SWCP – Part One…

Back from 18 of the best days walking I’ve ever done*. Poole to Plymouth along the glorious South West Coast Path. I’ll post the usual maps and what not when I’ve finished the whole thing, but a few thoughts as I pause for breath and give my feet a rub, now that I’m back home for a couple of weeks.

630 miles to go…

The irony of taking a holiday from my walking holiday is not lost on me πŸ™‚ – It was a result of the re-planning from Covid, and gives me just enough time to sort some non-walk related stuff. And maybe tick off a few more miles of the Pennine Way.

I walked in the non traditional Poole – Plymouth (East to West) for this section. No reason other than it was easiest / cheapest when I went to book trains, hotels and campsites having decided to crack on, rather than wait until October just to walk in the usual direction.

I figure it doesn’t really matter which direction you walk, unless you were wanting to maximise the days you’d hiked before you hit the nudist beach at Studland just before Poole. In theory if you had the whole of the slog from Minehead behind you, you would have shed the maximum weight, and would look in peak condition for your cheeky bum exposure, with an over the shoulder coquettish wink at the camera. That didn’t play into my thinking, and I’m sorry for planting the image of me, in the nuddy, wearing nought but hiking boots, truckers tan, rucksack and a smile into your head!

I’m not trying to document every cove. There are too many, and they are all pretty. I’m walking in the height of the summer school holidays, and so occasionally they have been crazy busy, although it’s easy enough to keep away from the crowds. And after a few days walking, and looking somewhat trampy in-between campsite laundry options, people tended to avoid me! πŸ™‚

Special mention to Lulworth Cove though, I thought that was beautiful and sat for a happy half hour just before the up hill slog to the campsite that a couple from Emley found me resting on again. Maybe I liked it because I got a pastie, and a can of Coke. Maybe I was relieved to make it through the military firing range without having to walk around. On that note; 2 groups of walkers had told me the route was closed (meaning a several mile detour inland) and one even said they had ‘seen tanks’. It was supposed to be open (school hols), and I even checked the phone number which said it was open. I worried about last minute changes to the opening times, because the Army needed to practice something. But – I persevered to the gated entrance and it was, indeed open. I didn’t see any army manouvers at all, but maybe they were there all the time, and were practising camouflage? If so good work chaps, I didn’t spot you! πŸ™‚

I met a couple from Emley (a few miles from home) who thought I looked so out of breath on a steep climb up to Durdle Door (from Lulworth Cove) on day 2 that they asked if I needed medical assistance! I admit, I was out of puff after 10 hours of pack lugging, but had just sat down for a break, not a heart attack! Nice people! Thoroughly embarrassed, that post-pastie indigestion had caused such concern…

Also – the old bloke jogging on the cliff tops who ran circles around me as he told me about the self published book by Pete Overend Watts (bass, Mott the Hoople) who’d walked the SWCP and wrote about his experience. It’s not on audio book so it may be a while before I get to read it, but apparently there is an anecdote of him staying in a B&B and the landlady proudly pointing out that a catamaran in the harbour and boasting that it belonged to Roger Taylor (drums, Queen). Pete said “Oh they supported us, in America once” to the amazement of said hostess. True. I wondered if the jogger was Pete W for a brief moment, but just checked and he sadly passed a couple of years ago. RIP.

I was delighted to see a bloke with the same pack as me walking the other way. Yet his was stuffed to the gills with a half dozen things hanging off the sides. Fair play to him – he was lugging it all cheerfully enough, but I was pleased that my gear is limited enough to stow away inside, and was nice and light. I reckon I can strip another half kilo out for September. I don’t need my heart rate monitor as it’s just tells me that the ticker is going like the clappers on the steep bits, and back to normal after a rest at the top. I don’t need my Leatherman multi-tool/knife, which I carry as I have romantic ideas of eating cheese and crusty bread with freshly sliced apple, but invariably I buy pasties. I don’t carry the knife for security – my thinking is that if someone interfered with my tent when I’m in it, in the recent humidity they’d be in for a self eye-gouging surprise once they got inside. Pale skinned, sun-burnt me cooling off in my tightie-whiteys would scare off even the most hardened crim.

Weightloss, was expected. Walking 20-25km a day for nearly 20 days should equal some progress. I just updated the walking spreadsheet, and it seems I shifted 53,000 calories (that’s about 2000 Percy Pigs sweeties!). I reckon that should be just over a stone in weight. In truth I shifted about a third of a stone. Which means I certainly succeeded in feeding the engine with ice cream and pizza. I’ve told myself the old ‘muscle is heavier than fat’ lie, as my legs have certainly got stronger, and on arrival at home I’ve got comfortably into a 38″ pair of what I assume are generously cut jeans. It was still a nice surprise nonetheless! I did manage to skip most ale opportunities. I think I had maybe 10 pints over the course of the walk, far fewer than normal, which will have helped me shave a half kilo or so. I’m not walking for weight loss, and I’ve stopped calorie counting (MyFitnessPal) because it’s impossible to guess the intake with so much restaurant grub. But I’m hoping that by the start of Part 2 of the SWCP I will have offset the weight of my camping gear (about 5kg).

I can’t wait to get back at it in 2 weeks. The simple pleasure of walking every day has been great. Hopefully I’ll have warmed up some irons in the fire job wise before I go, and if not, then The Hunt for Job, October starts and I expect it to be tough given the climate…

Some Pics from this section:

* – Best Days Walking? A meaningless phrase. Every walk brings something different. I loved the Coast 2 Coast years ago, because of the rugged hills, and the fact it was my first multi-day walk. I loved the Yorkshire Wolds Way because I really needed a break from work at the time and got lucky with perfect weather. I loved the Cleveland Way, because simply put – it is the Cleveland Way and takes me past places of which I have fond memories. So whilst I’m pretty sure I know why the South West Coast Path wins the ‘best walk in the UK’ when voted for most years, it really is a pointless phrase when full hike context is king. The footpath and scenery is just part of the fun. A new album, a great audiobook, a fantastic meal can all make a difference. The SWCP experience has so far been great for many reasons, being back in the tent, the multi-day, never ending perfect coastline, the variety of the terrain and the always changing coastal views, I could go on, and on and on. So – I reckon I’ve been walking for about 16,000 days give or take in my life, so in that context these 18 days on the SWCP are about 0.1%. So definitely, obviously – they are in the top 1% of those days and probably in the 99.9th percentile of walking. A decent few of those days in the 0-99.8 percentile will have involved the walk to my perennially average footie team, or even worse, a trip to IKEA, so I think the logic of saying – all, a solid 100% of my National Trail walking days are better than any other day in my walking life! #takeanotherstep

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