Tuesday, 4 June 2013

I've got a hole in my walk

I had hoped to walk to Cornwall

The final, last, right in the bottom corner, county in England. Ok, I wasn't going to walk all the way from here, but I was going to walk from North Devon along the coastal path and was quite excited at the thought of walking across that county border. 

But things don't always go to plan

I did walk in North Devon and I did walk in Cornwall, but I didn't actually walk across the border. Over the last couple of years I've walked from Minehead in Somerset to Westward Ho! (yes, the exclamation mark is part of the spelling) in Devon along the South West Coast Path and this year I planned to walk from where I'd left off in Westward Ho! to Crackington Haven in Cornwall. When I crossed the border from Somerset to Devon, it was nice to know I'd got to my second county, but not really a big deal. Maybe because I'd not walked end to end of the Somerset coast and because Devon isn't in the end, sticky out, bottom bit of the country. Walking to Cornwall, however, did seem like a big deal and yet that actual border crossing is the only bit of the walk I didn't get to do. So I now have a gap in my walk which I'll have to fill next year before I carry on from Crackington Haven.

So why the gap? 

Well, the sub-title for this post could be 'My Van Doesn't Like Bank Holidays'. I'd planned to drive down to Devon on the Friday night so I could go to Lundy Island on the Saturday morning, but was way too tired and so just went to bed instead. I drove down on Saturday afternoon, arriving in Crackington Haven just before the sun went down. Because of the dearth of buses on a Sunday in this part of the world, the only bit of my walk I was able to do on a Sunday was the last bit. I wanted to check out the parking situation and find the bus stop before the following morning so wound my way down narrow, bendy lanes. It looked really pretty in the nice evening light and I took the first couple of photos of my trip. However, just before I'd arrived I'd taken a wrong turn and had to do a three point turn. As I turned into the reverse part of the three point there was a horrible metallic scraping noise. If I'd been near railings I'd have assumed I'd scraped the side of my van down them. But there was nothing like that nearby and nothing underneath the van either. Once I straightened up and drove off I realised I had a problem with my steering. It was very, very stiff. I took bends and turns really slowly, putting all my weight into making the steering wheel move and worrying that it might seize up completely on me and I wouldn't get round the bend and would crash into the side instead. I've never hoped to be round the bend so much before!

I parked up for the night 

In a layby on the main road above Crackington Haven that was set back from road, and the next morning slowly drove back down to park for the day. I caught the bus to Bude and walked back. I then had to drive to the campsite in Stoke near Hartland where I was planning to base myself for the rest of the week. I had no idea what was wrong. I'd checked everything I could think of checking, which with my limited mechanical knowledge, is not a lot, but couldn't spot anything obviously wrong. I spoke to the farmer at the campsite about my problem and he recommended a local garage. Of course being bank holiday weekend there was nothing I could do till Tuesday.

On Monday

The weather forecast proved accurate and it was horrendous with rain and wind. I'd already decided not to walk on Monday as I didn't think it would be particularly safe on the coast and anyway, it was a bank holiday and so there were no buses. Instead I'd planned to get out and about in the van and be a tourist. As I didn't want to risk driving anywhere I spent the day in the van catching up on reading.

Tuesday morning 

Dawned bright and beautiful and so I drove the couple of miles to Hartland and found the garage. I had to leave the van with them for a few hours and so wandered off to Hartland Abbey for a poke around. The gardens were lovely, as was the house - it had started out as an abbey but over the years had been turned into a stately home. The people were also lovely and various members of the staff reassured me that the garage I'd taken my van to was the best around and told me if I was going to break down I was lucky it had happened here. The ladies in the café let me use their phone to ring the garage when I couldn't get any mobile reception and the lady who collects tickets gave me a lift back to the garage at the end of the day.

I needed a new steering pump which had to be ordered 

As well as being expensive this meant I also couldn't use my van on Wednesday as it had to go back to the garage to have the pump fitted. So on Wednesday I wandered off to Docton Mill. This mill has been turned into a lovely private home with extensive and gorgeous gardens. The gardens are open to the public and there's a bit of an exhibition on the mill, a turning water-wheel, and a café which won an award for having the best cream teas in 2007. It didn't say why they hadn't won it again since so, in the interests of research, I tried one. It was delicious. If there is a better place that's been scooping the award for the last six years, I'd love to know about it.

On Thursday 

I could finally get out walking again. I walked into Hartland and caught the bus to Clovelly. This touristy, but delightful little village hewn into the rock face, I explored last year. So this year I started my walk straight away and walked back to Hartland Quay and then up the lane to the campsite. It was exhausting but wonderful.

Friday morning

I parked in Clovelly and caught a couple of buses to get me to Westward Ho! to do what should have really been the first part of my walk. For some reason I wasn't expecting the walk back to Clovelly to be that challenging but was I wrong. I had planned to do the only missing bit of my walk on Saturday before driving home, but as this would be the most challenging and longest walk of the trip (over 15 miles of hills, plus almost 3 miles to get from Hartland village to Hartland Quay to even start the walk), I decided this would be too much for me to do after two already full-on days of walking (my knees had swelled that much from all the descents that they seemed to have developed 3 kneecaps each) and the need to do a long drive home straight afterwards.

So I went to Lundy Island instead 

I picked my van up at Clovelly and drove to Ilfracombe where I found a lovely parking bay in Hele overlooking the rocky coastline to spend the night. I hadn't booked but it was no problem to get on the ferry and I had lovely sunny boat ride and a walk round the island. I'm pleased I finally got to Lundy, but it is disappointing to have this glaring gap in my walk. 

Ah well, there's always next year, and I did get to see a couple of places I might not have seen otherwise. 

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