After a fairly long stint working (and life restricted by Covid), it’s time to get my walking boots on, pack my gear, blow away the cobwebs and start moving muscles made lazy by too many video meetings.
The South West Coastal Path is in my sights. It will be undertaken in my favourite walking mode. No end date, no end destination. No pressure to head back to the office. Lock up the flat, pick up my pack and start walking. Not quite Laurie Lee, “as I walked out one midsummers morning” – but as close as I can get to it.
I have no idea how far I will go… two weeks, a month, more? It will be very weather dependent. It depends on my ability to stay in my tent and my tent’s ability to withstand the weather. This couple did it, embracing life on the path, having lost their home, (which was also their livelihood) and he being diagnosed with a terminal illness and only £48 a week to live on. I am setting out with much more resources, so no comparison. I am starting a little late in the year, the days are drawing in. I will walk as far as feels comfortable each day. I may stop for a few days every now and then, pull some pints in a pub in exchange for indoor plumbing. If I walk the entire route at a decent pace, then it will be mid-December before I run out of track.
As long distance paths go, it is will be an interesting comparison to the GR10 which runs the length of the Pyrenees. The GR10 is 866km and a total elevation of 48,000 metres (or five climbs of Everest). The SWCP is 1,014 km and 35,000 metres. The GR10 is high altitude mountains, the SWCP a coastal path. I walked the GR10 through September/early Otober; I am setting off on the SWCP early October. Not ideal, a month or two earlier would have been better, but two weeks ago I had no idea I would be setting off.
I am betting on the SWCP being warmer but wetter weather, versus high GR10 cold. Key is the expectation of more civilisation, pubs open and villages with people. The GR10 was scattered with empty ski resorts, empty villages and very few shops, most places were closed up for the season.
A luxury on the SWCP will be friend Sofie, who living in Exeter, is excellently positioned to serve as my base camp, holding spares supplies and brief respite when needed.
So preparations start, mostly digital. The Backpackers club have an excellent Google Earth project detailing wild camping sites, friendly farmers, camping sites and more.
The Beaches app provides details of low and high tides, key for planning the days walk to avoid being held up.
Dark Skies is a very accurate hyper local weather app – keep walking for another two hours, or get the tent up for shelter from the rain arriving shortly? The premium paid version (just £3.99) gives info like… “light rain starting in 10 minutes… clear for another 25 minutes… drizzle stopping in 4 minutes”. you can track with real time radar, the rain moving across the the map. Brilliant.
Next up, check my kit!