We had a couple of things to actually think about today which was a bit of a shock to the grey spongy thing between my ears. Rather than just meandering and getting there when we get there we had to aim for a ferry that only operated between 10am and 12pm, then again between 2pm and 4pm. This would be fine, except we also had to ford the Erme Estuary on foot and this could, according to research, only be done an hour either side of low tide which was at the very considerate hour of 5.12pm. Okay, fine. So we’d have to hit the first ferry times in order to cover the six miles to the estuary in time.
The weather was a bit more overcast and there was a cool breeze but it still somehow managed to be sweaty. Or maybe that was just me. That breeze though, that was very welcome for the now-standard lung-searing climb away from the cove. We were pretty much walking in cloud, the views obscured for the first time on this trip, the fog cascading onto the cliffs from below like a really shit 50’s B movie. Are sheer drops more or less terrifying when you can’t see what’s on the other side of them? Guess we’d find out today.
After the initial post-breakfast brutal climb it wasn’t actually too awful. We swung by the very pretty village of Hope to annihilate their toilets which should have cost 20p but some anarchist had jammed the door open with pebbles. Not all heroes wear capes. Some just brandish small rocks in their quest for justice and toilets for all. Weirdly, if I’m asked to pop a donation into an honesty box to use the bogs I actually will. I just take umbridge when access to a facility that should be open to everyone is restricted only to those who have the cash on them.
We crushed the miles to Bantham, arriving fifteen minutes early, and sat down to wait until a boatwoman showed up to relieve us of £4 each to take us over. It’s only a little boat. I’m having to redefine what I think of when I think of a ferry. It’s gone from a substantial boat that definitely has “carrying the considerable weight if tourists and perhaps a bicycle or two” on its list of things to do today, to basically anything that floats.
She deposited us on a beach just away from the trail. I’m assuming the landing point depends on tides but I’m not a boat human so who fucking knows. We walked over the dunes to rejoin the Path, disturbing a baby adder as we went. It scarpered too quickly to get a photo but how cool is that? I was hoping to see a lot of adders but they’re shy little fuckers.
The Path was more like its usual self now, plenty of the kinds of hills that have you stopping regularly to question all of your life choices and try to get your calf muscles to unseize. You can see the cliffs stretching into the distance and the trail in your immediate future which is sort of bittersweet really. On one hand, eyehole fodder galore. On the other hand, sorry, legs. You’re going to be put to work.
We had plenty of time to get to the estuary and, in fact, we were stressing for nothing. Actually let me rephrase that: I was stressing for nothing. Tarrant was her usual chilled self as my stupid brain ran circles around itself insisting that the absolute worst would happen and we’d miss the tide and have to live there forever. Or until the next low tide. Yeah nah, we got there about 2.30pm, nearly three hours before low tide. It was already low enough for a crossing though, we watched three blokes paddle through, the water didn’t even come up to their knees. Well, off we fuck then.
It’s not the refreshing, sandy crossing Tarrant was hoping for, it’s covered in the kind of pebbles that you can’t walk on without looking like you drank ten pints of Stella then shat yourself. I put my flip flops on because they’re plastic and designed to get wet. Tarrant went barefoot so it was more of a “hobble whilst swearing a lot” experience for her. The traumatic bit for me was waiting for my feet to be dry enough to get the fucking sand off them.
After a late lunch and a nap by a beach (not on it because it’s full of fucking sand) we pressed on. We had to do battle with some epic nettle gauntlets on narrow, overgrown trails. There were some pretty serious hills to contend with too and Tarrant’s ankles were being particularly stroppy about the whole situation. Fair enough really, they were perfectly happy being propped up on a sofa whilst she shovelled Domino’s into her chops. They never consented to carrying her and a backpack up hideous hills.
We gasped to the top of a particularly violent hill and rounded the corner to see a beautifully flat bit by a bench. Actually flat too! None of this acceptably slopey shite, proper level ground. Yes. This would do nicely. We were at the stage where we gave zero fucks that it was right by the trail, we’d just wait until it got a bit later before we pitched. I don’t think I’d be able to coax many more miles out of my poor, abused legs anyway.
Soar Mill Cove, Devon to Beacon Hill, Devon, England
Stayed at: Wild camp right by the path by some ruins
Useful shit to know…
- Toilets are at Hope, South Milton Sands, the carpark before the Bantham ferry, and Bigbury-on-Sea.
- You can fill up your bottles from the stream at Soar Mill Cove, and we crossed a couple more streams after Bigbury you could filter from too. There’s a café at Bigbury that you could also ask at.
- The Bantham Ferry runs daily from April to October, between 10am and 12pm, then 2pm til 4pm. It was £4 each at the time of writing and they prefer contactless. Check their website for details.
- All official information will say the Erme Estuary can only be forded an hour either side of low tide but in reality the window could be much bigger. I guess it’ll depend on the time of year or month as to how low the low tide is.