Posted by: natsevs | February 1, 2010

Day 23: An overdue update

I have finally got my hands on a computer and can update you all on my progress, only three weeks after my last one.

There have been plenty of ups and downs since my last post, the ups probably have it though. As you can see on the progress page what locations each day has provided me, I will try to stick to the interesting points of the last few weeks

I finished my last update at my sister’s in Southampton where, as predicted, I was woken up early by  my niece Harri coming into the lounge to watch cbeebies. She sat by my head whilst i slowly joined the land of the living. I had a slightly lighter bag for the walk to Hythe, as well as to Buckler’s hard the next day, because Rhi took my camping stuff over  to Barry and Elaine’s (her parents-in-law) where I would be spending the Wednesday night.

Walking through Southampton was not a particularly rewarding experience as a large portion of the journey was spent sandwiched between the railway and the docks. There was plenty of snow and ice still about which makes it seem like a long time ago now after quite a sunny day in the south-west. I was forced away from the coast post-Southampton and Eling, and had to walk along main and country roads to Hythe, which was a slightly demoralising walk, although I did at least finish next to the sea at Hythe marina.

I stayed with Luke and Gemma that night, who found it hard to believe how limited my sandwich preferences were, as did Elaine the following day.

I was determined to be by the sea the following day, so when I had the option of going round a fence into marshland or having to go inland, i went with the marshland. Unfortunately, what looked like a path soon became quite dense vegetation, then a pylon channel with a railway and refinery to one side and marsh to the other, before the refinery finally blocked off my route completely.

Forty-five minutes of backtracking got me onto the right track again and the correct side of the refinery. From there it was along the roads before heading into the New Forest and back out to Bucklers Hard.

Started the following day walking very stiffly but soon loosened up a bit and didn’t look quite so haggered. When i got to Milford on Sea, I finally reached a cliff path which I was very excited about after a couple of days toing ad froing.

At Barton-on-Sea, I then took the path down to the beach, which was blocked a little further on with a makeshift fence, which I ignored stupidly. I was soon clambering over mudslides and rocks before hitting the beach and getting slightly damp feet from the sea.

Reached Highcliffe at 3.30, which was very good time, Rhi, Gray and the girls drove over to meet me for a little wander before taking me out for some tea before dropping me off at the B&B that Mum and Rhi had decided to book for me.

From Highcliffe it was all coast walking to Bournemouth and beyond to Sandbanks spit and the weather wasn’t too bad either. It was then around Poole Harbour for a day and a bit in order to reach a point about 10m across the water from Sandbanks. The rain was coming down hard for the whole morning and I then spent the afternoon traipsing through a very boggy field towards Wareham. In addition to the bogginess, there were a few stream crossings, one of which had the slippiest bridge ever and the second was missing a pretty big portion. Eventually, I found a fence to clamber over onto the road from where it was plain sailing. I stayed with Bill and Joe Evans in Wareham, who not only fed me and washed my clothes but also gave me a good challenge on the wii and gave me a map to help me out for the next few days.

From Shell Bay (oppostie Sandbanks), I have been mostly on the South-West Coast Path. I say mostly because there have been a few diversions you may have heard about.

I stopped at Old Harry Rocks for my first night of camping, excited about the prospect of some awesome morning views. As you can imagine, I was pretty disappointed when I woke up to a very misty morning, although I had enjoyed getting to camp at last. The walking to Kingston was really hard. Loads of climbs and some really sticky mud, which doubled the size and weight of my boots.  I didn’t finish until dark, in a mobile signal blackspot, and in a cow field not very far from a big house with a loud dog.

Fortunately, the mist was back so it was unlikely that any one was going to see me where I was.

I was up before light the following morning to make sure no one took against my presence there.  The first of my major diversions happened this day, thanks to the ministry of defence and their awful signage. At Kimmeridge, the coast was blocked off because the firing ranges were active (although I didn’t hear a single shot all day). The road I coud have taken to Lulworth had several signs all saying roads were closed and not a single sign saying that this road was open. I took that to mean it was closed too. I was wrong.

