Walk 76: Porlock to Minehead and the end of the SWCP – 3rd September 2020

Same drill as the day before: Matt dropped us at our glamorous start point, the public toilets at Porlock Weir, and drove on to Minehead in order to then walk back and meet us. The difference today was because of the significance of the walk we had chosen to mark the occasion by wearing a tutu (Barbara) and a dress of cherry skulls (me). Matt looked more traditional but with his hat somehow made me think of deepest darkest Peru.

We set out across grey, purple, flat, slate pebbles with the cloud low over Bossington Hill.

Barbara hung back as she’d just received a text from Jess that Queen Mabs had died (We stayed with Jess for many of our trips to Cornwall and Queen Mabs was her stately cat so this news was sad). Walked across flat fields away from the sea. There had been a breach (when I don’t know) and the dead trees of past hedgerows are clearly visible (and I assume the submarine forest marked on the map is different?)

The path then turns back towards the sea past a barn perfect for wild camping.

We passed a big group of double stick older aged walkers, climbed over a high stile/bridge, meandered away from the sea again and onto a high hedged pathway directly toward the hill and cloud.

Passed a woman with a massive pack on who was going as far as the day took her. I’m loving the increase in our age lady walkers quite probably wild camping (Barbara calls it the Salt Path effect). Into the idyllic hamlet of Bossington where in our dreams the two houses on opposite sides of the street leading to the beach could be ours.

Round the corner, past the tiny National Trust carpark, over the stream and into the woods.

Passed a few local dog walkers greeting each other and followed the flat path back towards sea. In the knowledge that the path must soon head sharply up we put on the final SWCP playlist and cracked on. The path divides up for coast path and round to Hurle Point (if I’d relooked at the map I would have seen that both were possible but in the cloudy mizz I chose the steep ascent). At the bottom were the last people we would see for many miles. The waysign there said Minehead 4.5m and then half way up told us Minehead was now 5m (I just think the sign erectors like playing with people’s minds). Bossington Hill is bloody big especially when ascending into thick cloud.

A 5 song hill as Barbara remarked at the top. I was useless as always at guessing the theme (which was 2020 with an obvious emphasis on Covid and lockdown) but as I was concentrating on breathing (the inhale exhale lyric from Breathe by the Prodigy seemed apt). All quite eerie but exciting. Another relevant song on the playlist for the weather was Dancing in the Dark by Moses Boyd. So the playlist had a double purpose both at times to mirror the day and also the crazy year the world has had. The ascent finally levels out and the path swings round towards Minehead. We stayed in the cloud for a couple of miles with some more fairly steep ups and downs but nothing compared to the initial big one.

Took the rugged path. Of course.

Eventually the cloud started to lift and we could see rather than just feel how much bigger and more dramatic the Combes were today. Saw the sea.

Barbara was feeling sick (she overdid it on Macncheese last night) so I knew I needed to get her to eat something. We stopped at the bottom of a Combe next to a stream for a sandwich and our resident explorer from outer Peru appeared at the top and basically jogged down to us. Of course Matt had once again walked further despite the extra drive! Once we were full, we continued on with a lovely undulating walk for a couple of miles. And I happily followed the yellow waterproof coverings of my faithful friends.

There were a plethora of Rowan trees perched on the cliffs replete with red berries (didn’t see a single white berry one which are apparently only found in this Exmoor area). Started seeing two islands in the distance in the Bristol Channel that even Matt couldn’t work out at the time but later we identified them as Flat Holm and Steep Holm. Traversing the last Combe of the path felt sad as this section of the walk has been so magnificently glorious.

Up to the top and still no sign of Minehead but knew it must be getting closer as there were a few more people and a carpark. Our first and last sighting of Exmoor ponies.

Saw the sign to Burgandy chapel but Matt looked at the contour lines and said it looked very steep and wasn’t on the official coastal path (when I looked later I saw that it was on my planned route as it went closer to the sea – n’er mind). Down down down into the woods, steadily at first and then more and more steeply with zigzag bends (so realised Matt had had a hard up at the start and many others who start at Minehead).

Came to the final steps and looked down to the shingle beach. It took us a while to persuade Barbara from the final step.

The path becomes a small road leading back to the Burgundy Chapel and with a dilapidated but beautifully moss-covered garage.

There’s a little way along the flat back in the woods

and then the path comes out onto the prom with grass and benches. The famous big tops of Butlins visible in the distance.

When the path joins the road we came to last signpost.

While I was taking the picture an elderly couple (one on a mobility scooter with a small dog on her lap) came through the gate and started bickering loudly as the dog and its lead got caught up in the gate. Strange little tableau. I desperately needed a wee but knew it was less than 0.5 mile to the end so continued. Minehead is quaint and unlike its reputation at this end of the town.

The structures out in the grey and milky sea caught my interest.

Then the end and the sculpture were there. I was unintentionally hasty and stepped over the line before Barbara, so we had to do it again. She then got all chatty to the tourists having a look at the sculpture whereas I felt choked up and stood back. Not even then did anyone comment on our clobber.

I know many many people have completed the SWCP and in many more extreme or faster circumstances, but it did feel like an achievement for a silly, couple of old friends and I felt really emotional. To overcome the tears we walked back to the pub with the great name, The Old Ship Aground, for a pint in front of the harbour.

Feeling more refreshed we walked back past the end marker and on to the clock tower opposite the steam train station.

When we will resume our walk further into Somerset is at the present time incredibly uncertain. The world battles with Covid-19 and the UK moves regularly in and out of lockdowns and varying tiers of restrictions. For now our local patch of Sussex will have to suffice.

Miles walked: 9.5

Since the beginning: 967.4

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6 Responses to Walk 76: Porlock to Minehead and the end of the SWCP – 3rd September 2020

  1. babsandnancy says:

    The SWCP will always be one of my most beloved paths in the world. Absolutely stunning. I got quite emotional on that final step… What a privilege to be able to walk it, and to do so in the company of my best friend. There will be more and the world will open again… xx

  2. jcombe says:

    Lovely write up and photos . To complete the South West Coast Path is a huge achievement so don’t underestimate it. I hope you are able to get back to Somerset soon. Maybe the England coast path will have opened, I know I wasn’t able to walk near the coast for quite a bit of the way up from Minehead towards Bristol, sadly but that was a few years ago and I think things may have improved in places since then.

    • babsandnancy says:

      Thank you. I remember reading a couple of Ruth’s posts about that area and how difficult to navigate some of it was. Well I think it’ll be a while before we’re back so who knows what we’ll find at that point.

  3. Congratulations to both for completing the glorious SWCP despite the crazy circumstances of the day. Reaching your posts has brought back wonderful memories, and I don’t mind admitting that I was very tearful too when I reached the sculpture in Minehead. Wishing you the very best of luck for the rest of this incredible journey.

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