Saturday, 16 July 2011

South West Coast Path Q&A and Advice.

The South West Coast Path is the longest path in Britain. True fact. And it needs to be fed its respect snacks, as me and my knee found out. But what it also needs if you're going to complete it in any sort of comfort, is a lot of money. Here are some questions I've been asked, which I hope will help any prospective walkers thinking of tackling any, or some of the coast path.


Q. Is six hundred and thirty miles a long way?


Yes. You could walk from London to Paris in a third of the distance - I could make it to Switzerland with miles to spare.

Q. How much money did you take with you?

About eight hundred quid, based on camping most nights and cooking the majority of my own food. If you're planning on B&Bs and pubs, you'll want closer to two thousand.

Q. Were there plenty of camp sites?

No, quite frankly. If you're used to hiking and camping in North Wales/Scotland as I am, you'll be disappointed. I'm not averse to wild camping in the right scenario and if you're planning on camping the whole way, you'll need to - there's a great swathe of North Devon which apparently doesn't believe in campsites - there are a lot of helpful farmers however.

I imagine most walkers will also have studied the 'South West Coast Path Guide' cover to cover as I did, and will note that there's a campsite drought that begins around Barnstaple. However, having walked the route, I've noted there were more campsites than the book tells you about, many of which bear the 'SWCP' sticker, implying that they were once in the book. Several that I stayed at (in Tintagel and Bude for instance) had outdated stickers but were no longer included. Both were very good campsites, though Bude was (and will be) a little expensive.

The path assumes you'll either wild camp (technically illegal, in reality, frowned upon) or be able to stay in B&Bs. See below for a short list of places that I'd
recommend.

Q. Your blog starts out in ordered days - it makes for easier reading. Why did you change to this mess at the end?

I honestly haven't the heart to relate all of my experiences in the second half of the hike in a blow by blow style. It was miserable, I was aching and faced with failure. I have been working on my own guide to the SWCP though, which I hope to get up here shortly - they'll cover the days in detail, but without too much personal experience thrown in, as well as the rest of the days based on day trips etc. And I won't have the rose tinted specs of the SWCP association.

Q. What kit did you take?

See below for my 'Kit guide'.

Q. What's the weather like in Cornwall?

Tempestuous. A day can quite gaily swing from blazing sunshine to pouring rain to muggy heat in the space of time it took me to write that sentence. Be prepared - see my Kit Guide for ideas.

Q. Is public transport possible?

A. In some places and at some times of year, yes. There's a mainline railway station running through to Penzance from London, stopping at Newquay and Exeter amongst others. Bus services are often infrequent but were always on time. Check with local transport groups.

Accessing the start of the walk at Minehead is easy enough, train to Taunton and take the regular 28 bus from outside the station.

Q. Can I still donate to Cancer Research?

A. Sure, donations welcome. Go to http://www.justgiving.com/robwhite3

Q. Where was your favourite place along the walk? And your least favourite?

A. This time around I only walked around two hundred miles altogether. Though I've walked a great deal of the south coast before, it was usually without a backpack and with a car waiting for me, so I can't adequately compare the two. From the North coast, I enjoyed the hustle and bustle of St. Ives and the opposite of that in Instow and Porlock Weir. Westward Ho!, Bideford and Barnstaple should be avoided if at all possible. My favourite walk is a toss up between my first and my last - Minehead to Porlock or St. Ives back towards Hayle.

Q. How did you manage to look so good throughout the walk?


A. I suppose that I'm just too sexy for my boots.



What I took With Me.

I use a Sherpa 65L backpack which was more than big enough for my requirements and generally comfortable enough. If you're not camping then you could easily get away with a much smaller bag (between fourty and fifty litres), as a great deal of my space and weight was taken up with tent and sleeping bag. Altogether I carried around twenty seven pounds (that's 12KG).

Two man tent (Ol' Blue) - 7 LB.
Two season sleeping bag - 2.2 LB.
One pair of trousers.
One pair of shorts.
Two pairs of underwear. (Prepare to be turning things inside out and back to front. Wash clothes whenever possible, or live on the wild side.)
Three pairs of hiking socks.
Three pairs of inner socks. I realise that's a lot of socks, but taking care of your feet is important when walking long distances - I suffer from blisters and find wearing two layers on my feet makes a big difference.
Two t-shirts.
One jumper.
Waterproof jacket.
Waterproof trousers.
Flip flops.
Hiking boots.
Walking stick.
Emergency stove.
Fuel tablets.
Saucepan.
Pocket knife.
Compass.
Water purification tablets.
Matches.
Two empty water bottles.
Spray soap.
Tooth brush.
Small tube tooth paste.
Small sewing kit.
Bug spray.
Tea bags.
Notebook.
Pen.

Electronics.
Smart phone.
Spare mobile phone.
Phone charger.
Solar panel and cables.
MP3 Player.

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