This is the third stage of my attempt to walk from Land’s End to John O’Groats, wild camping all the way. You can read about the first stage of my challenge (Land’s End to Perranporth) here, the second stage (Perranporth to Bude) here and my gear list is here. This section covers the South West Coast Path from Bude to Barnstaple.
Day 9: Monday 25th February 2019
A lie-in this morning! I woke at 6am as it was starting to get light, and managed to get up and away in 20 minutes.
Within 20 minutes I found a lovely bay with a single house and a stream, so I stopped for breakfast and coffee. Lovely. For breakfast I usually have a 500 calorie rehydrated meal (Food on the Move from Mountain Trails) but today I had an 800 calorie Expedition Foods porridge with sultanas. Both taste good when camping!
This was the first day I’d put my down jacket on, as there was a cold breeze and my little weather station was showing 3 degrees. At least there had been less condensation last night with the breeze. I had also left both doors open on my tent last night which really helped.
The path from Bude was up and down until I reached the Devon border at Marshland Mouth. Once in Devon the landscape changed to more rolling hills, but the big cliffs remained. I was taking it fairly easy today due to a pain in my left foot which has been niggling me for the last few days.
Pants update: the EDZ 200g merino wool pants dried quickly. I put them back on wet, and once they warmed up (surprisingly quickly) they were comfortable to wear, even while wet.
From Marshland Mouth to Hartland Quay the scenery is beautiful, but there are no facilities other than two car parks with loos and the Wreckers Pub at Hartland Quay itself. This is a popular and very friendly pub, even on a Monday at 6pm when I arrived.
I’d only eaten my porridge breakfast and a few snack bars today, so I treated myself to a curry and a couple of pints while I charged up my electrical equipment and wrote texts to send home once I had a signal. I also had a lovely chat with a couple in the pub who even offered to buy me a pint – I was quite surprised by that!
All this socialising meant that I didn’t leave the pub until 8pm and there was no moon, so I climbed the hill with my head torch. I camped on the first flat ground I saw.
Day 10: Tuesday 26th February 2019
I didn’t sleep well at all last night, probably due to a headache from drinking two 5% pints after a dehydrated day. Lesson learned – perhaps!
It had been a clear, breezy night so there was no problem with condensation this morning, but the tent had flapped fairly in the wind up in the cliff top.
I love this simple life, where the fact that there is just enough water left in my water bottle this morning to make a coffee makes me happy. It was also great to be able to get a signal and receive texts from my family.
My route through the morning was a real mix of steep up and down with long stretches of fairly level fields. The path was mainly grassy, but I can imagine this section getting very boggy when it’s wet. Views have often been hidden by hedges, and the path often takes me around field edges.
This section seems little walked and there are some lovely surprise valleys that are well worth the effort.
Just before lunchtime I reached Clovelly, which is an amazing place. The streets are still cobbled and there are no cars at all. I wished I had more energy to explore, but the pub and a meal of scampi and chips was calling.
I felt quite dizzy when I got into the pub and couldn’t focus. Possibly this was due to a low calorie intake during the morning, and I have made a mental note to watch that in the future.
After leaving Clovelly, I followed nice paths up and down through the woods along the coast path. There were still some stiff climbs – one in particular was extremely steep and I was surprised there weren’t steps. At one point the path went on to the beach and I had to walk along it to some steps up. I was just glad the tide wasn’t in!
I nearly made it to Greencliff by the end of the day today but the light went and I had no choice but to stop past Babbacombe Mouth at 5.30pm (it’s totally dark by 5.45pm at the moment).
I put the water on for my coffee and my LAST dehydrated meal that I’ve been carrying since Perranporth. I’ve now just got snack bars and beef jerky left. Dinner tonight was an Expedition Foods sweet and sour chicken with rice and vegetables, which was delicious – or am I just starving? Either way, I enjoyed every mouthful. I’ve walked from first light to darkness today with a total stop of about an hour.
My next challenge is going to be resupplying myself with food. I wonder what I’ll be eating? I am also nearly out of meths – I can’t cope without my daily coffee!
Day 11: Wednesday 28th February 2019
Generally, I felt better yesterday, although my ankles throbbed for an hour or two before going to sleep last night.
Before I left home to start this challenge, I had seriously considered changing the battery in my watch but I thought that was taking things a bit far, and I might look silly. What are the chances of it stopping in the next 2-3 months? Well, today it has! Time is quite important to me, so that’s another chore to add to my resupply list.
As I followed the road into Bideford I passed a watch battery shop straight away. It wasn’t open yet so I had to stop for breakfast and I ordered the vegetarian option as punishment for not changing the battery before leaving home. It was still delicious, though!
Following the road was a bit miserable after being by the coast for so long. I really noticed the car fumes (it’s what I particularly hate when I walk my children to school), but once I was sat with my breakfast I cheered up immensely.
From Bideford, I joined the Tarka Trail towards Barnstaple. It is a tarmac cycle trail but it runs alongside the River Torridge and River Taw. I definitely appreciated the flat walking after the South West Coast Path!
I stopped for half an hour in the sun and dried my tent, socks and feet. The people who passed me were very friendly, and most walkers stopped for a chat. The weather was the number on topic, as this time last year they had snow!
My solar panel is working really well in full sun (as long as the panels are facing it) but it’s a lot slower to charge anything if I place it on my pack and walk at the wrong angle to the sun. Luckily I’ve had such great weather so far that everything is fully charged, and I’ve had no issues at all so far.
I managed to resupply at the Tescos in Barnstaple, then walked past the pub and thought I had better buy some dinner as I wasn’t sure I had enough food for the next two days. I was a little concerned as the pub looked a bit rough around the edges, and had no beer – I had to order cider. To top it off there was a cookery programme from my home county of Norfolk on the TV, and the place was completed deserted. I needn’t have worried, though, as both the food and the value were amazing. I doubted I would even need tea once I had finished eating.
I walked past a Marks and Spencer in Barnstaple, and I did consider dropping in to buy some new spare pants. The thought didn’t last long, though, as I need the money for food.
Leaving Barnstaple, the path got a bit rougher as I followed the River Yeo in the woods for about 7 miles. I was hoping to find somewhere to camp in these woods. I realised at this point that I had somehow knocked my head torch on, and the battery was completely flat. This was bad news as according to the weather forecast, today was my last day of sun. I used my Flip 10 pack to charge the torch again, but this means less power for my phone and less contact with home. Not good.
I much prefer getting sorted to camp for the night in daylight, and it hasn’t got dark so quickly tonight, which is strange. My joints certainly felt that they had walked far enough today! My camp for the night was on a lovely, little-used green lane in the woods, with road noise rather than the sea which is strange. It feels like a new chapter on the walk, and like I am finally getting somewhere at last.
The next stage of my adventure (Barnstaple to Cheddar) is here.