Making plans

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

We’re in the midst of terrible winter blues here. Short days, freezing weather, perpetual rain and gloom – this really is the climate of the British Isles at its worst and we could well have to wait two months for it to break and for signs of spring to appear. It hardly bothers to get light before dusk is falling again. We are perpetually tired, hugely demoralised and demotivated, as well as being prone to eating heroic quantities of starchy foods and leaving every light in the house on in a desperate attempt to keep ourselves awake and functional.

This latest bout has been kicked off by our return from rather a nice winter break in the West Country that included sunshine, milder weather and longer days than we seem to be experiencing on the eastern side of the UK. Now, it is said the best way to get over the return from a pleasant holiday is to plan the next. And, given the walking theme of this blog, what should we be attempting come springtime?

Well, to start with, a big priority has to be to finish off the South West Coast Path. Having got as far as Kingswear (just a ferry crossing from Dartmouth and terminus to a short but lovely steam railway) we now need to cover just 150 of the entire 630 miles to earn our completion certificate. Trouble is, the next stage is a sod to organise, running as it does through one of the densest and most popular holiday areas on the path.

This makes accommodation very awkward and not necessarily all that satisfactory when you do find somewhere prepared to let rooms for just one night – we have already had problems around here with a pre-paid booking being arbitrarily cancelled while we were on the path and unable to do much about finding an alternative, simply because a B&B landlady in Dartmouth had a better offer. And that’s without the river valleys, each presenting its own challenge in route-finding, timing, possession of the correct change or even on occasion wading. It might sound like a small thing but factor in several, as you often need to do in south Devon, and it does add up.

Our circumstances have changed hugely since we set out – we live further away from the south-west and one of us has experienced some major orthopaedic problems including unsuccessful surgery that called into doubt whether we would be able to continue. Although a combination of osteopath, acupuncturist and remedial programme at the gym have reduced that problem in a way we dared not hope would be possible. So the time is ripe for us to tackle the hoteliers of Torbay (and there was a reason that Fawlty Towers was set there, make no mistake about it) along with the rivers Dart, Teign and Exe and the Lulworth Army Ranges. With so much invested in completing this walk, it is definitely time for us to press on and finish it. And then it will be the Two Moors Way, but that is a blog post for another time.

We also have a long-term engagement with Northumbria, as a precursor to walking the Hadrian’s Wall Path. This is not an area of the country we are at all familiar with. There are few things in life we find more interesting than Roman archaeology so, in order to make this walk a success, we are going to have to visit the major sites in advance and minimise the available distractions. This area has reputedly some of the best walking in the country, so we are going to have to spend a decent amount of time up there – even more important when you have a round trip of 600 miles or so to make when visiting. It is one of the country’s better-organised National Trails, with public transport and accommodation guides available, so it should be a pleasure to do.

South Wales has also been mentioned as a possible destination – clearly brought on by all those views across the Bristol Channel. On top of the Brecon Beacons, the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, scenic railways and as many castles as the heart could desire there is the chance to visit Doctor Who filming locations including Southerndown Beach (or Bad Wolf Bay as you might recall it). The fact that an episode of Merlin was also filmed there really seals the deal.

We now live closer than ever to the start of Norfolk’s Peddars Way and, having walked the North Norfolk Coast Path twice now, it would be really nice to have completed its sister path. Trouble is, this is another slightly awkward one to organise with a start point that is not served by any known public transport and irregularly-spaced, rare accommodation opportunities along the route. On the other hand it is flat, relatively local and straight.

Decisions, decisions… we’re feeling better already.

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Me thinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow - Thoreau