In which: I forget my trousers ● Ronald Duncan provides brief shelter ● Cornwall welcomes me with rain ● Hawker’s Hut stares out to sea ● there are dishes galore ● Sandy Mouth is a welcome sight ● shoes beat boots ● I sleep in an unexpected bed
Date: 23 August 2013
Time of walk: 0845 to 1700
Today’s walking: 24.3 km
Progress along SWCP: 24.3 km
Estimated ascent: 1010 metres
I slept well, with the noise of the waves heard through the open bedroom window. I went out before breakfast and had a good wander around – sadly yesterday’s sunshine had gone but at least it was dry for the moment, though the forecast suggested some showers this afternoon. Breakfast was the usual fare, with me on a very wobbly table for one, sat facing the door rather than the rest of the room, so it felt a little odd. The bacon was quite decent but the rest of the offer was typically mediocre.
I got away in reasonable time as breakfast started at 8.15 – personally I would like to have breakfast rather earlier on these holidays, but most B&Bs, guesthouses and small hotels seem to want to start serving breakfast quite late, presumably in response to demand though I’m rarely asked if I’d like breakfast early. Still, the pre-breakfast wander around the hotel grounds was pleasant.
Today was to be a long day – my guide book said that today’s route “is one of the most scenic and dramatic stretches of the South West Coast Path, but also one of the toughest … in places it climbs steeply only to descent steeply, over and over again.”
Today was the first day on which I’d done this sort of walk (rugged as opposed to easy lowland) in walking shoes rather than boots. Although in principle walking boots seem better, and if I twist my ankle in shoes then I may regret the choice, in practice I’ve found that my “new” pair of boots (about 18 months old now, I think) have never fit very well despite being nominally the same as my previous pair and thus I’ve found they can give me blisters, and I can still end up with wet feet on a rainy day. I soon found that the lack of a stiff sole made a noticeable difference whenever walking on stony or rocky ground, but were noticeably lighter.
It was also the first day on the SWCP I’ve done in shorts. I’ve done a fair bit of walking in shorts this summer: overheating has often been a problem with me when walking (particularly when there is much ascent, as there will be today). Of course, there is always the risk of getting cold, but that doesn’t seem as much of an issue in August. There is also the problem of suddenly encountering brambles or nettles, which has previously encouraged me to stick with long trousers, but I’ve decided that as I always carry my waterproof trousers with me, that provides the option of a covering-up in case of unpleasant vegetation, or indeed particularly inclement weather. However, I realised soon after I’d set off that I’d left the waterproof trousers in my bag at the hotel, ready to be moved on to tonight’s abode, but not soon enough to decide to go back for them, particularly with a long day ahead. Fortunately I did have my waterproof coat with me, so I decided to keep my fingers crossed that the cliff-top walking would be sufficiently exposed that my legs wouldn’t regret that decision.
At the top of the gentle but long rise, I stopped and took off my long-sleeved t-shirt and put on a short-sleeved one. I swapped my stiff-brimmed but hot hat for my floppier but cooler hat, which has a UV-protective mesh for the top and thus good ventilation. If the wind gets up, the floppy one can be annoyingly floppy, and has the risk of being carried away by the wind, and if it does get windy I can change back to the stiff hat which has a chin-strap, hoping that the wind will mean that overheating will be less of an issue. A fresh search for a hat which meets all my needs may be called for when I get home.
Near Dixon’s Well the route takes to a road for a few hundred metres, though I went further than I should have as the return through the hedge wasn’t signed and had almost disappeared with hedge growth.
I walked round the corner to my stop for the night, the Atlantic House Hotel. When I went in, I was greeted with a “You must be Mr Dawson”. The woman at the counter explained that there had been a double-booking mix-up – reading between the lines, the fault was the hotel’s rather than Contours who had made the booking for me, because this woman had booked me into the Hartland Hotel just down the road and said to the receptionist there that she would bring the cash round later.
I showered and rested, and though I didn’t feel hungry went out later for an exploration of the town, once I’d recovered from the effort of undoing the zip of the top pocket of my rucksack, which had got stuck containing the keys for my suitcase – it was quite a challenge to get the zip undone and just added to the tiredness after a fairly long day. I found a useful supermarket for the morning’s re-provisioning (I’d brought today’s food from Suffolk) and a healthy meal of chips from a fish and chip shop, followed by ice-cream from the Co-op, all eaten on a bench overlooking the River Neet and the sea, with the canal just visible in the distance awaiting closer inspection in the morning.
I decided that the walking shoes had been a definite success, and my boots should stay in my hotel bag for another day. The shorts had also been a good move, though my delicate legs had been lucky not to need any protection from the waterproof trousers.