When I first decided on completing a Coastal walk around Great Britain I thought long and hard as to whether the walk should raise money for charity. Because I would be completing the walk in sections over a number of days and then returning home, the challenge was not as great as those brave and tenacious souls that have completed a Great Britain coastal walk unsupported, carrying their tent on their back and in a single long walk taking up to year and more in the process. So I decided against it at the time, feeling embarrassed to ask for money while I spend money on myself for fuel and accommodation.
However, now I do plan to commemorate my Coastal Walk completion with a unique gesture. In my spare time I am a wood turner, I don’t do it for a living, principally for pleasure. Most of my pieces I have given away to friends and family, Charities or sold at Christmas Fayres where I charged just enough to cover my material expenses and the stall fee. So I’m actually looking to turn about 10 bowls between now and my completion in various shapes and sizes and in various wood that I have to hand. I hope to donate the pieces to various Charity Shops with an indication as to what they could possibly sell them for. I have spoken to my friend who manages one of The Severn Hospice shops in Telford and he thinks this will be a good idea. Obviously I would hope to donate to a broad range of Charities, especially when some have seen a significant fall in revenue over these troubled times. There may be further ways I can give or donate to Charities which I am still exploring.
Through this blog I hope to show how I turn a log or tree stump into something that would grace anybody’s sideboard or mantel piece. I was thinking about doing some YouTube videos, but I am a rubbish presenter and from experience it takes an awful lot of effort and time to produce a YouTube video that is presentable. I haven’t started turning any bowls/plates/platters, vases yet as I’ve still got about 16 days of walking until I arrive in Sandbanks near Poole. As you know I’ve been stuck at Dymchurch in Kent which is in Tier 4 and very much inaccessible at the moment.
Below are a couple of photos of the bowls and I have previously turned in various woods and some in resin, which I also turned. The first photo is a mock-up my Christmas Fayre stall taken in 2018 in my kitchen. Nearly all of these on show have been sold, donated or given away. My favourite is the Constellation Bowl, it was coincidentally bought by next door neighbour.
I’ll post something more in the near future when I have thought through a few more of the details.
I decided to reverse the direction of travel for today’s walk because of bus times, so I drove to and parked again at the Western Heights car park. I read some signs saying that the car park had been the centre of recent anti-social behaviour, although given the shifty nature of the people I saw in parked cars that early in the morning I have my suspicions what that could be! I Again I descended down towards the Railway Station, but stopped short at a bus stop and waited for the 07:51 #102 service towards Lydd. The bus journey seemed to take an age as the driver observed strict timetable waits at a number of stops.
I was glad to get off the bus in Dymchurch and equally pleased to have used my OS App, with free Bus Wi-Fi, to know which stop to get off. A short walk saw me on the large and sweeping shoreline of East Road. The bay curved back towards Folkestone and had a large modern sea wall guarding the low lying interior of Romney Marsh. I passed by a Martello Tower that had been totally transformed into a residential property with the walls all rendered and a large conservatory on the roof. When I reached the Hythe firing ranges I could have continued along the coast because there was no firing planned for today. However, I could see a large construction site around the Dymchurch Redoubt, complete with Heras fencing. I decided to stick to the perimeter road around the firing range.
As I entered Hythe town itself I was interested to walk along the Military canal; built between 1805 and 1809 as a strategic move against a possible French invasion during the Napoleonic Wars. The canal runs for 28 miles from Hastings to near Folkestone. I followed the canal till it came very close to the promenade which ran all the way into Folkestone. The sea front was busy with many people out walking, cycling, jogging and just chilling out at the number of beach side cafes.
As I reached Folkestone I passed by the old Folkestone Harbour railway station, closed to all traffic in 2009, in 2018 after a period of refurbishment it re-opened for pedestrian use and was hosting a small open-air market when I was there. I crossed over the old railway bridge and along the harbour walls with its fish sellers doing a brisk business. At Copt Point I climbed up steep steps towards the Martello Tower, which offered excellent views ahead across the expanse of wild partly forested chalk cliffs called The Warren. Here the Saxon Shore Way and England Coast Path joined the North Downs National Trail. I could have descended and walked along the base of the cliffs, but at some point I would need to climb up onto the cliff. I chose to do the climbing first as I planned to visit somewhere that was situated on the cliff-top path.
