Helicopter ride

Exploring the possibility of flying to Lundy Island by helicopter

I was thinking about going to Lundy on Friday. I like small islands and this one has interested me for a while. I noticed on the map that in summer the ferry goes from Ilfracombe which is where I want to finish walking my bit of the coastal path. 

I spent today, or at least this afternoon, wandering around Minehead; partly to give my knees a rest ready for my big walk tomorrow, but also to research logistics for my next few days walking. Whilst in the tourist office I picked up some leaflets on Lundy and then settled into a nice cafe (The Creamery) for a delicious late lunch and to study them. 


Unfortunately the times of the ferries are such that I’d only have four hours on the island. It’s 3 miles long and half a mile wide and there are quite a few things to see – seals, ruins, views. To circumambulate the island would be about 7 miles so it is doable in 4 hours, but I’d feel rushed and like I couldn’t stop to enjoy it. If I was staying longer I could get the ferry from Bideford instead and have about 8 hours on the island, but it’s not to be. And at £30 return with National Trust membership (more without) I don’t want to go for quick whiz round – I want to have time to explore properly. So that’s on hold. 

What was interesting on the leaflet though was the helicopter service. It seems to only be out of season and is £99 return. This is going on a Monday and returning on a  Friday. Maybe this would be too long for such a small place, but if I just wanted a relaxing half term to camp, walk, read, write and think then this could be good. 


When I tick the ride in a helicopter task off my list I want to actually go somewhere in the helicopter, not just do a scenic ride. I had intended it to be the Scilly Isles, but now Lundy is a real contender as well. 

Minehead to Porlock

A tasty pasty, an impressive sculpture, a baby squirrel, podgy ponies and another knee-quaking descent.

Today was a shorter walk of 7 miles. Minehead to Porlock – the first section of the South West Coast Path. The first bus of the day didn’t leave Porlock until late morning which is why I hadn’t done this section yesterday. I didn’t want to be hanging about all morning on my first day. This morning however, I was glad of the later start as it rained really heavily for most of the morning. By the time I was due to leave for the bus stop it was just a light drizzle and by the time I started walking it had stopped completely and ended up being a nice day. 

When I arrived in Minehead I called in Boots to buy some special tick tweezers in case any more ticks think I make a good lunch. Then I bought a cheese and broccoli Cornish pasty and wandered down to the seafront to eat it. I wasn’t sure where the walk actually started so just walked along the seafront in the right direction. A huge bronze sculpture of a couple of hands holding a map open to show the path in it’s entirety was a pretty big clue. That and big white writing on the pavement saying ‘South West Coast Path’ and an arrow. I was very impressed with the sculpture so stopped to take a few photos of it before starting the walk. 

 

The walk soon headed out of town and uphill into dense woodland. It was beautiful, but like yesterday, there were glimpses of the sea rather than a permanent view of it. There were plenty of grey squirrels and I stopped to watch a baby one playing in front of me seemingly without fear. The path zigzagged upwards until it flattened out onto moorland quite a way in from the sea. At one point I passed a sign pointing to a ‘rugged alternative path’ which seemed to go closer to the coast. The ‘rugged’ bit of the sign attracted me though I thought I should maybe avoid anything too rugged as my knees were still sore from yesterday and I knew I had some more descents to cope with before the end of my walk today. The clincher though, was the ‘alternative’ part of the sign. I didn’t really want to do any ‘alternatives’ unless I had to. The alternative could be saved in case I ever did this walk again. 

 It was a good decision as the moorland walk was lovely with lots of wild flowers and big skies. I even got to see some Exmoor ponies. I only saw a couple of other people the whole time I was on the moor. Of course it had to drop down though and my knees were soon objecting. One bit in particular seemed very steep and I descended very sloooowly saying ouch with each step. As I got nearer the bottom there was a well-placed and welcome bench with a lovely view of the sea. I sat for a while and finished my flask of coffee. 

Then it was the final bit of descent before picking my way across farmland and marsh to the turnoff back up to Porlock. This bit wasn’t very well sign-posted and if I hadn’t have started my walk from here yesterday I would have missed it. So if walking here make sure you use your map!

The total descent (and climb) on this section is allegedly 698 metres. No wonder my knees hurt again.  


Porlock to Lynmouth

Marshy bits, ups and downs, a tiny church and a couple of ticks.

I woke up early after a good first night’s sleep in my tent and was raring to go. It would have made sense to start my walking by going to Minehead and walking back to Porlock and the campsite. Minehead is the beginning of the Southwest Coast Path after all. But as the first bus to Minehead doesn’t get in until almost 12 o’clock and I was ready to get going I decided to leave this walk until tomorrow and do the Porlock to Lymouth stretch today.

