Talland Bay to Fowey 16.7.15

My taxi drops me at Talland Bay where I finished yesterday and I head up the path which rises steeply up onto the cliffs. Both my boots and I are praying that it will not rain today as the cracks in the leather are now widening – it is misty at the moment but will clear up later I hope. After a couple of miles the path starts winding down and a pretty little village comes into view. This is Pollperro, which sounds Italian rather than Cornish and in fact it could be anywhere judging by the languages I hear spoken in its streets. This is the entrance to the cove where it looks like some lucky person is having a house built.IMG_2434…..and here is the village…IMG_2439IMG_2437As I walk down the steep narrow street into the village it dawns on me that every other house I walk past is a summer let and closed and shuttered at that. The atmosphere is eerie, tourists laden with cameras stroll quietly, almost reverently, through the streets, necks craned to catch the sights, staring into the windows of small shops selling fudge and pasties – it’s all rather cheerless. I see no-one recognisable as a local.

As I peer round corners trying to spot signs for the path I am accosted by two cheery chaps from somewhere up north who ask first if I know where the path is, then whether I was intending to walk on it and lastly whether I was walking alone – their loud strongly accented voices bounce off the stone walls of the village square making heads turn in our direction. With as much politeness as I can muster I reply in the negative to the first question and make short work of the last two. “You know it’s pretty hard going from now on, don’t you?” one of them says – is he offering me a piggy back? I think. Anyway, I let them go, waiting for 10 minutes to make sure they are well ahead of me – I’m not generally Miss Misanthrope but I do like to walk on my own.IMG_2443So, finding the path hidden behind a small house I climb back up onto the cliffs again and follow the path as it dips up, down and around the curves of the coast. IMG_2445There are indeed some very steep climbs which leave me gasping but none as trying as those just after Durdle Door on that fateful day when I twisted my ankle.

At one point I walk past what looks like a chimney from far away but as I get closer I realise it has no recognisable features – no hole at the top, no windows, no plaque. I have since looked it up and discovered that it was used as a navigation aid for sailors (and smugglers no doubt as by the mid eighteenth century 50-60% of all alcohol consumed had been illegally brought in by ship via the Devonshire and Cornish coast.)IMG_2447Up until this point the path has been quite well marked but here I am faced with a choice of down or up. I decide to take what looks like the easy option (usually not the best idea) but after 10 minutes walking it peters out into grass and stone and I can see no way forward. Turning around I see a woman of my age and her daughter stopped and hesitating behind me and I realise that they probably thought I knew the way. We stop to talk – they are German and the mother looks exhausted. Her daughter on the other hand is bright as a button and sets the pace back to the fork and on up into the craggy stones. I follow, keeping a respectable distance, but have to keep stopping as Mutter seems to be having trouble keeping up. IMG_2452Round the next bend I am treated to the most wonderful view of Lantivet Bay, which from up here looks like a tropical beach.IMG_2453It is now very hot and I am sorely tempted to go for a swim despite the thought of the long heave back up to the path. As I stand deliberating a man and his family squeeze past me and ask whether I’m thinking of going down to the beach. I tell them why I am in two minds but he manages to persuade me and 10 minutes later I am being tossed around in what turns out to be quite chilly water on what also turns out to be quite a stoney beach – how deceptive appearances can be. Despite these slight disappointments the swim is  invigorating and I give myself 15 minutes to dry off and enjoy the sun – I also make a friend.IMG_1510Back up on the cliff top it doesn’t take long before I see signs of civilisation – the outskirts of Polruan – what a view the people who own this house have.IMG_2458Walking down into the village I suddenly become aware of a rustling in the bushes to the left of me – a rabbit is sat there calmy nibbling away at the grass. It looks a little battered and I suppose it must be poorly as it makes no attempt to run away…….do we still have rabbits with myxomatosis? IMG_2457Anyway, I leave it alone and continue down into the village where I can get a ferry over the river to Fowey.IMG_2459Polruan feels like an authentic Cornish town, it has a working dock and solid buildings – there are also a lot more Cornish accents to be heard. I pop into the local pub for a swift half while waiting for the ferry and am tempted to ask the publican what type of steroids he was using for his window boxes. IMG_1514The ferry arrives and as we leave to cross the river we pass a beautiful wooden sailing ship. IMG_2466

IMG_2462Halfway across, another traditional looking sailing boat crosses our path – someone is suspended from the front mast. Research tells me that this is a boat owned by a company that offers sailing holidays. It is called a pilot cutter and I think the mast extended from the front is called a bowsprit. The trip is from Brixham to Fowey and is open to beginners…..I wonder. IMG_2468I check into a pub in the harbour and later eat the best scallops I have ever tasted – a fitting end to three days walking.