I had caught a glimpse of the Battle of Britain Memorial earlier that morning on the bus, so I was keen to take a closer look. Opened in 1993 on the site of the Capel Hill Battery (WWII), the Battle of Britain memorial contains a visitor centre, which was closed and a replica Spitfire and Hurricane. The open area contains a wall listing all those that fought in the Battle of Britain. Both yesterday and today a Spitfire flew over Dover and Folkestone performing aerial manoeuvres, I’m not sure if that was a planned thing, but it certainly brought home the message and the debt the county owes to “the few”.
I continued on across the Warren cliff top towards Abbots Cliff, here the coastal path split to a minor inland incursion avoiding the narrow path with exposed drops down to the railway line. Soon after I came to the Abbots Cliff Sound Mirror. A forerunner of radar, acoustic mirrors were built on the south and northeast coasts of England between about 1916 and the 1930s. The ‘listening ears’ were intended to provide early warning of incoming enemy aircraft.
The amazing physical features as I began the descent towards Dover were the ‘hogs-back’ chalk cliffs with grassy slopes and a narrow arête like ridge. At this point I could look down onto the Samphire Hoe Country Park, hemmed in by chalk cliffs and the sea it is an unusual site. Part of this area was created in the mid-19th century to enable the Folkestone – Dover railway to pass through. The real major construction project occurred with the building of the Channel Tunnel in 1993. Closeby the Channel Tunnel at some depth below the ground turns seaward heading out across the Channel. The spoil from the tunnel was used to create Samphire Hoe with landscaping to create a Nature Reserve. Access to the Hoe is via a tunnel from the nearby A20, with cars passing through the 200 -300m tunnel governed by traffic lights, a raised footpath allows pedestrians and cyclists to pass through to the Hoe. At the far end of the Samphire is a collection of buildings and a large cooling plant for the Tunnel itself.
I climbed up and over Round Down and descended to cross over the A20 to the small village of Aycliff on the outskirts of Dover. Here I found a shop open and stocked up on drinks for the drive home. I now had the task of climbing up from sea level to the top of Western Heights. Near to the car park I passed an early 12th century church built by Knights Templar.
A thoroughly enjoyable and fascinating walk.
Distance today = 18 miles
Total distance = 6,372 miles
It was the last days of July when I was last in Kent, while in the intervening time the pressing business of completing the Scottish section of my walk had kept me busy.
With rising Covid cases across the country I am convinced it is only a matter of time before I am forced into lock-down either locally or prohibited to travel to the Kent and Sussex areas. Besides the worries about the pandemic, I have also had one eye on the Brexit trade deal situation, with plans being drawn up to counter the predicted queues around the ferry ports of Dover and Folkestone. It’s an area that I want to get as far away from as possible before the inevitable turmoil starts in January.
There was good news in that I only had to travel 247 miles down to Dover and with each completed section I will move closer to home. Another good sign is that I am now travelling south along the M40 and M25 having finished with the Dartford Crossing.
The drive down from Shropshire was uneventful and by 6:45 I was parking up at the observation car park on Western Heights above Dover. The view from the car park was amazing, with the dawn light just appearing I could pick out Calais and Dunkirk across the Channel. To get to the start of today’s walk at Sandwich, I needed to descend into Dover and make my way to Dover Priory railway station.
Most of today’s walk would be mostly on the level, although towards the end there would be a few up and downs. After leaving Sandwich railway station I walked through residential streets towards Sandwich Haven River and the River Stour. I could have made things very easy when I joined the England Coast Path by simply walking across the golf course to the sea which would have saved about 3 miles. Instead I followed the river northwards along a levee or sea bank. I did eventually turn around and start walking south when I joined the sea and began walking alongside 3 golf courses, the most famous of which was Royal St. Georges, which occasionally hosts The Open.
I eventually made my way into the seaside town of Deal. I decided to walk through the town itself, which was really very busy, as I struggled to socially distance myself at times, picking my way through the Saturday afternoon shoppers. I passed Deal Castle which I did not think much of, until I read the castle was actually built under the orders of Henry VIII as an artillery castle, a similar fortification to the ubiquitous Martello Towers, often seen in this part of England. By the time I reached the adjacent town of Walmer, the crowds had thinned out and the White Cliffs of Dover made an appearance.
