South West Coast Path 2017 - Thoughts in Conclusion
Here are a few thoughts we have that may help in the planning & execution of walking the South West Coast Path. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and the advice given is not exhaustive. The best form of research is other people’s blogs, guide books and using plain old common sense. Some of the advice and thoughts below may be repeated from the Planning & Preparation page at the start of this blog - apologies for that!
Planning and Accommodation
It is never too early to plan a long distance walk. We started about 15 months before Day 0, mainly to get a foot in the door with B&B bookings. Accommodation was not that difficult to organise however when it was scarce, mainly because of dog friendly availability and in one case charging a ridiculous price we simply stayed nearby and utilised public transport or a taxi. For the section west of Penzance it was a lot simpler to hire a cottage for the week and use the bus to get about. Additionally, don't be afraid to stay a couple of nights in the same B&B, particularly if you can use public transport to link up the walking. This has several advantages one of which is having a light rucksack for one or more days which is always a bonus.
We dealt in email or booking confirmation only - this meant we had proof of our booking and not just a telephone conversation should anything go wrong. Also make sure you call each B&B for confirmation about a month or so before start date. Some of them are not as good at administration as they think they are! With regard to eating out in the evening, it is probably best to make sure you can be fed and if in doubt make a booking.
For those of you travelling with a dog, don't be put off. Most B&Bs are coming around to the fact that it pays to be dog friendly and more and more are making the transition. Sure it was a bit more difficult to find accommodation but not too onerous. Most B&Bs make a charge of between £5 - £10 for a dog to stay and will insist that you bring your own bedding. We carried our dogs bedding with us - some B&Bs will insist on this.
With a couple of exceptions the standard of B&B on the entire route was very high.
Kit & Medical
Knowing exactly what to take is always a conundrum no matter how experienced you are. The basic rule of thumb is to adopt a "What if" and "So what" policy when undecided on a particular item. Weight is an extremely important aspect of this walk and we were prepared to take the risk with leaving certain items out. Therefore "What if we leave this item behind? "So what is the effect of not having it" and then measure the risk accordingly.
To keep snacks and spare water cold, we used a small cooler bag with 2 slim ice packs in. Each night we asked the B&B owner to put the ice packs in their freezer ready for the next day.
Medically, we used a fair bit of Vaseline on our feet and micro porous tape that resulted in no blisters. In a nutshell, each morning tape up any areas where you have had blisters appear in the past and then rub a light coating of vaseline over the rest of each foot and in between your toes. It really does pay to rub your feet at night with some foot lotion and also buddy up getting your feet ready in the morning. No matter how much training you have done before the walk, your feet will hurt at some stage. When resting up or whilst having lunch, get the boots off and air your feet and change your socks if necessary.
After about 20 minutes walking have a stretch of the hamstrings, calves, groin and quads. Repeat this before and after any lengthy stop and on completion of the days walking. This stretching routine will pay dividends.
It goes without saying that a basic first aid kit is a must. We found this out on Day 3 when Dave gashed his leg quite badly in Ilfracombe. Take the opportunity to review and top up your first aid supplies, particularly in towns and villages that have a Pharmacy.
Apart from your Boots this is the second most important piece of kit you have. As stated earlier, we invested in a couple of 75:100 Lowe Alpine Cerro Torre Rucksacks and these were just the job. One thing we would say is fill it up and test it out before you start - make sure it feels comfortable and get out and walk with the weight in it.
There is a link below to Refill - a website giving information with regard to water refill points etc. Another thing you could do is just apply common sense - if you get the chance then top up. Cafes and shops you visit - they will more than likely help you out.
Gone are the days when you can turn your underpants inside out and wear them again the next day!! Utilise local Launderettes where possible and also ask the B&B owner - we did this several times and for a small fee will put a load on for you.
Unfortunately as the coast erodes these are becoming a lot more commonplace these days. The path is so well run that any diversion is quickly jumped on and promulgated. Therefore the diversions are well signposted and clear. If you come across a diversion or obstruction on the path then please report it back to the SWCPA.
Ferries & Tides
In the words of Jimmy Cliff's 1969 hit there are "Many Rivers to Cross" therefore you need to be on top of your game with regard to Ferries & Tides. Make sure you know the tide times when you plan, in particular those where a very long detour would be needed should you not be able to get across the river section. Planning in this aspect will pay dividends.
Additionally, make sure you have a back up plan in case the ferry is not running on that particular day. High winds affect ferries and are therefore cancelled at very short notice - best thing to do is to keep track via their websites.
Lulworth Firing Range
There is a myth that the range is open every weekend - this is not the case. There are some weekends when the range is in use and the diversion around is very long. We have put a link below where you can find out all the latest information with regard to dates when the coast path is accessible. If you can then make sure you do this section - it is fantastic walking.
We did not carry any OS Maps apart from those on our GPS - we simply took it on risk we would not need them and we didn't. We did however cut out all the maps from our Trailblazer Guide and laminated them to provide a rain proof guide to the walk. When used, we posted the maps back home in order to reduce weight.
See "Useful Links" below
We managed to raise nearly £4000 in total for Spaniel Aid. We would like to thank everybody who donated to this wonderful and worthwhile cause.
SWCP Facebook Group - a well administered and informative page full of expertise you can tap into.
South West Coast Path Association - another great resource, in particular the distance calculator which we found extremely useful when planning each leg
National Trails - more information for you to lean help from including the contact details for the Trail Manager
Tides for Fishing - provides valuable information regarding tidal crossings.
Accuweather - a very good weather update service
Travel Line South West - comprehensive and impartial public transport information
Lulworth Firing Ranges - opening times for walking on the Lulworth Ranges - don't get caught out!!
Refill - a national, practical tap water campaign to aid you in topping up your supply on route. Well worth "tapping in to" (nyuk, nyuk)
Luggage Transfer - we used this company for 2 of the longer days near the end of the path. Very professional company to deal with.
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