After a few days of rest, recuperation and reflection, I can look back on the first three weeks of Coast 17 with a little more clarity.
First some stats. The section from Shoreham to Plymouth took twenty days (two days longer than the original plan) and covered 373 miles and 11500m of ascent – 157 miles to Sandbanks in eight days (1200m ascent) and 216 miles on the Southwest Coast Path to Plymouth in twelve days (10300m ascent).
By any other measure that was a decent walk.
I felt that I was getting properly fit and walking easily, as far as Paignton at least. That day from Starcross to Paignton, along with Lymington to Barton and Barton to Sandbanks, was blessed with calm, warm and spring-like weather, which made for comfortable and relaxed progress.
However, things changed a bit on Doris Day – remember her? She bashed and hammered me around the Exe estuary and brought in her wake several days of very difficult conditions, which prevail as I write. After retreating from the cliffs at Berry Head, I decided that I would not reach Torcross on that Saturday, so I booked into an AirBnB place in Brixham. Whilst there I realised that the weather forecast for the following day and beyond seemed to be on repeat, with gales and rain for the coming week and beyond. Camping would be impossible.
So during the first part of each day thereafter I was having to concern myself with searching for accommodation for that night and then aiming for wherever I found a place of good value. Sometimes, the only option was further than I wanted to walk in the conditions, but needs must. I diverted inland off the cliffs a few times to avoid the onslaught of wind, only to end up in muddy Devon lanes with twelve foot hedges and no view. I raced to catch the low tide at the Erme estuary, having committed to an AirBnB at South Huish. And finally I ended up in Newton Ferrers with nothing booked and resorted to asking in the pub and Post Office, where I had a chance encounter with Helen, whose B&B place I had called to no answer only a few minutes before.
I came to the conclusion that walking in the mountains is wholly easier. Because there are mountain huts and YHAs and bunkhouses and all sorts for walkers. Bearing in mind that the Southwest Coast Path is the longest established and best known coastal path in Britain, the available facilities for walkers out of season in South Devon are non-existent – no camps, no YHAs, very few good-value beds.
Whether my somewhat fraught fight, pushing on head down against the weather, was partly the cause of the shin splints that developed on the way to Stoke Fleming, I have no idea. In any event, walking became progressively more painful until I opted to get from Newton Ferrers to Plymouth by the shortest route and get the leg checked.
I am feeling a little deflated to have had to pause, naturally. All possible restart and stop options have gone through my head so far, but I’m not yet ready to commit to any of them until I have fully rested the injury and then tested it out for a week around here. However, a restart in the fourth week of March looks likely, in whatever form it takes. After a period of glumness I am beginning to look forward to getting back on the trail.
The leg is pain free when wandering around the house, but that is the essence of it; I’ve stopped doing the prolonged and stressful thing that caused the problem. Plenty of rest, stretching, good food and massage will hopefully make it stronger than when I started.
Can I reiterate that I am so appreciative of all your support so far, especially those of you who have provided me food, shelter and company: wonderful Carolyn throughout, Jacqui and Jim in Rustington, Glyn and Jean on Hayling Island, Mark and Cate in Alverstoke, Jim and Nicky in Barton on Sea, Caroline and Kevin from Barton to Bournemouth, Sue in Burton Bradstock, Ian and Elaine in Exmouth, Jeni in Seaton, Fiona in Brixham, Annabel in South Huish, Helen in Newton Ferrers and Keir and Laura in Plymouth – thank you all.