South West Coast Path – Clothing

January 28th, 2016 Alasdair

28th January 2016

As it happened it wasn’t cold despite being January. It was however wet and windy and it was interesting to see whether our clothing was up for it. My Montane jacket made from Event was already leaking during my bike ride to work so I decided to buy a new one. There was a Mountain Equipment jacket made from Gortex Active on sale so I bought that because it was the only one with a decent fitting hood (list £200, sale price £160 ish). Grit had a Mountain Equipment Pro Gortex jacket that was about a year old. It was leaking so badly that she wore a £1.90 poncho under the jacket to try to keep some water out. My brand new jacket also let the water in, firstly on the shoulders then all over. We were both wearing Devold merinos under and they were wonderful. They kept us warm despite being wet. The great thing is that they dry reasonably quickly and they don’t smell at all. I wore Arcteryx high trousers made from Gortex Pro Shell with merino Long Johns under. I was never hot nor cold but in gale force horizontal rain it powered its way through so I wasn’t dry. They cost around £400.00 but are about four year old. My socks were Devold Action Socks and they were amazing. My Mammut boots were waterproof until ploughing through one foot deep flooded roads. The Mountain Equipment gaiters were helpful but a seam ripped apart and needs mending. Grit’s Scarpa Boots did seem to leak but we haven’t tracked down how. My Osprey Rucksack might as well been a string bag as it provided zero protection from the rain. Waterproof dry bags inside did do the trick.

The morale of the story is that we were clothed from head to foot in Gortex and were soaked. Basically it doesn’t seem to be able to cope with really bad weather. Would it have been better to wear loose fitting totally waterproof PVC clothing in these wet conditions? Probably. The merinos however were wonderful.

Having to wear a £1.90 poncho under a £300.00 Pro Gortex jacket seems a bit weird!

Having to wear a £1.90 poncho under a £300.00 Pro Gortex jacket seems a bit weird!

I have posted this walk upside down and haven’t a clue how to swap it around. It will make more sense if you start on Day One and work your way through chronologically. Sorry about that!

26th January 2016

Day 4 Combe Martin to Ilfracombe

This was just a short walk as we needed to get a bus to Barnstaple and the train back to London. It is not the best section of the coast path as the path has to merge with the road at times however it takes you past the lovely natural harbour of Watermouth. Judging by the hundred or so yachts on the hard this must be a busy sailing spot in the summer. Eventually Ilfracombe comes into view but don’t think it is all over for there is a real best of a climb up Hele Hill before the town is reached. We went to see Damien Hirst’s Verity statue on the port side and had an excellent, although extravagant lunch in his café, which seemed to be the only place open in town. I didn’t think it was over priced for the quality of the food just a bit more than I usually spend on lunch! (£60.00 for two including drinks and puddings yum.)

Another great country bus ride to Barnstaple then the little train to Exeter and the big train to town. The train cost us a staggering £104.00 including using a Network Card – no wonder people fly.

Number of walkers seen on the path – 0

Verity in Ilfracoombe

Verity in Ilfracoombe

Ilfracoombe

Ilfracoombe

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26th January 2016

Day 3 Lynmouth to Combe Martin

We had breakfast at 9 which was a bit late. By the time we were on the road it was probably after 10. Today the tail end of the great storm that struck the East Coast of America was due to hit Britain. It was raining heavily and blowing a gale. I’ll do a separate short description of the clothing we were wearing after this blog but it is not good reading if you are a Gortex fan!

It was a hard walk leaning into the wind and rain which was painful on the face. We decided rather than buying some food we would stop for lunch at the Hunter Inn which is about 6 miles walk. We arrived there very wet! Although it is just about half a mile off this famous coastal path this inn doesn’t seem to recognise the needs of walkers. There wasn’t a single coat hook in sight or a place to de-boot. It seems a shame as it could be an iconic walkers pub. Maybe they are searching for more wealthy clientele. We draped our wet gear over whatever we could find and ordered an excellent bowl of soup and bread and a ploughmans lunch. One of the staff came out with a cloth and started mopping up the little drips of water on the terracotta floor to make us feel guilty.

