261. Altandhu to Ullapool

I decided it was time to press on with my walk up the NW coast of Scotland. I could see at least three reasonable days, weatherwise, for the Ullapool area, so off I went.

For accommodation I managed to get 2 nights at the Caledonian hotel in Ullapool. Not one of the best hotels, but I got it cheap! The two times I had previously stayed at the hotel were not that pleasant, as the accommodation wing was ‘jerry-built’ with loud and persistent floor-board squeak from both adjacent rooms and above me; so much so that I could see my overhead light fitting shaking as the guest above me moved about!!

My first night was spent in the back of the car after my long drive up from Shropshire. I parked near Braemore Junction and had the large viewpoint car park to myself. The following morning I drove slowly into Ullapool and parked up. My bus was not until 10:00, so I had a few hors to kill. I had opted to take the bus to my starting point to avoid having to drive there and back to Ullapool.

I caught the 10:00 #811 bus run by KSM motors. The service destination is Achilitibuie, but the bus will divert to Rieff and Altandhu on request. I got chatting to the bus driver and I found out that he had been extra on a recent film called Edie, starring Sheila Hancock, on her quest to climb Suilven. Kenny, the bus driver, was featured as the accordion player in the film.

I got off the bus in Altandhu and started walking southwards along the narrow road. Most of the mornings walk would be on this road as it passed through the strung out settlements of Polbain, Achiltibuie, Polglass, Badenscralle, Achvraie and Achduart. Not much to say about the road walk other than it was into a strong and bitterly cold headwind, with hazy views out towards The Summer Isles.

Looking over The Summer Isles from near Altandhu
Old buoys on the beach at Achiltibuie
The old Piping College at Achiltibuie, now a popular cafe

At Achduart I transferred onto a path which would take me all the way to Strathcanaird, along one of the so-called “Posties Paths”, which skirted the western flank of the impressive Beinn Mhor Coigach. The footpath started very well with a heavy footfall and good signage both with stone and wooden posts. This meant the path would be easy to follow even when the bracken was quite high. I passed over the large boulder slopes of Garbh Choireachan, which would have been difficult in some places if not for the signs. However, after passing around the impressively large and deep ravine at Geodha Mor, the wooden signs disappeared. Fortunately, It was not that difficult to pick out a reasonable route. The stone signs did remain, but their infrequent placing meant they were on of little use.

Inevitably, around Creag Dearg I lost the path for good and so continued on my own route. With the mist and rain coming down I began to lose height and drop down to Strathcanaird. I could make out in the distance the bridge over the River Canaird that I needed to aim for – or so I thought. I checked my map a couple of times, as the tracks to and from the bridge looked a bit odd. Unfortunately, this bridge was ” a bridge too far!” as it was the wrong bridge! I had passed the closer bridge (which was out of sight) and this meant scaling a deer fence and walking an extra mile. My legs and feet were quite sore by now and the “Posties Path” had sapped a good deal of energy from me. However, the path was quite enjoyable and  I suppose it depends really on how many miles you walk before and after the path.

Looking back towards Achduart
Crossing a burn near Culnacraig
Looking back on the Posties Path
Looking back at the steep boulder field below Garbh Choireachan
Passing Geodha Mor on The Posties Path
Looking back
Heading east near Geodha Ruadh
Crossing over The River Canaird on the ‘wrong’ bridge

I crossed over the River Canaird and continued along an estate track which continued past Keanchulish House and then onto the A835. The road was quite busy, even at 18:30, but the light rain which had started over a few hours earlier continued to fall as I trudged along the road through Ardmair. I knew I had a few more up and downs along the A835 before the final drop down into Ullapool, so I got my head down and got on with it.

Not a bad walk, particularly along The Posties Path, but the murky conditions and cold fierce headwind did not help.

Looking back to Beinn Mhor Coigach at Ardmair
Crossing The River Ullapool at Ullapool

NB: I also publish all my Scottish Blog entries on the excellent Scottish Hills website, I use the same narrative, but larger photos and a few extra ones. They can be found here:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=24509

Distance today =  23 miles
Total distance = 4,735 miles

 

 

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16a. Poole – Sandbanks to South Haven Point

This was another walk around  an estuary undertaken because of my “Use of Ferries” undertaking. The difference with this walk was that Poole is my start and end point in walking around the coastline of Great Britain. I must admit completing my challenge by walking around Poole Harbour would not be as appealing as finishing on the actual coastline.

