Monday, 26 May 2014

Dunes and Rivers - The Taw Estuary

Day Five - Croyde to Barnstaple. 23.6km (14.6 miles).
Time on route 6:10hrs, walking time 5:50hrs.

Monday 26 May 2014

Map day 5
Today I persuaded my exam soaked daughter to take a break from her studies and spend the day with me walking.  Having just completed the 45 mile Ten Tors challenge a mere stroll with her mother was well within her capability.  It was lovely to have her company.

We took the train to Barnstaple and then bus to Croyde.  It didn't take me long to find a coffee stop so we strode across the sands, mugs in hand.
14 05 26 Day 5 2 Croyde (3)
A beautiful day.
14 05 26 Day 5 2 Croyde (2)
14 05 26 Day 5 2 Croyde (4)
South of the beach the path goes 'off piste' for a while.  We eschewed the easy looking road above and scrambled over the rocks as per the guide book.
14 05 26 Day 5 2 Croyde (6)
And anyway, we would have missed the dalek if we'd taken the road.
14 05 26 Day 5 2 Croyde (5)
On nearing Saunton we took the alternative path north of the road to gain the view of Braunton Burrows.  And the views were wonderful.  Sadly I was distracted.
14 05 26 Day 5 3 Braunton Burrows (1)
I braved the first field of cows and calves, bravely muttering aloud "you don't scare me".  However we turned the corner and faced a bull.  "I'm not doing this Riona," I squeaked, and headed up into a more northerly field shaking.  She tried to reassure me (brave 16 year old, pathetic 44 year old Mum) but it didn't work; I was not going to share a field with a fully fledged bull.

In fact, we did have to creep back down the edge of the field to the path into Saunton Court but the bull didn't spot us.  Golly, how am I going to do this whole path?!

South of Saunton the path flattens out and you walk for kms past the ranges.  Quite boggy in parts ("not a patch on Dartmoor," commented the hardened Dartmoor teenager).
14 05 26 Day 5 3 Braunton Burrows (3)
And lots of long straight, flat paths.  I confess, lack of features on a route is a tad boring, but at least I had company.
14 05 26 Day 5 3 Braunton Burrows (6)
I made Riona walk the extra km out and back on the boardwalk at the southern tip of Braunton Burrows.  I think the promise of chips at the pub were working.
14 05 26 Day 5 3 Braunton Burrows (8);
Looking across the bay to Appledore.
14 05 26 Day 5 3 Braunton Burrows (9)
Again, another long straight path across the Horsey Island dyke... 
14 05 26 Day 5 4 Braunton Marsh (3)
14 05 26 Day 5 4 Braunton Marsh (4)
...before turning the corner and heading up to Braunton by the River Caen.
14 05 26 Day 5 5 River Caen (2)
Very soggy ground around here.
14 05 26 Day 5 5 River Caen (1)
"Oooh, look a tide pole," I exclaimed.  "Really?" said my daughter trotting towards me.  "Where?" she said peering into the water.  "Where are the tadpoles?"  Poor thing, she actually thought I'd said something interesting for a minute there.
14 05 26 Day 5 5 River Caen (3)
Once into Braunton the SWCP picks up the route of the old Ilfracombe to Barnstaple Railway.  It is also now a National Cycle Path and part of the Tarka Trail.  There are obvious signs of its previous use.
14 05 26 Day 5 6 Up the Taw (2)
14 05 26 Day 5 6 Up the Taw (7)
We passed RMB Chivenor, home of amongst other units, an RAF Search and Rescue contingent.  I saw them buzzing around when I walked from Ilfracombe to Combe, and it was the same story again today.
14 05 26 Day 5 6 Up the Taw (3)
The chip promise was delivered at the Braunton Inn.  Smallest bowl of chips I've seen for a while!
14 05 26 Day 5 6 Up the Taw (4)
And it would have been churlish not to have had a little something.
14 05 26 Day 5 6 Up the Taw (5)
And in case you were wondering why I'm drinking out of a massive wine glass; it's not that big actually as Riona proves.  Perspective eh?
14 05 26 Day 5 6 Up the Taw (6)
We marched onwards hoping to catch the 1708 train from Barnstaple.  Lovely views of the Taw Estuary: the forecast rain held off which was a treat.
14 05 26 Day 5 6 Up the Taw (8)
The Long Bridge.
14 05 26 Day 5 6 Up the Taw (9)
So a flat, swift day with great company and sun to boot.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Combe Martin, Cows and Croyde

Day Four - Combe Martin to Croyde.  30.0km (18.6 miles). 
Time on route 7:35hrs, walking time 7:15hrs.

Saturday 03 May 2014

Day 4 map
It was an early start on Saturday (03 May) leaving home at 0630 and catching the 0655 train from Exeter St Davids to Barnstaple.  I had 30 mins to walk from the railway station to the Filers bus stop in Boutport Street which I did in under 10, so plenty of time to buy a coffee before catching the number 300 bus to Combe Martin via Ilfracombe.  By the time I started walking at Combe Martin I'd been on the road already for 3 hours.  So having spent some effort getting to my start I decided to see how far I'd get rather then necessarily stop at Woolacombe as the guide book suggested.