A massive 15-mile detour ensued which took me through other firing ranges, as well as a tank range and endless roads followed. By the time i reached Lulworth, I was ready to collapse, so checked into a B&B. The Castle Inn were really nice and gave me a walker rate but regular room. If you’re a cider fan then it is definitely the place for you, unfortunately I only tried the one with my dinner.

After taking some photos at the cove and heading up a very steep hill to come down to Durdle Door, the day was another hard one. Really hilly and hard work until I finally came close to Weymouth and spent the last hour or two walking along the sea front.

Whilst waiting for Harry, my host for the night, I was apprehended by a drunk in a local pub who tried to get me to swap hats with him. The majority of people i have met have been a lot more pleasant.

From Weymouth to Abbotsbury was a killer day. It started with a walk around Portland, which isn’t a massively pleasant walk and the signposts are slightly sparse on one side. I then spent 10 miles plus and around 5 hours walking along Chesil Beach. Even when it finally joined the land again, that land was marsh so I had to stay on the pebbles. horrible horrible pebbles, until i could get to some solid dry land to camp. Finally found myself a field in the dark and rain and set up my tent. Once snugly inside with everything ever so slightly wet, i realised i was about 10m from the car park which for some reason was quite popular.

Still Raining in the morning and a lot of the path was flooded, at one point only the top of fence post could be seen. All of my stuff and myself was wet, my feet the only exception really.

I was recognised by a shopkeeper in West Bay and then chatted to a few locals when I got some chips from the Snack Shack, who were all really nice. Had my second major diversion not long after. On the way to Eype the mist came in and visibility was no more than about 12 feet. I managed, however, to stay on the coast path. It was the broken sign propped against a tree at a five-way crossroads which did me. I obviously chose the wrong way. At first i was on a path, then a road, by which point I was quite disorientated and listening intently to hear the sea. I took a footpath in the direction I believed the sea to be in. I say footpath, it ended up being a bear vertical slide of pure muddiness.

Within seconds I was flying in the air onto my back and sliding on my bum. I then rolled onto my knees to get up and slid further, backwards on my knees. This was repeated three or four times on the way down and resulted in me shouting and swearing at Eype and anyone else I could think of. I ended up on the A35 after falling over a farm gate and wading through mini rivers.

I was obviously now behind schedule and severely off track. So it was perfect timing that I had a radio interview at 4pm with Radio Cornwall/Devon whilst I was climbing Golden Cap, the highest point on the south coast (it’s on the publicity page, a pre-record with Duncun Warren). Needless to say it was another finish in the dark, and instead of Lyme Regis as hoped, I had to stop in Charmouth. I had a B&B booked in Lyme and was on the phone to Chrissie, the owner, when a couple I had met on the way down from Golden Cap pulled up in their van and offered me a lift. I sat in the back with the dog and was very grateful to Gordon and Bo for their kindness. The B&B was also a very welcome rest, which enabled me to dry out and there was the added bonus of a DVD player.

Unfortunately, despite a good night’s rest, the following day was the first I really did not want to get up and walk. I was a bit sick of getting off track and very fed up with mini diversions due to path collapses. In the end, I only did a 10 or so mile day thanks to infrequent buses back to Charmouth, my own forgetfulness and a dead mobile battery. I finished in Bere where I met up with my brother Jon and his girlfriend Jade, who’s parents house I stayed in.

Jade’s mum, June, washed every single item from my bag including gloves and hats. I was also treated to a carvery dinner, which was actually a family meal out for Jade’s dad’s birthday that I had crashed. Jon and Jade joined me for the following morning and I think they got a better idea of how hard the walking could be at times, I certainly haven’t had jon telling me it might be time to ‘go for it’ to make up time since.

