A view to change hearts and minds

Our third and final South West Coast Path adventure of the summer was all about cliffs. The theme of our adventures so far has been spontaneity and this was another one that we hadn’t really planned out. It was the kind of trip that saw us driving along a coast road and eventually just deciding to take the next left turn to end up at a beach.

Unfortunately, the beach we ended up at wasn’t that inspiring, so instead, we decided to follow the acorn which took us climbing up some pretty steep cliffs. It was hard work, but it was so, ridiculously, worth it. These are the kind of views that you see on TV… and views you just can’t look away from.

We passed beaches, cliffs and even little mini fort bunker things, which made it one of the best walks ever. We went further than we had anticipated, as Mr C kept saying “let’s just see what’s around this corner,” and that’s when I knew I had him hooked. If he wasn’t convinced about the SWCP deal before, he certainly was after this.

Three walks in and our project is properly kicked off… just in time for winter!

Putting the stud in Studland

It feels a bit incongruous to write about the beautiful sunny days of summer when autumn has more than arrived, but I want to catch up the final two stretches of South West Coast Path we walked this year, before settling down to make plans for the next batch.

So, after finding the start of the path, our next adventure was another that came about by accident – we hadn’t particularly been planning on finding the other end of the national trail, but I sort of had an inkling in my head as we drew nearer and nearer that we could make it happen. A glorious blue sky was overhead when we rocked up to the beautiful Studland.

 

Our mission had been to find a beach and boy did we succeed – a gorgeous, unhindered stretch of sand that we ended up just walking and walking along, dipping our toes in the water and putting the world to rights.

Of course, this stretch of beach does include a portion that is dedicated to nudists and that was an interesting ten minutes or so. Out the other side and we rounded the corner to see the chain ferry in action and our destination.

I read later that there’s a compass inset into the ground which you can’t make out in any of the pictures I took. I wish I’d known about it sooner, because I was too busy looking at the top half of the sculpture. The first of no doubt many rookie mistakes.

At this point in our journey, Mr C was still highly dubious about the whole South West Coast Path adventure. I wrote previously that he figured seeing as we had found both ends that was probably enough. Unfortunately for him, my appetite had only been whetted by the whole experience and I couldn’t wait to find the next stretch of path we could follow.

Step up to the street

My obsession with the South West Coast Path has only been steadily growing since we found the beginning and the end of the long distance trail.

I bought a guide book and I’ve been plotting and planning how, when and where we can walk the different sections. Because although, just recently, I managed to get Mr C to finally admit he might have an inkling (albeit with great reluctance) to join me on this adventure, it’s not going to be eight week odyssey for us. This is more of a ‘let’s go and see which bit of path we can add to the map today’ type thing.

That being the case, it’s up to me to document each section to make sure at the end we have all the jigsaw pieces that fit together to make up a successful 630 miles of walking. (Must stop repeating that figure, the huge number of miles doesn’t help with keeping Mr C on board.)

So, it seems only right to start the adventure at the very beginning of the South West Coast Path, otherwise known as SWCP (in my head, standing for “so we’re crazy people”). I discussed already how we stumbled over the very start of the path with its big statue and its arrow pointing you on to further destinations.

At that time, the national trails were just a notion to me and an even more remote idea for Mr C, so we just followed the path for a kilometre or so.

We had some great views of the sea, and walked in the shadow of a giant hill until the path disappeared into some woods. It was a nice sunny day, so we weren’t that bothered about the woods. Turning back, how could we have known that the seeds of the obsession had been planted?

From little acorns

I’ve long been intrigued by the UK’s National Trails. They are long distance footpaths scattered around the UK that follow historical or geographical patterns, like Hadrian’s Wall, the Thames, or the best of the lot, the South West Coast. The South West Coast Path is the best of the lot because, as it says in the title, it follows the coast – and the sea is the best geographical feature there is. It also tracks through some of the most beautiful areas, with the gorgeous Cornish beaches, Devon cliffs, and the lovely Jurassic coast.

