Friday, May 13, 2011

Day 1 -- Minehead to Porlock

A day of sun, clouds, wind, flowers, showers, the first cream tea, and an unexpected encounter.

Before anything else however, I must say one thing: the South West Coast Path, at least thus far, is just as beautiful as I hoped. And the weather just as fickle as I feared!

After one of the best full English breakfasts I've had, at The Quay Inn in Minehead, we set off without any great sense of urgency at 9:50. At 9:51 we stopped for the first photo op... closely followed by the second at 9:52... closely followed by the third... you get the picture.

The tide was out, which in the Bristol Channel means waaaay out... the tidal range can be as much as 14 meters... the sky was mostly grey, but with a few blue patches, and it was cool when the wind blew, pleasant otherwise. The path stayed close to the shore for a while, then climbed to 200m, where, aside from the odd descent into and climb out of valleys, it stayed for most of the rest of the hike, giving us nice views over to Wales.

We had two rain-showers that were heavy enough to justify putting on rain jackets and ponchos, but more to get the rain to stop (via the umbrella principle) rather than because we were in serious danger of getting very wet. But the wind did whip around at times and it was chilly enough to put fleeces on.

Ther occasional discomfort was, however, more than compensated for by the lovely flowers (masses of bluebells, various small trees, foxgloves, and gorse just coming out.

After a few hours we descended into the lovely village of Bossington, where we stopped for cream teas (scones, jam, clotted cream, and tea) at the first place we saw -- Kitnor's Tea Rooms, in a picture-perfect 15th Century thatched cottage. Turned out that the owner was German... from the same small town as our friends Franz and Ingrid (who are hiking with us)... and we worked out the she and Franz were probably in high school at the same time (although not the same year). The small world principle strikes again!

We arrived at the Gables, our lovely 17th Century thatched cottage B&B around 4:20PM, having hiked perhaps for four and a half hours instead of the expected five and a half. But nobody complained, so the planner didn't feel too bad.

Shortly we'll be off to have dinner at a rather unusual restaurant... about which more tomorrow.

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Thursday, May 12, 2011


After a nice evening in Cambridge visiting Madeleine, and another yesterday in London having dinner with relatives, we caught the 9:06AM train from Paddington this morning, changed to a bus in Taunton, and then to a steam train in Bishop's Lydeard for the last stage to Minehead.

The steam train was a hoot -- we think they have a minimum age for employees of at least 60... and they all seemed to be having a great time. The branch line from Taunton to Minehead was rationalized out of existence in the early 70's, resurrected as a "heritage" railway 5 years later, and now carries more passengers a year than it ever did during its days as an official part of the British railway system. It isn't fast, but it is very atmospheric, and the countryside is quite idyllic. Saw several pheasants, countless sheep and cows, little villages, copses, hills and valleys... a lovely start.

Also nice to be met on the train by our friends Franz and Ingrid, who came a few days early and have been enjoying the area by car. Christine arrived a couple of hours later (as I was in the midst of a 2.5 hour conference call), so we are all set for the first day of hiking tomorrow morning.

And the weather, you ask? Today, excellent -- sun and clouds, fairly warm -- tomorrow, I don't know yet... ask me tomorrow :-).

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I'm off to the UK...

Leaving in about an hour. Quick visit to Cambridge to see Madeleine,
dinner with relatives in London tomorrow eve, then off to Minehead on
Thursday. Hike starts Friday and the current weather forecast is...
cloudy with showers and a high of 14C. Sigh. Well, at least they
aren't predicting non-stop rain (they are saving that for next week).
Prayers to the weather gods are not yet working! Redouble efforts!