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Sunday, 6 January 2013

New Year's shenannigans

Happy New Year to all!

A New Year's swim and run.

An amazing new year spent with friends on the most southerly and also most deserted part of South Devon, Prawle Point. On the SW Coastal Path (SWCP) the landscape is barren, rugged, windswept and after many serious floods and landslides, extremely difficult running conditions.

Each evening in our huge Lighthousekeepers' Cottage, each would prepare a different meal, with copious amounts of alcohol from different global locations, washed down with cheese and whatever other surprises that were on offer. This left all of the runners in the group fully prepped for a morning and/or evening blast along the coast!

The SWCP is a 630 mile long navigation from Poole, Dorset to Minehead, Somerset around some very rugged coast. The South Devon section, from Dartmouth to Portsmouth is 83km long. Each bay consists of a drop down to sea level from no more than 138m (452 ft) and then back up again. Sometimes you have to come inland a little......

 So a every couple of miles you have the same 450ish ft drop and up to the top again. Some of the coastline through is far more exposed as at Gammon Head where I ran with the light fading on the first day of the holiday with a headtorch. My plan; to do some of the SWCP and do the road back in the Dark. Well, I ran up to Prawle Point only for the lookout keeper to state she was shutting for the day as it was gale force 8 with a 9 on the way in the next hour.....bring it on.

This was the first view I was treated to as the light faded (I took this shot a couple of days later in the morning) with the twisted path rising and falling around the rocks into the distance at Gammon Head. After running and been blown up in the air at one point, I headed inland at Gara Rock a few miles down the coast and donned my headtorch to return via road. Only 7 miles but such exhilaration I had to take the boys down this path the next day, which we did, only this time in the horizontally driving rain. Luckily Matt and I were in waterproof jackets but Karl was suffering over the last couple of miles, soaked to the skin!

Then came a lovely run or two with Mrs UB. Muddy to say the least!

It was then time for something completely different and that was a Charity New Year's Day swim up the Atlantic Coast nearer to Plymouth. About 50 brave souls took part including Karl in his mankini and Mr and Mrs Broccoli as well as myself. Waiting for Mr and Mrs B on the beach in our shorts for 10 mins was pretty cold but we were all ushered into the sea by the organisers. Most had wet suits on.

We didn't!

So it was nice to warm up afterwards with a hot chocolate and then a couple of pints in the pub.

It was then onto walking the SWCP to Salcombe and back with the crew, including stopping off for lunch at a pub where many jokes were cracked after spotting a minor celebrity and his chavvy ex-model slapper wife! I had another couple of shorter runs with Mrs UB and then my final challenge. To run to North Hallsands and back. This place is well worth a visit or even a quick Google as it is called the lost village for reasons that will become clear if you research it. Tragic story and perhaps a cautious tale of how not to mess with the land and the sea. This trip was the only time I donned a rucksack as I knew it would be a long and slow journey 2200ft of ascent and descent in only 13.5 miles.  Off I went and quickly realised it would get muddy......

.....and then the path was shut and so for a detour up the hill and back down again. This was fine as I was expecting this having chatted to the locals about the route. It seems that a house had to be evacuated as the whole front garden and driveway to the main road had disappeared into the sea in a mudslide. Well i had to see this! But...on the way back. The top traverse took in a bridleway that was been used regularly by farmers and cows and was un-runnable as you can see from above!

Onto Start Point and then Hallsands for the last part of the out.....

Just running along this path that traces the contours and rocks whilst teetering on the edge makes you feel that this is what running and exploring is all about! Awesome! Almost nobody save for the hardy rambler and a nutter flying over rocks and ledges.

Finally on the return it was time to see the landslide. Word had it that a family evacuated from this holiday home on Boxing Day after hearing the thunder of the wet mud cliff disappear and the sea wash it away. I scooted down on the beach and took a pic, then instead of taking the diversion up the hill, climbed along the rocks and up a cliff along the coast. Adrenaline was coursing through my veins and after the top, 20ft of gorse cut my legs and arms up. My next couple of miles were quicker as my heart was beating like a bastard!

On a slow and steady run back to the house, so ended my running on the SWCP for the time being. I did find these TrailBlaze Geocaching markers which I will save for the next blog, as this was a missed opportunity to run a self-navigate, anytime ultra using geo-caching.

As Arnie famously stated......"I'll be back!"

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