After lunch of Pasty, chips and gravy courtesy of Jon, I headed on solo slightly rejuvenated. I powered it in the afternoon to try to get to Exmouth, which i achieved thanks to a few welcome phone calls to spur me on, although not finishing until just before 7pm. I got a train to Exeter to stay with my friend Tom who had a roast dinner waiting for me and later a very welcome white russian and game of scrabble.

From stopping in Exmouth, I felt justified in starting the following day across the river at Starcross, the official crossing point of the South-West Coast Path. Breakfast consisted of a rice krispie square, wispa, hot cross bun, sausage roll and some frutella. And I was still hungry. I think its quite a close call as to whether I spend more time eating or walking at the moment. It’s got to at least a packet of biscuits a day on top of all the other snacks and meals.

I finished in an illuminated Torquay where I went for a pub meal before heading to the hostel I would stay at. The meal, half price 10oz rump steak, was very nice but unfortunately my left calf had become completely locked up. Added to that, the hostel had a 7.5minute shower limit, which could have been ok if it wasn’t for the shower alternating between scolding and freezing every five seconds. As it was, the water cut off when I was completely covered in shampoo and I had to finish washing from the tiny sink in the bathroom. Not the most pleasant of evenings, but I had a good moan on the phone to a friend to cheer me up slightly and my sister gave me some stretches to combat the dead leg.

These, coupled with the ibuprofen, ensured the leg wasn’t a problem the following day. I had no breakfast with me and didn’t find a shop until Paignton where I bought a Toffee Crisp and Wispa from a garage, which i’d just wolfed down when I saw a Co-op across the road, no doubt selling slightly more appropriate breakfast foods like hot cross buns.

The walking was not that pleasant, starting with built up areas then moving into depressingly bleak coastline. Although in the last half hour it became more picturesque.

When I’d set up camp at froward point, Jon informed me that someone had tweeted me to say that their friend was in Kingswear and would probably be up for meeting up. The friend turned out to be Murray Smith who drove out to meet me with sausage & chips and Jaffa cakes.

We then headed to the local pub where Murray suggested I paddle his windsurf board over the Dart to enable me to avoid a ferry crossing, which at the time I thought was a brilliant idea. The following morning, fearing pneumonia post-crossing, I wasn’t so sure. The water was absolutely freezing and my arms started to numb up completely but somehow I made it across. Murray’s boat then cut out so I had a short but horrific wait to get my towel and dry clothes whilst he had to oar his boat onot the beach.

Once dry and dressed, I said bye to Murray and headed directly in the direction of cafe signs for a much-needed hot chocolate. If only the cafe wasn’t closed. Luckily, it was sunny and soon enough with the aid of some steady climbs, I was back to sweating again.

Thursday’s walk from Hallsands to East Charleton was typified by a severe lack of food shops, the last time I had seen anything near a proper shop as the Co-op in Paignton until I saw Morrisons coming into Plymouth today. I was hoping for food at East Portlemouth, but was severely disappointed by the closed cafe. So I started the journey around the Salcombe estuary still hungry.

The Millbrook Inn in Southpool was a saviour, although they weren’t serving food, they did have beer and crisps which was enough. They also filled up my water bottle and gave me some peanuts free. Kirsty, the barmaid, and a couple drinking there (Rosamund and Martin) also donated money to my cause whilst Ray, the owner of the Ashburton Arms in East Charleton who was also drinking there, gave me the promise of  free breakfast in the morning if i popped in.

When I reached frogmore I took advantage of the recommended Bakery and did not regret it after some awesome scones and one of the best pasties i’ve had. Plus i was able to stock up on biscuits and get the standard daily creme egg.My free breakfast in the morning from Ray and his wife Jane was amazing and kept me going for most of the day.

