I’m not rely sure how to structure my blog posts for LEJOG. On one hand I like the idea of giving an account of each day based on my journal entries and on the other I could just summarise my thoughts. I’m going to try a bit of both, see how it works and hopefully you (the reader) can get an idea of the experiences I’ve had.
The first stage took me from Lands Ends and up the South West Coast Path to Barnstaple.
20/06/2016 – Lands End to Zennor
I started the walk from Lands End on a foggy wet Monday and the place reminded me of a theme park, all tacky attractions and cafes. Thankfully they were all closed when I got there.
I met some fellow Explorers Connect members who were walking with me for a bit. We took some photos and set off along the coastal path. The drizzly weather meant I was wet pretty quickly and the path wasn’t very nice to follow in places.
I left the EC people shortly after Sennen Cove and found parts of the path flooded or thick with mud. I perserved and at Levant Mine the weather cleared and it warmed up, allowing me to shed some waterproof layers and dry up a bit. Although my feet were soaked through and would remain like that all day.
I got to Zennor in the late afternoon and ate a sweet potato curry at the Tinners Arms before heading out to find somewhere to camp. I spent another hour or so walking along the path trying to find a clear patch. Everywhere seemed o be covered in grouse or bush and just when I was losing faith and about to head in land I found somewhere.
After sticking my tent up I got in and changed clothes before drying and cleaning my feet up. Once done I made a cup of tea, climbed into my bag and slept.
21/06/2016 – Zennor to Gwithian (but actually Porthtowan)
I woke up stiff and tired. I could have slept longer but dragged myself out of the bag and made breakfast before packing up and leaving. The weather was a lot better but the path remained the same. Awkward to get through some overgrown bits, slippy rocks and steep drops and climbs which were taking their toll on my ankles.
I reached St Ives and ate a proper cornish pasty from an independent baker, not one of the many chains I’d seen previously. It didn’t disappoint and, as I sat down near the beach eating it, I marvelled at how blue the water was. On a really hot day I imagine the beaches on the cornish coast get packed out.
I left St Ives and reached Hayle where I chatted to an ice cream seller for a bit. He talked about the number of LEJOG people he had seen over the years and how he had walked the South West Coast Path in his younger days.
He didn’t charge me for my ice cream and I left him to head for Gwithian. I got there just after 3PM and felt ok so decided to keep going. After a few hours I got to Portreath where I stopped to eat at a pub.
After eating I was chatting to some old guy from Cheshire. He’d served with a group of geordies in the army and loved Newcastle. He’d been coming to Portreath since the 70’s to holiday. Even after his wife died he still came with his grandkids. Nice guy.
I said my goodbyes and decided to keep going for a bit more to find a nice place to camp. I passed a busy car park and a choice spot on a cliff ledge (but bottled it) I ended up walking to Porthtowan, failing again to really find anywhere along the path.
It was nearing 9PM so I asked around in a pub when they told me they had a bunkhouse. I took a bed and it felt like cheating but I was getting tired and want to sleep.
22/06/2016 – Porthtowan to Perranporth
I woke up wrapped in a duvet, snug like a ball of cotton wool. I almost forget where I was and what I was doing here.
I forced my stiff body out of bed , had a shower, made breakfast, packed and left. It was only a short walk to Perranporth where I had an Airbnb room booked. I figured I could have a half days rest.
The weather was terrible again, that cornish sea mist and rain. I didn’t bother with a waterproof jacket, it was warm and I’d just get wet with sweat anyway.
The walk to Perranporth was only three hours up the coast but it felt weird. I could hear the sea but I couldn’t actually see it. Old buildings and structures would appear through the mist as I approached them. The whole landscape had an eerie otherworldly feel to it.
While it was a short walk there was still lots of climbs and drops and the wetter it go the slippier it became. So much so I fell and hurt my ankle. I have a history of bad sprains so this was the last thing I needed. It seemed ok but the Roclites now seemed like a bad idea to walk in.
I arrived in Perranporth and met Julie and Len. I was shown round the house and to my room. After chatting for a bit (thoroughly nice people) I did some washing and went out for some fish & chips.
When I go back I was invited to a pot luck night with my hosts but I was tired and wanted to just sleep.
23/06/2016 – Perranporth to Magwan Porth (but actually Trevone)
The first few miles out of Perranporth were awful. The tide was in and I had to walk along sand dunes so the sand got everywhere. The path did improve when I got to Newquay and I stopped to eat.
After negotiating my way out of town I headed for Magwan Porth. I got there early so again decided to keep going to Trevone. I struggled to find anywhere decent to camp and looking was becoming a chore. I chatted to a local guy who suggested I ask the pub if I could pitch in their beer garden.