Distance: 10 miles

Portwrinkle to Talland Bay 15.7.15

The walk up and out of Portwrinkle is very steep and there is a slight drizzle – I stop to ask directions of an old lady who looks a lot like my Welsh grandmother and we have a little moan about the weather. IMG_2402At the top the path levels out and the rain stops – I have time to look around me.IMG_2404 I don’t know what this plant is but the small creamy bell like petals catch my eye.IMG_2405A while later I can see the village of Downderry below me and in the distance what I believe is my destination for today – Looe complete with island.IMG_2406The path winds around the back of Downderry and then runs alongside a few houses – I turn left at this signpost and make for the beach where I stop for a drink at the beach cafe. The tide is way out so I make a few enquiries about the feasibility of walking all the way along the beach to Looe. One remark is enough to stop me worrying “Well it can get a bit rocky, but if my mother can do it so can you” says a woman in her thirties.  I set off.IMG_2407I soon leave the dog walkers and day trippers behind and find myself alone.IMG_2409The beach reminds me of the one between Penarth (where my parents used to live) and Cardiff. There is a lot of pink and grey stone…….IMG_2410

IMG_2413…..and a little later I am forced to scramble over some very large boulders, keeping a wary eye on the advancing tide.  IMG_2411After what seems like an eternity the beach levels out and I start hearing voices of children playing – I have arrived at Millendreath Beach. One little girl is trying to bury her brother in what can only be called mud now – up to his neck in it. They are having such fun but I don’t feel comfortable taking close-up photos of other people’s children. IMG_2416It is very hot and the water looks so tempting that I lean my walking pole against a rock, take off my boots and paddle.  I then walk about 100 yards up the beach before realising that my pole is missing – back I go. I really must get into the habit of looking behind me every time I make a move – I am getting a little forgetful.

As I move onto the terrace of the beach cafe a young girl is coming out on her own with quite a large pack on her back. I ask her if she’s doing the South West Coast Path, which she is, and yet again I’m told that I’m doing it the wrong way round – most people do it anti-clockwise but I have another agenda. Anyway, we exchange bits of information about paths and ferries and say goodbye. She gathers her poles and sets off slowly and purposefully up the steep hill – not as lucky as me, as the tide is now in, cutting off the beach. She is the third woman I have met out walking alone since I started back in 2011. IMG_2417Climbing steeply up the other side it doesn’t take long walking along the top of the cliffs before I can see East Looe below me.IMG_2418The path winds down into the town and spits me out onto a bustling high street full of tourists. I stand blinking in confusion feeling like an alien just landed from another planet but quickly adjust – enough to head straight into the Oxfam shop for a pair of shorts and a swimming costume, both of which I did not pack. I then find the ferry over to West Looe and my B&B where I equip myself more appropriately for the hot day and set off towards Hannafore Point and Talland Bay.IMG_2421Walking up to Hannofore Point involves a narrow very busy tarmac road – I spend my time dodging pedestrians and cars.IMG_2423At the top people are flopped in deck chairs taking in the view across to the island – or having an afternoon snooze. I am tempted to join them but it’s too early to stop now. IMG_2424

IMG_2426The rest of the walk along the top of the cliffs is very pleasant but very hot – and I have no water with me. By the time I get to Talland Bay and the very welcome beach cafe I am parched. As I stand waiting my turn, the man in front of me is served what looks like a very cold shandy – bubbles gently rise to the surface, the glass is frosty, I pant. When asked I find myself replying with the classic “I’ll have what he’s having” “Bless you” the lady behind  the bar says, “You look like like you need it” “Bless you” I think.

Distance: 13 miles

Cawsand to Portwrinkle 14.7.15

Right outside my window the Cawsand ferry awaits in the morning mist – I walk down the ramp in a gentle drizzle.IMG_2378The Barbican looks menacing on this grey day and the sight of the two ferrymen bent over the engine of the small boat is a bit of a worry.IMG_2380IMG_2382….but all is well, the ferry leaves on time and we soon leave Plymouth behind.IMG_2384I am the only passenger so I find a dry place to sit on a bench just inside the cabin. As we leave the shelter of the harbour the sea gets choppy and when I stand up to take a photo of Drake’s Island I nearly lose my balance. Not wanting to embarrass myself in front of the two young men manning the boat, I identify a good handhold and hang on trying to look as unmoved as possible by the rocking of the boat. Eventually I sit down and watch one of the men calmly swabbing the decks, perfectly poised against the rolling of the waves.  IMG_2385The crossing takes 30 minutes and as we approach Cawsand I notice one of the men starting to take off his trousers – I look pointedly in the other direction. When I turn round I see he has changed into swimming shorts and is standing at the front of the boat ready to jump off into the shallows, run up the beach and fetch the metal passenger ramp. Two seconds later I hear a moan of dismay as he realises that just where he is planning to hop off there is a deep hole in the seabed. There is no way around it so he jumps and wades in, up to his knees in cold water – the captain chuckles.IMG_2392