The weather so far had been very nice with a warm breeze and excellent visibility, particularly across the Channel to France, where I could see a constant stream of ferries going back and forth. After passing through St. Margaret’s at Cliffe I arrived at the South Foreland lighthouse and the arrival of more crowds of people walking out from Dover itself.
I tried to stay on a level contour over the down land terrain and after passing around Langdon Hole I emerged high above the Dover Ferry Terminal. The terminal was very noisy and extremely busy with hundreds of articulated making their way to and from the ferries. On top of the white cliffs there was a number of footpaths available, unfortunately I chose a wide path that was well trodden and dropped down towards the terminal entrance, after losing a great deal of height I was faced with a sign saying this was a dead end. Grrrr! I climbed back up the cliffs and found the correct path and dropped down to the A20 road beside the ferry terminal. I continued along the shoreline of the Outer Harbour and passed a number of statues and memorials, dedicated to the role of certain armed services during the Second World War. There was also a memorial to Captain Matthew Web, who hailed from Dawley (now in Telford) where I was born and still live. In fact there is a pub 400m from my home called the Captain Webb.
In Dover I passed by an M&S Food Hall where I hoped to buy some food, however, there was a long queue outside so I did not bother, instead settling for a pasty and coffee from a local Greggs. I continued through Dover town centre and climbed uphill to the Drop Redoubt along the North Military Road.
This whole area of the Kent coastline is steeped in history and you would need a few days to explore it fully. All that remained for me to do was drive the 4 miles to my Premier Inn bed for the night.
Distance today = 21 miles
Total distance = 6,354 miles
I have had a serious re-think of my use of ferries to cross rivers and estauries on my walking route around the coast of Great Britain. When I was walking the South West Coast Path, the official path route advised on the use of ferries to cross over rivers and estauries. At the time I had no intention to walk around the whole of the coastline of Great Britain and thus made use of these ferries. Now that I have set myself the challenge of walking the entire coastline, I have had serious concerns about the ethos of using these ferries in my challenge. To this end I have decided that the sections of coastline in Dorset, Devon, Cornwall, Merseyside and Lancashire where I have taken ferries will become VOID. I will therefore walk around all rivers and estauries to their nearest bridging point to ensure I have walked a complete and full section of my walking record.
This will involve some additional 300+ additional miles which I will do as one-day walks over the next 12 month period.
The Ferries in question relate to :
Dorset: Sandbanks (Poole) to South Haven Point (26 miles COMPLETED)
Devon: Starcross – Exmouth (15 miles COMPLETED)
Devon: Teignmouth – Shaldon Beach (2 miles COMPLETED)
Devon: Kingswear to Dartmouth (24 miles COMPLETED)
Devon: East Portlemouth – Salcombe (13 miles COMPLETED)
Devon: Bantham – Bigbury-on-Sea (9 miles COMPLETED)
Devon: Wembury to Noss Mayo (11 miles COMPLETED)
Cornwall: Plymouth – Cremyll (24 miles COMPLETED)
Cornwall: Fowey – Polruan (16 miles COMPLETED)
Cornwall: St. Anthony – St. Mawrs – Falmouth (29 miles COMPLETED)
Cornwall: Helford Passage – Helford Village (12 miles COMPLETED)
Cornwall: Rock- Padstow (15 miles COMPLETED)
Merseyside: Birkenhead – Liverpool (48 miles COMPLETED)
Lancashire: Fleetwood to Knott End (15 miles COMPLETED)
My final days walking in Cornwall and the completion of the missing sections of walking around the estuaries that I had previously used ferries.
I had already done the first section of my walk around the Fal Estuary a few weeks before from Place to Truro. Today’s walk would be from Truro onto Falmouth. However…………………………yesterday after completing the walk around the Helford River, I saw the time was around midday. So I thought, “why not do some of tomorrows walk today?” In actual fact because the total mileage for the two days was only 24 miles, I could have done this quite easily in the single day, the feet may have complained a bit but it was doable. However, this section of the walk contained some very busy roads and a sunny Saturday afternoon was not the ideal time to walk along them.I therefore opted to drive to Truro rail station and park there. I then caught the train towards Falmouth getting off at the small station of Perranwell. The 5 mile walk back to Truro rail station would be along quiet lanes and roads, even on a Saturday afternoon. The Falmouth branch is only a single track, but it runs through some lovely Cornish scenery. I had chosen Perranwell Station because I could park my car there tomorrow when I would complete this section.
