Porlock to Minehead

13/9/14 Our second walk in Somerset and the second time a bus didn't turn up. This time we waited for the next one and arrived in Minehead too late for our connection. So a couple of pints and a pasty later, it was the afternoon when we finally bused into Porlock and walked down Sparkhayes Lane to rejoin the path. It starts on the marshes towards Bossington, but you can see the hills ahead. Just as we get near to the coast again, we turn right and start our ascent of Hurlestone Combe.

The path keeps going up beyond there and eventually stops ascending just short of 300m and quite a way inland. It feels more like a moorland walk than a coastal one for a few miles.

When we do turn towards the coast again, we soon enter the woods and only catch glimpses of the coast as we descend. As we near Minehead, we emerge into a park and then the Old Ship Aground appears.

We have pints of Ringwood Best (3.8%) and Boondoggle (4.2%) for £6.70. The pub, like the rest of Minehead, had many Butlins tourists. The harbour is just the other side of the pub.

From here it is only a couple of hundred yards to the end of the path.

We go to the next pub to celebrate, but decide to catch a bus somewhere less touristy for the next ones.

Lynmouth to Porlock

6/9/14 A drive to Porlock offered a different route to the coast. We parked just off Sparkhayes Lane and walked into the centre to catch the bus. Our first bus in Somerset did not turn up. Some locals suggested that Quantock had gone bust. Four Bavarian ladies were also waiting and asked if we would share a taxi towards Lynmouth. A few phone calls later, we were racing over the moor and the ladies alighted at the top of Countisbury. £35 didn't seem too bad when we arrived in Lynmouth. We were 20 minutes later than planned, but the pubs still weren't open, so we had a couple of pints in the restaurant just over the footbridge. After a short walk along the front, we started the climb towards Countisbury. The path doesn't stray far from the A39. There had been some rain earlier and it was still misty.

As the path heads towards Foreland, the scenery changes again. We are back into post-glacial valleys.

After this, we enter the woods. The path stays in the woods for more than two hours. We're not sure what the weather is doing. We catch occasional glimpses of the sea, but spend most the time well above it. We go up and down a few combes. Eventually, we come out in Culbone.

It's back into the woods again for a while, but after Worthy Combe there are a couple of fields before Porlock Weir.

The path comes out besides the Ship Inn.

We have Otter Amber Ale (4%) and Porlock Stock and Two Empty Barrels (4.1%) for £6.70. There are a few locals inside and few tourists outside.

The path goes along the road before descending onto the stony beach. After a while it heads inland because the sea defences are not being maintained here now and land behind the beach is being allowed to flood. Some trees are dying.

Sparkhayes farm is only a couple of fields from the path and the car a similar distance beyond.

Combe Martin to Lynmouth

30/8/14 A few showers as we drove across Exmoor to Combe Martin, but they stopped by the time we parked near the church for £1. A local pasty later, we started the climb out. Past Little Hangman, then onto the moorland and Great Hangman at 318m, the highest point on the path.

Then it was down into Sherrycombe and up onto Holdstone Down. The hills are large around here. We skirt around the edge of some fields before heading towards the cliff tops.

The rocks in the distance are Highveer and around the corner is Heddon's Mouth. We have to head inland to get there because the sides are steep and covered in scree.

By the time that we get to the bottom, we are close enough to the Hunters Inn to justify a deviation. A couple of pleasant pints in a pub that wasn't as snooty as it looked. We are soon back up the hill above the cliffs though.

Next come Woody and Lee Bays. Lee Abbey is in the distance.

Over the brow of the hill from the abbey is the the Valley of the Rocks and its inhabitants.

The path is tarmacked along the cliff here into Lynton. We don't really see much of the town though because soon after the cliff railway, we have to head down the hill.

The winding path brings us out on the front in Lynmouth. Just around the corner the thatched Rising Sun overlooks the small harbour and River Lyn.

The small pub is quite busy. We have pints of Exmoor Ale (3.8%) and Gold (4.5%) for £6.90. We then have time to wonder around this touristy village before catching the bus back to Combe Martin.

Ilfracombe to Combe Martin

21/8/14 The local pensioners were running a coach to Ilfracombe for the day, so that seemed too good an opportunity to miss as there was a chance of a few pubs. We arrived on the front just after eleven and made our way to the harbour where we had finished previously. The Sandpiper Inn was not open.

So we started off around the harbour opposite Verity in the light rain. We ascended through some parklands and then kept on climbing.

Once at the top, it was straight down again into Hele Bay. It was two minutes before twelve, but this pub wasn't open yet either. A sausage roll later, it was.