IMG_2393IMG_2395Leaving the ferry behind I walk up into the village looking for a shop as I know there will not be many watering holes for a while. I pass some very pretty houses a lot of them painted in the fashionable muted colours of the middle classes – even the public toilets are decorated with vases of dried flowers and prints on the walls.IMG_2396The path out of the village winds up through some lovely woodland and as I stand deliberating at a fork in the road two young girls come bouncing past and put me on the right track to Rame Head.IMG_2397At one point I pass a huge stone with patterns inscribed on its surface, which puts me in mind of the modern runic stones of Christiania where I used to live. IMG_2399And a little later it all goes horribly wrong……..I have no idea how it happened and I’m not going to blame it on the German family who gave me directions, but all of a sudden I realise that I have strayed from the coast path and am now on a minor road which would cut out Rame Head altogether. I stand at a crossroads, undecided, my iPhone has no service so I can’t track my position and the paper map is not precise enough. So I follow my nose and backtrack up the tarmac to another crossroads, where I take what I feel is a road in the right direction. All of this has wasted a lot of time and the mist has got thicker, compounding my sense of disorientation.

I eventually arrive at the look out station on Rame Head and pop my head in to ask how to pick up the path again. A friendly looking Scotsman answers my query with a twinkle in his eye “The path, och aye that’s just over there” he says, pointing towards a bank of thick fog. I am not convinced until he takes me a few steps forward and tries to get me to see the outline of a stone wall in the distance, adding that I’d be alright if I just kept to the left of it. What to do? I set off with my heart in my mouth, his parting remark ringing in my ears “Not too many cliffs to fall over that way” Ha ha.

From now on there will be very few photos, the rain starts in earnest and although I can hear the sea I can’t see it, in fact I can’t see further than fifty yards ahead of me. On I go following the narrow path which twists and turns, through prickly bushes and dripping ferns. I try singing to keep my spirits up, but as I was planning to learn the words for our choir’s concert when I came back from walking, I content myself with some humming.

Eventually the path leads up to the road and as I am in dire need of sustenance I decide to abandon the path and walk along the road to the next village where I am sure there will be somewhere for a cup of tea. Just in front of me a couple cross the road to their car and offer me a lift – I decline “I’m afraid it’s not in the rules” – they laugh. A minute later they pass me, slow down and ask me again and when I explain that I was hoping to get to Freathy for lunch they laugh again, point to a narrow opening on the other side of the road with a sign pointing down the bank. “There’s your pitstop right behind you” says the woman with a friendly smile – I had not seen the sign in the mist and rain.

And here it is, the wonderful Cliff Top Cafe on a sunny day…….Scanned Image 152050004 I walk gratefully into the steaming fug of the wooden building, peel off my sodden clothes and order scrambled eggs on toast with a mug of tea – heaven.

It does not take long for my clothes to dry so I soon drag myself away from the warm sanctuary and go out into the rain again. This time I take the path which takes me past small enclaves of wooden summerhouses that fringe Whitsand Bay – just like the ones in Denmark.IMG_1505Here they are – The Whitsanders – I want to be one………………………..Scanned Image 152050003A little later the path dips down to the left and I am faced with the entrance to Tregantle Fort which can only be accessed at weekends and public holidays, according to the Internet. Today is Tuesday but I see no red flag flying and after a bit of deliberation I decide to chance it – surely nobody can shoot in this weather?

Walking down the tarmac road I do not see the fort until it looms up out of the mist to the right of me. There is an eerie silence, the only sound is that of my boots hitting the tarmac, the deep set windows like eyes following my progress. IMG_1508The road then crosses a wide open meadow bordered with signs bearing stern warnings not to stray from the path.IMG_1509Coming out of MOD territory the landscape opens up and I get to see the sea again, sharp, jagged rocks are lined up on the beach like ships ready to do battle. IMG_1506The rest of the walk is gentle, the grassy path eventually crossing a golf course and then a steep road down into Periwinkle. I am still very damp and the rain today has confirmed that my leather boots of six years standing have now reached the end of their days. I am really looking forward to a hot bath and I hope the weather will be better tomorrow.

Distance: 11 miles

Wembury to Cawsand 29.5.15

The following morning I am back on Wembury Beach having been given a lift by my BnB hosts. The Great Mew Stone still dominates the horizon – it is slightly misty. IMG_2315From the beach I head up onto the cliffs and walk past an information board. This gives me the history of the Mew Stone which differs from the Wiki – I prefer the following version. In 1744 a local man was interned on the island for a minor crime (it was cheaper than sending him to Australia), where he lived with his family for seven years. He never left the island but his daughter must have, (unless her suitors came to her) because she married and raised three children. She was known locally as Black Joan – it was not clear why……..