The way to the beach led through a marshy area

I started by walking down Sparkhayes Lane to the beach which is a good half mile or so. The beach isn’t a sandy sunbathing type of beach, but rather a pebbley and marshy affair. It was getting the full blast of the wind too. In 1996 the natural shingle ridge across Porlock Bay was breached by a storm, resulting in the flooding of the fields behind at each high tide. This means the official path has had to be moved inland a bit. The signs were quite confusing so I just walked on towards Porlock Weir. I thought I’d know if I was on the old path as it would become impassable and I’d have to turn back. However, once I got to Porlock Weir I saw a much clearer sign that pointed out that I had walked the closed part of the path. Hmm, was that why I’d had to wade through that bit of a slippery, green-slime-filled river?


Porlock Weir
Old groynes on the beach. 

Once I arrived in Porlock Weir (about 2 miles further on) the wind dropped and the sun came out. I sat at a picnic bench looking out to sea and ate my breakfast. Then I had a wander round the tiny village – thatched cottages, boats and an old pub – all very pretty. There’s supposed to be the remains of an ancient forest here which can sometimes be seen when the tide is out. Well, the tide was out, but I couldn’t see the forest. Unless of course, I was confusing it with all the old groynes that were around. 

From here the path was clearly marked all the way and very easy to follow. I only needed to refer to my map when I wanted to check distances or whereabouts I was. It became very wooded and was slightly inland. This meant that apart from occasional tantalising glimpses of the sea through the trees, it felt very much like a woodland walk. This was pretty much the theme for the rest of the day.

A couple of short tunnels in the woods

The path from Porlock Weir led upwards and into Yearnor Wood. A short while on I passed the end of the toll road with big arches for cars to go through. The signs said the toll road goes to Lynmouth but I wasn’t sure about this as on the map it seems to finish at the main road a long way from Lynmouth. Next I had to walk through a couple of tunnels and past signs pointing down to the beach. It was too much of a detour though as I had a bus to catch to get back to the campsite. So I had to be in Lynmouth for 5pm. There are so few buses on these routes that, although I enjoyed myself and saw and did plenty, I still felt rushed a lot of the time. 

Culbone Church

I did stop at Culbone Church. This is really hidden on the banks of a river down in a bit of a valley. The church is dedicated to St Beuno  and is apparently the smallest complete parish church in England at only 35ft long. It’s main structure dates from the 12th century. I had a look inside and immediately felt the hush. It made me realise just how noisy it actually was outside in the woods with so many birds everywhere. 

I didn’t see many people on the walk until I got to County Gate which is the border between Somerset and Devon. There is a car park and so a couple of groups of people had wandered down to the Coast Path from there. They didn’t seem interested in actually going anywhere once they got to the path though, so soon I was on my own again.

The path got a bit hillier and there were quite a few detours where the original path had slipped. One detour seemed almost vertical and was very sandy so my feet couldn’t get any grip. There was nothing to grab hold of and even my sticks kept slipping. That was the only tricky bit though, and even that was only a very short bit. 

Lynmouth can be seen in the distance

All in all I walked about 15 miles and climbed 934m (according to the coastal path website). This wasn’t one big climb, but was continual ascents and descents. By the time I was within the last few miles of Lynmouth my knees were causing me quite a bit of pain and I could feel them swelling up. This slowed me down a bit meaning I only got to Lynmouth about 10 minutes before the bus was due to leave, so I didn’t get chance to have a look around. Despite the pain, I’d really enjoyed my first day’s walking.


There were signs up in quite a few places warning of ticks in the area. I’ve been in plenty of places before with ticks but never had any attach themselves to me. So I had another first when I later got ready for the shower and found 2 small ticks firmly attached to my left leg. Tweezers easily got rid of them, so as long as I don’t contract Lyme disease they weren’t a problem.

England at Wembley

Why I want to see England play at Wembley

Driving down the M6 on my way to Exmoor I passed lots of cars and vans and minibuses with Manchester United flags and scarves flying out of windows or strewn across the back windows. It was cup final day at Wembley: United vs Barcelona in the Champions League.

This made me think about the new Wembley Stadium and how I’d like to see it. I loved the old stadium with the iconic twin towers and it’s a shame it’s gone. But the new one looks like a pretty interesting piece of architecture too. 

I first went to Wembley when I was about 14 and at secondary school. I went along on my brother’s primary school trip to see England vs Holland in a schoolboys’ under 15 game. We won 7-0 and I fancied the Dutch goalkeeper. 