Sadly time had passed and it was 2.30pm before we were back on the path. It was tanking it down with rain and the wind was near gale force on the cliff tops. The paths were running like streams and by about 4 pm visibility was dropping. Water was beginning to cascade out of the heath and we were having to jump deeper areas. As the path was due to lose height before the formidable Great Hangman climb we decided that the volume of water and the approach of darkness was a combination which could have been quite tricky. We had seen a sign a a while back pointing to a car park so we decided to retreat and take the road. The road was flooded too and we need to walk through calf deep areas to continue. Gaiters kept a lot of water out but not all. It was a long and rather dire walk into Combe Martin, without decent torches it would have been lethal. We arrived at Combe Martin High Street to learn that it is the longest high street in Britain and we were at the other end! Combe means wooded valley. It seems the whole village life on the High Street. We eventually arrived at Melstock House to a warm greeting by a couple who knew what walkers need. A big plastic tray for the boots, plenty of places to hang things up and a pot of tea to warm us up. They told us tales of rescuing walkers at midnight and sending out search parties. They are on day three of the path and some walkers are really suffering at this stage with nasty blisters from new boots and weary muscles.

Number of walkers seen on the path – 0

Very wet!

Very wet!

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25th January 2016

Day 2 Porlock to Lynton

The walk to Lynton was only a little longer at about 14 miles but don’t forget these are hilly miles. Just outside Porlock you walk through the romantic creations of Lord Lovelace. Strange castilated towers and arches were constructed to emulate the gardens he had seen in Italy. These woods were frequented by Coleridge and are referenced in The Rime to the Ancient Mariner, the greatest sea poem ever written. Coleridge not only invented the “Zombie” but also invented the sport of mountaineering. I believe he was the first person to write about climbing for pleasure rather than work. It was the beginning of the “Sublime” era. Soon we came to Culbourne Church, the smallest church in Britain which is only 35 foot deep and 12 foot 4 inches wide. Somehow churches wouldn’t sound right in metric.

After visiting the church (which some people sadly don’t take the trouble to do) the path continues through wooded cliffs which are home to very rare whitebeam trees some species of which are only found along this coast. Eventually Lynmouth comes into view. In 1952 Lynmouth suffered a catastrophic flood when a storm on Exmoor caused an already saturated heath to swell the river sending huge boulders and tree trunks down to destroy the town. 34 people died and hundreds were left homeless. The town has been rebuilt to match the old attractive buildings. Lynton lies a couple of hundred metres above Lynton. There is a cliff railway but it doesn’t operate in January so we tackled the steep zig zag path to the very top. It is a hard climb at the end of a long walk. We asked where the Village Inn was and the man apologised and said it was in Lynmouth at the bottom of the hill! So off we went back down again. The Village Inn is a very friendly pub which serves really excellent evening food and a good breakfast (and a good pint).

Number of walkers seen on the path – 0

 

Culbourne Church

Culbourne Church

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Trees are left to rot where they fall unless they block the path

Trees are left to rot where they fall unless they block the path

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Lynton Pots

Lynton Pots

 

 

South West Coast Path – Minehead to Porlock

January 28th, 2016 Alasdair

24th January 2016

Minehead to Porlock

After the Louis Vuitton mast job in Paris and the London Boat Show I needed a bit of a breather and decided to go on a long distance walk. Being mid-January I ruled out anything that could be halted by bad weather and plumped for an old favourite – the first three days of the South West Coast Path, starting at Minehead and walking towards Ilfracombe. Even in January it is unlikely that the weather would be too severe to complete a section. I was wrong there!

We took a train to Taunton and then a bus to Minehead. I love bus rides in the countryside. We booked in at The Waverley bed and breakfast. I’m always impressed how clean B and B’s are nowadays. No beans for breakfast lost them one mark but a minor point.