Rain has been forecast and I although I can feel it in the air I have been putting off struggling into my waterproofs for as long as possible. There is nothing more annoying than stopping to take off your rucksack, get out the rain clothes, stand on one foot, trying to get a walking boot into a tight leg of the trousers, lose your balance, get your foot wet, and then have to do it again with the other leg. Eventually you’re done and you can walk on for five minutes which is roughly when the rain stops and because you don’t want to go through the whole rigmarole again, you walk as long as possible before your body temperature reaches sauna point and you have to stop again to take them off. This is exactly what happened, although the rain was quite a downpour so my precautions felt justified. After a while I reach Bovisand Bay, home to a substantial holiday village and a fort, both equally drear.IMG_2320 IMG_2319I circle the bay and just before the fort I spy the familiar acorn signpost indicating the coastal path. I walk up the stone steps and across a bridge, skirting the fort. IMG_2325 IMG_2326From here I follow a clear path along the top of the cliffs and rounding a corner I am treated to a wonderful view of Plymouth Sound and the mound of Mount Batten. This is where I’ll be getting the ferry across to the centre of Plymouth.IMG_2328The path continues to follow the edge of the cliff eventually dipping steeply down into a stretch of woodland.IMG_2331Even bent double, low branches claw at my rucksack and in some places I am forced to take it off…..IMG_2333At one point the woods open out into parkland, marked by this sign – I find myself wondering how long it will be before the letters become indecipherable.IMG_2335   IMG_2336A few naval ships chug past and off to the right a flock of small sailing boats, which I think are called “bugs”, flit around in tight circles – there are frequent capsizings from which they seem to recover remarkably quickly.  IMG_2337Further on I am pleased to see a large milestone indicating the South West Coastal Path, I have really been spoiled since I started the path in Swanage. Those days of wandering around in carparks or by the side of a motorway, miles inland, seem so long ago, but of course they will come again – take Liverpool just as an example. By now I am starting to get really hot and hungry so I am relieved to see the Mounbatten ferry approaching the metal walkway. With such a prestigious name I had expected something grander than the grubby little yellow motor boat – the grumpy captain was also a bit of a disappointment. IMG_2342   IMG_2344On the other side I am sucked into waves of tourists milling about on the quay – having seen or heard very few people all morning it’s quite a culture shock. I stop and rest on  a bench beneath this fish sculpture.IMG_2345Having gathered my wits I head off to my BnB to lighten my rucksack and find something to eat before setting off for the rest of today’s journey. Following directions I have quite a long walk down to the Cremyll ferry – the route takes me past the expanse of the international ferry dock which Damian and I drove through some years ago on our way to Santander. In contrast my landing stage is small, tucked down a side street – I arrive to find the ferry just leaving. It is only fifteen minutes to the next ferry but I am now worrying I may arrive too late at my destination to get the bus back to Plymouth. IMG_2347In due time it arrives and after an all too short crossing (I love ferries) it deposits me on the edge of Edgcumbe Country Park – I am now in Cornwall!IMG_2350Walking through the gates of the country park I take a little detour around the ornamental gardens, but soon catch up with the coast path, which runs along the shoreline.  IMG_2351IMG_2352   IMG_2356The park is beautiful and the track easy to follow, I manage to relax about getting to Cawsand on time. I soon leave the chattering crowds behind and enter the hush of a stretch of beautiful woodland.IMG_2358There are bluebells and small stone shelters, the earth is red.IMG_2363There are also quite a lot of uprooted trees – could it be the wind that could tears them so brutally from the earth?IMG_2362This one looks like it may be the next one to fall…..IMG_2368Out of the wood and into the sunshine I walk past some kids collecting ferns. “What are you going to use those for?” I was curious. “They’re for the roof of our shelter” one of the boys replies, having decided that I was safe to talk to – building shelters, it’s in our DNA.IMG_2370At last I top a hill and can look down on Kingsand/Cawsand which looks like interesting little villages. There is something French about the pastel coloured houses and the way the houses merge with the rocks and the harbour wall. I head down the steep narrow streets to a pub on the waterfront – there are a few Devonshire accents but most are home counties. After making enquiries about the bus I realise I have 20 minutes before the bus goes – just time for a half of local ale.

Jawbone says 12 miles.

