Over­seas Walk: South West Coast Path Walk

Walking New Zealand - - Contents - By Chris Ver­non

In April and May 2014 I walked the South West Coast Path in Bri­tain from Mine­head to Poole, tak­ing in such sights as Lands End, Dur­dle Door and Saint Michaels Mount.

To get an idea of the coun­try­side watch the videos Shout by Tears for Fears and The Liv­ing Years by Mike and the Me­chan­ics as well as the tele­vi­sion pro­gramme Doc Martin and the Broad­church se­ries.

I av­er­aged twenty three kilo­me­tres a day, a to­tal of 1014 kilo­me­tres or 630 miles and it took me 44 days.

The walk­ing is dif­fer­ent to our idea of New Zealand tramp­ing, here we were in the open 90% of the time, never far from the coast nat­u­rally.

The tough part was start­ing. At Mine­head I had jet­lag, a headache and I got a blis­ter wan­der­ing around the town. My feet hard­ened up af­ter a few days and it was re­ally all about get­ting in the rhythm of walk­ing, eat­ing and sleep­ing.

Walk­ing is a great way of get­ting rid of jet­lag. I tried to prac­tice mind­ful­ness by be­ing in the mo­ment and each day I en­joyed, not think­ing too far ahead, just the next town, the next hill or the next step.

Mind­ful­ness is also about be­ing non­judge­men­tal and this ex­tended to my camera – I only took one pho­to­graph at the half­way point. I didn’t feel I had earned the right to take a pic­ture of the start point and at the end just wanted to en­joy the mo­ment.

I picked this walk be­cause I orig­i­nally was look­ing at the Camino de San­ti­ago but was put off by the heat, crowds and tales of 80% of the trail be­ing along roads as well as peo­ple get­ting up at 4.30am to rush to the next bed. Blame the movie The Way for this in­creased tourism.

As it was on my walk some days I only saw two or three peo­ple, although some days were crowded on the two Bank Hol­i­day week­ends, Easter and some nor­mal week­ends when the weather was good and the lo­cals flocked to the beach.

Still I trav­elled in rel­a­tive iso­la­tion in be­tween small and big­ger towns. The most en­joy­able parts were walk­ing through small vil­lages with nar­row cob­bled roads, hours of iso­lated walk­ing on cliff tops, walk­ing a few days with peo­ple I met go­ing the same way at my pace and meet­ing peo­ple in the hos­tels I stayed in.

It was a chal­leng­ing walk as it is in the open and I was ex­posed to weather con­di­tions. I had five very hot days in a row and was ex­hausted at the end of each of these days af­ter walk­ing in the wind and heat all day.

Ac­com­mo­da­tion was gen­er­ally plen­ti­ful with a mix­ture of youth hos­tels, pri­vate hos­tels, pubs as well as bed and break­fasts.

The best time to travel is af­ter Easter as a num­ber of fer­ries do not start un­til then. March would be too cold and June too hot and crowded mov­ing in to the school hol­i­days.

My guide book I bought through Ama­zon, The South West Coast Path writ­ten by Paddy Dil­lon. It gave a good daily map guide to the path that was easy to fol­low. There was no need to book ac­com­mo­da­tion ahead, in fact it gave me the free­dom to travel as much or as little as I felt each day to a de­gree.

One of my friends sim­ply asked “why?” when she heard of my plans to do the trip. I wanted to say some­thing deep and mean­ing­ful but all I could come

up with was “if you have to ask, what­ever an­swer I give you will not sat­isfy you.”

Check out the web­site www.south­west­coast­path.com for fur­ther up to date in­for­ma­tion on track de­tours and ac­com­mo­da­tion

“A jour­ney of a thou­sand miles be­gins with a sin­gle step.’

Lao-Tzu

Above left: At the South West Coast Path shop in Ivy­bridge on com­ple­tion to col­lect sou­venirs as a nod to tourism. Photo taken by the of­fice staff who kindly emailed it to my home ad­dress. Above right: Colour­full flower dom­i­nate the coastal walk­way at...

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