The story so far …
For quite some time – 10 years, actually – I’ve been contemplating taking a walk across the south-west peninsula isthmus, the neck of land that separates the part of the country that weather forecasters call ‘Central Southern England’ from the wilder regions of the far south-west, with its moors, rugged coastlines, wayside crosses and standing stones.
Did some careful planning and realised that it is theoretically possible to do the walk in one day. Following footpaths and roads in a straight-as-possible line, the distance being a mere 42 miles. At a comfortable walking rate of 2¼ miles-per-hour, that would take only 18⅔ hours.
So, I bought myself a big backpack, dug out my old camping equipment and went on a 15 mile hike in Shropshire to test things out. While I enjoyed the trek, I quickly realised that hauling 30 lbs of equipment along with me was impractical if I wanted to do the walk at anything other than a snail’s pace.
So, plan B: With a lighter pack I experimented by walking the 27 miles along the Oxford Canal from Napton Junction to Banbury. After 20 miles my hip joints and upper leg muscles became almost unbearably painful. Walking across the isthmus in a day clearly wasn’t going to happen, so I changed my plans again to make it a gentler walk over a longer period, exploring the borderland between southern England and the mysterious far south-west.
So, plan C:
● 20 June – Southam to Beer (by train and foot).
● 21 June – Beer to Charmouth (10 miles coastal walk).
● 22 June – Charmouth to Chard (about 15 miles).
● 23 June – Chard to Taunton (20 miles).
● 24 June – Taunton to the Bristol Channel (about 20 miles).
● 25/26/27 June – Eastwards towards Weston-super-Mare and the train home.
The first goal will be simply to get to the start. Train to Axminster, then walk to Beer (nr. Seaton) where there is a Youth Hostel. The next day walking along the coast path to Charmouth, hopefully finding accommodation there.
The dates are, of course, midsummer, meaning the nights are short – useful if I have to spend a night out-of-doors. There’a also a full moon, useful if walking in the dark, and I should reach the coast on 24th June – Armed Forces Day – appropriate given that this is fundraising for the Royal British Legion where I work.
I walked across southern Wales in a similar style several years ago, ending up sleeping in a hostel one night, a truckers’ rest stop another, and a hillside barn another. It’ll be interesting to see what this journey brings.
The walk is in support of the Galanos House Amenities Fund. Please visit my JustGiving page for more details about the walk and how to make a donation.