Monday, 28 April 2014


After yesterday's ordeal I was less eager to take risks.  I became a very dull travel companion, constantly in fear of the coastal path.  Were we heading too close to the coast?  Maybe we should take a different route…one that we could be sure wouldn't lead us to the edge of the cliff as torrential rain and gusts spiralled towards us.

I was looking around constantly for signs of inclement weather.  High up on the cliff I could see many.

The morning lead us through the village of Branscombe, where we had spent the night.  A very pretty village - we saw a flock of doves.  Along the road the banks were piled up high against us, so we couldn't see much of the farmland that we were passing through.  Occasionally we were treated to a glimpse of fields of young shoots, emerging from the soil.  Other times, we could see above the bank dozens upon dozens of small huts for the shelter of pigs.  Masses of giant pigs.  We saw this a few times throughout the day, it was horrid.  It was like a caricature of how you imagine pigs would live - in small, messy huts surrounded by miles of filth.  The earth all round them was churned to rancid mud and slurry (in their defence, the UK had just experienced the wettest winter since 1766.  Mud is to be expected)

We also walked past a donkey sanctuary.  This was particularly problematic for me, in light of a particular childhood memory of my Gran going to visit said donkey sanctuary.  I remember being completely scandalised as an 8 year old when my Grandpa suggested that my Gran was only going to the donkey sanctuary to "look at donkey dicks".  Confused and horrified, it has always left me seeing the sanctuary in a grim, unsavoury light.  It was embarrassing to be in such close proximity to it.

Whilst approaching the donkey sanctuary we saw two rather severe hikers who had sat near us at breakfast in the Masons Arms.  They were frightening and agile with their walking sticks and exposed thighs.  It's March, for fuck's sake.  Wear some trousers.  I plodded on, jealous of their superior circulatory systems and tanned muscular legs.  Real hiking seemed very far from my grasp.  Will I always seek an evening's shelter in a B&B, spending cold rainy days just yearning for the hot shower and pint of stout at the end?  Does that make me morally (as well as physically) weak and inferior?  Why were we doing this?  As I pondered on these questions, I realised that we weren't straying from our intentions at all - we were walking exactly in the manner we had intended.  This wasn't envisaged as a challenge, or any kind of physical endurance - it was time that we would spend together, time spent outside.  It was far from invaluable.

After many a steady incline for the last two days, we reached a descent - the entirety of the upward distance we had gained plummeting all at once into Sidmouth.  Oh yeah, we would have to reach sea level.  Of course we would.  It's a seaside town.  A rather painful and hairy descent ensued, leaving me shaky and grateful to be at the bottom of the cliff.  We could climb back up again after lunch.

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