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Back in January of this year, I wrote a blog post about a hike I did on the coastal path near to my home in Devon, UK, on New Year’s Day. That walk set my intentions for 2019 – that of hiking, exploring my local area and generally getting outdoors a whole lot more. In that same blog post, I wrote that I would do a different hike every month and blog about it…
And now here we are 10 months later – I haven’t written a single blog post about hiking since January (anyone else say they’ll do something, and then never actually do it? Or is it just me!?) But just because I haven’t written about it, doesn’t mean I haven’t actually been hiking. In fact, I’ve done quite a bit.
Following my New Year’s Day walk, I started thinking about ways I could motivate myself to get out and walk more without having to spend a lot of money. I really didn’t want this to be another failed resolution! So, by March I had decided to make it a goal to walk the entire South West Coast Path within three years.
Now, I know three years sounds like a long time, but the South West Coast Path is 630 miles long and, unfortunately, I’m not able to take two months off work to walk the entire trail in one go. So, a more long-term solution was required.
Averaging a minimum of 15 miles a day (sometimes more), I worked out that I’d need about 42 days to complete the trail. Over three years, that worked out at only 14 days a year – just over one day each month.
Since April, I’ve been trying to cram in as many days walking as I can. Due to a busy, jam-packed schedule over the summer, this proved to be difficult. But I’ve found that booking out a weekend in advance helps me commit.
Just as a side note here, I’ll add that I had already hiked a couple sections of the coast path in close proximity to my home in Devon prior to January of this year, so will be counting these stretches in my total for the year. This covered off Seaton to Branscombe and Sidmouth to Budleigh Salterton.
So, if I’ve been hiking, why haven’t I written about it like I promised? Well, partly because I haven’t had the time (terrible excuse, I know), partly because I wasn’t sure if anyone was actually interested, but mostly because there’s already a ton of resources detailing every section of the South West Coast Path and I wasn’t sure what value I could add by contributing one more.
So, rather than writing a blog post to cover each stretch of the trail, I thought I’d do a summary post every few months to let you know how I’m getting on. Here’s the first.
Branscombe to Sidmouth – 6 miles
This was the hike that kicked off my South West Coast Path ‘expedition’ on New Year’s Day and you can read about it here. At this point, walking 14 miles in one day felt like a huge achievement. This is one of my favourite stretches of coastline because it’s so beautiful, but also quite gruelling. Several steep ascents mean it’s a tough one on the legs but the views along the Jurassic Coast more than make up for it.
West Bay to Seaton – 17.2 miles
In April, I pushed myself a little further than I’d ever walked and managed to hike 18.5 miles in one day – which I was really pleased with, especially as this stretch of the South West Coast Path is one hill after another.
Again, this is a beautiful stretch that is worth the effort it takes to climb the hills and is actually one of my favourite walks to date. Starting in Dorset’s West Bay, you hike along the coast through Eype, Seatown (not to be confused with Seaton), Golden Cap (which at 191 metres is the highest point on the south coast of Britain!), Charmouth, Lyme Regis and finally Seaton.
West Bay to West Bexington – 5.6 miles
This was most definitely my least favourite walk of all the hikes I’ve done this year. The scenery was substandard for most of the way and a large section of the South West Coast Path follows a long stretch of shingle beach which is difficult to walk on, although it is mostly flat so an easy one in that sense. There’s one lovely cafe along the way but aside from this nowhere to stop for food, apart from one restaurant in West Bexington which was exorbitantly priced! I definitely won’t be walking this stretch again in a hurry.
Isle of Portland Circuit – 13 miles
Walking the South West Coast Path on the Isle of Portland circuit was an interesting day! We’d planned to spend the day hiking and booked it out of our calendar, only to see a huge storm roll in. Fortunately, the weather stayed dry on the Saturday, so we set out for Portland determined not to give in. But while the weather was dry, the winds were strong and walking in such crazy, strong winds was exhausting, although exhilarating nonetheless.
We hiked along the rugged west coast to Portland Bill where we stopped at the cafe for a bite to eat before making our way back to the car along the less-rugged but equally as beautiful east coast. Fortunately, the east coast was a lot more sheltered and a lot less windy and the sun even came out to say hello towards the end of the walk.
The isle of Portland was an interesting place – while the coastline was rugged and beautiful, inland the island is bland and a bit strange in a way that I can’t quite put my finger on with large housing estates and a huge prison. I’d say this walk is medium difficulty as it’s mostly flat with two or three very steep climbs. Just choose a day without gale force winds!
Exmouth to Budleigh Salterton – 5.4 miles
This is a really beautiful stretch of coastline that I walked with my parents on the August bank holiday Monday. The walk between Exmouth and Budleigh is a fairly flat one with only a couple short hills, so is a nice easy one to complete if you’re not much of a walker. We walked from Exmouth to Budleigh Salterton and back and really enjoyed the views and sunshine that day before stopping for a beach BBQ on Exmouth on the way back!
Dawlish to Paignton – 24.3 miles
The coast path from Dawlish to Paignton is the longest walk I’ve done to date and, so far, the only walk I’ve done alone. I was nervous to walk so far on my own but I absolutely loved it. The time alone, the time to think, the challenge of going it alone and the fact that the weather was glorious all contributed to one of my favourite walks.
The hike from Dawlish to Teignmouth was really enjoyable with beautiful views along the coast but after Teignmouth the walk led mostly through trees and dense wooded areas until reaching Babbacombe. By Babbacombe, 14 miles in, my legs were aching like crazy so I stopped for 90 minutes and chomped down on a burger and chips before heading off again for the final 10 miles.
