Throughout England, Scotland and Wales there are about 400 long-distance footpaths. Of these some 59 are well known, researched and named either “Paths” or “Ways”. The daddy of them all is the South West Coast Path. I have completed the whole walk and have a certificate issued by the South West Coast Path Association to prove it. In elapsed time it took me ten years to complete as a combination of whole weeks and weekends. Since I live some 250 miles from any part of it, considerable car mileage was involved in the endeavour and countless bed and breakfast establishments, hotels, pubs and restaurants. I reckon the total cost was in the region of £20,000. Was it all worth it? Since I rate doing the whole path amongst my greatest achievements, the answer is a resounding YES.
Here are some facts and figures that the intrepid walker or potential walker will be interested in. Mostly, this information is taken from the excellent South West Coast Path Guide, issued annually. Completing the whole walk will entail ascending and descending a total of approximately 129,000 ft or the equivalent of climbing Mount Everest 4.4 times from sea level. The linear distance is 630 miles (1,008 kms). Starting at Minehead in Somerset and finishing at Poole harbour in Dorset, the walk is divided into 8 weeks of walking of varying lengths dictated by the terrain. The longest week is of 94 miles and the shortest of 66. All told, 52 separate walks are identified so that the average length from start to finish is 12.1 miles per day. However, the distance is somewhat irrelevant due to the terrain. Each walk is graded as follows and my own definition of each grade is shown in brackets:-
Easy (do not be fooled only 2 sections carry this grade aside from some
parts of longer walks)
Strenuous (very hard and account for 50% of the total walks)
Severe (only 6 of them but they are ******).
How does the South West Coast Path compare with the other UK long-distance paths? It is by far the best and the best section of all is, in my view, Westward Ho to Padstow. This week’s walking has 2 of the total of 6 “severe” grades and the remaining 5 sections are strenuous (or very hard indeed). It matters not since the scenery is sublime taking in Clovelly, Hartland Quay, Bude, Cracklington Haven, Tintagel, Port Isaac and Padstow.
The daddy of them all. Start planning today.
Jgs 04 February 2011