Sunday 29th May 2016
We spent a good hour lazing in the sun at the summit of North Hill. That zig-zagging climb in the 21°C temperature had certainly taken it out of us.
It was time to decide… Would we take the ‘rugged alternate‘ path from here or, lose sight of the sea in favour of a presumed-easier walk along higher ground but still, following the South West Coast Path?
We’d heard the occasional ‘stomp’ of approaching footsteps whilst basking in the sun and, with very few other walkers having crossed out space in the time, we realised there were wild horses, edging slightly closer towards us but without ever coming too close.
Having endured enough of a challenge on our ascent of North Hill, we made a mutual decision to stick to the path following the brow of the hill.
For me, this was a new experience and, having walked the alternate route back in December, I knew it wouldn’t have been anything close to easy.
You can just see a portion of the rugged path in my photo above; climbing up from the first of three valleys that I can recall.
Interestingly, I’ve noticed on the OS map that the walk ahead, from Porlock, may also offer an alternate option for followers of the SWCP.
Our trek across North Hill felt tiring in the heat, with dry, rock-ridden tracks beneath our feet. We passed just north of Selworthy Beacon and on the approach towards Bossington Hill, where a hazy Porlock came in to view, approximately four-miles ahead.
People lingering near the western end of the rugged alternative SWCP.
We were now at the highest point of Hurlstone Combe and preparing for a steep descent.
On my walk here in December, I had every intention of reaching Hurlstone Point, before returning to my car in Selworthy… But, as I arrived here, I found myself running short of daylight and not keen on the sharp ascent that would follow, having already survived the rugged coast path.
I’m sorry to say that we didn’t make the short diversion to Hurlstone Point on this day, either. Again, time was against us – this time, with barely an hour left on the parking ticket beneath my windscreen – and our energy had been spent on climbing the hill earlier.
We almost fell down Hurlstone Combe; the descent felt so intense. We possibly a made a mistake in resting at a junction with other paths, some way above the bottom of the combe. As we looked to restart, we felt as though our knees had been ‘jellyfied’ and a further, softer descent to follow became incredibly hard.
Our view along Porlock Bay had improved. Jon Combe had previously informed me that you can walk along here at low tide, where the official SWCP continues further inland and across the marshes. We took one look, saw millions of pebbles and decided to stick with the inland route – where we did pass through a low-lying car park in Bossington, which could be used for an ‘easy’ return visit to Hurlstone Point.
At the other end of the beach, we would later find fresh warning signs, stating that a breach now meant it was not possible to follow the pebble beach between Porlock and Bossington.
I wonder what might happen once the England Coast Path is designated through here?
Turning back with frequency, we could view the hills that we had recently conquered.
Away to our left was a distant view of Exmoor, with perhaps Timberscombe recognisable – past experience taught me that area contains very steep ascents of its own.
We soon continued west across the marshes, where the ground beneath us was as dry as a bone. It must be much different in winter and even, prone to flooding, with the installation of the wooden bridge that departs the coast path for the beach.
We also passed a memorial, which I haven’t photographed terrible well but is highlighted on the map.
To enter these marshes at night throughout any time in the calendar year, must be a near-haunting experience.
There was also an apparently abandoned or unused farm building, which still appeared to be in good condition.
For the final few hundred metres of the coast path, you’re required to head up on to the beach, where the average rock is now double the size of your own foot, which made for an uncomfortable final hurdle on our walk.
A dog walker had emerged from a path to our left, before reaching the beach. It doesn’t feature on the maps I’ve seen but could make for a slightly easier walk, if it leads you to the road.
We arrived back at my car in Porlock Weir a mere five-minutes after my pay-and-display ticket had expired. I believe I paid £4.50 for eight hours of parking, which I thought was good value for money. Especially when you consider that it costs a small fortune to park anywhere in Minehead.
I noticed lots of old wooden signs on this walk – typical of those you’ll find spread across Exmoor. Of course, not forgetting the broken ones along the SWCP. Whenever the England Coast Path is instated through here, I hope that this will be rectified.
Further more… Why did the current installation have to end at Minehead and the beginning of the SWCP? Could they not have continued at least to Lynton and officiated a complete Somerset section? I mean, the South West Coast Path is already there… Perhaps it’s down to their budget and cost of signs.
Thinking about it… Why does the West Somerset Coast Path also terminate at the same point?!
Total distance of this walk = 11 miles
Thanks for reading.