I set off from Perranwell station on a lovely sunny Saturday afternoon. I showed no signs of the exertions from the mornings walk around the Helford River. The road I would be on for most of the walk back to Truro was very quiet, although there was the odd ‘nutter’ who did not slow down. The route for this particular walk was planned using Plotaroute, a free online piece of software that plans routes for walking, horse riding and cars. Obviously I had checked the route myself and found it to be ok. I stayed on the road and followed the route of the railway most of the way back to Truro.
After arriving back in Truro I made my way to my B&B for the night, it was only half a mile away. I contemplated the final section of the walk from Perranwell Station to Falmouth. This part of the route contained the busy A39 and I was apprehensive about walking along it even on a Sunday morning.
I arrived at Perranwell station at 06:30 and parked the car. It was still pitch black. I waited about 10 minutes before setting off in hi-vis jacket, head torch flashing and another head torch facing the rear flashing red. The first mile from the station was along quiet roads through the village of Perranwell. By the time I reached the A39, it was getting light and I did find a sort of footpath along the verge. Fortunately, I did not have to stay on the road long, before turning off down a minor road. There was very little traffic about, which meant I could relax and enjoy my stroll.
I was not hurrying because I planned to catch the first train of the day back from Falmouth to Perranwell, which was in a couple of hours’ time. While only encountering the odd car I dropped down into Penryn. The streets were almost deserted as I followed the Penryn River into Falmouth. The streets in Falmouth are quite strung out along the Fal estuary and seem to go on forever. I did manage to find a bakery that was just opening and what better way to celebrate my completion of the ‘missing gaps’ than a traditional Cornish pasty, expensive, but nice. Falmouth actually has three stations Falmouth Docks, Falmouth Town and Penmere, although to call them stations would be stretching it, more likely railway halts. Because I had time to kill I decided to walk to the furthest station at Falmouth Docks, the start of the line. None the stations have any ticket purchasing machines, so I spent the next 20 minutes working how I could purchase an online ticket through the Great Western App. The train arrived and departed on time, picking quite a number of people from the stations back to Perranwell.
So that is it. I have a single gap left to complete between Sandwich in Kent and Poole in Dorset. I have done a crude estimate that I would need about 20 days of walking to complete this. However, a large cloud looms over us all at the moment and there is no guarantee that the area I live in or the area where I intend to walk in will not be subject to future travel restrictions.
Distance today = 12 miles
Total distance = 6,333 miles
My last two remaining days in Cornwall while ‘tidying up’ my previous omissions of not walking around the estuaries of the Fal and Helford Rivers. Today was a simple affair which involved driving through the night to Helford Passage, just south of Falmouth. Here I would park just above the Ferry Inn at the local Parish Trust car park at a cost of just £1 for the whole day! Fantastic value given the cost of other car parks in the area.
I had deliberately slowed down on the drive down as my Satnav had given my arrival time a lot earlier than expected and I would have to wait until it got reasonably light to start walking. The sun was due to rise at 07:15 and I set off at 06:45 with hi-vis jacket and head torch on.
Most of today’s walk would along quiet roads, green lanes and a few footpaths. My route would follow a broad sweep around the Helford River and its many creeks and tributaries including Porthavas Creek, Polwheveral Creek, Polpenrith Creek, Mawgan Creek and Frenchman’s Creek. Because my route took a wide track it was difficult to actually see many of these creeks, in the absence of footpaths it would see me walking predominantly on roads which I hoped would be largely devoid of traffic.
One of the worst things about walking in Cornwall is that many of the quiet roads and lanes are sunken and are enclosed by high hedgerows or embankments with no path or verge, thus making any encounter with a car or tractor an experience! Fortunately, the roads I passed along were clear of traffic at this early time on a Saturday morning. Besides being hemmed in by the steep hedgerows, these minor roads rose and fell as I entered each new creek tributary. The bottom of these small valleys were also quite cold, with early Autumnal frosts not far away. Needless to say it was cold walking until the sun finally rose and heated everything up.
By the time I got to the first bridging point at Gweek, the temperature had risen quite sharply. Here I popped into a small convenience store to buy a Cornish pasty, which was not bad. After passing through Gweek, I was now walking on the southern side of the Helford River. I occasionally got a view of the river and its Creeks, but any good views were masked by the trees and high hedgerows.
