SW Coast walk

By John Donato, Principal Geophysicist

A ‘selfie’ on top of Nare Head (Devonian lava in background) and a typical day’s walk statistic

The End of a Long Journey

During May this year, the last piece of the jigsaw fell into place, as I walked from the Lizard to Plymouth, completing the 630 miles of the South West Coast Path.  It is said a fit and dedicated walker can complete the path in about one month.  It has taken me seven years; a series of summer breaks, joining together various stages, stretching from Minehead in Somerset to Poole Harbour in Dorset.  I started in Minehead years ago full of enthusiasm and back-packing my tent, sleeping bag and cooking equipment.  As the years rolled by, comfort levels gradualy increased, and I finished the path in a top-class Plymouth hotel. The tent and all other ‘hardships’ left at home a few years before.

I have been asked numerous times what were the highlights and lowlights.  I think the highlights were greatly influenced by weather conditions.  I particularly remember the section along the south coast through the Lulworth Ranges.  A fantastic day with steep climbs, spectaculary clear coastal views and amazing geological structures.  Forgetting the numerous soaked-through days (Lynmouth springs to mind), I remember one lowlight when ‘rounding the corner’ at Lands End, where the area, ruined by greedy commercialism, kept me walking by disappointed and as quickly as possible.

Most of the walk I have completed on my own but I did have a good companion, Joel, for some of the North Devon coast. A much appreciated friend, especially over the long and slightly tedious Barnstable estuary sections.  The common purpose of walking the path seems to make walkers appreciative of a short chat and the sharing of news on weather, rock falls and path diversions.  I remember an evening spent with one couple I met along the way, who introduced me to draught Cornish Rattler cider. The three of us walked together the next day, with slight headaches!  There was also the walker visiting from Arizona, travelling from Lands End to John o’Groats, for the second time.  And then the multi-millionaire in his 70’s who made his money from mothers’ follow-on milk and gave me the detailed formula!  Not forgetting my rescue of the poor lady who lost her nerve climbing up Houns-tout Cliff and fell off the path into a ditch of stinging nettles.  Then, the ferry crossing with the ‘captain’ telling me we were ‘suffering an ingress of water’ i.e. sinking!  Then, the two large heiffers that chased me. 

The memories come back…  Go on, get those boots on, its not just a walk but a real experience!