Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Lynmouth to Combe Martin

This was my hardest day's walk. It didn't help that I had a late start. I didn't want to be rushing to get the last bus like I was when I walked from Porlock to Lynmouth so I decided to leave my car in Combe Martin and get the bus back to Lynmouth and the start of my walk. This also made sense with the bus times as the last bus back from Combe Martin was very early. However, the first bus of the day only leaves Combe Martin at 9.40 and doesn't arrive in Lynmouth till an hour later.

I got to Combe Martin in plenty of time and found a place to park my car. I had a bit of wander round looking for the bus stop but it really wasn't obvious. The timetable just said 'seaside'. I asked a lady walking her dog, but she was a bit unsure. Then I asked in the sandwich shop where I bought a sandwich for my lunch. The woman had a rough idea but again wasn't completely sure. Then I asked a road sweeper who didn't even know the buses were running. This particular service only runs in summer and had only begun the previous week. Luckily, just then a bus arrived going in the other direction, so I quickly ran across the road to ask the driver and he was able to point out the correct place to me. I was soon joined by another walk who was having a similar problem.

The bus seemed to take a long time and it was quite daunting to realise that I had to walk all that way back. Once in Lynmnouth I had a bit of a look around as I'd not had time to see anything last night. Then it was up the steep track, criss-crossing the funicular railway to get to Lynton way above.

At the top the path turns right and west to follow the North Walk. It's starts along road but quickly becomes a path leading towards the Valley of Rocks. This is an area of strange rock formations, feral goats and a liberal sprinking of goat droppings. This part of the path was quite busy with families and older people out for a stroll. The path heads towards Castle Rock - an obvious outcrop with a nearby car park meaning lots of people. It was so sunny and warm I sat on a bench for while and chatted to a woman who was just there to see Castle Rock.

The path then joins the road which leads towards the Toll House and then to Lee Abbey. The road goes alongside the manicured grounds of the Abbey before heading into woodland. A short while later the path joined the road again. Soon though, it was back on tracks and over stiles to reach the coast. The wind had really got up by this time and it was so strong I tucked my sunglasses away thinking they might be blown off the top of my head where I'd stuck them. The walk along the side of the cliffs was stunning with amazing views in both directions.

The path turned inland and dropped down to sea level at Heddon's Mouth. At the inner end there is a pub and a car park so this part of the path had lots of people including people with wheelchairs and pushchairs. I didn't need to walk all the way up to the pub as about half way up the valley there was a bridge crossing the river so I could walk down the other side to reach the sea again. It zigzagged very steeply upwards and I'd soon regained all the height I'd lost. I followed the coast on a very exposed and windy section before turning inland across fields and then moorland to reach the rises of Great Hangman and then Little Hangman.

Finally it was back down sheltered paths to reach Combe Martin and my car. It was a long day, with lots of up and down including reaching the highest point on the whole of the SW Coast Path. But I'd seen some breathtaking views and felt like I'd had a year's supply of fresh air.

13 miles
Graded as strenuous by South West Coast Path Association

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