SWCP Day 31. Hilsea Point, Gunrow ‘s Down to Soar Mill Cove

Today’s distance walked – approx 32 kms (20 miles).
Ascent – approx 1020m ( ft).

I woke up at 5.10am this morning, with the feeling that it was a little darker than usual. Even though it was light, the moon was still up and a couple of stars were out. After I’d eaten my breakfast and packed up to leave (which usually takes about an hour) I checked the time again, and it was 5.04am! Grrrrrr… the clock on my phone has done this a couple of times before – and randomly skips ahead an hour, only to return to the correct time, later. I had another cuppa, and left at 5.40am.

Epic sunrise
Epic sunrise

It was cooler this morning, and the wind had got up, so I wore my long sleeve merino for the first hour or so.
The trail continued as yesterday along the cliffs, wide and flat. But just as I was enjoying myself, all that changed and it became very hilly.

A little of today's trail
A little of today’s trail

I arrived at Beacon Hill at 7am, and took in the views from the top. There was a very steep down hill, followed by gradual up, and from here the trail narrowed and crossed farmland.

Crossing the Erme - all very civilised
Crossing the Erme – all very civilised

Coming into the river Erme estuary, I passed the cute little Meadowsfoot beach – the first of many today.
I walked pretty slowly and reached the River Erme at 9am. Strangely, I had felt a bit nauseous this morning, so I ate a couple of oatcakes and peanut butter.
It was 9.15am when I crossed the estuary, the recommended hour before low tide, when it was safe to wade across the river. It was the easiest and loveliest estuary crossing! No wading chest deep in swift water, nor sinking into knee deep stinky black mud! The river was fresh and clear, and the river bed was hard sand with a few little stones. The water was knee deep at the most, and I could probably have crossed an hour ago. Dried off my feet and left at 9.25am.

That feeling when you see switchbacks and steps on the other side...
That feeling when you see switchbacks and steps on the other side…

The next stretch to Bigbury was full of ups and downs (with stairs and switchbacks in some parts) and from Scobbiscombe farm there were fantastic views of islands and jagged rocks in the sea just off the cliffs.
There was another huge drop into Ayrmer cove and tedious climb out. I was glad for the cooler breeze today, although with all these hills it was still very hot. Another hill later and I got to Challaborough beach. It was a nice enough beach backed by a huge, ugly holiday park.

Across to Burgh Island from Bigbury-on-sea
Across to Burgh Island from Bigbury-on-sea

Finally about 2kms later I came into Bigbury-on-sea. The tide was still out, and Burgh Island was linked by a beautiful sandy beach to the mainland. I stopped for some goodies from the beach cafe and ended up spending a small fortune (I was better now after feeling a bit rough earlier on).

River Avon
River Avon

I climbed out of Bigbury and cut across Mount Folly farm (which has camping that’s not marked on the map). From the farm I got the most amazing views of the river Avon estuary, another beauty, with it’s clear blue water and golden sands, backed by green fields. I hadn’t done any research on this part and there was no bridge to get across the river at Cockleridge Ham to Bantham, but there was a ferry that runs from 10-11am and 3-4pm. It was now 1pm. I sat down on the sun and had a bit of a doze. A family joined me at around 2.30 so the ferryman came across early.

Thurlestone Sands beach
Thurlestone Sands beach

I really enjoyed the next section of trail. It led up and over more grasslands, then behind Thurlestone golf course to the white sand beaches of Leas Foot sand and Thurlstone sands. In addition to the dramatic cliff rocks, Thurlstone also has a large rock in the bay with a hole in it. From here it was on to South Milton sands, then up and over the downs to the tiny village and harbour of Hope Cove.

Hope Cove
Hope Cove

I stopped for a cold ginger beer and a piece of cake with ice-cream.
It was around 4.30pm when I left Hope Cove and I was pretty tired as I climbed up to Bolt Tail headland. From here it was another great trail over the high cliffs and grassy downs. I stopped for the day, and pitched the tent on a low cliff at Soar Mill Cove, because it was very beautiful and because I didn’t have it in me to walk up the big hill on the other side.

Soar Mill Cove
Soar Mill Cove

I ate dinner and waited for the sun to go down. While I relaxed I began to notice the ticks. I must have killed about 30 smaller-than-freckle sized ticks over my arms and legs, phone, eating utensils, tent etc.

I’m going to bed paranoid about the ones I haven’t found, and any which might be in my hair!

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