I opted to do this walk in a single day and while planning the route I could see that it would be a long walk but with little in the way of ascent/descent. I would be following the Poole Harbour Trail for some of the way, but there would be a considerable amount of urban walking through the Poole suburbs and along a busy main roads.

When I walk around estuaries I always try to park at the half-way point or near to the bridging point. I found a free car park at Sunnyside Farm used for the visitors to the Nature Reserve at Stoborough Heath. Unfortunately my early arrival at 6:15 in the morning was too early and the gates were locked. Not too bothered, I drove a bit further down the road and managed to find a spot on the side of the road. By 6:30 I was away, although it was still very cold. Most of this area of the Isle of Purbeck is heathland, with sandy soils, heather, small lagoons, bog and isolated Old Scots Pines coppices. I set off on a dirt track on a very grey, overcast and misty morning. I soon came to a field with a small herd of White Park cattle – a rare and ancient breed of cattle found predominantly in the UK.

After passing along footpaths, lanes and farm tracks I neared a large conifer forest that obscured the presence of the largest onshore Oil and Gas Field in Western Europe – Wytch Farm. Oil was discovered in commercial quantities back in 1973. With the clever use of directional drilling the range of the oil field is very extensive. Production peaked back in 1997 and has slowly dropped off with forecasts of only a few more years of Oil production and slightly more for gas. I managed to get a sight of the facility through the high security fencing. A little further on from the main site I was able to see a couple of “Nodding Donkeys” at a smaller location busily pumping oil to the surface.

Early morning on a misty Stoborough Heath
White Park cattle – a rare and ancient breed
Well camouflaged Sika deer

I picked up the Poole harbour Trail again; on Rempstone Heath I came across a small group of Sika Deer which watched me from a short distance away and did not bolt as most other deer do. The Trail twisted and turned and I soon heard the noise of traffic on the Ferry Road. The Trail path ran alongside the road across Studland to South Haven Point, where a ferry was just returning from Sandbanks. As a passenger you don’t have to pay the £1 fare when travelling to Sandbanks, but do have to pay if travelling in the opposite direction. The chain ferry was very busy with its load of cars and took just 4 minutes to cross the harbour mouth.

I set off along the pavement walking through Sandbanks, marvelling at the fact that Sandbanks has the fourth highest land value in the World! The sun, until now, had been hidden by an overcast sky, but was now beginning to emerge and it was getting much warmer. I followed the main road  around the coast into Poole itself. Even though it was Sunday morning there was a fair number of people out jogging and walking the dog. By the time I got to Quay at Poole Old Town I decided I needed a break. The opportunity of ‘bagging’ another Wetherspoons was offered with The Quay where I opted for a Veggie breakfast.

Looking down Studland Beach and the start of the South West Coast Path
The ferry arriving from Sandbanks
Heading for Sandbanks
The Quay at Poole Old Town

Rested and fed I set off along the Quay at Poole admiring the multi-million pound luxury motor Yachts berthed nearby. I crossed a swing bridge over the Back Water Channel and on along the main road through Hamworthy and Upton. I crossed over the busy dual carriageway of the A35 and continued and through the quiet village of Lychett Minster. After walking around the busy roundabout with the A35 I joined the dead straight road of the A351 for the next three miles. I was intrigued to out what was housed on my left behind high security fencing and obviously of some bygone era. I found out later it was in fact the old Royal Navy Cordite factory at Holton Heath, established  in 1914. After the Second World War, its role gradually diminished and by 1981 most the site was turned over to a Nature Reserve, housing and industrial units.

Luxury Motor Yachts
Crossing over the Back Channel swing bridge

I finally arrived at the picturesque market town of Wareham, having crossed over the train tracks close to the Station by means of a permitted crossing. I walked down the High Street, which was busy with a number of tourists and made my way to the South Bridge which straddled the River Frome. I immediately turned left after the bridge and followed the river for a short way on what was now the Purbeck/Hardy Way. Ay Redcliffe I headed away from the river along quiet lanes and through the village of Ridge. I continued onto towards Stoborough Heath where my car was parked. I must admit that after 26 miles I still felt ok, which was probably due to the low terrain and the sun remaining hidden for most of the walk.