Back on the coast and just after Bolt head, I was confronted by a herd of Dartmoor ponies. As I took out my camera for a photo, my map flew off in the strong winds. Luckily it was caught by a gorse bush and i was able to grab it and fold it back up. I turned back around to a semi circle of ponies surrounding me, looking very curious (I was hoping for curious and not angry). I sort of skirted around them back to the path but they weren’t done observing me so a large portion of them started following me, stopping every time i tuned around. One then ran right up alongside me – I felt like i was being herded away by them, or even hunted. They did eventually bore of me when i headed downhill though.

Despite winds that battered me the walking was quite nice and the views were impressive, especially coming up to Hope Cove at sunset. About five miles on from Hope Cove I hit the River Avon, which looked like it could be crossable, right up to the point where I was stood on the edge of the river on the beach. Disappointingly, I conceded that I would have to go round, which wasn’t too bad on a sunny day and there is an actual Avon estuary walk. It just meant that I didn’t get a lot of coast covered.

After such a clear day, the evening was stunning and I walked a lot further than I would have done normally because I was enjoying the views despite one major climb. As it started getting properly dark, I came across a field with pictures of sheep attacks requesting help and then at the next fence there was a mysterious and slightly un-nerving sleeping bag up against the posts. I camped a few hundred yards from there at Fernycombe point. The moon was ridiculously bright all night and the cold had properly set in, my tent had ice on it within minutes of pitching up.

The morning was freezing and my gas decided to run out so no cup of tea to warm me up. From Fernycombe, I had to go around yet another river, the Erme. Not pleasant walking at all and I was becoming pretty fed up with spending hardly any time on the actual coast. Back on the coast, the path was pretty easy going and quite nice walking. I asked my mum to see if a campsite i saw on the map was open, it wasn’t BUT the owner Scott offered a bunkhouse for free, complete with bathroom, heating and a kitchen.

Mark, who lives in a cottage on site, then also offered me some tea which he dropped round for me. Tea was stew and mash, french stick and really nice cake and was very welcome. Was such a refreshing end to a bad day and shows there really are some ridiculously nice people out there still. I still managed a whole pack of jaffa cakes before bed by the way.

Which brings me to today. A trip around the river Yealm to Wembury then along the coast into Plymouth. The coast path was again really nice walking once I got on it again, unfortunatley it takes you through the skankiest part of Plymouth to begin with for some ill-advised reason. They have put fancy SW Coast Path signs and sculptures around the place, I guess with the hope of distracting you from this part of the route, but it just makes you think that they look so out of place in such a rank place and that its quite a waste of money.

The rest of Plymouth was considerably more peasant, although a very large man in a parker jacket terrified me at one point. He was walking along with hood up and doing strange gestures with his hands in front of me then as I passed him he turned suddenly to face me before crossing the road. Anyway, I have spent most of the night writing this up. Hopefully I’ve managed to make it interesting for you. The next one will, with any luck, be up sooner than this one has taken to be and i will therefore be able to write it slightly better.

Think photos of the river crossing and sunsets and sunrises will be up very soon



  1. Lovely to hear that your still ok ! keep updating us, i enjoy them a lot : )
    love megs x

  2. ahhh brilliant blog nat! really enjoyed reading it, had a proper loud giggle and the dartmoor ponies part haha!!! also love amie’s comment about the crazy sheep aids! you’re doing so well nat. lots of love xx

    • you will have no idea who i am but i know exactly where those datmoor ponies where on bolt head and where your map got blown away from you- the same thing happened to my map a couple of months ago in the same spot! ( pretty blowy!) good luck. i’m so jealous

  3. excellent blog as per that the food references i have come to expect were present as ever. especially the mention of a daily creme egg – i approve greatly.
    look forward to more photos & hope its still going well xx

  4. Good to hear your updates Nat, hope the weather starts getting nicer and thus giving you better walking days. Can you explain the bit about “a field with pictures of sheep attacks requesting help” I assume this is foxes or people attacking sheep and not campers getting attacked by crazy sheep as Amie thought??

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