At Mudgeon Farm I came to my first obstacle of the day; as I left the minor road to take a footpath across fields my heart sank as the intended footpath was in a field of maize 7 to 8 foot tall. Normally, you simply cannot walk through a crop such as this, but I decided to check to see if a path had been trampled by previous walkers, it had! I followed the path through the maize to the next field. At the stile my heart sank again as it was full of young Friesian cattle and they were very curious towards me. I could see that I would have to get through the next two fields with them in tow. However, I could see all the border hedgerows of the filed were very tight and there were no bail-out options. Normally, I don’t mind cattle, but inquisitive cattle can get up a head of steam and plough into the back of each other maybe taking you out. I retreated back through the field of maize in search of another route. Two miles up the road near Tregithew I was about to follow another footpath through a field until I noticed a freshly painted sign of a bull in the field. Normally I ignore these signs as they are rarely taken down and remain forever, even though the bull had since paid a visit to MacDonald’s! However, I saw the bull and stayed on the road.
When I reached the village of Kestle I dropped down to a wooded path which led into the village of Helford. I headed for Helford Point where the ferry across to Helford Passage landed. To summon the ferry I simply opened a board to form a large yellow circle which could be seen across the river. After about 10 minutes the ferry appeared. I caught the ferry with an elderly lady who was crossing over to visit the National Trust gardens at Trebah. All that remained was to walk up the steep hill to the car park.
Distance today = 12 miles
Total distance = 6,321 miles
The day had finally arrived when I would do my final coastal walk in Scotland and I knew it would be a tough one.
The overnight rest at my B&B in Berwick had certainly done the trick, my legs felt ok and I felt confident of taking on another gruelling day. I decided to make a very early start as the forecast was for a bright sunny day and I wanted to get some of the walk done before the sun was high in the sky. I parked my car at a small car park, just up from the pier in Berwick-upon-Tweed and then walked back into Berwick and headed for the railway station. I caught the 05:30 #253 bus to Cockburnspath. This service is run by Borders Buses, an offshoot from the West Coast Motors bus company across in Argyll. With their distinctive livery I thought they provided an excellent service and where probably my favourite carrier to date. I chatted to the driver before we departed, he was from Berwick, and was complaining that the Government had just put most of the NE of England, from Northumberland down to Teesside into local lockdown, due to a surge in Covid-19 cases. I was therefore quite lucky, in that, I would not have been allowed to travel and walk in the area later that day.
I got off the bus in Cockburnspath and it was still quite dark. Cockburnspath is a sort of path terminus for the start/end of the Southern Upland Way, the John Muir Way Link and the Berwickshire Coastal Path which I would be following off and on throughout the day. For the next couple of miles I was still using my head torch as I headed down to the large leisure/holiday homes complex at Pease Bay.
The climb up out of Pease Bay was very steep and because of the tight narrow road a wooden flight of stands was provided for pedestrians. I chose to walk along the road instead. I was heading for the old coast road which ran along much higher ground and provided the best views up and down the coastline. Far below me was Siccar Point, famous in geological terms for the site of Hutton’ s Unconformity, it was a long way down and a long way back up, so I carried on. I passed though the old hamlets of Old Cambus West & East Mains, then through Redheugh Farm where I gradually gained height south eastwards to the much higher ground of Harly Darlies at 230m. Here I picked up the Dowlaw Road, which ran towards the Dowlaw Farm. Dowlaw Farm offered camping for £15 per night, but I’m not sure what you actually got for your money as they called the payment a “donation”.
The walking after Dowlaw Farm was hilly sheep and cattle country, but the going was easy and up until now my legs felt ok. After passing some Admiralty Distance Poles, apparently used to measures nautical miles, the cliffs began to gain some serious height. When I came to Waterside Dean I descended steeply into a huge gully and then had to climb back up to 161m. It was quite a test on my legs and with the heat was tough going.
I was now able to look down on St Abbs Head, which was a lot lower than the ground I was on. The walk down to and then up onto St Abbs Head was not too bad. I was rewarded with great views both north and south along the Berwickshire Coast. As I descended towards the small fishing village of St. Abbs I met more walkers who were heading up to St Abbs Head. The red sandstone cliffs in the area were very impressive and with the path exposed, a trip could easily have dire consequences. I did not descend down to the harbour in St Abbs, as even small descents and consequential re-ascents is something that my mind is telling me not to do. I did pop into the tiny village Post Office where I bought more drinks to keep me going. However, between St Abbs and my next destination – Eyemouth there were numerous descents down to the beach and back up the cliff, which were becoming painful.