Lambside to Wembury 28.5.15

Driving a bit too fast down very narrow country lanes, my taxi turns a corner, comes face to face with a police car and screeches to a halt – we have stopped exactly where I want to get off – amazing.IMG_2280Down a grassy path lined with a whole array of wild flowers that I can’t name, I emerge back onto the coast path and am soon overlooking Stoke Beach. There is a caravan/chalet park spilling onto the beach and a sign to the ancient St.Peter’s church – I decide not to investigate as time is pressing.IMG_2283Up to my right I pass an empty building “ripe for refurbishment” but this is National Trust land so it is only the sheep who will benefit from the wonderful views over the bay.IMG_2284Turning a corner I catch sight of the Great Mew Stone off Gara Point and behind what must be the coast of Cornwall.IMG_2286The path continues to meander through swathes of buttercups and daises, the sun still out although dark clouds are massing. At one point the path passes below a beautiful low level house – this is Warren Cottage which is a listed building and was apparently used as a summerhouse for Lord Revelstoke, a local squire.IMG_2287Passing through a gate I spy a group of young cows/bullocks frolicking about off to my left. There is no way around them so gritting my teeth I quicken my pace and march confidently ahead. I know there is no way they can seriously harm me (I think) but it is a little disconcerting to be charged by a herd of cows albeit playfully.IMG_2288  Some time later the path dips down off the cliffs and I enter a calm cool world of dappled light and bluebells – it is here I meet red earth again, the last time I remember seeing it was in Dawlish.IMG_2290 To my left is the River Yealm, I am now approaching Nos Mayo where I intend to have a late lunch. IMG_2291At one point I pass a very well preserved sign for the Yealm Ferry which obviously used to be much bigger than the one i will be taking today – no room for a pony nowadays.IMG_2292 The woodland opens up to reveal more small boats moored in the estuary – the path becomes a tarmac road lined with beautiful houses overlooking the water – this one caught my eye.IMG_2293   IMG_2296Finally, as my feet are now starting to complain, I arrive at the Ship Inn in Nos Mayo – this photograph is taken from a table outside and looking across the river to Newton Ferrers. I abandon lunch and go for rhubarb crumble and custard which is heavenly. IMG_2298 Fortified I walk back up to the road to the Yealm Ferry, the crossing takes 2-3 minutes and is the last crossing for the day. I will have to rely on the local bus to get back to my B&B which is just outside Nos Mayo. IMG_2300Alighting from the ferry I follow a well marked path from Warren Point, stopping to take photographs of the estuary from the other side. I catch glimpses of the water – a dazzling shade of turquoise and out to sea the Great Mew Stone guarding the entrance to the estuary.IMG_2302 IMG_2303I walk towards Wembury, ignoring the path off to the village and continue on the one that will take me down to the beach from where I hope I can get a bus back to Nos Mayo. After a while the roof and tower of Wembury Church come into view – I wander in to take a look, pleased that it is open, so many are locked nowadays.IMG_2309 IMG_2310There are a few families on the beach at Wembury enjoying the late afternoon sun and a small cafe. I have missed the last bus and there hasn’t been signal on my mobile for a while – I will need to call a taxi. I am directed towards a telephone box that doesn’t work so my only option is to walk to the village and find a pub. Asking a local I am told there are shops and a pub “just up the road”. I think he must have been visualising a car journey as 25 minutes later up a steep road I still haven’t seen any signs of the shops or the pub. Eventually the pub sign comes into view but the pub is closed. Forlornly I knock on the door and a cheery woman opens up with a smile. She then allows me to use the phone and buy a drink. We spend the 10 minutes before the taxi arrives discussing the dearth of mobile phone masts in the area and the consequences for farmers, taxi firms and holiday makers. It has been a long but lovely walk today.

Jawbone says: 12 miles

Bantham to Kingston 27.5.15

Areas of outstanding natural beauty are sometimes a logistical nightmare – this one comes in the shape of the rivers Avon, Erme and Yealm, not to mention Plymouth Sound. All of these stretches of water have to be crossed, one way or another and I suppose I can count myself lucky that it’s the summer season when the ferries are actually in operation. IMG_2251From the wonderful Sloop Inn I head down the walkway to the Bantham Ferry which consists of a small wooden boat with an outboard motor. The ferryman appears and heads off in a rubber dinghy to fetch the boat and bring it in for me to board – the crossing takes three minutes. IMG_2252I hop off onto a sandbank and wade through shallow puddles until I’m at the foot of Mount Folly Hill, which isn’t as strenuous or as daunting as it looks and sounds.IMG_2255It is a beautiful day and after my climb up I am rewarded with a wonderful view of the estuary –  three or four different shades of blue water swirl around in the morning sunshine, gentle waves lap lazily on the honey coloured sand. IMG_2258Just before this sign for the coast path I walk past a field of tents and caravans, the sound of children playing happily outside, the smell of breakfast bacon sizzling away on camping stoves and it makes me nostalgic for the camping holidays of my childhood. Walking sometimes makes me very sentimental……. IMG_2260……..although when I reach the beach at Bigbury- on-Sea I can’t wait to get away from the holiday makers and up onto the cliff path overlooking Burgh Island. Close up, the hotel, with its art deco features and famous guests, does not seem to promise the grand isolation I previously associated it with – perhaps because when I saw it before the tide was in and the only means of access was a sea tractor.IMG_2261

IMG_2262Walking on I pass the beach at Challborough and from now on the landscape gets wilder. IMG_2264Hidden inaccessible coves down below and spectacular rock formations – slabs of limestone standing proud in the sea, reflecting the light like massive solar panels.IMG_2268 Despite some steep ascents I am making progress and by midday I emerge from the shrubs of a narrow path down the cliff onto the sands of Wonwell Beach. There are a  few walkers here before me, munching sandwiches and taking in the beauty of the mouth of the River Erme. There is no ferry across the estuary but at low tide you can wade across  – the water either comes up to your ankles or your waist depending on who you talk to. It is high tide now and I have no sandwiches, only a fast decaying, day old salad and no fork, so I decide to carry on and reach my bed for the night in Kingston. Here I can empty out half my rucksack and after a bite to eat, get someone to take me round the estuary to carry on walking for the rest of the day – it is too early to stop now.