Day 1 Minehead to Porlock
We set off on Sunday towards Porlock with rain in the forecast but actually it was pretty much a dry day. It is only about 10 miles so there was no hurry. Minehead gets it’s name from the Welsh “Mynedd” which means hill in Welsh. The path starts by climbing the hill that dominates Minehead. It rises in zig zags to around 250 m. It sets the scene for the whole path which eventually finishes in Poole after 630 miles, making it Britain’s longest path. The total ascent is the equivalent of climbing Everest four times – or to put it another way it is very hilly. Once on the top of the cliff we choose to take the alternative rugged path which hugs the coast and enjoyed some pleasant coastal walking before rejoining the main path and dropping down to Porlock Bay. The was no accommodation in our preferred stop at Porlock Weir so we booked in at The Castle Inn in Porlock. We diverted off the Coast Path which runs behind the marsh up into town. The Castle Inn was very smartly decorated with comfy sofas and a modern room. The evening food was pretty mediocre but it was the middle of January so I expect it improves with time. Breakfast was fine, with beans!

Number of walkers seen on the path – 0

In the summer you can arrive in Minehead by stem train

In the summer you can arrive in Minehead by stem train

The hill besides Minehead

The hill besides Minehead

The official start to the South West Coast Path

The official start to the South West Coast Path

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Watch out for the shingle bar if sailing into Minehead

Watch out for the shingle bar if sailing into Minehead

Plenty of moss and lichen

Plenty of moss and lichen

Ferral Goats Roam the Cliffs

Ferral Goats Roam the Cliffs

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Marlow Half Marathon 2015

November 1st, 2015 Alasdair

1st November 2015

I needed to enter a race before the busy season at Arthur Beale takes over my life. The last time I entered the Marlow Half if was badly flooded. This time it was dry but foggy and rather warm at about 14 degrees. The sun managed to burst through the fog on the hills and the autumn trees looked at their finest. The race started with a big firework going off bang. The start is crowded as we all squeezed through a narrow gateway with the chip timing mats but then it opens up along the high street until we all turn off onto the narrow roads and lanes which make up 90% of the course. It is gently undulating with a couple of small hills and all on tarmacked surfaces. The route is very pleasant countryside with a few small hamlets. It was awash with ambulances and their were plenty of marshals and well staffed drinks stations. I was a little upset to see some runners had dropped their gel wrappers in the road but I am sure the organisers will pick them up. It is a bad habit when out in the countryside and I hope it doesn’t catch on. A chap seems to run the course each year with a video camera and I am sure he upload his video to You Tube any minute now. At the finish line Dave the DJ did an amazing job encouraging the runners in. He gave me the feeling that he personally knew the whole fleet. Dave had some good banter about Rosie who was being waited for by some members of the crowd. He kept suggesting a search party should be sent out but in reality she ran a very fast race. Full marks to Dave the DJ.
The race was very well organised with friendly staff and everything you could possibly expect, save perhaps the slight shortage of toilets at the start – but that is a pretty common problem and runners always seem to cope. My time was 1 hour 49 minutes and 29 seconds which I was quite pleased with considering my lack of training. I’m sure I will be back.

South Dock Marina Boat Yard Update

October 31st, 2015 Alasdair
The tree lined edge of the boatyard overlooking the Thames. A quiet and popular spot to relax. The stone is the Rotherhithe and Deptford Boundary Stone

The tree lined edge of the boatyard overlooking the Thames. A quiet and popular spot to relax. The stone is the Rotherhithe and Deptford Boundary Stone

Corner of the South Dock Boat Yard showing the typical three and four story buildings in the area and the nearest distance to the yard.

Corner of the South Dock Boat Yard showing the typical three and four story buildings in the area and the nearest distance to the yard.

The South Dock Boat Yard Gate. It is pretty much full at the moment.

The South Dock Boat Yard Gate. It is pretty much full at the moment.

