Monday 25 August 2014

Into Devon and the Curious Case of "Robert Segal"

An uneventful train journey down to Plymouth, then on the ferry over to Mountbatten Point and I was heading east towards Wembury.
 Tent pitched and down the local not-very-good pub for refreshment.Next morning I started early and bumped in to a bearded, smelly backpacker who ignored my "Good Morning" and silently glared at me. Ignorant turd.
 A few miles later and I was waiting for the ferry across the Yealm and there he is again, the smelly, silent backpacker. He grunted a few words in a Russian ish accent, until an American walker passed by. American bloke says "Where are you from ?" and for reasons that will soon become apparent, he quickly came to regret asking that seemingly straightforward question.
Smelly Russian's answer was as follows ( none of this has been exaggerated for comedy effect )..... His mother was born in Slovakia, but moved to Germany. He lived in Las Vegas. He didn't know his father, although he'd narrowed it down to two people. So far, believable.
His name was Robert Segal, he said his Dad was possibly the actor Steven Segal and one of the said actors films was based on him. Lunatic alert ! Lunatic alert !
He said other person who was possibly his father was Putin. Yes, that Putin. Putin apparently had the KGB spying on him since he was four years old. Everything was going to be sorted though, as Robert was meeting George W Bush in Romania to ask him for assistance.....oh dear, we seem to have an utter fruitcake in our ranks.
And on and on he went, until the American got worried and walked off, pushing past Mr Segal, with a look of terror on his face. Unfortunately, the bullshitting Segal was walking in the same direction as me and I had the misfortune to bump into him on several other occasions, although thankfully he didn't share any more of his made up life story with me, as I had very obviously made it clear he was boring the shite out of me.
Anyway, I continued walking from the Yealm towards Stoke Point, where I met the Capel Midgit (Goozgog) and his family for a bit of mackeral fishing from the rocks.
We were lucky, as huge shoals of mackeral were harrying fry into gullies and bays, hard against the shoreline. It was an incredible sight and we soon had enough for an evening barby. Or rather the Goozgog family had, as I had to crack on, to reach the estuary at Mothercombe at low tide, as this was the only time you can wade across, there being no ferry.
Saw this ugly bugger perched on a gate, looks like a locust. Bloody massive, it must have been four inches long !

The last few miles leading up to Bigbury were without doubt the hardest of the day, but when I stopped off for fish,chips and mushy peas this was soon forgotten.
The tent was soon pitched at Mount Folly Farm, with great views over to the beach at Bantham, all for a fiver. Unfortunately, when I walked across to Burgh Island to The Pilchard Inn I found it closed at 7.30 pm. In August !?! What ?

Next morning dawned fine and I was back down to the beach at Bigbury in the Venus Beach Cafe, tucking into a full English, reading the paper with the sun on my back. It doesn't get much better than that. Simple pleasures.
Yet another ferry trip, this time across the Avon into Bantham and in no time I'm walking between Bolt Tail and Bolt Head, another absolutely fantastic walk. As I rounded Bolt Head, I looked up the estuary to Salcombe, a great sight. 
Salcombe itself was full of posh Yachties, BMWs and Mercs, but a great place nonetheless. I stopped off at The Salcombe Coffee Company and pigged out again, this time're not interested are you ?

On the ferry to East Portlemouth and another beautiful walk to East Prawle, just about my favourite place anywhere. I pitched the tent in a field a few minutes from the rocks and spent the night in The Pig's Nose, as you should if you ever visit. How to describe the Pig's Nose ? Old world, quirky, I don't know, have a look yourself. You'll like it, unless you're a tosspot.
Anyway, I had a few pints of local cider and one or two pints of local bitter (and a curry) and staggered off to the tent. I was up early the next day for a few hours fishing on the rocks and had a great time in the sun (again).

 Before I started the day's walk I had brekkie in the Piglet Cafe and damn fine it was too.
Yet another fantastic walk along Lannacombe Bay to Start Point, where I stopped to admire the view and have a break.
A few more miles and I was reached Torcross, where I stopped at the Start Bay Inn for (you've guessed it) fish and chips. This time whole plaice since you ask. Another few miles, with Slapton Ley on one side of me and Slapton Sands on the other and I reach Strete where I pitched up at Manor Farm Campsite, where I froze my nuts off despite being fully clothed and curling up into a ball underneath the sleeping bag. It may have been August, but it was bloody cold.

