South West Coast Path, Part III

Active & Adventurous - The Aging Adventurer

The Aging Adventurer Reports on Her South West Coast Hike in England

Part III 

Hike_to_HartlandThe next day we hike nine miles and take the bus an additional five miles to Braunton.  The B &B is in a small family home in the center of town; they rent out two upstairs bedrooms. The proprietor only charges us 20 pounds as she has to crowd a cot into a single room to accommodate us. We have fun running errands  and exploring the town, and eat out at a famous fish and chips restaurant.  Here the SW Path joins a paved bike trail near a wide-mouthed  estuary. Tidal pools are interspersed with islands of sand.  We notice people digging clams and standing deep in the muck with high rubber boots––their  fishing rods braced on tripods. Istow, where we stop that night, is an endearing little village saddled up to the curve of the sea.  We stay in a B&B which is like a little house and has a microwave.  We have hiked 13 miles today mostly on a hard service bike trail. My feet ache; I fall into bed exhausted.  


Appledore_blue_doorOn our way to Westwood Ho we take a shortcut across a bridge to avoid  the hard-surfaced bike path. It places  us on the other side of the estuary heading toward  Appledore a small seaside village. The sun is shining brightly on this Sunday morning as we approach the quay at Appledore. It is the central gathering place for the townsfolk and is crowded––people on benches, children playing  games and riding bikes, and surfers getting ready to tackle the waves. The little town backs up behind the quay, and stores and restaurants are open for the Sunday crowds. We watch a surfer as he waxes his board, connects with a boat, and goes zooming off like a water skier.

The SW Coastal Path goes right through Old Appledore passing the homes of old sea captains.  My camera goes wild.  The houses are squat and small and sport decorations made of seashells––one a round wreath; another a heart; another with cockle shells around the door frame.  My favorite is a collage of rocks, shells, fish bones, beach glass and other finds from the sea, hanging on green plastic ropes.  The doors are painted bright blues, blacks,  reds and oranges, and have small windows with fancy lace curtains. It is hard to leave charming  Appledore. 

As we walk along the beach to the Westward Ho hostel, we first pass through a golf course with a sign that reads, "golf course and wildlife area, beware of the wildlife."   The beach is crowded with swimmers, surfers, rowers and sun bathers.  Leading up to the sand is a good 15 feet of medium sized rocks where people are propped up in lawn chairs sunning themselves; others are picnicking on the rocks.  At the hostel we make a stir fry with potatoes, peppers, carrots bought at the local grocery store. We are surprised that the hostel kitchen has no left-over oil or butter.  Searching the refrigerator I find some honey mustard cream salad dressing.  It made our stir fry quite tasty.

ClovellyOn route the next day we head for Clovelly. The hike is filled with many short, steep hills several of them with hugely high steps that can pull your knees out of joint.  We decide to shorten this 11-mile hike; it is the only day I am not enjoying myself.  I am in pain from all the ups and downs, and glad to stop.  We know where there is a pub, and figure we can sit, rest and have a beer, and then call a cab.  To our disappointment the  pub is closed, but the owner is there.  I go across the street and try to hitchhike–– not wanting the expense of a cab.  It is hard to hitch on the "wrong" side of the road.  I can't even figure the right way to place my thumb!  But it makes no difference, the cars race by without a glance.  (It isn't like in the United States where hikers in roads adjacent to the Appalachian Trail can easily thumb a ride to the nearest town.)  The pub owner calls a cab, and 10 pounds apiece later, we arrive at Clovelly.

It is a town built into a high cliff that had been around since the 1600's.  The guide book describes it as having cobblestone streets which "tumble down past white-washed cottages festooned with flowers to the tiny working port."  Cars are not allowed in Clovelly.  Instead sledges, sleds with wide wooden runners,  slide by us carrying supplies to homes and shops below.  Donkeys sometimes pull the sledges.  The town is privately owned by the same family since 1738 and they vow to keep it in the style of this period.  We check in to The New Inn right in the center of town, and keep our hiking boots on to explore the village on the bumpy cobble stone streets.

Emily_at_Hartland_QuayWe are especially excited about our hike to Hartland the next day, as we will meet up with my Internet friend, Marian Van Eyk McCain.  She has invited us to stay with her and husband (partner) Sky in their tiny cottage. I tell my hiking buddy  Barbara that I have no idea what Marian will be like in person.  We both publish newsletters on Creative Aging on the Internet, and have become acquainted in that way––often trading articles.  Author of six books on aging, simplicity, and spirituality she has been a stimulating  internet buddy.

Marian_and_SkyAs Barbara and I approach Hartland an older woman with long white hair pulled back in a pony tail is walking towards us.  I am sure it is Marian.  She greets us with hugs and exclamations.  We hike together two more miles to her home in Hartland chatting all the way.  She feeds us mouth-watering vegetarian meals mainly from her garden, and thrills us with stories of her adventurous life.  Marian has hiked quite a few miles of the SW Coastal Path, so we enjoy exchanging trail stories.  We squeeze into her upstairs guest room; me on the couch, Barbara on a blow- up mattress.  The next day we hike with Marian to Hartland Quay to view the amazing geological formations where earth plates have crashed against one another making swells and curves in all directions. Our visit with Marian and Sky is one of the highlights of our SW hike.

Our final day of hiking is out of Bude where we stay at a very nice Hostel/Hotel. From there we head for Gillingham  to visit my relatives.  As the bus carries us away from the SW Coastal Path, I realize that this trip, so wildly anticipated and dreamed about, has been everything I hoped for.



EmilyMtKatadhinEmily Kimball makes her dreams happen. After retiring from a career in Parks and Recreation she rode her loaded touring bike 4,700 miles across America, and hiked the entire Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine.  Now approaching 80, she continues an active life of biking, hiking, backpacking, tennis and water sports––though at a slower pace.

Emily is also a writer and speaker. Her recent book, Appalachian Trail Stories and Other Adventures: Living Your Dreams at 60 and Beyond, describes many of her exploits. It can be ordered from her web site In her professional speaking business, Make It Happen! Emily relates life lessons learned from her adventures in powerful presentations on Risk Taking, Creative Aging and Making Dreams Happen. She can be reached at or 804-358-4959.



Photos by Emily Kimball:

Hike to Hartland to meet Marion

Appledore blue door with seashell heart


Emily at Hartland Quay 

Marian and Sky. They were such a delightful older couple!

Bio picture: Emily at Mt. Katadhin





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