Rotary Coastal Quest 630 (Quest #9)
Run 630 miles (1014 kms) around the SW coast of England
March 4th to April 1st 2014, averaging a marathon a day.
Attemping to raise 100,000 pounds for Right To Play
Five days on the path and I'm taking a break. Rotarian Tim has very kindly let me stay at his hotel, The Falcon in Bude and I'm grateful for the hospitality because I'm totally bushed. So far I've covered 137 miles, spent 46 hours on the path and climbed 22,569 feet in elevation.
Rotary Coastal Quest 630 started in Minehead, Somerset on Tuesday March 4th and as the clock moved to 8.30am I did a count down from 10 and blew the whistle. My wife Sue, friends and Rotarians from various clubs cheered as I headed off along the coast. The route took me to Porlock Weir, 10 miles from the start. The heavy rains had soaked the marches and it was slow going. A little further on the sea had thrown boulders on to the path causing a diversion along the beach. The second half of the route was up and down the cliff mile after mile. A very enjoyable section was through the Culbone Wood. However I somehow ended up at the Foreland Point Lighthouse and had to ask the lighthouse man how to get back on the trail. I found the conditions very difficult and my pace dipped to 3 mile an hour. After 21 miles of mud and marches I arrived at Lynmouth, time for a pasty.
Next day I had 26 miles to run so I had decided to start at 7.30am instead of 8.30am because of the slow going. Ro and John, my Rotary hosts, took me to the Lynmouth and I was off. Another tough slog up the coast, the climbing was relentless. At Combe Martin I popped into a café and had a pasty. I was being fuelled with Pasty Power. The pastry is fat which is fuel, the meat is protein for muscle recovery, veggies are good for you and the gravy is turbo fuel.
From Combe Martin it was a 5 miles to Ilfracombe. More huge elevation gain and I finally arrived at Morte Point however no sign of my lift. I spotted the town of Mortehoe in the distance and plowed on. Finally I saw Phil up on the hill.
It was drizzling the next morning as I hit the road. Today was meant to be a fairly easy day. Long mileage but nothing like the elevation gain from the previous two days. The first section was along Woolacombe Sand. I spotted a number of surfers heading down to the beach. The wind had picked up and the waves were crashing into the shore. The route took me around Baggy Point and the path along the backside of the point clung precariously to the cliff. After that it was pretty flat all the way. I hooked up with the Tarka Trail and entered Barnstable. I met up with some runners from the Bideford Running Club and by 4.30pm we had arrived at Bideford Rail Bridge, the end of Section 3. In the evening I made a presentation to the Rotary Club of Bideford and Luke, another presenter, donated £30 to give one child a RTP program for one year.
On Friday morning I was joined by four runners. One of them was Eric. He's done 20 marathons and next up is the Dublin race. His average time is 5 hours and he hopes to maintain that for a few more years. Eric is 79. The route took me along the River Torridge, past Appledore and Westward Hoe. Initially the going was good over gentle hills by the beach. I must admit I ducked once when I heard a golf ball being hit on the 3rd tee next to the path. After 10 miles I said goodbye to the club runners and headed towards Clovelly. I had been there many years ago and it is one of the loveliest villages in England. The thick mud created traction problems as the path plunged down to the sea then back up to the cliff top. I finally arrived at the village ready for a pasty and spotting the New Inn was open I went in.
Two women at another table, Cathy and Anna, asked me what I was doing and I explained about Right To Play. I told them at the PLAY initiative with over 50 First Nation Communities and Anna explained how she had worked with the Dene and lived in Yellowknife in the Early 80's. I was there at the same time. Small world. As I was leaving Cathy gave me £5 for RTP. I soon left but progress was slow. Bernie and Sarah, my next hosts came looking for me and we finally made it to my destination, Hartland Point as the sun went down. Too close for comfort.
David Laud, Rotary Member of the Perranzabuloe Club is my logistics manager. He's been organizing all the accommodation with Rotarians along the route, making sure I get picked up at the right place at the end of each section. He also put together a technical manual for the entire South West Coast Path (www.righttoplay.com/rcq630 The Route) with a description of each day's section. Here is what he said about Hartland Point to Crackington Haven "Said to be the toughest part of the SWCP, this section can feel very remote and isolated. A day of hard ascents and descents, along with fantastic scenery, is one to look forward to."
With that in mind and learning from yesterday's late finish I started at 7.30am. Bernie and Sarah waved goodbye as I headed over the hill to Hartland Quay. My first target was Bude some 15 miles away. The wind had picked up overnight and I was battling it all the way. At one point I had taken off my jacket and hooked it on my hydration pack. The wind grabbed it and it went flying off. Luckily the arm caught on a barbed wire fence before it had a chance to head off back over the Atlantic.
I reached Bude at 2.30pm and was running way behind time. I phoned Rotarian Simon and let him know I wouldn't be arriving until 6.00pm to 6.30pm. Even that I wasn't sure of. It had been a beautiful day but the sun was setting fast. At 6.22pm I crested the last hill and as the sun set I dropped in Crackington Haven and was met by Rotarian Jay and his wife. Time for a rest.
Stunning views along the South West Coast Path