I got up early, packed everything away and after an hour walk decided to treat myself at the beach side cafe at Blackpool Sands. Excellent breakfast and even better view. Bloomin' lovely.
Great walk into Dartmouth, a visit to "Officially The Best Pasty Shop in the UK" (the second I'd been in with the same claim !) for an extra large traditional....and yes, it was very tasty and then yet another ferry over to Kingsweir, for the final stage to Brixham.
The Kingsweir to Brixham section was another very tough section and by the time I got to the outskirts of Brixham I was knackered and not looking forward to another night of being cold in the tent. I reached my intended campsite, it looked horrible, cramped and crowded, so I decided to walk on towards Paignton and hopefully find a B and B with a vacancy.
I got lucky. Very lucky. I was walking along a small lane and came across Elberry Farm, knocked on the door and asked if they'd got a room. Yes, they had and what a great place it was. Squires fish and chip shop at the top of the road was just about the best I've had in the past few weeks and that's saying something, as I've practically lived off fish and chips.
Got the train from Paignton and had the misfortune to have a seat in amongst half a dozen of the roughest women I've ever encountered. Burping, drinking, swearing like troopers and taking the piss out of any poor bastard near them. Including me ! After a while I had to take extreme measures and launched my own barrage of piss taking at the loudest member of the group. This had the desired effect and they then picked on some other poor bugger ! You're on your own son.....

Sunday 10 August 2014

Plymouth To Falmouth - Buskers, Morris Dancing and Cider

After a week at home, I got the train down to Plymouth and made my way to the Cremyll ferry. I have to say I thought that area of Plymouth was less than impressive and I was glad to get to the Cornish side of the Tamar estuary and start my shortish walk, through Edgcumbe park towards Cawsand. I came to a fork in the path and decided to take what looked like a short cut to the campsite. It was a short cut, but was up a ridiculously steep path which had me sweating and swearing in equal measure.

Maker Campsite was an interesting, quirky site, run in a very laid back way by a very nice couple. "Pitches ? Just go where you want" said the man, so I did and what a great view over Plymouth Sound I had, all for 6 quid.

The showers and toilets were a bit unusual, but plenty good enough and they had what was refereed to as "The Random Bar" which was set up in a disused farm yard, selling two draught beers, one of which was Rattler cider.

The bar was closed when I visited, so I went for a quick one at the Devonport Inn, where a middle aged, two piece band were ripping into rock and roll classics with surprising venom, watched by holiday makers with a combination of pleasure and terror.

I waited for the on site cafe to open the next morning, as a woman had recommended it as a place a great breakfast. I have to say the brekkie was as good as anything I've ever had. A highly recommended site, as long as you're not expecting five star facilities.

I set off towards the ruined chapel at Rame Head and what fantastic views and a great place for a stop. From there it was along Whitsand Bay, a great beach with cliff top chalets. Next stop was Portwrinkle, where I met a bloke who was doing the whole trek in one hit. He was on his 25 th day and said it had got easier as his fitness had increased. Hmmmm.

A quick pasty and ice cream stop in Seaton and I was on my way to Looe, which I reached at about six in the evening. I did my usual thing, which is to carry on walking when I should have stopped, as I'd already done about eighteen miles. Polperro is only another seven miles I thought. Yes, it was, but over some very, very steep hills which got worse as I approached the town.

I was absolutely knackered when I reached Polperro, so stopped for a quick pint, before making my way up the final killer hill to the campsite. I dined on the finest Waitrose Essential noodles and pasta sauce cooked on the stove that evening, as I couldn't be arsed to walk back down into the town.

Up the next morning in bright sunshine AGAIN and down to find a cafe for breakfast. I spoke to a young bloke who was also backpacking the coastal path. We started the walk towards Fowey chatting  and what an interesting fellow Morgan was. Twenty years old, carrying his guitar and harmonica along the cliff tops along with his backpack, stopping and busking when funds get low.

The walk from Polperro to Fowey was (I'm sorry if I keep going on about this) unbelievably tough and hilly and when we reached Fowey we stopped for a welcome break. Crab sandwiches, coffee and walnut cake and several ice creams later and I felt a bit better.

Morgan started busking and after a slow start made enough money for a couple of days, got the offer of performing at a wedding and ended up on a yacht in Fowey harbour getting food, drink and a bed for the night. Not bad for a couple of hours.

I left him to it and continued on to the campsite at Polkerris.

Next morning and I started near Par, a horrible section of the trail with old factories and not very nice beaches, until I reached Charlestown, where I made a pig of myself in Charlie's Coffee Shop. A long afternoon  walk to Mevagissey, where I again partook in eating pasties and scones and on to a very quiet campsite up the road from Goran Haven. Had a great meal in the pub up the road and a few pints of Doom Bar.

Got talking to some German people when a load of Morris Dancers came in jangling and doing their spazzy gay dance. I tried to explain that although sometimes passed off a English culture (which I suppose it is), it was very much a fringe activity carried out by people who would otherwise spend their weekends reenacting the English Civil War in full regalia. Not sure they were convinced though.

Next morning and it's a lovely walk towards Dodman Point and a stop at Portloe for lunch. I reached Portscatho about six and eventully found the campsite which is apparantly recommended in the "Cool Camping" guide. I didn't like it. Loads of posh people with the massive tents, 4x4s and kids called Milo and Jasper. Very crowded. It was the only one in town, so I pitched up and went down the pub,

Away early next morning on the short six mile stretch to get the ferry to Falmouth. Half way across the estuary the first rain of the week started to fall. I've had great luck with the weather. Nice brekkie in the Cinnaman Cafe in Falmouth and it's on the train home with another eighty miles in the bag.

