On Saturday 15th August 2015 I found myself on yet another train journey to the West Country, I say another as this was my fifth year in a row walking the South West Coast Path. At 630 miles this was never a hike I fancied doing in one go, not that I had the time to spare if I did. Instead, I chose to do roughly 100 miles a year to see how far I got before fancying a change of scenery. I started from Minehead on Saturday 1st October 2011 in the middle of a freak heat wave having chosen to go in autumn to avoid the hot summer weather, got that one wrong didn’t I? This first week took me through Somerset and North Devon to Bude in Cornwall, a tough opening along some of the West Country’s less forgiving coastline.


     Thus it was in October of 2012 I was eager to return. My reasons for doing this trail were many but a chance to walk all the way around the Cornwall peninsular was the biggest incentive and this second visit from Bude to St. Ives did not disappoint. By October of 2013 I happily returned for the Penwith and Lizard section around Land’s End to Falmouth. It turned out to be an unexpected pleasure. For the return in October 2014 I hoped to make it to Devon and walk a few days beyond Plymouth, alas it was the ‘beyond” bit that scuppered my plans. One problem with this walk is the reliance on other factors outside of my control. Along the more fragmented southern coastline of western England the walker is dependent on ferries at key river crossings. This was not an issue as far as Plymouth but once in Devon the ferries shut up shop come October.


     A return to Plymouth during the busy summer month of August was against my better judgement, but I had three important river crossings to negotiate which could only be made during the holiday season. I was lucky with the weather for the first three days all the way to Salcombe and suffered a little heatstroke into the bargain. As for the ferries, even in August my timing was out and I only managed to cross the River Yealm via the benevolence of a passing boatman and the River Avon by the benevolence of a low tide. I got lucky, but on the fourth day my luck ran out and I endured three days of rain which is no fun in a Berghaus waterproof jacket that doesn’t work. Honestly, whether suffering from dehydration or trench foot, I’m never happy! By the time I’d fought my way through the Dawlish Air Show crowds to Starcross, I’d had enough. My enthusiasm for this trail had evaporated like the vapour trail of a Vulcan bomber. With more stretches of Devon and Dorset on the horizon, including an 18 mile trudge along the shingle of Chesil Beach, I decided that me and the South West Coast Path were history and I resolved not to return in the near future. Nevertheless, there had been plenty for me to enjoy along this epic trail thus far with some excellent days of walking I would not have missed for the world. Make no mistake, this is a very popular walk and thousands flock to these paths every year to enjoy some of the most spectacular coastal scenery this country has to offer. For me the 510 miles to Starcross was as much of it as I wanted to walk. The question will always nag at me though, should I return someday to complete the remaining miles to Poole Harbour? Perhaps someone out there could recommend the merits of this section, I could certainly use some encouragement.



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