Wareham High Street
Crossing the River Frome at South Bridge

Distance today =  26 miles
Total distance = 4,712 miles

 

 

Use of Ferries – Update

I have had a serious re-think of my use of ferries to cross rivers and estauries on my walking route around the coast of Great Britain. When I was walking the South West Coast Path, the official path route advised on the use of ferries to cross over rivers and estauries. At the time I had no intention to walk around the whole of the coastline of Great Britain and thus made use of these ferries. Now that I have set myself the challenge of walking the entire coastline, I have had serious concerns about the ethos of using these ferries in my challenge. To this end I have decided that the sections of coastline in Dorset, Devon, Cornwall, Merseyside and Lancashire where I have taken ferries will become VOID. I will therefore walk around all rivers and estauries to their nearest bridging point to ensure I have walked a complete and full section of my walking record.

This will involve some additional 300+ additional miles which I will do as one-day walks over the next 12 month period.

The Ferries in question relate to :

Dorset: Sandbanks (Poole) to South Haven Point (26 miles COMPLETED)

Devon: Starcross – Exmouth (15 miles COMPLETED)

Devon: Teignmouth – Shaldon Beach (2 miles COMPLETED)

Devon: Kingswear to Dartmouth (24 miles COMPLETED)

Devon: East Portlemouth – Salcombe (13 miles COMPLETED)

Devon: Bantham – Bigbury-on-Sea (9 miles COMPLETED)

Devon: Wembury to Noss Mayo (11 miles COMPLETED)

Cornwall: Plymouth  – Cremyll (24 miles COMPLETED)

Cornwall: Fowey – Polruan (16 miles COMPLETED)

Cornwall: St. Anthony – St. Mawrs – Falmouth (55 miles approx)

Cornwall: Helford Passage – Helford Village (8 miles approx)

Cornwall: Padstow – Rock (16 miles approx)

Merseyside: Birkenhead – Liverpool (48 miles COMPLETED)

Lancashire: Fleetwood to Knott End (15 miles COMPLETED)

24b. Teignmouth to Shaldon

After completing the Salcombe to East Portlemouth walk earlier in the day I decided I would complete the last of my Devon “Use of Ferries” walks and certainly my shortest!

From Kingsbridge I drove around to Teignmouth and parked close to the beach. I remember when I  first walked through here before and just jumped onto an available ferry for the very short distance across the mouth of the River Teign, today I did the same. I spoke to the ferry man and recognised him from 5 years ago. The return walk from Shaldon back to Teignmouth was simply to follow the road a short distance to the bridge over the River Teign and follow a footpath that kept close to the river and through the streets of Teignmouth back to the car. After only 30 minutes of walking the walk was complete.

Looking across to Shaldon Beach
The bridge over The River Teign
Looking towards Teignmouth and Shaldon
Looking towards Teignmouth and Shaldon

Distance today =  2 miles
Total distance = 4,686 miles

 

27a. East Portlemouth to Salcombe

After a comfortable night in my AirBnB I decided to make an early start. Fortunately, todays walk was not going to be as tough as yesterday’s was, both in distance and amount of ascent. After clearing the overnight frost off my car I set out on the 12 miles to Kingsbridge, at the end of the Kingsbridge Estuary. I parked in the long stay car park, which only cost £2 for the whole day.

The first three miles were along quiet lanes and I did not meet a single car on my walk into Salcombe. It was very cold though and it took some time for me to warm up. An immediate descent and ascent from the car park, reminded of yesterdays walk. I was aiming for the first ferry of the day, which was at 08:00; unfortunately I arrived at the ferry quay at 08:05. However, I could see that there had been no 08:00 ferry with the boat tied up and covered in condensation and thin ice. The official time for the next boat was 08:30. The sun was now burning off some of the freezing fog. A fellow passenger appeared at the jetty and shortly afterwards the ferryman. With two people on board we set off across the Estuary for the short journey to East Portlemouth.

