I’ve never done anything but dream. This, and this alone, has been the meaning of my life. My only real concern has been my inner life. FERNANDO PESSOA

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

South West Coast Path. Day 1: Plymouth To Warren Point

Just over two years ago I walked two-thirds of the South West Coast Path from Minehead in Somerset to Plymouth in Devon — a distance of around 400 miles. I decided it was now high time I completed my epic journey along England's longest National Trail. So, on 14 November this year, I booked a room in the Squires' B&B, St James Place East, Plymouth, and took a train to the West Country. The next day I regained the path, my stomach knotted in expectation, and with joy in my heart.

On the dull and hazy morning of 15 November I left Smeaton's Tower on Plymouth Hoe and headed east.

Looking back towards Plymouth across Plymouth Sound.

Only 175 miles to go!

The path wound through a woodland of twisted trees and mossy branches. A few summer flowers still struggled on — mullein, red campion, gorse and one solitary squill.

See how the prevailing south-westerly winds have sculpted this tree into a pleasingly artistic shape.

I contoured round sandy, rocky coves and low headlands...

... and skirted the first of many caravan parks which have blighted this section of coastline.



The pyramidal Great Mew Stone Rock.


The river Yealm near Warren Point just beyond Wembury. 

There's a seasonal ferry across the Yealm but it had stopped running in September. So I retraced my steps to Wembury — only to find that the buses were on a one-day strike. I was about to phone a taxi when two kind walkers I'd met earlier gave me a lift back to Plymouth in their car. I would take a bus to Noss Mayo on the other side of the river the following morning, and resume my walk from there...

15 comments:

Martin said...

Oh my what a lovely looking walk and such fine photos. Did you do any camping at all?

Coastal walking is a joy. I'm tentatively, very tentatively, thinking about the GR34 in France,that is a 1700km hike around the Breton coast - http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sentier_de_grande_randonn%C3%A9e_34

Ah,in my dreams!

The Weaver of Grass said...

A little bird told me that you were away on this walk. Glad you enjoyed it.

The Solitary Walker said...

It's a great walk, Martin — really special. Though it can be frustrating, specially in late autumn/winter: some ferries not running, requiring imaginative planning, and unpredictable weather — I had the lot, from cold, clear sunny days to storm-force winds, lashing rain and floods (no doubt you heard all about the floods on the news).

I've walked a tiny section of that Brittany coastal path, and it was terrific. I know you will do it one day. In fact I've always had a secret desire to do it myself.

Pat — a little bird, eh? Nothing escapes the grapevine!

The Solitary Walker said...

PS Martin — no camping! Good grief, no — not in November. Even when I started the walk (August 2010) I soon sent home the tent etc. I'd brought, as I just found all that camping stuff too heavy. Ok, perhaps I hadn't gone lightweight enough — though the backpack was Golite, and the tent an Akto. Those constant and unrelenting cliff climbs, day after day, are killers!

George said...

Gorgeous terrain, Robert. Congratulations on completing the entire SW Coastal Path. I admire your tenacity in dealing with the elements and other challenges this time of the year.

Susan Alcorn said...

I particularly loved the photo of Great Mew Stone Rock. An interesting hike for November, brr!

Rachel Fox said...

Don't be too hard on the caravan parks! People need to get away to the sea and it's more affordable than some of the options...
x

Ruth said...

The scenes of habitations nestled along the craggy coast (OK, maybe not the caravan park), geologic formations, paths and trees curling, are all magnificent, Robert. I gasped when I saw your new cover image at Facebook, and I knew your photo journal from the coastal path was going to be a treat. I am not disappointed so far!

The Solitary Walker said...

Yes, there were certainly a few logistical and meteorological challenges, George!

'Brr' indeed, Susan. God be praised for Merino wool underwear.

Fair enough, Rachel. We enjoyed a couple of caravan park holidays ourselves when the children were young.

Thanks, Ruth. Glad you are enjoying the early stages of this trail.

Susan Scheid said...

It's wonderful to see this coastline again. We've walked bits of this walk, several years ago. Miniscule compared to your walk, of course. Thank you so much for taking us on your walk. And now my fingers are about to walk to the next post!

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for following my adventures, Susan.

Goat said...

Ah, knew you were up to something. My theory was another Camino, but I remember your last shot at this path.

The photos look great, looks like the NEX served you well. By the way, my exposure adjustment is playing up in aperture priority, seems to be getting worse and I can see myself buying another camera (same model) soon. It does seem early for any glitches but I absolutely hammered it this last year, hundreds of exposures a week and some recklessness with weather etc. Anyway, we'll see.

Time to catch up on your saga now!

roselle said...

Robert, did I tell you that my sister, Ruth Luckhurst, recently wrote the current guides to the SWCP for that association? And she's very recently also written the guide to the Coleridge Way on the Exmoor coast for Exmoor National Park, and 'on the side' an anthology of relevant work by the Romantic Poets, with some biography too.

http://ruthluckhurst.wordpress.com/


The Solitary Walker said...

No, I didn't know that, Roselle. I used the Cicerone guide by Paddy Dillon. I'll take a look at your sister's blog!

roselle said...

Robert, Paddy Dillon was/is one of Ruth's commissioning publishers and mentors.

The Cicerone guides are great, aren't they? I love the Ridgeway one.