Reluctantly, as I would have liked a snooze in the sunshine, I turn inland and follow the east bank of the river until I find the very steep path to Kingston which takes me through some lovely woodland, a cool green refuge from the glare of the midday sun. Panting with exertion, my mind’s eye glued to visions of tall glasses of iced fizzy water, I stumble out onto the tarmac road that leads into the village. IMG_2276Past some pretty cottages and here is the Dolphin Inn where I am staying the night.IMG_2277Sprawled on a chair outside, with the dregs of a pint in his hands, is a rather large, unsavoury looking character who gleefully informs me that the pub is closed til 6 pm. “But…but…” I splutter, “I have a room booked for tonight” …..the man looks at me for a long two seconds, slowly stubs out his cigarette on the tarmac and then heaves himself up out of the chair, only to disappear round the back of the pub presumably looking for the landlord. Two minutes later the proprietor appears – a friendly relaxed man who sorts out a drink for me, shows me to my room and after numerous phone calls, manages to arrange a taxi to take me round the estuary……he apologises for no food but provides me with a bag of crisps and a fork. I am content and grateful.

An hour later I am being dropped at a spot on the coast which I have calculated is a two hour walk east of Mothecombe, from where I will walk back arriving in time to wade the Erme and make my way back to Kingston for the night. IMG_2271The path back to Mothecombe is easy walking through woodlands and on high ground above the sea, overlooking yet more imposing rock formations. IMG_2273It is late afternoon now and I meet no-one on the path – I stop to have a chat with a beautiful little calf. IMG_2274Moving on I suddenly find myself worrying about walking alone in an area of no mobile signal (of which there are many down here). Twenty minutes later, I stumble on something or other, my right ankle gives way and I find myself on the ground. Cursing, and feeling a little foolish I warily take a step to assess the damage – it’s not bad – but I remember the same thing happening in Lulworth Cove and when I got to take the boot off, the ankle doubled in size and I couldn’t walk. Lets hope the same thing doesn’t happen again. I am now a firm believer in the self-fulfilling prophecy.IMG_2275Half an hour later I arrive at Mothecombe Beach, a lovely stretch of soft sand backed by woodland. Another short stretch and I would be on the west bank of the Erme facing Wonwell beach where I was this morning. I have covered more ground than I expected and low tide is two hours away. Even if I was to wait and try to wade the river, I would have another forty minutes of walking to the pub in Kingston and my ankle is quite sore.

A few families are packing up for the day and I ask them if there is a telephone box or anywhere I can call a taxi in Mothercombe……I am directed to a box but it’s derelict. Wandering around the village I spy a man cleaning his car and ask him for information about local taxis – he leads me down to knock on the door of the village taxi service but there is no reply. To my astonishment (and secret relief) he offers to drive me himself. It is a twenty minute drive and he refuses my money. Some people are just nice.

 

 

 

Llanelli to Kidwelly 18.3.15

This was a looooong walk, mostly because I got a bit lost, but more of that later. IMG_2138I set off from what turns out to be the Visitor Centre, taking the path westwards. It’s a grey morning  but I’m hoping it will brighten up. The beach is deserted apart from a lone dog walker and choosing to walk the sea wall rather than the soft sand I make good progress. IMG_2141After a while the path winds up through landscaped parkland, sometimes branching off to lead into circular dry stonewall “nooks” with wooden benches – perfect for a quick snog (yes I’m still 15 at heart).IMG_2147 I walk past man-made lakes where moorhens treat me to a show of synchronised swimming, a few morning joggers pant past me, eyes glazed. Later another Millennium Park sculpture comes into view, still not standing quite straight.IMG_2148………and further still the nod to Welsh rugby. Myself, I’m not too keen on a sport that causes such injury and disfigurement, but my uncle played for Wales in the 60’s and most Saturday afternoons Dad would be glued to the telly, craning his neck to see around my mother who I’m sure would sometimes stand in front of it on purpose, pretending to dust – she was not a fan.IMG_2151Oh and here it is again, this time I’m not taking any chances….IMG_2161A little later this blue plaque comes into view, commemorating the lovely Ms. Earhart who graced this part of the South Wales coast with her groundbreaking achievement, what a brave lady.IMG_2157I am now back on the coast and as I squint across the bay I spot what I know to be the cast iron lighthouse off Whiteford Point – Damian and I walked right up to this peculiar structure at low tide  – seems a long time ago.IMG_2165Channels of bright water snake down to the sea and in the distance I catch sight of another lighthouse – the squat perky cherry topped tower of Burry Port.IMG_2168

IMG_2171By now I am in dire need of a cup of tea and a bun so I ask a likely looking local for directions to the nearest cafe. He sends me off in the direction of town, which is a bit out of my way, so I decide to ask someone else who points authoritatively over to the other side of the harbour, but warns me that it may not be open. I deliberate and decide to take a chance, my feet are smarting from all the tarmac walking and I need to sit down. Two minutes later I am comfortably installed in front of a steaming mug of tea and a toasted tea-cake – life does not get much better.

