Today’s distance walked – approx 29kms (18 miles).
Ascent – approx 1518m (4980ft).
I woke for my first day on England’s South West Coast Path with a slight hint of a hangover. My send-off posse (mum & dad) had treated me to a delicious Italian meal in Fausto’s Minehead last night, which we washed down with a couple of glasses of chilled rose. An amazing full English breakfast care of The Parks b&b soon sorted me out though.
We drove to the start of the trail on the seafront in Minehead and said our goodbyes. I set foot on the trail at 10.20am.
An initially flat path skirting the harbour turned into a steep wooded path above Culver Cliff. Huffing and puffing I emerged onto the open clifftop, marveling at the height of the cliffs, the sparkling a blue sea below, and the beautiful views of Exmoor National Park inland.
There were a choice of paths. I took the ‘rugged’ clifftop path rather than the inland path to get the better views. There was nothing rugged about it. Compared to what I’m used to in NZ it was an incredible trail – plenty wide enough, no tree roots to trip over, no boulders to scramble up, no huge rivers to cross 30 times, and it was safely away from any dangerous cliff edges.
There were however a number of major ups and downs. The paths rejoined and continued over more cliffs.
Bossington Bay and Porlock beach came into view, and the two continued down into a nice stretch of woodland. From Initially hazy, it had turned into a ripper of a day – very hot and sunny, and I was glad of the shade. I came into the very cute and very small village of Bossington, used the loo, and marvelled at the age of the centuries-old stone houses in the village. It was a village of around 20 houses with a road built for horses, not cars.
I continued on behind the beach alongside the back of the marshes – a site of special scientific interest. After a while I came to Porlock beach and the small 15th Century hamlet of Porlock Weir. My parents had been pootling around the countryside, and met me for lunch at the Bottom Ship Inn. I delighted in a hot parma ham and cheese baguette with chips.. Yum!
After lunch there was a climb back up along a farm track then into beautiful woodland. I stopped in at Culborne church which is England’s smallest complete church. Shortly after, the path split and I took the upper route, to get the better views. This part of the track was mostly on farm roads but very pretty nevertheless.
I’d forgotten about the one lane roads and extremely high natural hedges in this part of the world! I’d also forgotten about the proliferation and size of the singing nettles in the UK, and was stung several times.
The path became one again and went back into the woodlands. I noticed the ancient stone walls, built centuries ago and still as solid as they ever were. I passed the Sisters Fountain – a monument built over a natural spring in the 19th Century.
More ups and downs later, I finally got to Countisbury hill (a very big up!). I was shattered. I had only intended to ease myself into today, but ended up doing around 29kms (18 miles).
My parents picked me up and took me to Lynmouth to the Orchard House Hotel where they were staying the night. I had a shower, then joined everyone downstairs for a well deserved pint. I casually admired a rather amazing looking meringue and cream dessert our hosts were eating, and was promptly delivered a slice with cream!! Yum!
Great things about day 1:
– My new Osprey Eja backpack is like wearing a pillow! I’m around 11kgs (24lbs) with water and a little food, and I can hardly feel it.
– Amazing signage on the trail – thanks SWCP!
– Stunning views. It’s shaping up to be an epic trail already!
Bad things about day 1:
– Every part of my legs hurt.
– Dog poo on the trail.
– Tissues on the trail. Tut tut ladies.. When you pee, pleeease pack out your waste!