The sun is shining and by the time I leave after a hearty breakfast the temperature is more pleasant than the last few days. People are wandering round the quayside in holiday mood. The coastal path soon rose into the woods and contoured along nicely. There was only the sound of birds as the sea seemed so far below and was only occasionally visible. A group of three women appeared, they meet up at weekends for walking and are just starting on the coastal path – it will take them years. They skipped along happily chatting and laughing and I was somehow reminded of ‘Three little maids from school’, the tune from The Mikado. Guess what I was whistling all morning.
Not far along I spotted a church tower below in the woods and took the short detour to explore. It turned out that a service was just about to start – chaplain, organist and churchwarden were preparing and two parishioners appeared. The churchwarden, a local farmer, chatted to me in the sun about the church and several other topics until he was needed. The church is in the parish of Culbone although it is in the middle of nowhere. I was told it was the smallest complete parish church in England, for more information – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culbone_Church
I think I crossed into Devon at Coscombe Stream… Close by was Sister’s Fountain fed from a spring and topped with a cross. I’m not sure of the history of this place but the cool water was delicious. The track continued winding its way with occasional views of the inaccessible beaches below. More people were out strolling as well as the coastal path regulars, one lady carrying her little terrier who didn’t like walking. I decided to take the longer way round Foreland point, the most northerly part of Devon. A small locked bothy was passed on the path. There were extensive views back up the coast to Hurlstone Point. At the end there was a lighthouse and then a narrow exposed path, perched just above the cliffs, continued round the headland. The Coastal Path was rejoined at Countisbury where there was a small church and a busy looking pub. The path ran parallel to the road down into Lynmouth. A local taxi man was advertising by the road for anyone too weary for the last mile or so. Eventually I reached sea level at a lovely little sheltered beach. Lynmouth is infamous for the serious flooding of 1952 killing 32 people and devastating properties. My hotel for the night was close to the meeting of the two streams which being in steep sided valleys couldn’t cope with the 9inches of rain coming off Exmoor. A later stroll round the harbour area gave perfect views in the evening light.
I had planned another three days or so but my wretched cold and sinusitis showed no signs of abating so next morning it was a bus out to Barnstaple and a long train journey home. Can’t wait however to return and continue in this beautiful area.
Today I would follow the SW Coastal Path, a National Trail which covers over 600 miles from Minehead to Poole Harbour – wow. But first I couldn’t resist a look around the station of the West Somerset Railway. The platform is in period style, stalls are selling railway memorabilia and coaches are waiting for an engine for the first trip of the day. Along comes 6960 Raveningham Hall to be hitched up and passengers start arriving for their 40 mile round trip. I tear myself away, railway nostalgia is deep in my soul having been brought up in Darlington and hearing the distinctive whistle of the Gresley A4 Pacific’s as they hurtled north every day,
On the promenade there are signs for the start of the coastal path. A couple with heavily laden sacks are just departing, they turn out to be New Zealanders just recovering from their first ‘full English breakfast’ They are here for a couple or so months to complete the trail.
Before long the path starts climbing on well graded loops up through the trees and ferns to reach the open moorland high above the sea, old tracks take me to the highest point, Selsworthy Beacon 308m with blurry views into Exmoor. Onwards easy leads towards Hurlstone Point where I meet a young scouser setting off on an adventure round the coastal path, I suspect to discover herself. On her arm she has a tattoo of an acorn [the National Trail Waymark] which she says is for motivation. I leave her as I drop off the trail and traverse round the point on an exposed path with good coastal views. Round the other side past an old lookout I meet up again with the main route and head into a pleasant garden cafe in Bossington, the NZ pair had already found it. Tea and toasted teacake seemed perfect. Old narrow paths deposit me into Porlock village for a bit of shopping, I’m growing tired of pub meals so buy some salad and fruit to eat in my room tonight. There is a sign pointing to Porlock Weir through the woods, still on the Coleridge Way. This turns out to be a pleasant way walking alongside some beautiful rhododendron gardens in full bloom. Greencombe Gardens I find out. Later I pass one of those ‘Tin Tabernacles’ from the late 19th C, still having services.
The lane eventually drops into Porlock Weir and to my most expensive B&B, The Cafe. I enjoy a pint of Exmoor Ale in the quayside bottom Ship Inn although it upsets me when in a pub every bar table is reserved for diners. I know this is how they earn their money but what about us drinkers?