Eventually I came into the larger town of Eyemouth, which was quite busy. I popped into a co-op to buy further drinks, even though I was carrying plenty of water still. I have developed a taste for those iced coffee drinks, which tend to distract or take my mind off the complaining what my body is trying to tell me!
When I reached the village of Burnmouth I was joined by the main East Coast Rail line, this was quite important, as it marked the final section of the walk where the railway line, the A1 road and the coastal path were ‘pinched’ tightly together between the sea and the higher ground. I crossed under the railway line for the final time. As I passed Hilton Bay I saw a sign for a bothy down the cliffs towards the beach. I had a quick look but could only see the ruins of a cottage. At Marshall Meadows I passed through a gate and was back in England. The next 4 miles back into Berwick-upon-Tweed was certainly not a stroll, as I had 4 miles of quite painful walking with my legs and ‘chafing’. It was not enjoyable.
Back at the car I could sitdown, relax, change clothes and shoes and begin to reflect. I had started walking from Gretna back in May 2016, knowing that walking around Scotland was going to be the biggest challenge that my walk around the coastline of Great Britain was going to face and so it turned out to be. I had visited many many places that I had not been to on the hundreds of previous visits to climb hills and mountains. I also felt quite sad at finishing something that I, for the main, really enjoyed doing. I must also thank those fellow walkers on the ScottishHills site, where I also post my Scottish walks, who have lent advice and support during my quest.
But it’s not over, apart from two estuary walks in Cornwall, the remaining gap in my walk is between Sandwich (in Kent) and Poole (in Dorset) – 20 more walking days. But even as I write this the ugly head of potential lockdowns looms imminent for us all.
NB: I also publish all my Scottish Blog entries on the excellent Scottish Hills website, I use the same narrative, but larger photos and a few extra ones. They can be found here:
My final two days of coastal walking in Scotland! I knew this was going to be hard as I intended to complete the remaining 50+ miles or so down to Berwick-upon-Tweed over two days.
As with most travel plans these days I had half an eye on potential local lockdowns due to spikes in covid-19 cases or the arrival of autumnal weather. Because I don’t do a travelling day now I had to try and get some sleep before I set off from Telford in Shropshire for the overnight journey to Cockburnspath, which is about 20 miles north of Berwick-upon-Tweed. However, I did not get much sleep in the end, but I knew I would sleep well that night.
Cockburnspath is the meeting place of two famous long distance footpaths, the Southern Upland Way which snakes over the hills across the Scottish Borders to finish at Portpatrick on the West Coast after 341km. The second path is the shorter Berwickshire Coastal Path, which I would be making use of on my second day of walking and which runs down the coast to Berwick. There is also a link extension path to the John Muir Way which runs north to Dunbar.
After parking in the village square in Cockburnspath, I caught the 06:27 #253 bus service to West Barns, just west of Dunbar. Here I waited for the 07:50 #120 bus service to North Berwick, where I got off at the train station.
At 08:30 North Berwick was deserted, although I did manage to find a Greggs open, so I nipped in for a coffee and sausage bap. I had a couple issues with trying to get out of North Berwick on various footpaths, but eventually got onto the A198 which had a footpath for most of the way. The elevated position ensured I had tremendous views across nearby Tantallon Castle and out to the guano covered Bass Rock.
After a short distance on the road at Auldhame I headed for the shoreline at Seacliffe Beach. I walked along the shoreline a short way before I needed to climb up onto the low-lying cliff line to pick up one of the numerous farm tracks which would lead me to Tyninghame. I passed an awful lot of Private notices which I ignored, as these were farm tracks I was walking along. Because of the River Tyne, the Scottish one, I knew I would have to divert inland. The whole area is part of the Tyninghame Estate and although there is a footbridge further east along the river, the bridge is in a poor state of repair. However, I did later find a recent photo of the bridge and it seemed ok to me; anyway the inland detour only amounted to an additional mile.
After crossing the River Tyne I joined up again with the John Muir Way which was returning from one of its many inland detours. I stayed on the John Muir Way into Dunbar, which incidentally was where John Muir was born in 1838 and has a local country park named in his honour. I wonder how long that will last in these days of retrospective examination of dead people’s words?
