STILLOENGLAND/75 – 2,791 MILES and 211 DAYS WALKING ROUND ENGLAND’S COAST. THIS VISIT 24 MILES ALONG THE S W COAST PATH IN SOUTH DEVON CROSSING THE RIVER AVON, TO BURGH ISLAND AND THE RIVER ERME .

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So far – so good? The trail of blood signifies my progress round England – so far. So good reading  .ONLY Newcastle to Berwick, Clacton to Orford Ness  and half the S W Coast Path to finish

Wales next – but no likelihood of Scotland ever joining in – Nicola wouldn’t agree. Just look at those mountains!

 

 

PREFACE.

Three rites of passage explained:

1/. How to cross the River Avon……

First, find the right river, with all the inlets it is easy to cross Stiddicombe Creek instead…Then, bump into a native who will point out the local café, where Linda is serving and meet Pete who says he might be able to help with the river crossing; visit Pete’s Nest where he keeps his oars; disguise the nervousness you are now feeling; now visit the Harbourmaster’s Office for permission to depart? No passports needed. Forget to take photos during the voyage and only manage a picture of Pete and Dinghy as he shouts onward encouragement after he has deposited you on the beach under enemy fire. Negotiate the ‘shoot’, and their  beaters and retrievers whilst  heading  back to Aveton Gifford and the safety of parked RAV4, Vera.

 

2/. How to cross to Burgh Island……….

Check tide times; crossing from Bigbury on Sea carpark is easy at low tide – just follow the exposed stretch of causeway. At high tide a unique, big wheeled contraption drives along the causeway with the passengers platform safely above the waves .

 

 

3/. How NOT to Cross the River Erme

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No one mentioned how cold the water was,  otherwise ten out of ten for affording crossing advice.

 

Dear Rosie, Lauren, Stan, Jake, Rowan and Maisie,

If it seems like last year that I walked anywhere, then you’re right. I’ve spent a month not going out much, rehabilitating after a few re-arranged discs -( or is it disks?) played havoc with my equanimity? In my back and my laptop.

My back took a number one direct hit whilst attempting to make  the garden backbreak-free.  I  was installing   raised flower and vegetable beds, and with the first swing of the pick, my back seized up.

Then, whilst recuperating, my laptop ditto’d and went offline with a slipped hard disk occasioned by me tripping over its cable during my lowered state of mobility. Nanny says these things happen in threes, whereupon her laptop promptly withdrew any facilities for typing ‘k’, and my ‘walk’ was reduced to a ‘wal’. She’s right, you ‘now….

So nothing to write about and no blog to write it in, and the back-up laptop a few consonants short of a full  ‘eyboard’ – till now.

I have been on a proving walk to test my resolve and ability to complete the epic walk round England. Except, you’ll have to be patient while I learn all the new ropes of a totally different laptop  operating system. They sneaked  Windows 10 onto me, when they replaced the hard drive. Fortunately my spine was not similarly reconfigured. I just haven’t got the backbone to manipulate that. It’s a long story, but telling you six descendants  might be useful to warn you to look after your backs.

A long time ago, in faraway New Zealand, Maisie and Jake’s paternal homeland, a Consultant told me I was abnormal, inflexible and not built as other people and it was Nanny Tab’s fault passing on a congenital aberration in the  spine. As with all things medical, I closed my ears and said “I’m not listening etc. etc” and promptly fainted , but I did occasionally resort to the metal reinforced Corset prescribed and built for me, until I outgrew it. I did live happily everafter and all is well generally until I do something unnecessary – like swing a pick – or get beaten up by grandkids.  So if you’ve get any back trouble in your travels, just check out your spinal configuration before you let any one manipulate it. Tell uncles Donald and Andy and Aunty Ann, too.

Meanwhile, you six descendants have recently returned to school/nursery following a very busy Christmas and New Year  Schedule. To wit; Stanley; achieved great heights ascending Pen Y Fan in the Brecon Beacons; Rowan has been recruited to look after Nanny on Monday whilst Auntie Sarah is inducted into school; Jake and Maisie travelled downunder to Auckland to meet their Kiwi cousins, James, Scarlett, Connor, Loughlin, Ryan and Liam and Great Grandmother Omi (Margot); Lauren is the next upcoming birthday on Saturday (preview  Friday); and Rosie is preparing for her School entrance  tests. Good luck everyone in the New Year. Can’t wait for Maisie and Jake’s explanation of NZ.

