Day 1 – SWCP (part 2) – Woolacombe to Heanton Court (Nr Braunton)

A group of us are completing the South West Coastal Path Trail in a series of section hikes, wild camping as we go. This is part two of our journey which was during late November / early December 2021. Yep, it was rather cold and extremely windy!

The one with the trail angels, the storm and the castle! 

WEATHER: Strong winds, struggled to stand up at times! Cold, but no rain

DISTANCE: Total: 15 miles 

HEALTH: All good. A bit wind-blasted!

Woolacombe to Braunton


⛈ 4.30 am – I’m tucked up in this little bed in Davina’s caravan. There is a bumper sticker saying “if the caravans a rocking, don’t come knocking”.  Well, this caravan is rocking like a see-saw but it’s more to do with storm Arwen! 

💨 5.25 am – I’m dressed, teeth brushed, rucksack & poncho deployed. Let’s do this! I turn my head torch on and venture outside. Blimey! It’s frigging windy! This 1.2-mile hike to the bus stop is going to be challenging! 

🌲 5.47 am – Swerving fallen trees and thanking the lord that there is no traffic around as I’m being blown all over the road! My little frame and this heavy rucksack is a bad combination in a storm. I’m just thankful that it’s not raining. 

🚌 6.03 am – The big double-decker bus arrives on time and I chat with the friendly driver. I’m the only passenger! I pay my £5 to Okehampton and sit comfortably as my real journey begins.  It soon gets chilly as they leave all the windows open “for our protection” 🥶 

😱 7.06 am – Reached Lewdown and a tree has fallen across the road. The lovely bus driver is reversing through the village. We travel nearly two miles backwards!! She did so well.  The sun is now coming up. 

🍳 8 am – I finally reach Okehampton and the little bakery is shining like a beacon! I text Rebecca to tell her where I am and order a flat white and a hot breakfast pastry thing. I was literally shaking with cold. That bus journey was freezing.  By 8.15 am we are on our way to Woolacombe. The roads are littered with trees, twigs, branches and general debris. 

🥶 10 am – Rob (the parking guy at Woolacombe) meets us and shows us where to park. He is shouting over the sound of the wind and we have no idea what he is saying. We understand that he is concerned about us walking this trail and he gives us his mobile number. We promise to call him if anything goes wrong.  Right, puffy pants on, let’s do this! 

2 mins in and we can hardly stand up! What on earth were we thinking? Are we bonkers?? 

😇 10.36 am – A few miles before Croyde we bump into a very friendly couple called Sue and Roger (with their little dog). They thought we were mad walking in this weather and gave us their address in Braunton. If we were struggling for somewhere to stay tonight, we could stay with them!! There are so many lovely people in this world. trail angels, Thanks, Sue & Roger – that meant a lot. True #TrailAngels 

🐦 10.40 – About 5 mins after meeting Sue and Roger my little robin popped in to say hello. I see a robin every day when hiking. 

⛅️ 12.10 pm- We weave our way along the dunes making our way to Saunton. The sun is glistening on the sea, Barnstaple Bay. It’s absolutely beautiful here and I know we’ve done the right thing. After last nights storms, I was a bit worried! We make our way to the little cafe on the beach which is a perfect place to have lunch and watch the surfers do their thing. Saunton lunch stop. I devoured red pepper and tomato soup and Rebecca had a Cornish, cheese & onion pasty! 

⚠️ 1 pm – Highway to the “danger zone”.  We sang this song very loudly as we accidentally crossed the Military Training Ground/ Danger Zone! What’s that noise? As we heard gunfire our pace increased a bit! 

🎵 1.15 – The singing continued but it soon stopped when I went arse over t*t in slow motion over in the sand dunes. Frigging hidden brambles! This danger zone is seriously dangerous! 

⛳️ 1.42 pm – These massive cowpats are freaking me out, and the map says we are way off the trail and still in the military zone! We end up hopping over a barbed wire fence like escaped convicts and land on a plush golf course. We wave to a few players as if this whole thing was totally normal and then vanished into the woods! 

🥾 We then have a five-mile walk along the Tarka trail to Braunton. This section was very chilly as the trail was up high with moorlands to our left and the estuary to our right. We had weird little pointless stiles to negotiate and Rebecca got twanged by a branch that nearly took her eye out. 

🍦 3.47 pm – We arrive at a Cafe in Braunton. A young child was having a tantrum in the corner as she wanted ice cream. I really felt for the mum. We enjoyed tea and cake before continuing on our hike with a view to seeking out a good camping spot. 

🏰 4.50 pm – Wow! We are camping on the grounds of an old castle. It’s now a pub/hotel and the owners are happy to help us out. 

🍷 As I type we are sitting in the bar, enjoying a drink and spoiling ourselves with good food. 

It’s been a cracking day! 

Until next time…. Thank you for reading the blog.