The landlord said it was ok and I swear the beer garden was the size of a Sunday league football pitch. I stuck my tent up, ate and slept.
24/06/2016 – Trevone to Wadebridge (but actually Tintagel)
I woke up to the sound of rain tapping on the tent. Nothing more relaxing before I realised I had to get up and walk in it. Bollocks.
I packed up and set off. Sally had sent me some messages but the poor signal meant I didn’t get them until I left the area. Essentially it was the news we were out of the EU. Not the decision I wanted but I would check out the details later.
I arrived in Padstow where I was attacked by a seagull. I’d been craving a good sausage sandwich for days but struggled to find anywhere that sold them. I settled for a pork and apple pasty and sat down to eat it near the harbour. As I sat, I got my phone out and was fiddling with it when all of a sudden a huge whoosh knocked the contents of my pasty across the pavement in front of me.
A seagull landed opposite me staring at the contents scattered in front of us. I kicked it over toward him and I finished the pastry bit of my pasty. He got the better deal the little shit.
I walked for a few more hours, through Wadebridge and on to Tintagel. It was a climb up into the village and I had planned on looking for a camp site given the previous difficulties in finding a wild camp spot. I couldn’t find one so just bit the bullet and got a room in a b&b.
It wasn’t what I wanted but my morale was taking a beating and experience has told me that sometimes you just take these little morale boosters. I’d walked a fair distance and just wanted to eat and sleep.
After a cheap dinner bought at the local Spa I chatted to Sally on Skype for a bit and started thinking about maybe skipping my rest day in Barnstaple. I was already ahead so skipping that day as well meant I could have two days off when I got to Bristol.
25/06/2016 – Tintagel to Bude
Today was the worst of the walk so far. A lot of steep climbs and drops. Much harder than previous days and some serious ankle breakers. The wind had also picked up and the rain kept coming, making the path and terrain really slippy again.
I was struggling to see the positives but at least this was conditioning me for the rest of the walk.
I didn’t really have much else to say about this day. I got to Bude, found a campsite, had some food and a pint and slept.
26/06/2016 – Bude to Clovelly
I’d had a good nights sleep. I got up and hobbled to the toilet block for a shower. My calves were killing me. I needed to stretch more.
As I left Bude the terrain was easy going but again came the steep climbs and drops. I knew it was going to be bad but I just wanted a days break from having to constantly climb up and down rather than contour round.
Then it started raining…..and the walking got worse. I was sick and aching by the time I got to Clovelly. I limped down the cobbled street to the small village and found a pub offering really cheap rooms. I took one and had a long soak in the bath. I really was losing the will to find camping spots, especially in the pissing rain.
But I also felt like I was failing to have the adventure I wanted. The weather wasn’t getting any better, I hated this path and my glass ankles were becoming a liability.
27/06/2016 – Clovelly to Barnstaple
I didn’t sleep well at all. Things just felt wrong in my head. I decided to shrug off the negativity and just get on with it.
This part of the path was a lot easier on my ankles but as I walked along I was seriously considering getting some boots. I knew Barnstaple had some outdoor shops so would look into it when I got there.
When I arrived in Westward Ho! I felt the familiar twinge in my shin which would be all I needed. I stopped and put on a compression bandage and took some pain killers to hopefully keep whatever that might have been away.
I negotiated my way round Westward Ho!, Bideford and then on to Barnstaple by 3PM. Pretty good timing. I met Luke and Natalie (my Airbnb hosts) who showed me around. I did some washing and went out to get some boots. I found a good pair of Salomon similar to a pair I use.
After eating and picking up some supplies and went back to my room and slept. I’d decided to just use half a days rest and make a start on the next stage of my walk. The weather forecast wasn’t great for the next few days so I figured why hang around here when I could just get to Bristol and use a few days rest there with Sally.
The South West Coast Path is a tough walk and I only walked a bit of it. A lot of steep climbs and drops. I hated it and couldn’t wait to get off it. I knew it would be tough though and in the end it was good conditioning for further stages of the walk. I was also rewarded with some stunning scenery when the weather was actually good.
Wild camping was a hard. I just struggled to find anywhere without thinking about moving in land. I stayed in bunkhouses and b&bs more than I would have liked but I ached and the weather just got to me. I’m not going to beat myself up over it though. People like Bear Grylls and Levinson Wood stay in hotels on their adventures.
I do wish I’d had more time to swim on the days it was hot. It just seemed like an effort to climb down with a pack, strip off, swim for a bit, dry off, get dressed and then climb back up.
My final thoughts are with those stupid Roclites. I had wanted to test them on the Coast to Coast but that got cancelled so taking them was a risk. Stupid of me but better to realise now.
I hope you liked my account of stage one. If you have any feedback or questions then please let me know.