The last time I went into the stadium was when I worked as an extra for the day on a Persil Automatic advert. I had my face painted red and white and was part of an imaginary football crowd. It was a long day but I got paid £50 and well fed. 

In between times I went to the market that was held in the car park on Sundays. I wonder if it still is? I’ve also been to a couple of concerts there. I saw Madonna in her ‘Who’s That Girl?’ tour in the 1980s. I queued up all night for tickets, ticking something of my ‘things I must do’ list of wishes at the time. The ‘thing I must do’ was the queuing up all night, not the Madonna concert. The other concert I saw there was the celebratory concert after Nelson Mandela was freed. The man himself was there and made a speech on stage, as well as a whole host of bands and singers.

So I have good memories of the old Wembley and I’d like to start getting some of the new Wembley. I’ve never been to an England game – the ‘real’ England, not the schoolboys – so it would be great to see them for the first time in the new Wembley. I doubt I’ll see them win 7-0 though!

Soon to be waxed

Thinking about waxing

I called in at the beauty therapy salon bit of college tonight on my way to web design to check out times and so on for waxing. As it’s a college and training place they only do ‘salons’ at certain times. At the moment the only evening ones are on Tuesdays and Thursdays, neither of which is convenient. Thursdays I definitely can’t do, but Tuesdays should be possible in the next few weeks. The appointment would be at 6pm and take about half an hour. I start web design at 6.30pm. After half term the teaching should be pretty much finished and we’ll just be getting on with creating our own websites for the assessment, so then it shouldn’t matter if I’m a few minutes late. So another few weeks and then I’ll be having my first waxing experience.

Update

Getting ideas for working towards a few items on my list.

Web Design
As I didn’t do the Duke of Edinburgh camping weekend, I’ve spent today sorting out plants, making up hanging baskets and planting vegetables. I’ve also got loads of laundry and ironing done. These are all things that needed doing, but I’ve run out of time to do the other things I was hoping to do, like my homework for the web design course. So I’ll have to do that tomorrow evening instead. The teaching part of the course has almost finished and soon we’ll be starting on creating our own websites for the assessment. I’m going to work on the actual website I want to have so at least I’ll be well on the way with it when the course finishes in July.

Exmoor
I rang the campsite in Exmoor this afternoon to try to book for next week. As it’s half term and the bank holiday I thought it might get busy. I spoke to owner who doesn’t take bookings in advance, but advised me to try to get there before lunch as it is likely to be busy. He said they shouldn’t have too much trouble fitting just me and my small tent in though. I’ve checked out a route online and it’s about a 4hr drive. To allow for a stop on the way and any delays, I think I’ll leave home at 6am next Saturday. That should give me plenty of time to explore the area once I’ve got my tent up, and then I can start my walks first thing on the Sunday morning.


I read a bit of the April edition of Country Walking magazine whilst I was having my lunch. It’s got a special feature on the national parks and yes, there was an article on Exmoor. So I’ve cut it out and will take it with me. I’ve already got the OS map which I bought a few weeks ago and lots of printed out walks from the internet.

Ballooning
I spoke to a friend at work during the week about ballooning. If I can get a good price she is willing to do it with me. So now I just have to wait for the special offer to come up again on Groupon. When it does I’ll buy a couple of vouchers and then we can sort out a day to do it.

Diving
The Groupon voucher that arrived today was for a PADI diving course. Although I have no time to do anything about this at the moment I had a quick look at what the requirements are for the course. I need to be able to swim 200m. I can swim 200m, but only with lots of breaks, and I somehow don’t think they’ll count this. At least I have an idea now of what I need to aim for when I start swimming again.

And another volcano erupts when I’m not there

I’m missing out on lava AGAIN!

Yes, another volcano in Iceland has erupted and yet again I miss out on seeing lava. I was close to this volcano when I was in Iceland a couple of summers ago. I skidooed over the glacier that covers it, though I was further south. I also came close when I did a trip into the interior of Iceland which is pretty much closed to everyone in the winter. Because of distances and difficulty of getting transport in this region this Grimsvotn volcano isn’t as easy to get to as Eyjafjallajökull would have been when that erupted. 

One of these days one will erupt when I’m either already nearby or when I’m in a position to get on a plane (assuming they’re still flying) and head straight over to see it. 

Car Valeting

Experiencing the joy that is a clean car

I did a first this afternoon and even though it’s not on my list of things to do before I’m 60, I’m still going to write about it.

I got my car valeted.

