Sunday, 29 May 2011

Porlock to Lynmouth

I woke up early after a good first night's sleep in my tent and was raring to go. It would have made sense to start my walking by going to Minehead and walking back to Porlock and the campsite. Minehead is the beginning of the Southwest Coast Path after all. But as the first bus to Minehead doesn't get in until almost 12 o'clock and I was ready to get going I decided to leave this walk until tomorrow and do the Porlock to Lymouth stretch today.

The way to the beach led through a marshy area
I started by walking down Sparkhayes Lane to the beach which is a good half mile or so. The beach isn't a sandy sunbathing type of beach, but rather a pebbley and marshy affair. It was getting the full blast of the wind too. In 1996 the natural shingle ridge across Porlock Bay was breached by a storm, resulting in the flooding of the fields behind at each high tide. This means the official path has had to be moved inland a bit. The signs were quite confusing so I just walked on towards Porlock Weir. I thought I'd know if I was on the old path as it would become impassable and I'd have to turn back. However, once I got to Porlock Weir I saw a much clearer sign that pointed out that I had walked the closed part of the path. Hmm, was that why I'd had to wade through that bit of a slippery, green-slime-filled river?

Porlock Weir
Old groynes on the beach. 
Once I arrived in Porlock Weir (about 2 miles further on) the wind dropped and the sun came out. I sat at a picnic bench looking out to sea and ate my breakfast. Then I had a wander round the tiny village - thatched cottages, boats and an old pub - all very pretty. There's supposed to be the remains of an ancient forest here which can sometimes be seen when the tide is out. Well, the tide was out, but I couldn't see the forest. Unless of course, I was confusing it with all the old groynes that were around. 

From here the path was clearly marked all the way and very easy to follow. I only needed to refer to my map when I wanted to check distances or whereabouts I was. It became very wooded and was slightly inland. This meant that apart from occasional tantalising glimpses of the sea through the trees, it felt very much like a woodland walk. This was pretty much the theme for the rest of the day.

A couple of short tunnels in the woods
The path from Porlock Weir led upwards and into Yearnor Wood. A short while on I passed the end of the toll road with big arches for cars to go through. The signs said the toll road goes to Lynmouth but I wasn't sure about this as on the map it seems to finish at the main road a long way from Lynmouth. Next I had to walk through a couple of tunnels and past signs pointing down to the beach. It was too much of a detour though as I had a bus to catch to get back to the campsite. So I had to be in Lynmouth for 5pm. There are so few buses on these routes that, although I enjoyed myself and saw and did plenty, I still felt rushed a lot of the time. 

Culbone Church
I did stop at Culbone Church. This is really hidden on the banks of a river down in a bit of a valley. The church is dedicated to St Beuno  and is apparently the smallest complete parish church in England at only 35ft long. It's main structure dates from the 12th century. I had a look inside and immediately felt the hush. It made me realise just how noisy it actually was outside in the woods with so many birds everywhere. 

I didn't see many people on the walk until I got to County Gate which is the border between Somerset and Devon. There is a car park and so a couple of groups of people had wandered down to the Coast Path from there. They didn't seem interested in actually going anywhere once they got to the path though, so soon I was on my own again.

The path got a bit hillier and there were quite a few detours where the original path had slipped. One detour seemed almost vertical and was very sandy so my feet couldn't get any grip. There was nothing to grab hold of and even my sticks kept slipping. That was the only tricky bit though, and even that was only a very short bit. 

Lynmouth can be seen in the distance

All in all I walked about 15 miles and climbed 934m (according to the coastal path website). This wasn't one big climb, but was continual ascents and descents. By the time I was within the last few miles of Lynmouth my knees were causing me quite a bit of pain and I could feel them swelling up. This slowed me down a bit meaning I only got to Lynmouth about 10 minutes before the bus was due to leave, so I didn't get chance to have a look around. Despite the pain, I'd really enjoyed my first day's walking.

There were signs up in quite a few places warning of ticks in the area. I've been in plenty of places before with ticks but never had any attach themselves to me. So I had another first when I later got ready for the shower and found 2 small ticks firmly attached to my left leg. Tweezers easily got rid of them, so as long as I don't contract Lyme disease they weren't a problem.

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