My first 2017 walk was therefore also a trial, to see if I could carry on and finish the last few hundred miles around England’s coastline. I was quite concerned I might not be able to hobble anywhere, let alone carry a rucksack and overnight camping.

As a proper workout I chose the next Stretch of The S W Coast Path from Bigbury on Sea to the River Erme in South Devon. But first of all, I had to cross the River Avon to link up with my previous visit last October. The scenery was stunning and the weather outrageously, permanently springlike, in the depths of winter. All three days, the sun shone from a cloudless sky, keeping the temperature at a comfortable level for walking. All three nights , as soon as the  sun had set, were extremely cold, and although the stars were bright and skies clear, the wind AND extremely  low temperature made sure I stayed indoors, with no hope of moonlight walking.

I was staying near Ivybridge, as the lone occupant at Harford Bunkhouse and Camping Site, very well appointed and convenient but empty; where I chose the centrally heated  Bunk in favour of the frozen tent. Well you would, wouldn’t you, when temperatures  are below zero and falling.

Below – me arriving at Harford Bunkhouse and departing . The smoke is from the wood burning furnace, powering the welcoming central heating. You’ll appreciate why I chose the bunk and not the tent…….well – it is on the edge of Dartmoor. And midwinter. I may be stupid -but not that stupid…….

 

 

 

Here begins the first walk of the New Year.

Crossing the River Avon was a project on its own; the ferries had ceased, not available till Spring and there were no instructions how to ford, other than the blooming obvious ,to wait until the tide was out and the water was 20 degrees warmer.

I parked up at Aveton Gifford and found the Avon Estuary Walk , keeping reasonably in sight of the River Avon. It was not particularly level which is the only criticism I could have of the total walk,

Eventually, near the coast path, I found the very pleasant  Bantham Village Stores and Café occupied by Linda, serveuse,  and Pete, customer and Pete’s dog who was very interested in my scrumptious  Hot Homemade  Pasty.  Pete quickly established my need for transport across the river, and marvellously volunteered to solve the problem in his rowboat.

And that’s how I came to be rowed across the River, discussing Pete’s and my common topic of New Zealand Rugby; Sherlock had clocked Pete’s All Black Beanie hat. He even took time to advise me the best route through the Shoot, heavily underway in the vicinity of my destination. I advanced at speed not wishing to be mistaken for a Peasant…

I continued my journey back to the car at Aveton Gifford and serendipity dictated the tide was sufficiently ebbed to reveal the tidal road, so that I reached safety as dry as I had departed.

 

Couldn’t say the same for crossing the River Erme which barred my further progress westwards once I had negotiated the, at times, steeply undulating cliffs from Burgh Island to Beacon Point.

There were no rowboats to ferry me across, but plenty of dogs and owners. On both sides of the river. It soon became apparent,no one, nor EVEN  their dogs crossed over; the water was freezing., and  that the only non-dog owner was intending to ford the river at low tide ,some three hours hence . I drew an audience and many adverse comments. I grew impatient and waded in , the first effort was a shorter, 30 metre shallower stretch followed by a longer slightly deeper stretch. On completion of the outward journey I carried on to the slipway several hundred yards away, keeping blood flowing until I could feel my legs again.  I was now on the opposite bank to Vera, my car, with the  reserves of dry towels and clothing. The return fixture  was just  another immersion away. I gave it the charge. No point thinking these things through.

 

It took a while to thaw out . As yet no evidence of frostbite.

 

The whole three days walking were in glorious sunshine and I managed 24 miles to add to the total, now 2990 miles. My back has survived the task, maybe the numbness from the River Avon has anaesthetised my lower back. I’m more confident of finishing this year now.  And  the laptop is now refurbished with a new hard drive while I unwillingly compete with Windows 10 and reconcile what I’ve lost.Don’t worry – all 75 Episodes of the blog remain intact!

 

Spare Photo Gallery

National Trust signs grow in abundance.

 

Burgh Island cut off by the high tide;  vain attempt to cross the Erme Estuary in the wrong place, note my safe passage as the tide ebbed; and looking back at the Erme which I had traversed there and back without frostbite.

 

New start point next time out – slipway and Coastguard Cottages at Mothecombe

 

 

 

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