Coombe Martin is an interesting little town – apparently, it has the longest high street in Britain, extending two miles up the valley. Originally a Saxon port, the Norman church of St Peter ad Vincula has a tower ninety-nine feet high. Sadly, the public conveniences were equally mediaeval.
Just on the outskirts of the town was a waymarker showing the full coast path distance – they are not that common – 35 miles to go to Minehead, and 595 completed since Poole; (although I have walked considerably further, with all the detours and the frequency of getting lost – I know, how hard can it be to find my way with the sea on one side?)
It was a cracking day. Superb weather again – warm, and absolutely still, although more humid than is ideal. The morning began with a long steady pull up to little Hangman’s head, followed by an even longer, but steady, climb to Great Hangman’s head. Apparently, this is the highest point on the whole coast path, although I must say it did not seem as high as some of the Cornish cliffs, or even as Golden Crest on the Dorset coast. Still, I suppose the people who carefully (do I mean obsessively?) measure these things, must know.
The views were superb, the rocky cliffs behind and in front of us with Lundy falling behind, and the coast of South Wales looking clearer than yesterday. I guessed what we could see was the Gower Peninsula and the Mumbles. There was also a massive factory with a plume of steam emerging – presumably the steelworks at Porth Talbot.
The day was uneventful – perhaps one to be remembered as a typical day on the coast. Even the cows were on the other side of the fence – atlthough they could not resist coming over to stare at me.
We are now on the north edge of Exmoor – Lorna Doone country. I must re-read the book. The steepest drop of the day was down to the river Heddon, on a narrow track which winds through low woodland, and is invisible from the other side of the valley. Located on the riverbank is the only refreshment point on today’s route, but as it was a half-mile extra in each direction, we decided not to make the detour. Instead, we took off our boots and soothed our hot feet in the bone-achingly cold river.
There was then a long steady climb up the other side of the valley. The rest of the day, the path meandered on the tops of the cliffs, or along the sides, through a mixture of moorland, woodland and heath.
We passed Lee Abbey, then, not far from Lynmouth, walked through some strange formations called Castle Rock, which were rather atmospheric, surrounded by the cloud that rolled in during the late afternoon. We dropped down a steep wooded valley to Lynmouth, which seemed to take hours as it zig-zagged down the cliff. Handily, there was a waymarker showing the routes to America, New Zealand and Iceland.
We arrived at the bottom only to see a funicular arrive at the same time. Had we known, we would have given it a try. Distance of 14.2 miles.
We have just had a truly excellent meal in the Ancient Mariner Inn.