Southwark Council held their “consultation” meeting on the 7th and 8th of October. In their wisdom they decided to have a maximum of twenty people in each 30 minute session. The first day sold out quickly so they introduced another day. It was all pretty pointless as by the time the officials had said their bit about housing needs and how the boat yard will be “improved” there was hardly any time for questions. Everything was very sketchy with some positively dodgy graphics distorting the development by removing tower blocks and bending the river. When I asked Bruce Glockling whether the development was going ahead as planned he said yes they would be building 213 flats wrapped round a “boatyard”. The consultation must be purely a formality. They are trying to tick the box after their disastrous first attempt when they forgot to tell anyone about it. They agreed at the meeting to call the “consultation” held on the 7th and 8th as their “First Consultation” but seemed to have forgotten what they said as their website is claiming they have held two “consultations”. In any case, they were a total waste of time. I doubt a single person was in favour of the development. The information was farcical and we are none the wiser.

The truth is they are trying to wrap two tower blocks up to twenty stories high plus a block of flats eight stories high around what is meant to be a working boat yard. I’ve never seen an industrial site surrounded by flats in this way. I do know of boatyards which have been closed down because neighbours have complained about the noise. In this case the proposed new inhabitants will have to endure toxic dust, poisonous fumes, plus noise if there is to be shot blasting, grinding, spray painting, welding, riveting and all the general carpentry and sanding noises. Everything will be amplified by the buildings so even neighbours over the road will have to endure higher noise levels. Boat yards need just a bit of space around them like any industrial process. Once the residents start to complain the Health and Safety officials will not tolerate toxic dusts, fumes and noise and the yard will be closed down. The yard works fine as it is and it could easily be developed to provide better facilities and more, much needed, proper jobs for the local residents.

Southwark Council are proposing building 213 flats probably housing 400-600 people (if the flats are actually lived in) with no thought whatsoever as to where people will work. As Southwark have gradually eradicated all the existing industrial buildings in the borough they must be presuming people travel outside the borough to work yet the roads are blocked, the tube is jammed, the busses hopeless during rush hour and even the very expensive river boats are now virtually full.

The River Thames needs South Dock Boat Yard so it is essential we act now to defeat this grossly over scaled and thoughtless development.

South Downs Way

October 12th, 2015 Alasdair

H

Eastbourne Pier

Eastbourne Pier

10th and 11th October 2015

Sumara is now ashore and work at Arthur Beale will soon be manic so this weekend was to be the last weekend break before Christmas. We choose the South Downs Way because it is within easy reach of London and seemed strange that we hadn’t walked any of it yet. My nephew Alex likes to cycle it and sung its praises too. Selma booked us into a comfy Bed and Breakfast in Eastbourne for Friday night and we set off along the prom at 9am on Saturday morning in glorious sunshine. The forecast was for a cold breeze but it was boiling hot!

Eastbourne Promenade

Eastbourne Promenade

The promenade was familiar territory, having entered the Eastbourne Half Marathon a while back, so I knew what was in store at the end of the prom! Yes, a big long climb up onto the top of the Downs. There is a little café just before the hill so we topped up with water and set off. The ground is fantastic soft short grass just like Tennyson Downs on the Isle of Wight. It would be a lovely run or a great walk for someone recovering from knee trouble. Once at the top the breeze was a bit cooler but not as strong as the mocked up photo shows.

It wasn't really windy

It wasn’t really windy

 

 

We took the north route rather than walking near to Beachy Head. It took us through Jevington where Banoffi Pie was invented.

The Home of Banoffi Pie

The Home of Banoffi Pie

After ten miles we arrived at Alfriston for lunch. It is a very attractive town but inevitably that attracts the tourists and the gift shops which have taken over the high street. There is an amazing book shop worth visiting.

South Downs

South Downs

After sandwiches we set of across rolling downland towards our evening stay at the Youth Hostel based on Itford Farm in Southease. We were impressed with the ingenuity of the padlock bar guarding the multi use aerials.

Very Clever Device!

Very Clever Device!

South Downs

South Downs

he Youth Hostel at Itford Form, Southease.

he Youth Hostel at Itford Form, Southease.

The hostel was an efficient modern place which was clean and friendly although close to a busy road from Newhaven.

In the evening we ate a superb meal at the Cock Inn near to Lewes. I had Banoffi Pie for pudding but I’m not sure that I liked It.

The Cock Inn

The Cock Inn

The first days walk was about 17 miles.

After breakfast we walked through Southease City Centre are were thrilled to spot a church with a round tower. I might join the Church with Round Tower Society one day.

Southease Church

Southease Church

We followed the South Downs for a few miles then diverted south towards Saltdean via a convenient running route with wardens and water stops. Watching the runners was interesting, the first runners looked a bit miserable but they got happier and happier as you moved back through the fleet until the last stragglers who were miserable again. We were only about four miles into the twenty mile run and I am pretty sure some of them wouldn’t make it. We walked along the seafront into Brighton Marina for lunch and then through about 10,000 motorbikes to the station for our train home.

Brighton Marina

Brighton Marina

The second days walk was only about 11 miles.

We will finish the South Downs Way  another day!

 

The End of the Sailing Season for Sumara

October 12th, 2015 Alasdair
Sumara ashore in Harry Kings Yard

Sumara ashore in Harry Kings Yard

I’d arranged to have Sumara hauled out at the end of September. Of course it was sod’s law that the first few weekends in October have been warm and sunny with a gentle sailing breeze. At least the sails were packed away nice and dry. She will winter in Harry Kings Yard at Pin Mill. I like it there.

South Dock Marina Boat Yard Under Threat

September 2nd, 2015 Alasdair
South Dock Boat Yard

South Dock Boat Yard

It seems that something fishy is going on. It looks like it will threaten the operation of the Boat Yard at South Dock Marina. Southwark Council held a “consultation” meeting at Canada Water Library at the end of July. The problem was that they omitted to tell us about the “consultation” meeting. They tried to disguise the project by renaming South Dock Boat Yard  as “St Georges Wharf.” I’ve lived and worked in this area for 40 years and I had never heard of St Georges Wharf. If you Google it you will find it is about 8 miles up river. So it was to my great surprise when a neighbour in a block of flats over the road sent me some photos of the display boards which he had obtained from another neighbour who had stumbled upon the secret meeting!

When I queried the Council about why I wasn’t notified (as a boat owner who had a mooring in the dock and a resident within 50 m of the proposal) I was told it was an accident, very sorry and all that. The thing was the email was identical to the one received by all the other people who complained about not being notified. As far as I am aware no attempt was made to notify all the boat owners nor any attempt to notify all the local residents or the commercial users. The meeting must have been attended by friends of the developers.

I was assured by the council that everything will be on their website by 31st August but of course there is nothing there. So as you can see they have got my heckles up by trying to railroad a development through in contradiction to Southwark’s website which says it is committed to consultation before planning developments. Their timeline shows work starting in a few months.

From what we can gleam from the photos taken at the meeting, the council are proposing to build 230 flats with 20 parking places in the area currently used as a boat yard. The flats will be in the tallest towers ever built along the southbank of the river between here and central London at 15 and 20 stories high. They are also proposing a three floor office block. The area remaining for Boat Yard usage will be very small and shady with flats looming over it. As everyone with a boat knows, boat work is noisy and dusty. I simply can’t imagine flat owners putting up with a needle de-scaler operating just below their balcony. Nor will they appreciate the antifouling dust settling on their baby’s pram. No access seems to have been allowed for so once the new residents have closed down the yard on health and safety issues they can use it as a car park which will be handy because the developers have omitted to provide any space for parking in their keenness to squeeze as many flats into the area as possible. Nor have they provided any access to one of the blocks – unless the token Boat Yard is also an access route.

South Dock Boat Yard is the last working yard on the Thames and is important to both commercial and leisure boat users. Without it there will be nowhere to maintain boats and carry out emergency repairs. It affects all the users of the Thames not just those with boats in South Dock. It seems that Southwark Council do not appreciate their fantastic maritime heritage. Nearby Greenland Dock was London’s first dock. Why not develop South Dock Boat Yard as a working boat yard? It would provide decent interesting jobs for the local residents and would be an oasis on the river front which is already dominated by residential developments. This proposed development needs very careful watching – the Council are being devious.

There is a Facebook site set up to help you keep in touch with developments

www.facebook.com/SouthDockandSurrounding

or you can write directly to Paul Glockling, Head of Regeneration at paul.glockling@southwark.gov.uk