The last 10 miles between Babbacombe and Paignton was absolutely beautiful. Honestly, the coastline along this stretch was stunning, not to mention the coves and turquoise water which was not dissimilar to the Mediterranean. I’ll definitely be making an effort to hike this part of the trail again in the future.
Paignton to Kingswear – 18.5 miles
The most recent completed stretch, the coast path between Paignton and Kingswear, presented more epic vistas one after the other. The first 7 miles from Paignton to Brixham and beyond I found to be fairly mediocre, with the highlight of this stretch being the cute little cafe just before you reach Brixham where we spotted a large grey seal frollicking in the water while we enjoyed a coffee. However, after Berry Head, the coastline reached jaw-dropping peaks and breathtaking bays.
The only issue we found on this hike was the complete lack of facilities for the last 10 miles, which presented a problem due to the fact we’d banked on there being at least a couple cafes on route and, as such, hadn’t taken any food with us. Basically, we were unprepared and winging it and it was a lesson learned the hard way. For all future hikes, I’ll make sure to plan lunch stops ahead or take food with us should there be no where to stop en route.
So that’s it so far – in the last 10 months, I’ve walked 90 miles. Add on to that the 10.8 miles I had already walked prior to January, it brings a grand total of 100.8 miles, which actually isn’t a lot in the grand scheme of things and means I need to crack on between now and March if I’m going to stay on track to walk the entire coast path in the next three years.
The next scheduled walk will be on 16 and 17 November, which will be my first multi-day hike. So, I’ll keep you posted on how that goes and provide an update after the next series of hikes.
Until then, happy walking!
Planning to walk some of the SWCP starting next year as I live on the opposite side of the UK. In the meantime trying to get out more on longer distance paths in this area although the terrain is complete opposite.
One day of day one. It’s our choice!
Sounds great! Hope you enjoy your walks and get to the SWCP soon! It’s beautiful. Let me know if you have any questions.
Thank you so much. The official guidebook is heading this way but there’s bound to be questions later.
Really enjoyed this blog. I have recently determined to walk the SW coast path over the next year (to mark the occasion of my 75th). I wanted a positive project to get my teeth into in the current COVID climate and don’t see us going away anywhere much in the foreseeable! I have done some local-ish walks (I live in Torbay) and getting my legs used to some of the demands of cliff walking. Walked between Beesands and Blackpool Sands last week – some steep ascents/descents and steps built by giants!
What a fantastic project Penny! Well done – such a beautiful coast path. I’ve really loved it so far. Haven’t been able to get out on the coast path much this year due to obvious reasons but looking forward to heading back out as soon as possible. All the best with your project. I’d love to hear how you get on!
Thankyou for your inspirational blog. In March of this year I thought about doing a section of this walk, then covid. But I did do a lovely inland walk. It’s Called the Avon Valley Trail which runs from Harnham In Salisbury To Christchurch on the south coast. Passing through Wiltshire and The New Forest. An experience I will never forget. A great read and biography is called “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed. Who walked a 1000 approx miles along the Pacific west Trail in America-Alone.
That walk sounds lovely! I’ll definitely check it out. I’ve seen the film Wild, but yet to read the book – it’s on my list though! Thanks for your lovely comment!
We walked the Polruan to Polperro section in October. We are both in our late 60s and reasonably fit but found this walk very demanding and some parts frankly treacherous. Although the weather was lovely on the day, the amount of rain in the days leading up to the hike had made the path very muddy and slippery – including in parts right on the edge of some precipitous drops.
I had a chat with a National Trust Ranger later on the phone who amazed me when he advised the path is only inspected once a year but said based on my feedback he would arrange an earlier inspection.
That’s very interesting to hear! Glad you made it back safely. It’s definitely a tough one, hiking in autumn/winter. Like you say, the abundance of rain can make the path treacherous!
Hi Zara.Yes maybe one day.Jon
I hiked a small portion of the Southwest Coast Path in September of this year (2019) I am from a small farming town southwest of Chicago where we are all Norwegians. I thought! On a recent extensive DNA test on FTDNA called the Big Y700 I found out that I am in a rare group of 4 Norwegians and 2 Englishmen. Turns out that I am 27% Norwegian and 23% English. Mostly Cornish. I decided to go to the U.K. since I just retired from being a locomotive engineer here in the Chicago area and I spent a month in the U.K. First i hiked with a group of 6 with Wilderness Scotland and we hiked the West Highland Way. 96 miles in about 6 days. I then took the train from Fort William down to Penzance since I wanted to check out this Cornish part of my heritage. It was incredible! I camped at the Mousehole Campground in Paul and basically explored from there for about a week. I hiked the Southwest Coast Path from Mousehole to LaMorna and now I am hooked. I am 65 years old but now I need to go back over there and hike more of that path. Maybe even the whole thing! Your blog is wonderful!
Wow! What a story! Thanks for sharing that and I’m glad you enjoyed hiking on the South West Coast Path. The sections I’ve done so far I have enjoyed immensely! Hope you manage to hike the whole thing at some point!
Started doing the North Devon coast myself.Did Northam to Barnstaple recently,doing Barnstaple to Croyde next week and already done Croyde to Woolacombe and Northam to Westward Ho! Via Appledore.Live in Northam so can appreciate being so close to a walk that you feel you need to walk it.Hoping to cover Bude to Minehead in two years. I’ve holidayed in Torbay so appreciate those lovely walks and also did Polperro to Looe ,which was fab, in August.Happy walking 🙂
Sounds like you’re having a great time enjoying our beautiful coast Gary! Maybe I’ll pass you on the coast path some day 🙂