It was on my Life List to complete various walks that touch upon all the national trails, and that might still be an ambition of mine, but I’ve suddenly become completely obsessed with the Coast Path. The real passion started when Mr C and I visited Minehead and stumbled upon the start of the path.

There’s something totally exciting about being at the start of something, isn’t there? It makes you want to follow, particularly when there’s an arrow on the pavement showing you exactly which way to go.

At the time, we just walked a little way, and then turned back. I started plotting and planning in my brain, researching others who had completed the walk, wondering how and when we could squeeze walking 630 miles into our busy schedules.

Mr C solved the problem. During the current heatwave, we headed to Studland and found the other end of the Path.

Having walked maybe a kilometre at either end, “that’s good enough, right?” he asked. People will totally believe that we also completed the slightly more massive middle section?

I’m not so sure he’s off the hook that easily, but it’s a fun start. I don’t know how or when we will manage to squeeze in any more of the coast path, but I do know we’ve at least hit the highlights at each end.

Portrait of a lizard

Ordinarily, you wouldn’t find me in the reptile house of any theme park or zoo. I’m not that keen on zoos anymore, and dude, there are snakes in there. However, our visit to Drayton Manor was on one of the coldest days of the year, and snakes do at least have the right idea when it comes to sleeping somewhere warm.

I was snapping pictures here and there, still testing out the reaches of this iPhone 8 Plus camera – a huge improvement on my last. And somewhere along the way, I took this:

I never thought I’d be using portrait mode on a lizard, but damn if it wasn’t worth it.

Thomas Land

It’s been a bit of a busy year, so expeditions and adventures have been few and far between, but every December we are obliged to leave the house. The brilliant Giggles Advent calendar features jokes from many contributors of which I’m honoured to be one, and to make a fun and interesting video, Mr C and I look for new places to explore.

This year, it was Drayton Manor – the medium sized theme park that features a large section of ground designated to Thomas the Tank Engine, otherwise known as Thomas Land. They were turning Thomas Land festive, and we thought what better place to capture a Christmas joke.

Along the way, I tested out some more of the brilliance that is the iPhone 8 Plus camera, and the results continue to be astounding.






Tour of the city

I found myself with a spare hour or so whilst in Bath recently, and suddenly remembered something I’d spotted online – an audio walking tour of the city. Rather than having to wait at a tour stop and join with a random group of people to be ferried around the famous streets, this was a solo adventure. The site offers two tours, for free, and the one I opted for was the Jane Austen Walking Tour.

You can download in advance or on the go, and you get 15 individual mp3 tracks that guide you around the city and its sights. There’s a pdf map too, which I only referred to when checking the starting place – although this was outside the Roman Baths, so not too hard to find. I plugged in, and listened to the first track and at the end, it tells you where to walk with some really decent directions, and then tells you to play the next track when you arrive at your destination.

I really enjoyed the tour. It had interesting facts, sometimes interviewing historians about the place, sometimes reading relevant passages from Jane Austen’s book, but always limiting each section to just a couple of minutes so there was no time to get bored. I did feel a bit conspicuous at the start, loitering around some of the areas and gazing up at the buildings, but by the end I’d got into a good pattern of listening as I arrived and then perusing as I passed.

The tour fixed all the things that I don’t like about some of the more touristy tour experiences – the loitering, the boring bits, the inability to go rogue on the way round. Here, you’re totally in charge. Follow it in order at your own pace, pause it to go shopping, skip bits, mix it up, it’s all down to you and which mp3 you opt to listen to next.

This got me thinking about what a great idea it is and how it’d be great if more people did audio walking tours. A quick search proved that there are other ones available out there, including the VoiceMap app and a handful of things to listen to here as well. I’d like to go one step further and have audio guides to more rural walks – coastal paths, or national trails – because I’m starting to grow my love for walking but I require a lot of direction along the way. It’s a great addition to my walking library though, and I know now that Jane Austen would have been aware of the Sally Lunn bun! I’m definitely going to check out more of these types of experiences in future.