SWCP Day 2. Countisbury to Combe Martin

From Little Hangman looking West

Today’s distance walked – approx 26kms (16 miles).
Ascent – approx 1148m (3766ft).

Today began with another sumptuous cooked breakfast in the b&b, and my parents drove me back to Countisbury to start the trail. As I was leaving dad urged me to check I had all my belongings. I very flippantly replied yes, yes… with a sigh, and got under way. 10 minutes (downhill) later I had a feeling. I threw my pack on the ground and checked.. I’d left my sleeping bag in the car, and my parents were leaving today! I tried several times to call mum knowing both our signals were patchy. I got hold of her and we reconvened 15 minutes later and back uphill. Dad said “I told you so”, and I ate humble pie.

From Countisbury to Lynmouth

From Countisbury to Lynmouth

I got under way again at 9.45am. I was down in Lynmouth by 10.25am and bought a wonderful looking cheddar and chutney sandwich at the Coffee Mill. I mentally reminded myself that I should bulk buy wraps and peanut butter for my lunches otherwise this could get expensive!

I had a little stroll around the river. Lynmouth was pretty much destroyed and 34 people lost their lives in 1952. A tropical strength storm dumped a huge amount of rain into the headwaters of the river that flows through the centre of the village, and the resulting flood sadly took most of the town with it.

The Valley of the Rocks

The Valley of the Rocks

I climbed out of Lynmouth up to Lynton via the incredibly steep footpath. After a little breather I headed along the exposed clifftop path to the rather impressive Valley of the Rocks and onto Lee Abbey. The terrain changed to woodland and began to incorporate some more ups and downs.

Beautiful stone bridge

Beautiful stone bridge

My lunchtime highlight was coming out of the woods and along the clifftops to overlook Highveer Point and Heddon Mouth. I took in the incredible views with my lovely proper-cheddar cheese sandwich and an apple.
I needed fortifying for the next stretch of the trail which the guide book correctly described as ‘strenuous’ – these are some of the highest sea cliffs in England. A pretty, long walk down to a lovely little stream in the valley turned into a huge walk back up again back to the same height across the other side. En route I stopped to chat to around 10 volunteers maintaining the path, and thought how cool it would be to have regional teams of volunteers looking after Te Araroa in NZ.

Exmoor National Park

Exmoor National Park

From here the terrain remained high and exposed. It was a hot, sunny day again and I was really glad for the breeze. The views East and West along the coast were spectacular, and to the North I could see the coast of Wales.

Great Hangman cairn

Great Hangman cairn

The final highlight was the next stretch over moorland (Exmoor) and up to Great Hangman cairn. At 318 metres (1044 feet) this is the highest point on the trail. The cairn at the top was enormous! From there it was almost downhill all the way into Combe Martin, past Little Hangman, which I couldn’t bring myself to go up.

Combe Martin

Combe Martin

It was a relief to make the descent into Combe Martin. Along today’s path I left the county of Somerset and walked into Devon. That means I can now legitimately have a cream tea. I also delightfully noticed on the signage that I’m following part of the ‘Tarka Trail’ – the route taken by Tarka the Otter, in the book.
When I got into Combe Martin I found the mini supermarket and bought some broccoli for dinner and two mini custard donuts, which had been reduced to 20p – bonus!. I headed to the Newberry Valley campsite and made a hiker special of chicken chow mein soup, with cous cous and broccoli. I’m saving the donuts for brekkie.

After dinner I enjoyed a hot trickle of a shower. I examined a large, solid bite on my leg about the width of a tennis ball, which I suspect was a horse fly. Repellent made it into my first aid kit (as yet unused) but after bite cream didn’t.

I was in bed by 9pm. The trouble is – it’s light until about 10.15. I slept with the tent fly open and enjoyed the breeze. It’s wonderful to be back in my tent!!

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