Only 35 miles to Minehead! The end of the South West Coast Path – won’t be long now. Today, however I am stopping at Hunters Inn, hoping to take it easy for the rest of the day before heading back to London tomorrow.
My euphoria dissipates a little as I struggle up a very steep incline up to Hangman Point.
There are cows in a field nearby, beautiful white cows, and thankfully behind a fence. I know lots of people would think nothing of walking through a field of cows and either did I until I got chased by some. The incident prompted me to do a little research and discover that according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), on average four to five people are killed in accidents involving cattle each year, with 74 fatal attacks since 2000. So I am always wary – and anyway isn’t that a bull?
At the top of a hill known as Greater Hangman is a substantial cairn and hiding behind it a group of Spaniards are having a picnic. I wait until all of the heads are hidden before taking a picture.
It is already very hot but for the moment the path is wide and fairly flat – but not for long. At Blackstone Point it plunges down through dense woodland into a steep narrow valley and at the bottom a lovely little stream bubbles and tinkles over the rocks. Ah! a shady spot for lunch methinks, but no, a young couple have had the same idea. I say hello and mumble something about what goes down must go up, – they nod in agreement.
At the top of the equally steep ascent they overtake me and the young girl approaches with an enquiring look on her face “I have a question” she says, German I think. In my time I have been approached by quite a few Germans with this conversation opener, they must teach it in schools. Anyway, she asks me whether I think the water in the stream we have just crossed is safe to drink. I have no idea but manage to summon up a reasonable response based on the dangers of agricultural fertilisers and such……..she seems satisfied and they trip gaily off up the hill. I don’t meet them again but their destination is the same as mine so I end up following them at a polite distance.
From here on the path winds through gorgeous shows of heather and gorse.
……………and up ahead another young couple are searching in the scrub as if they have lost something. I ask if I can help and they laugh and tell me that they are participating in a GPS cache hunt. I nod as if I know what they’re talking about and as I turn to continue walking I hear a gleeful cry. They have found the cache – it’s an onion in a plastic bag – each to his own I guess.
I carry on following the track which now becomes narrow and stony, a bit difficult to walk on. It winds down and around the cliff and there are a few perilous patches where I feel I have to lean into the hillside to avoid that strange feeling of wanting to throw myself off – I know I am not alone in this.
Eventually I move into the intense woodland green of Heddons Mouth Cleave. The valley is deep with narrow paths on both sides. I take my time as the views take my breath away. I realise I have left the sound of the sea behind me, it is wonderfully quiet only punctuated by the occasional laughter and conversation which rings around the valley from people on the other side.
Nearing the bottom of the valley the path flattens out and I can take my eyes off my boots and enjoy the cool of the shady woodland.
I start to see groups of people as I follow the sign to my destination.
Hunters Inn is a relaxed establishment offering what looks like good but expensive food. There is no mobile signal down here so I am allowed to use the pub’s telephone to phone a taxi.
I take my pint outside and sit mesmerized by the blowsy hydrangea – they do like a hydrangea down here.
This is the end of 4 days of wonderful walking.
Distance: 8 miles