Walk completed August 28, 2011

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Day 14 -- June 14,2011, Clovelly to Westward Ho!

The walk from Clovelly started along a beautiful trail 8 feet wide that reminded me of a former railroad bed. The grades were moderate – as would be necessary for a train. The trail passed through lush old growth forest, the trees covered with moss. Birds were singing the entire morning, obviously enjoying the warm sunlit day. But the trail was shaded by the trees, making for delightful walking. I’m not sure when the road was built, but a trail marker indicated that in 1901 the final 883 yards were completed to extend the road to Clovelly.

After about an hour of walking, I came upon a solo hiker named Graham, who said he left Westward Ho! about five hours earlier. Graham hails from Essex, and takes 4 days each spring and autumn to walk parts of the SWCP. He said that the segment we were walking on was never a railroad, but was a toll road, first for carts and then automobiles. He said that in the 1960’s the toll was £4.50, which was a lot of money in those days. He regrets never having paid the toll to drive on the former road.

Old growth forest
After another half hour, the road veered to the right to join up with what is now a caravan (trailer) park. The trail continued as a proper footpath through the forest. I felt as if I were in an enchanted forest, and half expected a wicked witch to jump out from behind a tree. There was no witch, but emerging from the trees ahead was Martin, a builder from Weston-Super-Mare, a city farther up the coast. Martin had just started a 4-day backpacking trip along the SWCP.

 Martin commented that in Scotland there aren’t as many public footpaths as in England, because Scotland has a right-to-roam law that allows you to go anywhere so long as you don’t harm the landowner’s property. Conversely, England has public footpaths that channel all walkers along designated routes. As a result, the trails see far more erosion in pristine areas (as we were causing on the muddy footpath) than would be the case if we were free to find alternate routes through pastures. I see his point, but personally I prefer the footpaths because I know they are eventually going to lead me to where I want to be. I would get lost a lot more frequently if I had to keep referring to my compass while walking and taking pictures.

Adrian and Anita
After a few more hours in the forest, I came upon Adrian and Anita, from Essex and London. They too were camping their way along the SWCP. It is interesting to me that in England people can just strike out on a multi-day hike, without having to wade through the permit process so prevalent in the U.S. I suppose that the numbers are relatively small and the impact insignificant.

After 5 hours I left the enchanted forest, and returned to the seashore bluffs, to the steep descents and ascents that are so tiring. I arrived in Westward Ho! around 6:00 – another full day made tiring by the ups and downs of the coast. Westward Ho! is the only city I can think of whose name includes a punctuation mark other than an apostrophe. I’ve heard that it was named by developers after a book of the same name. I’ll need to do more research on that.

Klaus and Gesche
I had an enjoyable dinner with Klaus and Gesche, a German couple spending a week hiking the SWCP.

© 2011 Ken Klug

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