Covering over 600 miles of the most beautiful and sometimes very demanding coastline in the United Kingdom the south west coast path stretches from Poole to Minehead
Most of the route is easy going rolling hills but certain sections of it can be a huge test of fitness and willpower especially if you want to cover ground at a reasonable pace.
My first brush with this coastal path was a very painful failure all of my own doing.
Getting the earliest train down to my starting point in Exeter I was all ready for a good days walking. I wanted to make Dawlish on the coast with plenty of time to find a good spot to wild camp for the night and really pushed myself to cover as much ground as possible. Not being a novice at long distance walking I should have kept a good pace and settled for a nights sleep on the side of the river but the sea was calling me and like some demented sailor I was going to get there no matter what.
6 hrs of hard striding later and my speed plus a heavy pack had done a real number on my left foot that a few hours rest wasn’t going to solve.
Not Ready to Give up the Trek
My original plan was to take some time and walk the whole of the path from end to end in one go (in between jobs at the time) but after reaching Dawlish and finding a hobble to sleep in I started to revise things.
The weather was stunning as we were having an excellent summer in the UK that year and even if I only made it another 30 miles or so no way was this going to be a wasted opportunity, would have to find another job sometime but that could wait until at least until the summer was over. Dragging myself up and down between the coves a grim determination set in and I actually started to enjoy myself until reaching a 4 mile stretch of very hilly and very humid woodland.
I really don’t like sleeping in woods at the height of summer because of the nocturnal bugs that will find a patch of skin to bite no matter how well wrapped up you are so made a vow that if I could make it to Dartmouth I would treat myself to a hotel and a shower (much needed after 3 days wild camping).
Just making Dartmouth before dark I quickly dived into the first hotel without even considering the price and spent a very restful night with my messed up foot propped up by pillows. The soft bed had taking all the fight out of me and by the next morning I was heading up the river Dart on a water ferry to catch a train home.
Have walked many sections of the south west coast path since that first try and have always come out of it better than my first attempt. My plan now is to walk a new piece of the coastal path whenever I can so that one day I can say that I have walked the entire length (eventually).