I set off along the small lane running alongside the estuary and heading for the hamlet of Goodshelter. Here I used stepping-stones to cross over Waterhead Creek and then begin the long steep climb up a unmetalled road over an 84m unnamed hill towards South Pool . The small village of South Pool boasted a number of signs indicating when and how many times it had been awarded Best Kept Village in the district. It was certainly very well-kept. I stayed on the road for a few more miles and had to deal with the occasional traffic on the really tight width lanes. I reached Frogmore and the A379, here I had a decision to make. I could stay on the main road for the remaining 3 miles into Kingsbridge or I could follow a unmetalled road also into Kingsbridge taking a slightly longer, but quieter route. The decision really was made for me, as there were no pavements even in the village and the road was quite busy. I opted for the higher and slightly longer route. The unmetalled road rose to a height of 104m and provided an excellent viewpoint south to Salcombe and the early morning walk. In no time I was descending to a small river flowing into the estaury, however, it also meant a very steep climb back up to 70m and a final descent down into Kingsbridge.

Quit an enjoyable walk particularly the latter stages and even though there was over 900m of ascent I was still pretty fresh when I had finished.

Misty morning lanes heading towards Salcombe
Looking across to East Portlemouth from the ferry jetty in Salcombe
The ferry returning to Salcombe
Stepping stones across Waterhead Creek
Excellent use of a K6
At Frogmore Creek
Looking south towards Salcombe
Arriving at Kingsbridge

Distance today =  13 miles
Total distance = 4,684 miles

25a. Kingswear to Dartmouth

It had been a while since I had completed one of my “Use of Ferries” walks. Just as a reminder, these are walks to fill in the gaps created where I had previously used ferries on my coastal walk. So in order to do a complete walk around the  coast of Great Britain I needed to walk around the estuaries (to the first bridging point) where I had taken the ferry.

I decided on an overnight stay in Totnes in order to get two full walking days in. A very early start from Shropshire saw me arriving in Dartmouth at 6:30 in the morning. As this was still the “Low Season” I was able to park for free on the North Embankment of the River Dart.

I walked along the quay towards the Lower Ferry. Dartmouth was very quiet at this time of the morning as I headed for the first ferry of the day. The ferry had an unusual arrangement, it consisted of a large pontoon with a deck for passengers and cars also an engine within the pontoon. A small tug was attached to the pontoon which guided/steered the pontoon.

I set off on a footpath sandwiched between the River Dart and the railway track, this was the Dart Trail which I would be on and off for most of the day around to Totnes and  back to Dartmouth. I soon arrived at the Higher Ferry which had a much bigger vessel operating and was much busier. I transferred onto the road and had to negotiate some disembarking early morning ferry traffic, before climbing very steeply up Hoodown Hill. The Trail crossed over the ferry road and dropped down to a rough pathway around the contours of Oakhem Hill. At this point I left the Dart Trail and cut across country to the boatyard quay near Galmpton.

After taking a footpath which climbed up through a grassy field, I joined a road, which had occasional traffic. I passed through the small hamlet of Waddeton, which had some lovely examples of thatched Devon cottages painted in the popular light pink shade. I continued onto the small village of Stoke Gabriel, where I could see a lot of new building work going on. I headed out of the village making for the small settlement of Aish, along what are termed “Unmetalled Roads”, basically just farm tracks. I would be using a number of these tracks over the rest of the day and which have the added benefit of having no traffic on them – although two off-road motor bikes did pass me on one section. Soon after leaving Aish I continued down another Unmetalled road which would take me all the way to Totnes, the first bridging point over the River Dart.

Early morning in Dartmouth looking across to Kingswear
Ferry arriving at Dartmouth
On the ferry looking back at Dartmouth
Health and Safety gone mad
Looking across The Dart to Dittisham
Typical Devon thatched cottage at Waddeton
Looking down on Totnes
Crossing The Dart at Totnes

After popping into a local Spar shop for some food and drink I crossed over the bridge over The Dart and continued along the Dart Trail. At various points the Trail path made descents down towards the river before re-joining the cycleway. Although only about 200m away, I decided to stay on the cycle path as it maintained a level height and offered more expansive views down the Dart Estuary. It had become increasingly hot with the midday sun, which was quite amazing for late March. The cycle path passed onto the Sharpham Estate and descended into the charming village of Ashprington, with its striking church and quaint village pub.