I always thought this was something people with too much money do. I love having a clean car but rarely have one. My car gets used to transport muddy boots, plants, leaky bags of grout, camping gear – I won’t go on – but rarely gets cleaned, a) because I don’t have time, and b) because it’s not very often I get the chance to park right outside my front door and when I do it’s usually raining so I don’t want to go outside with my vacuum cleaner. So my car gets dirtier and dirtier and well, with the cost of petrol these days, I really can’t afford the price of the extra fuel I’m having to buy to cart all that dirt around.

I decided a few weeks ago to go to the valeting place near my house and emptied my car out into my living room. I baulked when I found out that prices started from £50! But then a colleague told me about a place in East Didsbury that does an amazing while-you-wait job, inside and out, all for a tenner. As I was in Didsbury today anyway for college and I have to drive past the valeting place I stopped to get it done on the way home.

It’s truly amazing. They washed, sprayed, wiped, scrubbed, hoovered, and even put something on my tyres to make them really black. Then they gave me a nice smelly thing to hang over the mirror. Why have I never done this before???

Now I can get rid of all the car junk from my living room. Hopefully when I sort it out more of it will go in the bin than back in the car. Then I can get on with other jobs, feel organised, and free up time to work on my list. And I’ll have a nice clean, fresh smelling car to go to Exmoor with.

Exmoor

I’m planning a half-term trip to Exmoor and want to start walking the South West Coast Path from the beginning.

The weekend after next is the start of half term. I’m planning to drive down to Exmoor to spend the week walking. Usually when I go to the south west I feel as though I have to go as far as possible and always end up down near Land’s End. But this time I thought I’d stop and see some of the places I usually speed past.


I’ve found a cheap but nice sounding campsite near Porlock. So I’ll use that as a base and walk some of the South West Coast Path. I’ve walked some of the Cornish bits before, but this time I’ll start from the beginning and walk from Minehead. I’m hoping to spend about four days walking on the coastal path. As the walks are linear I’ll be partly reliant on public transport and this limits me quite a lot. I’d like to leave my car at the end of the walk and get the bus back to the beginning so I’m not clock watching towards the end of the day. But, because of bus times, this would mean that on some walks I’d only be able to start walking in the afternoon. So I think four days will be enough of juggling bus timetables and on the other days I’ll do circular walks on Exmoor itself. 


I’ll have to remember to write up my walks each night for my log, as this week will ensure I get one of my three areas of the country covered for my walking group leader’s qualification. It’ll also be a good test for my dodgy knees to see how they hold up to a week’s walking. I’d like to walk a long distance path in the summer so I need to know how physically possible that’s likely to be. 


I’ve researched and printed out my walks for the week, so all I need to do now is book the campsite and pack.  

NaNoWriMo

Thinking about NaNoWriMo

I’m not disciplined enough to write a book. But I would like to have a go. If I ever do write one I don’t think it will be fiction as I’m not imaginative enough. It’ll probably be more like a fictionalised account based on a true story. Because I think this will be very hard for me to achieve I’ve included ‘writing a book’ as a separate challenge to actually being a writer on my list. If I write a book but never write anything else, I’ll only tick off the book task. If I write and get published regularly, but don’t write a book, then I’ll only tick off the writer challenge.

I heard of NaNoWriMo recently on another blog. I had no idea what it was about but a bit of googling soon sorted that out. It stands for National Novel Writing Month and takes place each November. It started as an American thing, hence the ‘national’, but is now global.

Basically you register, and then spend November trying to write a 50,000 word novel. By the end of the month you have to upload your novel to their site and their special counting machines do a word count. If you’ve achieved the magical 50,000 you get to copy and paste an online certificate. So no big prizes, but then it is free. And it gets people writing. The best reward of course is that by the end of the month you have 50,000 more words than you had at the start and so have something to play around with and try to turn into an actual novel.

When I was a student and had to write essays I always struggled with the traditional ‘make a plan first’ approach. I agree, this is a very sensible and practical approach and I can’t fault it. But I couldn’t do it. I would write my plan and then stare at the page not knowing how to turn it into an essay. So I came up with my own technique. After doing some research around the subject area, so I at least had a bit of a clue about what I was doing, I would sit down and time myself for one hour. In that hour I had to write my essay. This killed two birds with one stone. It was great exam practice and it meant I had something on paper that I could then edit and turn into an acceptable essay. After reading it through I’d have a good idea of what I could actually do with the essay, what changes needed to be made, what needed to be added (or left out), and so on. Then I’d make my plan and write my essay in the conventional way.

With NaNoWriMo I’ll have to use this technique. There’ll be no time for edits, drafts, research, plans, or any of the other stuff that you’re supposed to do first. Sounds perfect for me!

So depending on my workload, and how my college courses are going, I’ll be giving this go. Hopefully this November, but if not, then the one after.