After stocking up on more supplies I set off along the shoreline of Dunbar’s Golf Course. The course was very narrow and there were numerous signs warning of the dangers of getting hit by a golf ball. Actually, you don’t have to be a walker to get hit by a golf ball. In my golf playing days I was struck with a ball from my golf playing partner! The ball hit the soft fleshy bit under my rib cage and I could feel the dimples of the ball!
As walking along sandy grassy paths became very easy; both the lighthouse at Barns Ness and the Nuclear power station of Torness came into view. At Skateraw Harbour I passed some very well preserved limekilns, with the central shaft almost intact. To get around the power station there was an excellent footpath around the perimeter fencing, although, with most nuclear power stations there is nothing much to see.
As I walked along the cliff top path I was joined, about 100 metres away by the busy A1 road and the main east Coast main rail line. When I reached Bilsdean Burn I had to lose all of my height and drop down to the shoreline, which was annoying. I carried along the shoreline for a while until I arrived at the huge Dunglass Dean ravine. The ravine is quite amazing and even though this was at the end of my walk and I was really tired this natural feature blew me away. Within a very small area there are four bridges, the closest to the sea is the current A1 dual carriageway bridge, then comes the old A1 bridge from 1932, then the railway viaduct and finally the bridge that I crossed over, probably the old coast road bridge. I walked underneath the first three bridges and picked up the Southern Upland Way. It was very difficult to get a photo that gave the depth and scale of the ravine, especially with the amount of summer foliage still around. After crossing the bridge I passed from East Lothian into the Scottish Borders region, my last in Scotland. All that was next required was a short walk into Cockburnspath.
A tiring day, but the legs were ok and I now looked forward to my final walk in Scotland.
NB: I also publish all my Scottish Blog entries on the excellent Scottish Hills website, I use the same narrative, but larger photos and a few extra ones. They can be found here:
It’s been a while since I did any of my Use of Ferries walks. These are basically walks to fill in the ‘gaps’ left when I did the South West Coastal Path over 6 years ago and used local ferries to cross rivers and estuaries. Over the years I have been busy ‘filling’ in these ‘gaps’ to achieve a full walking record around the coast of Great Britain. As it stands I have two remaining rivers to complete, the Helford River and Falmouth River. I hope to get both of these walks done before the ferries stop in late September/October, as I still utilise the ferries to link the two walking points around the estuaries to the first bridging point.
The largest estuary walk would be the walk around the huge Falmouth Estuary, the third deepest harbour in the world and composed of a myriad of tributary rivers, creeks, inlets and pools. It would take two days to walk around.
Today I would do the first days walk around the estuary, although for logistical reasons, I would have to return for the second walk another time. The logistical reason being the unavailability of affordable accommodation in the area, £130 per night is not affordable in my book. This also meant a long day out from Shropshire, as the mileage to this part of Cornwall was 280 miles – one way!
The plan was to complete a very broad sweep around the numerous rivers and creeks avoiding the small peninsulas and promontories which had very few footpaths or right of way around them. I decided to make Truro, the County town of Cornwall, my end point for this walk, so that’s the place I headed for on the overnight drive down. I parked at Truro railway station, where parking was only £2.70 all day on a Saturday/Sunday; compared to a Council Car Park at £8.20 any day!
Another consideration for today’s walk was the route. Cornwall’s roads are notorious for their lack of footpaths and verges to safely walk along, in fact some of the roads have almost vertical high banks either side, with no escape or refuge from any traffic. As you can imagine, there are many tourists around at this time of the year, so avoiding the traffic was a key priority.
I decided to get the 07:22 #U1 bus to Falmouth and then pick up the water ferry to St. Mawes and then a smaller ferry onto Place, a small jetty on the end of the Roseland Peninsular. Both ferries were very busy, particularly the smaller Place ferry, where the number was restricted to 12 passengers at a time. Because this ferry was only 5 minutes either way, the ferry made a couple of trips to get the other walkers across.
After all the travel and planning I finally set off at 09:15 on a beautiful sunny morning from Place. I climbed up a well-trodden path up the hill towards the small village of Bohortha, here I joined public road. I continued undisturbed along the empty road to Porth farm. To my right, just 200m away, was the South West Coastal Path and of course the sea. From Porth farm I continued along a green lane which was also a bridle way. I met no one until I descended into the small village of Portscatho, which I walked through some 6 years ago. I retraced my steps along the SWCP a short distance through the village, but as the coastal path continued along the coast I took a minor road with only the odd car. By the time I reached the village of Curgurrell I had to turn inland away from the coast.