Well, that's 0.25 miles down...
14 05 03 Day 4 (5)
It was a perfect day weather wise, little wind, light cloud and cool but not cold temperatures. The SWCP is a beautiful path in the main, but it has its moments of not-quite-so-charming as the A399 proves. 14 05 03 Day 4 (6) Out of Combe Martin
But then you get paths like this
14 05 03 Day 4 (11) Alongside Watermouth
and come across bays like this.  That's better.
14 05 03 Day 4 (9) Small Mouth Bay
There is a new path around Watermouth Bay so the state of the tide no longer affects the walk.

The joy of this walk is rounding a headline and seeing another wonderful vista. This was my first view of Ilfracombe.
14 05 03 Day 4 (14) Ilfracombe
I bumped into a fellow walker at Hele who was hiking to Woolcombe too. We chatted for a bit and then I headed off. He was walking slower than me, partly due to a sore knee, and was going to avoid some of the hills.

It was nice to be back in Ilfracombe, having last visited when on a trig fest 2 years ago. Verity wasn't here last time.
14 05 03 Day 4 (15) Ilfracombe
And neither on my last visit was I entertained by men in trunks playing rugby on the beach.
14 05 03 Day 4 (19) Ilfracombe
14 05 03 Day 4 (21) Ilfracombe
I happily recalled a harbourside cafe that did gluten free bread, so I swung by and bought myself fried egg in toast. Supper yummy and just what I needed to fuel myself up on the Seven Hills west of Ilfracombe.

Ilfracombe is easy to navigate once you realise all you have to do is follow the feet.
14 05 03 Day 4 (18) Ilfracombe
Or the massive signs.  Yup, nearly missed this one.
14 05 03 Day 4 (22) Ilfracombe
Just by the unattractive Landmark theatre is lovely mosaic celebrating local Jonathan Edwards' record breaking triple jumps. 18.29 metres - amazing!
14 05 03 Day 4 (26) Jonathan Edwards Ilfracombe
I got a bit lost around the Landmark (it was probably spiting me for thinking it ugly). I walked by the water's edge too far and ended up in a dead end car park. The trick is to take the steps over the theatre leading you up the hill into some gardens.
14 05 03 Day 4 (23) Ilfracombe
Once past Ilfracombe it was a haul up the Seven Hills then a pleasant walk on a grassy track. Pleasant until I caught the whiff of fresh cow pats and realised, with a sinking heart, that I was to have my first cow encounter. I am a perfectly intelligent and sensible woman, however I have an illogical, stupid fear of cows. Imagine my relief when, as I neared the herd of cows that were clumping together at my exit point (planned to strike fear into any passing Ruth) I noticed the chap from Hele ahead of me. I was saved. OK, this photo only shows a few cows - and my cow catcher - but most of them were hiding around the corner. As he turned the corner Mr Cow Hunter chased them all away and even waited for me. What a charming chap.  I'm easily impressed aren't I?
14 05 03 Day 4 (28)
We walked to Lee Bay together and then I went on ahead. He had, however, explained how he managed to sneak past me. He'd bypassed the hills between Hele and Ilfracombe simply heading down the main road.

Next highlight was Bull Point Lighthouse.
14 05 03 Day 4 (30) Bull Point LH
And lots of ups and downs.
14 05 03 Day 4 (31)
I stopped for coffee and a sandwich at Morte Point enjoying the vista looking due west.
14 05 03 Day 4 (32) Morte Point
Now my view was of Woolcombe Bay and the amazing sands stretching on for miles. The path had a few closed sections due to landslips. However the road was a simple alternative.
14 05 03 Day 4 (34)
Barricane Beach, just north of Woolcombe.
14 05 03 Day 4 (35) Barricane Beach
I marched on through Woolcombe and took the non-sand dune path south. Wonderful views of the beach by the time I climbed out of Vention.
14 05 03 Day 4 (36) Woolacombe Bay
Just before Baggy Point I hunted down a trig pillar. A tad hard to find as it was hiding behind a wall, but I wasn't going to let it elude me.
14 05 03 Day 4 (39) TP0965 - Baggy Point
Cliffs at Baggy Point. If you look closely you can see the climbers.
14 05 03 Day 4 (40) Baggy Point
Not sure what this mast is for. Signals?
14 05 03 Day 4 (41) Baggy Point
14 05 03 Day 4 (42) Baggy Point
A short walk followed into Croyde, passing some old whale bones.
14 05 03 Day 4 (43) Croyde
I had already decided to head straight for a bus when entering Croyde as it was getting late and I was tired. I'll walk Croyde Bay at the start of my next leg. Amazingly as I walked into the village the half hourly bus to Barnstaple arrived. And what was better still was that I hopped off the bus in Barnstaple I had 15 mins to make the hourly train to Exeter. 15 mins wouldn't have been too much of a problem if I wasn't starting to stiffen up from my long walk (I am so old) but I made it with 4 mins to spare. Another wonderful SWCP day.