone
- A waterproof map-holdy-thingy that proper hikers use – does it have a name?!
The good things
- Believe it or not: the weather! It could have been a lot worse! And the gratitude you feel when the rain stops, and the rainbow appears – so worth it…
- My insulated trousers: Best purchase ever.
- Having a bag with me for litter picking. I didn’t have to pick up a lot – thank you good people for not dropping so much!
- You can’t beat good company, stunning views and sense of direction!
Thank yous and mentions
Thank you to ST for driving up from Poole to join us! LN for traversing Exmoor and bringing canine company. JC for joining us and offering to drive for walk #2 AND lending me your hat! R, as always for being you and for walking by my side (sometimes!)
The Bottom Ship in Porlock Weir. A cosy establishment with a roaring fire, hot radiators, good beer and friendly faces. I have noted your beer festival in July and hope to join you!
The Charity Bit
Indeed, it is for my pleasure that I am doing this, but who makes a crazy plan, writes a blog, invites everyone she knows to be a part of it and doesn’t wish to make a tiny bit of difference to world by doing it?! Not me, so read on to see if you can help.
Stem Cell Research. Read up on this. It’s life saving and indeed life changing and right now, couldn’t be more relevant or important to me. I would like to invite you all to go to https://www.anthonynolan.org/
and read about who they are and what they do. If you feel so inclined, make a donation to my Just Giving page, or directly to them.
If you already donate blood, then why not get onto the Bone Marrow Donor list too? It literally will save someone’s life. https://www.anthonynolan.org/donor-application/begin
I will write more on all of the above in due course.
But it begins here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/grace-langridgeswcpchallenge