Refuelled I walk up through a stretch of dunes and into Pembrey Country Park – and this is where the trouble starts. Up until now I have been following the Welsh Coast Path signs which seem to correspond more or less with the red dotted lines on my OS map – but now they don’t. I decide to follow the signs – big mistake – but for now I’m confident I’m on the right track and delight in the sudden appearance of a ski lift!IMG_2174

IMG_2176

IMG_2175There are a few families out and I find myself thinking of my first sortie into skiing – something I thought I’d never do. I was living in Denmark at the time so the ski slopes of Norway were relatively easy to access. I went with my daughter and some friends and spent the first two days falling over into soft snow before I got the knack. To me the surface of this dry slope looks pretty hard, I think I would have given up pretty quickly if I’d gone down this route. As it was the joys of the green and eventually the blue slopes, were soon mine and I loved it.

Moving away from the slope I stop to take a photo of these strange structures – there are two standing side by side and I have no idea what they are supposed to be but perhaps that’s the point.IMG_2179Seeing no signs for the coast path I ask a passing bird watcher for directions to Pembrey Forest, the route I had planned. He appears knowledgable but after 50 yards another blue and yellow coast path sign turns up pointing in the opposite direction. Stupidly, not heeding my map or sense of direction I turn around and head off, ending up in a deserted children’s fairground behind the beach. Perched on top of a dune is another coast path sign pointing north west up the beach and it is then that the penny drops…….this route is not marked on the map and I have wasted at least 30 minutes going round in circles – I feel   a letter coming on.

Dejectedly I walk back to the entrance to the park and manage to find the dirt track off to the left which leads off into the forest. As I walk down the apprehension creeps up on me – I feel like lIttle Red Riding Hood worrying about big bad wolves. IMG_2180Despite my aching feet my pace quickens as I stride, almost running, deeper and deeper into the forest. There is no-one around and I know I have at least 30 minutes of walking before I get to the other side, the phrase “we’re not out of the woods yet” comes to mind. I know I’m being silly and that the likelihood of there being an axe wielding rapist out for a jaunt on a weekday in February is pretty low but this does not help.

As it happens I meet no-one but a lovely smiley couple with a pair of silky greyhounds loping along beside them and then turning right at a crossroads the forest opens out into the bleak plains around Pembrey Airport – I breathe again. The next few miles are across flat soggy fields, on concrete paths, until I come out onto the main road into Kidwelly.IMG_2181Just before the town this sign makes me laugh and also wonder why the otters would be crossing – from where to where? The landscape on both sides of the road looks the same to me but then I’m not an otter.IMG_2184 The high street of Kidwelly is dull, particularly on a grey February afternoon but I find an old-fashioned tea shop and eat one of the best ham omelettes I’ve ever tasted – just like “me muvver used to make”. I’m told there is a castle worth visiting but I’m too late and anyway it’s all that I can do to limp up to my B&B and heave myself into a hot bath – next time.

Distance: 16 miles

Llanrhidian to LLanelli 17.2.15

I am dropped at the church where Damian and I finished last time and head down the “Marsh Road” which skirts Llanrhidian Marshes. The sky is blue, it’s a beautiful morning and my first encounter is with a flock of bewildered sheep caught between the farmer in his Landrover driving them forwards and me striding purposefully down the road towards them.IMG_1167Despite my muttered apologies they scatter blindly up onto the bank as I approach, from where they are immediately chased by the sheepdog back onto the road behind me – the farmer seems unperturbed. After a while I pass a field of drowsy horses, heads hanging, back legs drooping and as I pass I see one of them attempt a lacklustre graze at a nearby tuft of grass. The movement unbalances him and he almost falls over in the process – it makes me chuckle.

After a while of walking on the tarmac lane I reach the village of Crofty where I am thankful for grass to walk on. The path skirts the village and takes me through a former military area with the obligatory warnings.IMG_2099

IMG_2101In the distance, on the other side of the estuary I can see a swathe of industrial buildings which I may have to pass through on the way to Llanelli – and the bridge I will have to cross when I come to it is the Loughor Bridge.IMG_2103North of Crofty I am obliged to join the road so it’s head down through Pen-clawdd and on to Gowerton, trying to block out the cars rushing past me. My feet are now starting to smart with all the hard surface walking and there really isn’t much to look at – this street name provides some momentary relief. IMG_2107So on I go, up onto the even busier A484, a stretch I was dreading but which is made more bearable by the cycle track running parallel.IMG_2108I am now getting close to the bridge and as I walk around the back of a soulless housing estate I see the ruins of Loughor Castle high on a bank to the left of me.IMG_2110The Loughor Bridge (pronounced Lucker but the ck is soft, barely a scrape of the throat) stretches over an expanse of sluggish water and mud flats – it is a dreary sight.IMG_2111

 