Saturday 9 August 2014

To Live The Free Life of a Rover.....

To paraphrase a Pogues song. As part of my hair brained plan to take the summer and autumn off from any kind of significant work, I've started to try and walk the South West Coastal Path, a 630 mile trek from Minehead in Somerset to Poole in Dorset.

At the very beginning of July I took the train down to Falmouth, stopped off at Rick Stein's hideously expensive (but bloody lovely) fish and chip shop and started the 70 odd mile walk to Penzance.

First night I stayed at a nice quiet campsite three miles west of Falmouth and was up early and away by 7 in the morning, in bright sunshine.I stopped off at Rosemullion Head for a spot of fishing and managed a single wrasse and dozens of missed bites. A phone call from Mr Poodle Riley, as I approached the Helford river raised my already high spirits, as I sent him a picture of the stunning scenery on the phone, as he was slaving away working for Alan Williams. Actually, that's not true, as Poodle hasn't really worked properly since his (cough) "working from home" stint when he lived in Capel. This consisted of sitting in the garden reading the paper before darting inside to take any phone calls.

Lunch was taken in the Riverside Cafe in Helford, local crab sandwiches and a couple of pieces of home baked cake.Very nice too.

I had another stop at Nare Point, again to send photos to annoy mates Gareth Dann and The Manc Midgit . It's especially satisfying not working when your mates are. I reached Porthallow, where the guide book told me to stick to the alternative inland path, not the "Ill advised coastal route". As I am an adventurous, or stupid, individual, depending on your point of view, I took the "Ill advised route". The guide book had given no indication of why it was ill advised. I can report it is ill advised, as you go through several, extremely high barbed wire fences and two electrified cattle fences.

By now I was well on the way to Coverack, where I camped at the YHA site, had great fish and chips (again) and the first of several pints of Rattler cider. A great first day, clocking up 23 miles in total.

Forecast for day two was heavy rain for the afternoon, so again I was away early, hoping to do the 12 miles to The Lizard before the rain arrived. Made good progress, stopping off at Cadgworth to tuck into an ice cream and rolled into Lizard just as the rain had started. I didn't fancy heavy rain in the tent (wimp), so checked into The Caerthillian bed and breakfast, ideally situated right next to a pub and cafe. Quick bite to eat and I'll just have five minutes reading the paper on the bed. Two hours later I wake up just in time for Germany v France World Cup quarter final. What a civilized way to spend the afternoon.

Day three and after a great breakfast I'm off heading towards, well Porthleven I suppose. Day got better as it went on and by late afternoon it's scorching. I reach Porthleven and although it's OK, it's a bit busy for my liking, so I head on for another five or six miles to Pra Sands. As I approached Pra Sands I caught sight of the beach and I knew I'd made the right decision to carry on. Bloody bootiful as Poodle would say. The lady at the campsite even made me a cup of tea as I arrived.

Down the beach side pub for a pint or two of Rattler and more World Cup matches, chatting and drinking with another hiker, known only as Dave. Great evening, slept very well, hail the local cider.

Rose a bit later in the morning on the final leg to Penzance with Dave. First few miles was great scenery, but we somehow got a bit, not lost (I'm never lost, though I may not know where I am), well we took an alternative route, thanks to chatting and not looking at the map.

After Marizion the last three miles to Penzance were deadly dull, with a railway adjacent to the path and chip eaters everywhere.

Got to Penzance mid afternoon, where Dave carried on and I prepared to get the ferry to the Scilly Isles, but that's another story.

Mersea "Round The Island" Half Marathon

Yet another lovely June day dawned ( yes, I am and always have been obsessed with the weather ) and on the spur of the moment I  decided to enter the Mersea off road Half Marathon, a circuit of the island along footpaths and finishing with a draining five mile run along the beach.

Me and Lady Bong parked up and almost immediately bumped into the legendary biking and running machine Perry " The Cannibal " Taylor. My first words to Lady Bong were " Shit, I was going to take it easy, now I'll have to race". You can't let your mates beat you. Also present was one of Perry's mates, Bob Chapman, a man I think looks and sounds like Dudley Moore ( when he was alive, obviously ).

The starting gun went off and along the beach we went with 350 others. It was bloody hot and before long we were stripped to the waist which resulted in several local women fainting after being overcome with.....desire, lust, I don't know.

Many of the footpaths were very overgrown, which made it difficult to get in any sort of rhythm, but the views and glorious weather more than made up for this small inconvenience. The Cannibal set the pace and I was happy to follow and very quickly we were on to the long straight from Stone Point at East Mersea, heading west along the beach.

We both came in together in a decent time of 1.47, ending an enjoyable morning.