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The traveler: An expected journey This time it's the Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Sweden & Norway before England again for several weeks and on to Croatia.

Walkin' in the rain

UNITED KINGDOM | Friday, 4 September 2015 | Views [179]

I spent a warm, sunny day traveling from Avebury to the coast of north Devonshire over the course of about 5 hours. So far I had had decent weather almost everyday, except for my travel days. For some reason I think the weather gods got a bit mixed up for this part of my journey. As the light faded outside my  bedroom I heard the beginning of rain with this promising forecast for the next day: "Monday: Rain, locally heavy, will gradually clear eastwards through the day with drier and brighter weather following from the west. It will be windy, with a risk of localized coastal gales." Well of course I was still  determined to go on my long distance walk because I'd already arranged it. My hope that it would perhaps rain itself out overnight did not pan out. So on went all of my rain gear and I started out on the piece of the Southwest Coast Path that I'd chosen to do from Combe Martin to Woolacombe on the first day, all 14 miles of it.
I'd hardly left my Airbnb behind when I came upon a large wet bird hoping along the path ahead of me. It tried to fly, but it had an obviously broken wing. Sadly I turned around and returned to my Airbnb to ask the lady if she knew of any bird rescue in the area. She later wrote me to say that the Buzzard was picked up by some of the rehabilitation people, but that they had to put it down. At least it didn't suffer they said.
Within an hour of walking I was soaked, and my confidence in my rain gear dwindling as I paused every 10 minutes or so to wring out the sleeves of my rain jacket. It was rather like moping up water without turning off the tap though. There really there wasn't much point to it, except that my sleeves were temporarily only "damp". Part way through the day as I came to the main town along the way the sun appeared and I began to dry out. I was unpleasantly surprised though to find that the water had worked it's way through my rain jacket and started to soak into the edges of some of my important papers. Though my money was damp thankfully my train passes were spared the worst.
The section of coastal path from Ilfracombe (the main town on the way) to Woolacombe I think is the most beautiful of the sections I walked. The incredible views of the edge of the coast continued for 8 miles. These miles were also part of the "challenging" category of sections though with hills and slopes one after the other. At one point I counted 90 steps in a row up the side of one hill. With my 30 or so pound pack on I got my daily exercise in to say the least. Finally I approached my destination as the sun made its way toward the horizon. I would've stopped to sit and watch it if I had not been concerned about arriving at my room. Nonetheless there is something unique and beautiful about walking in the evening light. After I finally sat down for good that evening on my bed my legs and feet ached when I rose again to attend to the last things before actually falling asleep.
Luckily I've given myself the next day off to recover. In the evening I went for a very relaxing walk along Woolacombe's incredible stretch of sandy beach. What a laugh to watch an owner chasing after his little white Jack Russell Terrier on the beach. It doesn't remind you of anyone does it? There was a man going back and forth along the edge of the waves with a board and a large kite, like those you'd see used in hang gliding. It looked like such fun, though I didn't see how he could reverse at each end to go the other direction, or indeed stay out on the waves given that the both the waves and the wind were heading inland.
For dinner I ordered fresh fish in the form of "whole Mackerel". It certainly was "whole" as you'll see from the photo. It was however a filling meal. I'd learned earlier that "chips" as French Fries are called in Britain are usually eaten not with ketchup, but with vinegar drizzled over them. So I kept with the tradition at dinner for an authentic experience.
My next section of walk was a measly 8 mile, "moderate" walk to the next great stretch of beach. On the way I walked through grassy sand dunes above a smaller beach. This made for rather hard walking, but a dramatic change in landscape. Unfortunately by the time I got to the second long beach it was once more raining, so I decided to catch an early bus to my last section of coastal walk a little farther west.
Putting aside my planning, and arranging for the evening I made the decision to walk into the little fishing village of Clovelly, which was one of the main reason I had decided to stay in the area to begin with. This was one of the recommendations of the guests in north Wales. How right they were! The main road past the houses and shops, down to the harbor is completely cobbled and traffic free. It also has about a 45 degree slope, and twists and turns rather like Magnolia road. If I had to choose the most beautiful village I've seen in Britain it would either be Painswick, or Clovelly. What a treat it was to pause in the nearly empty streets to admire everything around me. How very different it was when I returned the next morning along with several hundred people! I managed to find some opportunities for photographs though with no one in them. You'll notice that there is quite the collection of photos from Clovelly here (all of the ones of a village)!
I lingered perhaps too long in Clovelly before starting off on my last day of coastal walking. I calculated I wouldn't arrive at my next bed until 8 pm, but I didn't really want to acknowledge that. I would have loved to linger longer on the path where it opened up by the sea with a view to the waterfall pouring down from the cliff, however I did stop for a short break. After my nice descent for the first leg I spent the next part of the day climbing back up, then down, and back up again. Through green fields I eventually came to what looked like an observatory, but what turned out to be an old radar station from WW2, now used to track air traffic automatically. I was dismayed to see that I still had 3 miles to go instead of the 2 I had been counting on from the other signs. I paused for a stunning view of the ocean, which I posted earlier, and at the same time realized what I saw was a rain storm heading inland. I neglected to put on my waterproof pants as I wanted to save time in reaching my destination, which I thought was surely just around the coast. What a mistake!
Within 15 minutes I was walking through the heaviest rain I'd been in yet only to discover one ascent after another. At one point I found myself walking sideways up the steep hill in order to continue straight and not be blown off course. Eventually the storm passed. I still retrained an appreciation for the beauty of the coast, the ocean, and the sunset, but it did fade rather a bit as I squelched along, dripping wet. In the hope of reaching my destination sooner, and before dark I made 3 efforts at shortcuts across the fields, and each time was forced to turn back. At long last, exhausted and with my torch in my hand, I arrived at around 9 pm at the B&B I was staying at. Such a dry, warm bed, has never looked more inviting! The mother who welcomed me was incredibly kind and dried out my things overnight, except for my shoes, which took 2 days to dry. They'd never failed me yet with their waterproofing, but my exposed pants and socks had channeled the water straight into them.
Would I do the whole thing again? Probably not. I can say I did walk all those miles though, and saw some amazing places. I don't have much regret about it, but I do think I might decide to simply stay in 1 place a couple nights and just do a shorter walk during the day when I can stop and just sit to admire the scenery. I bid farewell to the ocean for the last time in the morning though, and set off inland.

 

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