IMG_2113…….but halfway across my spirits rise – I am crossing into another county!IMG_2117Coming off the bridge I walk through a carpark and over a bridge following signs for the Millennium Coast Path. I don’t know why the mast of the bridge looks like it’s tilting as it is perfectly straight in reality – I feel I need to read my new camera’s manual a little more carefully.IMG_2122Anyway, from here, the path takes me past the sewage works (which wasn’t as bad as it sounds) and up onto a path running parallel to a road. To the right I recognise the chimney and the buildings I had seen from the Llanrhidian marshes. IMG_2128The path itself is overlooked by a line of towering electricity pylons and I find myself thinking of a book called The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work by Alain de Botton in which, after encounters with enthusiasts working in the industry, he writes about electricity pylons: “In different species, I noted varieties of modesty or arrogance, honesty or shiftiness, and in one 150-kilovolt type in ubiquitous use in southern Finland I even detected a coquettish sexuality in the way the central mast held out a delicate hand to its conductor wire”

IMG_2130What do you think of these? Do they have glamour? Drama?

Moving on, the path meanders through a forlorn landscape of mudflats and mournful bird calls until I catch my first sight of proper sand.IMG_2132IMG_2131…………and the first of many identical sculptures that mark Llanelli’s Millennium Coastal Park.

IMG_2135

Again, I have no idea what causes the lean – I need to learn about perspective.

Approaching LLanelli I see a stark white building of strange angles in the distance. Closer to it doesn’t look quite so impressive and I later find out it is the Visitor Centre. It has a cafe, so I sit nursing my bruised feet before hobbling off to find my BnB. It has been a long day, a long walk on a lot of hard surfaces.IMG_2138

 

Jawbone says 26 Kms which is about 16 miles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kimmeridge to Lulworth Cove 2.1.15

From the back of our BnB theres a hazy view of Corfe Castle – “but that’s not in Wales” I hear you say and you would be right – it’s in Dorset, and so are we, joining up a few dots I left hanging loose last February.IMG_1133

We start our walk just south of Kimmeridge, where I finished almost a year ago and took a taxi to Lulworth Cove where I continued my walk (and twisted my ankle). It was a weekday so I was forced to hop over 8/9 miles of MoD land only open to the public at weekends.  IMG_2053It is a beautiful day as we head down the rough track which will take us to the entrance to Lulworth Ranges.IMG_2057Just before the gate we stop to investigate what Damian tells me is a “nodding donkey” – pumping oil up from the underground shale. Apparently, this donkey has been nodding since the 1950’s and is the oldest working oil pump in the UK. Another claim to fame is that in 1858, the company who owned the land were contracted to supply gas, extracted from the shale, to light the streets of Paris. The French, always a sensitive lot, were not impressed, they could not stand the foul smell of the burning gas – bof!IMG_2055Anyway, after another photo opportunity for Damian, we walk onto the ranges following lines of yellow posts with signs warning walkers not to stray from the path.IMG_2060 After a mile or two the iPhone tells me that we are nearing the abandoned village of Tyneham which lies half a mile inland. As this walk is going to be a short one we can afford to deviate so we follow the extremely muddy path down to the right. Half way down a woman wearing trainers comes tottering up the path on platform soles of caked mud and warns us that there is worse to come. So we hop gingerly from clod to clod, I am very glad I have my pole with me for balance.

Tyneham and the land surrounding the village were taken over in 1943 by the then War Office – to use as a firing range for troops. Just before Christmas (nice timing) two hundred and twenty five people were given notice to leave their homes as part of the war effort and the buildings were left to crumble. This was supposed to be a temporary evacuation as  this hand written note, found on the church door implies:

“Please treat the church and houses with care; we have given up our homes where many of us have lived for generations to help win the war to keep men free. We shall return one day and thank you for treating the village kindly.”

……..but when the war ended, a compulsory purchase order was slapped onto the area and no-one came home.

It remains a curiosity – a sculpture wall has been built in the yard, using old farm implements and military shells and a few of the buildings have been carefully restored.IMG_2064

IMG_2062I took a shine to the metal hen………IMG_2065In the barn we read that this was where the children would put on plays for the grown ups – I have a Dr. Doolittle moment……IMG_6012_2Back to the coast again we walk along the top of the cliffs in the sunshine – to our right a rusting shell of a tank peers menacingly in our direction.IMG_2073Down below the grand sweep of Worborrow Bay……. IMG_2067  ………and ahead a sprinkling of small rocks break the surface of the scalloped edged seersucker sea.IMG_2079

IMG_2081Soon we start heading down to the perfect symmetry of Lulworth Cove….IMG_6025_2IMG_6029_2Standing on the headland looking across the cove makes me giddy and I politely refuse Damian’s suggestion to take a short cut down a very narrow track, winding down the steep cliff. Instead we walk along the stoney beach in the late afternoon sunshine, up onto the road and into the warm fug of the hotel for tea and cakes. There are now no breaks in my path all the way from North Norfolk to just outside Plymouth.