The Hele Bay was a pleasant enough family pub. Pints of Tribute (4.2%) and Liquid Sunshine (3.9%) for £5.90 set us up for the rest of this short walk. It doesn't stray too far from the coast road, but still managed some short, steep, wet sections before entering Watermouth Bay. Here, the path goes through the camp site and is soon heading into Combe Martin.

The Dolphin Inn looks like a terraced house and feels slightly like one inside, but does have a large beer garden. Pints of Doom (4%) and Proper Job (4.5%) for £6.30 were consumed whilst we played a few games of pool. A couple of doors further on is the closed Royal Marine. Opposite here, the path follows the road away from the beach and the Fo'c's'le Inn. Combe Martin has better than average path signs for a town. We had a pint in the Focsle Inn anyway and a tasty pasty as we waited for the bus back.

In Ilfracombe, we went back to the Sandpipers for two pints of Doom (4%) for £6.40. We chatted with some holidaymakers that we had met on the path earlier. There was even a skittle alley in the bar. We must be getting near home.

Putsborough to Ilfracombe

9/8/14 We parked at Barnstaple Park and Ride. Ample free parking and £3.60 bus ticket for travel around North Devon. As we arrived in Croyde, it poured down. Sid wanted to press on anyway, but that was the only time I needed my coat. It was off by the time we climbed the hill towards Putsborough. We joined the path above the beach and headed along the bridleway towards Woolacombe. Halfway along it, we were directed down some steps onto the dunes below. The sand made the walking more difficult so a pub in Woolacombe would have been nice. But it wasn't to be.

I couldn't resist this shot of Woolacombe Bay. We were heading out towards Morte Point now and the scenery became more bleak.

This is the path itself as it rounds the point. The scenery feels more remote than it's been for a while after this, but you can see civilisation up the valleys and there were several people around. We also started to see some hills.

We eventually came out on a road into Lee Bay. There were a few people on the beach here, but still no refreshments. The road out is a steep one, but easier than steps. The sign said three miles to Ilfracombe. The first one and a half were uphill. As you start to descend the other side, Ilfracombe does come into view, but the path veers off and seems to zig-zag around a lot before coming out onto the backstreets. Then you are directed through a park and even though you can see pubs, there isn't one on the path until you come The Boat House.

We had pints of Devon Maid (4%) and Autumn Devon Scrumpy (7.5%) for £6.40. The cider wasn't as bad as the beer, but neither glasses were clean. There was still time to go around Capstone Point before heading towards the harbour.

The Royal Britannia Inn was better than it looks from the outside. Two pints of Lord Nelson (4.5%) for £5.90 were had. That left just enough time for a pasty and the bus back to Barnstaple.

Barnstaple to Putsborough

26/7/14 A drive to the light industrial estate just over the large Taw Bridge enabled us to walk straight on to the Tarka Trail/SWCP. The going was flat and straight alongside the river and we soon arrived at Braunton Inn.

Some staff were arranging the garden furniture, so we asked if they we're open. Not until 11:30 came the reply. So we carried on. The old railway line heads inland past the Chivenor military bases until eventually reaching Braunton. Before actually getting into the town, we were diverted off towards the burrows.

The tide was out on the river Caen and, much like the burrows on the other side of the Taw, this area makes for interesting walking. There is an interesting cross-section of wildlife too.

The path goes along the flood defences for a few miles until reaching the sand dunes. We were expecting things to get a bit sandy, but the path follows an old, stony, military track instead. It was a hot day. I was expecting us to have seen a shop by now. Luckily, one of the car parks' attendants was selling bottled water. After crossing the golf course, we were given an option of walking along a busy road or heading inland "avoiding local amenities". We naturally went to see if the amenities included a pub. A soft drink and chocolate bar later, we climbed our first hill of the day.

After another walk along the road, we arrived in Croyde. The beach was busy and we must been quite conspicuous amongst the scantily clad holiday makers. On leaving the beach we could have waited for a bus back to the car. But, we had made good time and decided to go on around Baggy Point.

Coming out above the beach at Putsborough, we decide to head back along the road to Croyde. A refreshing cider and nice pasty later, we caught the bus back to the car. Then we returned to the surprisingly pleasant Braunton Inn for pints of Otter Ale (4.5%) and Tribute (4.2%) for £6.70.

Bideford to Barnstaple

22/7/14 Busy weekends meant that we had to do another midweek trip. My daughter kindly dropped us at South Molton where we could get a £3.60 North Devon bus ticket for the day. Before we started the walk, we had to return to Appledore.