The road out of Ashprington dropped down to Perchwood Creek, one of the arms of the Dart Estuary. I was able to take a short-cut across the Harborne River by means of stepping-stones that still had their tops above the water level. I passed through the village of Tuckenhay and decided to divert, again, away from the Dart Trail and take a very steep unmetalled road  on a direct route to the village of Cornworthy.

After leaving Cornworthy, the drive, the heat, the distance and the amount of ascent and descent were beginning to take their toll. I now decided to look for a much more direct way back to Dartmouth, which was easier said than done! I continued on through typical Devon lanes which had vertical embankments and no verges, so nowhere to go should you meet a car other than to lean back into the bank! Which I had to do on a few occasions!

I decided to give the village of Dittisham a miss and took a slightly different route, opting to go through the hamlets of Kingston, Downton and Old Creek before joining up with the Dart Trail again and climbing up yet another steep road into Townstal on the outskirts of Dartmouth. I was relieved to join the main road down into Dartmouth and my car. I had seriously under-estimated the amount of ascent/descent the walk would involve. [On my return home I plotted my route out and was amazed to find that the total ascent of the route was 6110 feet (1905m)!! Thats two good-sized Munro’s!]

I headed back into Totnes, where my AirBnB was located.

Looking down the Dart Estuary near Sharpham
Stepping stones over the River Harborne at Perchwood Creek
The steep climb out of Tuckenhay
Looking back over the Devon countryside , in the distance Totnes is left and Paignton/Torquay right

Distance today =  24 miles
Total distance = 4,671 miles

 

260. Lowestoft to Great Yarmouth

One of the things I have learned in walking the coast, is to not be governed by doing the maximum walking distance in a single day. Sometimes it is sensible to walk between sections that have reasonable transport links,even if that means walking a much shorter distance; and so this was to be such a day. Of course the opposite can also be required, that is, walking a much longer section to bridge any public transport gaps.

Leaving my hotel at 5:15 in the morning I dumped my bags in the car, which I would leave in Great Yarmouth, and head for the bus station to catch the 06:02 #1 bus to Lowestoft. Surprisingly, the bus was quite busy, with most people off to work in Lowestoft. I left the bus station in Lowestoft and headed down the High Street towards the bridge over the Inner Harbour. Here I turned left and headed alongside the Waveney Dock, the Hamilton Dock and on through a run down industrial area. I emerged near a single wind turbine at Ness Point, the most easterly point of the UK.

I carried on along a sea wall until Gunton Downs where the sea wall stopped and I continued over short grassy dunes towards another sea wall. With the tide in I could see there may be issues with continuing along the beach. I spoke to a local who said I could get around the headland that I was approaching, but further along the coast I would need to climb up the cliff face by means of a set of steep metal steps into Corton. This I did and emerged on a road running through the village. As I left the village I attempted to get back to the cliff top footpath, however, a warning sign, advised that the footpath had no through route because of cliff falls. I continued along the road and took another footpath heading towards Corton Cliffs. Again I met warning signs of no through route, but chose to ignore them, following a well trodden path on the fringe of a holiday camp. I could see recent cliff falls and the erection of new fencing. It seems that many others were still using the cliff-top path. When I came to an old firing range I thought I would struggle to find a way through, but I could see that other walkers I had simply walked around the perimeter. Indeed I soon meet a dog walker who said I would have no problem getting onto Hopton, my next destination.

Lowestoft railway station
At The Ness – most easterly point in UK
Heading across Gunton Dunes
Climbing metal steps up to Corton village
Foiled!
Recent cliff falls near Hopton-on-Sea

I was soon descending into Hopton-On-Sea with Great Yarmouth visible in the distance. With the tide still in I opted to walk along the cliff-top, but soon had a choice to make; continue along a narrow strip of sand that was very soft or follow an alternative footpath alongside the adjacent golf course. I chose the landward footpath, which emerged at the south end of Gorleston-on-Sea. Here I transferred back to the sea wall, which continued onto the mouth of the River Yare. Stopping only for cup of coffee on the sea wall I was soon walking the quays of the River Yare on the opposite side to Great Yarmouth. The remainder of the walk was along busy roads heading towards the Haven Bridge and the end of the walk.

Gorleston Beach
Gorleston Rear Range lighthouse
On The Haven Bridge looking down the River Yare

Distance today =  12 miles
Total distance = 4,647 miles