Monday 5th July 2010 A lovely sunny day. Had a late start at 11.00 am from Dartmouth where I had previously left off, knowing it would be a short day. Very pleased with my new Osprey rucksack from Taunton Leisure. Went via Dartmouth Castle, then Blackpool Sands. Late lunch at Slapton Sands watching
mackerel being caught by fishermen using rubber eels. Saw a pair of Gannets diving and catching fish as well. Stayed in a very comfortable B&B right on the sea wall at Torcross and had dinner at Start Bay Inn.
Tuesday 6th July 2010 Another beautiful day. Torcross to Salcombe. My old stomping ground! Stevie Smith, the ferry man, took me across the beautiful Salcombe Estuary - arguably the most beautiful estuary in the British Isles. Stayed with my old mate, another Steve, before heading back to London for a few days.
Tuesday 13th July 2010 Returned to Salcombe from London and stayed with Steve again. Took the ferry to South Sands and then onto familiar coastline towards Bantham. Plenty of generous donations placed in the collection box. The weather provided a mixture of sunshine and drizzle. Had dinner at The Sloop Inn in Bantham, and then stayed in a lovely and contemporary B&B a few miles inland.
Wednesday 14th July 2010 Relief! The ferry across the River Avon at Bantham was running! An immaculate clinker-constructed dinghy with an outboard motor, along with two other passengers, dropped us off on the beach at the far side of the river. After a series of steep sections I arrived at the River Erme. Off with the shoes and socks, and trousers rolled up. The water only came up to my knees! Whilst drying my feet and having my picnic lunch, I got chatting to two walkers who were following a section of the SWCP. My charity box was soon rustling with a further generous donation. The weather started to close in and out came my new poncho. Bad idea! It didn't stay over my back, but became a sail, whipping my face and eyes in the gusty wind! I decided they are best suited to conditions when there is no wind! Towards the end of the day I met a family of four who had abandoned their search for an elusive beach and were trudging back along the same path as me to a car park. I offered my poncho to one of the shivering and rain-soaked daughters who gratefully wore it for the last few hundred metres to the car. Another donation! I found my B&B on the outskirts of Noss Mayo, and spent an enjoyable evening at The Ship Inn being entertained by the unexpected arrival of a very large group of Morris dancers (the land lord thought they were due a week later!). Delicious fish pie.
Thursday 15th July 2010 A leisurely breakfast! This is the life! Then I retraced my steps to the coast path before rounding the coast back into Noss Mayo. I walked for a couple of miles with a lovely couple who were from Southampton and were staying on their yacht. Forced into Noss Mayo harbour by stormy weather, they told me about a chap they had met a couple of days before. He was getting married nearby, and had been staying on Burgh Island at Bigbury, a few miles back along the coast. He had sailed his yacht round to the island and moored it off the sand spit which links Burgh Island to the mainland. On the morning of his wedding day, he awoke in his hotel room to the sight and sounds of a ferocious gale which was threatening to drive his yacht onto the rocks. Grabbing his waterproofs, morning suit, best man and the ring, they jumped on board the yacht and managed, with great difficulty, to get the boat away from the island. They sailed the few miles round the coast to the shelter of Noss Mayo, with the best man being violently ill over the side of the boat. They had just enough time to moor up, clean up, dress up and dash to the church with minutes to spare before the bride arrived. What a wedding day! Good luck to them both!
Tuesday 20th July 2010 Met Paul Cox (Head of Science and Learning at the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth). His mission is "conservation through engagement". The Aquarium hosts a fantastic collection of marine creatures from all over the world, but also includes native sea life from around our shores. The main aquarium holds over 2,500,000 litres of sea water. Most days, a couple of scuba divers enter the aquarium and wash the glass at the front of the viewing gallery and dust down the concrete and rubber coral.
They are often chased by "Snorkel", the Loggerhead Turtle who is one of the Aquarium’s most popular inhabitants. A rescue turtle, Snorkel was found washed
up on Sennen Cove in Cornwall in 1990. She has numerous health problems including poor eyesight, epilepsy and buoyancy issues, but lives a happy life at the Aquarium. She eats over 100 squid every week, and sometimes enjoys a bite out of the divers's wetsuit. It struck me that these guys have one of the most unusual and sometimes hazardous house keeping and window cleaning jobs in Britain, or anywhere else for that matter! Worth a visit and fun to watch!
On with the walking. The heavens opened. My rucksack got heavier as it absorbed water (no rucksack cover with me today). Amazed at how much water a synthetic sleeping bag and travel towel can absorb, and at how heavy they can get! Fitful night's sleep.
Wednesday 21st July 2010 BBC Radio Solent phone interview at 6.45 am. Thank you to them for their continued interest and support during the walk. A sunny day with scattered coastal showers. Enjoyed forty winks on the coastal path, before reaching Looe. Stayed at the "Jolly Sailor".
Thursday 22nd July 2010 A short day by usual standards. Felt tired and really noticed the weight on my back today for some reason. Bumped into a guy called Mark who had just come out of the water having speared about eight mullet and bass. They were attached around his waist and were going to be eaten for lunch to celebrate his son's birthday. Staggered my way into Polperro and was welcomed by the lovely David and Anne Foster who run the "Cottage Bed & Breakfast". They have run this delightful B&B/restaurant for 19 years, and it is a beautiful and most comfortable place to stay. A superb dinner, breakfast and incredibley generous donation to match!
Friday 23rd July 2010 Some of the toughest sections of the SWCP ahead of me. A sunny day, though with a bank of cloud hovering slighly inland. Beautiful coastline, clear sea, sandy coves, cliff-top chats and donations. Regular stops and many, many flights of steps to negotiate. Finally reached Fowey. The Navy is in town! Hundreds of sailors enjoying shore-leave. I left them to it.
Saturday July 24th 2010 As I left Fowey, an Air Sea Rescue display was under way. Weather was sunny but the clouds were always hanging around the coast and threatened to release rain at any time. It did not rain until late afternoon. Regular rest stops over 10.5 miles or so between Fowey and Charlestown, including a cream tea at Polmear. Had a long chat with a woman who recognised me from my Country Walking article!
Sunday 25th July 2010 Charlestown to Mevagissey. A lovely sunny day. Quite a few ups and downs and some generously heavy coin donations! Cornwall is such a special place. Coast, coves, beaches and reefs. You can see the pleasure this place shares on the faces of the people you meet on its coast. I find plenty of opportunities to sit and enjoy the surroundings. Mevagissey is a bustling Cornish fishing port. Working boats, nets, pots, flags and crates for the catch. Tonight I am particulalry grateful to be here.
Monday 26th July 2010 A struggling day today. Really feeling the weight of "Big Bertha" - my rucksack. Made it into Portloe and came across a vision of hospitality heaven - "The Lugger Hotel". What a lovely, secluded and under-stated place.
Generous management too! Dinner overlooking Portloe's tiny harbour.
Tuesday 27th July 2010 After my luxurious night's rest at "The Lugger Hotel", I plodded on to Portscatho in humid weather with a few moments of mizzle. Got eaten by horseflies - horrible things! Had a chat with a local landowner who told me basking sharks were most often seen along this section of coast in late May and June, and that butterflies were abundant as well. He also mentioned there were otters around, but as ever, I never saw one. Arriving in Portscatho, there were no rooms available but was given a free pitch for my tent in a lovely campsite at Gerrans. The owner gave me a cup of tea, and converted my coins into notes to lighten my load.
Wednesday 28th July 2010 Onwards to Falmouth where I left the path for a few days - a photographic job in the Hebrides provided much-needed funds for the walk.