I continued along a series of twisting lanes through the hamlets of Treluggan, Treworthal, Trenestrall, Trelonk and Trethella before descending to the village of Ruan Lanihorne. Although I did not walk through the village but instead took a lower road alongside the River Ruan. The Ruan joined up with the River Fal, which I crossed over at the Sett Bridge. The Fal at this point was just a small river and emptied into an upper tidal estuary surrounded by wooded hills. The area was very secluded and quiet, apart from the odd walker and car; the whole area was a delight to walk through. I left the road again and took a bridle path that led to the hamlet of Gare, from there it was back to the twisty turning roads, albeit without cars.
I passed through the small hamlets of Little Tregerrick, Tregerrick and Carharthen before I started to hear the traffic coming from the A390 at Tresillian, where I was heading next. The traffic on the A390 was very heavy, but it was reassuring to have a footpath to walk along before I turned off the main road. The next mile along a minor road into Truro was horrible, as an accident on the A39 near to Truro had cars being diverted down to this small road I was trying to walk along. It was actually chaotic with cars unable to get past each other and me being unable to pass them either! At times I was actually standing in the road waiting to pass cars! I was glad to descend into Truro itself and head back to the railway station. I did not explore the City of Truro, perhaps I may do that on my next trip.
Apart from the chaos of the final bit of road into Truro, the walk had been wonderful, few people and even fewer cars made it a truly enjoyable walk and place to be.
Distance today = 17 miles
Total distance = 6,257 miles
My third day of this walking trip and I have concerns about finishing the walk that would end in North Berwick. Yesterday my feet and lower legs ached quite badly which required me to stop five times to temporary rest them. As this was a Sunday I stayed with my tactic of walking very early towards my destination and then using public transport to travel back to my car. So at 05:00 I drove from my B&B in Leith to Prestonpans railway station where I parked.
As I set off from the railway station in the dark with head torch on, I felt my feet and legs to be perfectly ok. Even though today’s walk would be considerably less than yesterday’s walk I knew at some point the achy feet would come back.
The next 6 or seven miles would be predominantly on the John Muir Way, which also follows alongside the B1348 and both stick very close to the shoreline of the Firth of Forth. As it was still dark, my photos were very thin on the ground. I’m afraid I don’t have the skill or patience to set up my camera to take night time shots – I’m still basically a point and click sort of guy.
I passed out of Prestonpans and past the site of the former Power Station of Cockenzie, demolished some 5 years ago. By the time I reached Seton Sands the dawn had begun to break and I was able to switch off my head torch. I could still see the lights of the towns and villages across the Firth in Fife, on a lovely still morning. After passing Longniddry the coastline began to turn northwards towards Aberlady. As I rounded Aberlady Bay I left the road behind and headed across Peffer Burn via a wooden footbridge onto a vast expanse of land called Gullane Links. The links contain a number of golf courses and surprisingly the ground rises quite high here. I headed for the high ground, which gave an impressive view across to Fife, westwards to Edinburgh and to North Berwick Law and the surrounding area of East Lothian.
I purposefully headed into Gullane, a place I last visited some 46 years ago and a place where someone very special to me lived together with her family. As I stood and paused at the end of the road where they once lived I felt very sad. Distant memories.
As I left Gullane behind me the feet started to complain again, not painful, just ‘achy’ like they normally do after 10 miles of walking. I decided to stay on the road the remaining 5 miles to North Berwick. Although there is an excellent bus service running every 30 minutes, on a Sunday, back to Prestonpans I decided on catching the train; well I had parked the car at the train station in Prestonpans. North Berwick rail station sits at the end of a small single-track branch line which is linked to the main East Coast line. It has just a single platform and a waiting room, fortunately, there is a small booth where I could buy a coffee. I sat outside in the bright sunshine waiting for the first train of the morning. By 3’o clock that afternoon I was back home in my garden in Shropshire. Time to recover my achy body and feet and to plan the, hopefully, two walking days that will get me to Berwick-upon-Tweed
NB: I also publish all my Scottish Blog entries on the excellent Scottish Hills website, I use the same narrative, but larger photos and a few extra ones. They can be found here: