Archive for January, 2016

South West Coast Path – Clothing

Thursday, January 28th, 2016

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!

South West Coast Path – Combe Martin to Ilfracombe

Thursday, January 28th, 2016

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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South West Coast Path – Lynmouth to Combe Martin

Thursday, January 28th, 2016

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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South West Coast Path Day Two Porlock to Lynton

Thursday, January 28th, 2016

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

Thursday, January 28th, 2016

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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