The Royal George was shut on our last visit. I'm fairly sure that we were the first visitors on this day. It took us about ten minutes to get served and then the only ale went off. So it was pints of Liquid Sunshine (3.9%) and Poundhouse cider (6%) for £7.20 before the bus back to Bideford.

The Kings Arms appeared to be the only pub still trading along Bideford's Quay. We had two nice pints of Atlantic (4.2%) and Devon Dympsy (4%) for a reasonable £5.80. This was easily the best beer of the whole day. Then it was over the Torridge to the old railway station and off along the Tarka Trail. This is the old railway line, now tarmacked over and shared with cyclists. We headed back down the estuary.

We passed Appledore Shipyard and after we came through Instow Station, turned off the track and headed along the front.

The Bar had been advertising itself along the path as a quayside pub, so we felt obliged to go in. Pints of Doom Bar (4%) and Atlantic (4.2%) for £6.90 were quaffed, but we were still undecided whether it is a bar/restuarant or a pub.

The Instow Arms is just a few hundred yards further on. We had pints of Silver Stallion (4.3%) and Clearwater's Honey Beer (3.7%) for £7.20 in what also felt like an eatery.

Soon we were walking along the road beside the nice looking beach at Instow. This gave way to some dunes before the path skirted around the splendid cricket ground. We then followed the river before returning to the Tarka Trail. The next few miles are flat, straight and relatively boring. On reaching the outskirts of Barnstaple, the usual big town confusion meant that we followed the acorn sign over the new bridge. Once across the river, the signs pointed in both directions along the Taw. We followed them back to the town centre and the bus to South Molton.

Bucks Woods to Bideford

24/6/14 No free weekends, so we thought that we should do a midweek walk while the weather was good. Drove to Bideford for the first bus to Bucks Cross. It was £1 for an all-day park and £1.50 on the bus. Through the holiday park to the path where we continued through the woods. A mile or so later we came out into Bucks Mill, a quiet little place.

It was soon back into the woods. More than the first hour of this walk was in the woods and would have been twice as long had we started at Clovelly. With only the occasional glimpse of the outside world, it started to get a little claustrophobic.

After Peppercombe, it started to open out. Unusually, we found ourselves on a deserted beach for a short stretch only to be greeted by man-made debris.

They were a few rolling hills then to take us on towards Westward Ho. We managed to lose the path there, but eventually came back out on the promenade.

The Surf on Inn looked a bit garish, but was pleasant enough for two pints of Tribute (4.2%) at £6.90. Then it was on to Northam Burrows. This was an interesting, unsegregated area of beach car park, golf  course, sheep and horse grazing and low-lying sand dunes.

After rounding that, Appledore came into view. The Royal George was shut and so the Beaver Inn was our first stop.

Pints of Otter Ale (4.5%) and Tribute (4.2%) for £6.70 with a game of pool here. Further along the quaint narrow streets, we came to the Seagate Inn on the quay.

We had pints of Smiler (3.7%) and Tribute (4.2%) for £6.70 in this 'poshified' establishment. The path then skirts inland around the shipyard, before continuing up the river, under the A39 bridge and into Bideford.

Hartland Quay to Bucks Woods

14/6/14 Another sunny day and we drove to Bideford Bay Holiday Park. The car park next to the shop looked to be close to the path and so we parked there and walked back to the main road for the bus to Hartland. A pasty later, we were walking along the shady road back to the quay. We'd already done the hill up to the toll booth and so we started along the cliff top.

St Nectans had been visible for the last few miles of the previous walk and was still there for the start of this one. The open countryside and cliff tops continued with the ups and downs as we headed towards Hartland Point.

There is no access to the Point and lighthouse itself and the area is a jumble of ancient and modern Coastguard and MoD structures. There is a refreshments cabin in the car park though which we made use of as it is the only one on this leg.

As soon as you round the point the character of the path changes for the first time in days and you find yourself walking through undergrowth and cultivated fields. There are still some ups and downs though as you approach Blackchurch Rock.

After that you find yourself on tracks in woodland heading towards Clovelly. It seems strange that the coastpath doesn't go through Clovelly itself, it just skirts around the hills above with glimpses of it through the trees.

There are possible routes through it which would surely benefit SWCP and the village owners. We did decide to deviate to the New Inn at the top of the village for some local ale. The path continues along a wide track for a few miles before emerging out into some fields. Soon an unsigned path branched off to the right and within a couple of hundred yards, we were back at the car.