149c Minehead, and the end of the South West Coast Path.

I am walking along Culver Cliff, through woodland, towards Minehead. Nearly there. And that means I am nearly at the end of the South West Coast Path.

low path to Minehead, Ruth walking the SWCP
As I follow the path, sloping downwards towards the outskirts of the town, I am overcome with a very strong feeling. An orange line crosses my map at about this point. That means I am crossing over a boundary, moving out of Devon and into Somerset. Out of the domain of pixies and pirates and into the world of scrumpy and Glastonbury. I feel the division as though it is a physical barrier, an invisible wall that I am about to walk through.

This sense of transition is very strong, and a very real sensation. I’m filled with profound sadness. I have so enjoyed my rambling through Devon and Cornwall. Surely the rest of the walk be an anti-climax after this?

My first impressions of Minehead are not good. A tatty piece of scythed grassland, with benches overlooking the sea.

approach to Minehead, Ruth on the SWCP
And, in the distance, the tented outline of Butlins Holiday Village.

 Minehead ahead, Ruth walking along the SW Coast path
Why have they scythed the grass and left the coastal strip so overgrown? If you sit on the bench, you can’t see the sea for the weeds. Huh?

seat without a view, Minehead, Ruth in Somerset
I join a road and come to Minehead Harbour. The boats are attractive. And I can see a beach curving around the bay. It promises a good walk tomorrow.

ships, Minehead Harbour, Ruth walking the coast
I am hungry and thirsty – and wonder if they do cream teas in Somerset? I decide to stop at the nearest café.

ANY 4T, Minehead, Ruth walking the coasttearooms closed, Ruth in MineheadA parked car has an apt number plate.

ANY 4T

And just across the road are some tea rooms. They’re closed. It is only 4:30pm on a sunny afternoon in July! What is going on?

Disappointed, I continue onwards.

Ahead I see houses and a narrow esplanade. Minehead doesn’t look too bad, despite the lack of tea and scones.

promenade into Minehead, Ruth at the end of the SW Coast Path
A fellow walker had warned me that the South West Coast Path ends ‘in the middle of nowhere’. It actually ends at a point along the esplanade. Not quite the middle of nowhere, but certainly not really ‘anywhere’ either.

Ruth at the end of SWCP, MineheadThe end (or the beginning, if you start from Minehead) is marked by a wonderful piece of sculpture. A huge pair of hands holding a giant map. It is such a great image and – of course – I must have a photo.

Just then, a male walker passes me. He is in full walking kit with a giant rucksack. But I make him stop and ask him to take my photo. After a few failed attempts (due to me forgetting to switch the camera on!), he takes a couple of good ones.

So here I am, the official end / beginning of the South West Coast path. 630 miles of wonderful walking.

[Although, when I count up, it turns out I’ve actually walked 689 miles, not 630. That must include my detours around estuaries due to non-running ferries, and the many extra miles covered whenever I was lost.]

A middle-aged couple have been watching the photo shoot. They move on and I take my own photos of the sculpture. The sun is low and much of the piece is in shade, but look how wonderful it is. The cut-out detail of the map is just superb.

South West Coast Path, start marker, Ruth on the coast in Minehead
[Later I find an old Telegraph article and learn that the design was chosen from a competition among A level students. The winner was Sarah Ward and her design was executed by the sculptor Owen Cunningham, in stainless steel. We should commission more sculpture from A level students!]

Near the large sculpture, on the wall, is a much smaller plaque. The SWCP may have come to an end, but the West Somerset Coast Path is just beginning.

Somerset Coast Path, marker in wall
I feel a familiar twinge of excitement and already I am shifting my allegiance.  A new path! West Somerset Coast Path. Tomorrow will be a new beginning.


Sunset over Minehead, Ruth LivingstoneLater that evening, after watching a glorious sunset over Minehead, I study the map and trace the route of today’s walk.

Suddenly, I realise that the orange line crossing the path marked the edge of ‘Access Land’ and was NOT the county boundary after all – despite the intense and visceral feeling of transition I experienced while walking along that stretch of path.

Opening out my OS map, I flick dead flies from its creases and follow the route of the SWCP, looking for the county boundary. But this section of my map is so crowded with contour lines and other features, I can’t work out where the boundary runs. In the end I have to resort to other maps on the internet to find the exact point at which I stepped over from Devon and into Somerset.

The transition happened unnoticed, and unmarked, during the pouring rain yesterday. It was shortly after I left the stone cross that marked Sisters’ Spring. Back near County Gate.

So much for intense and visceral experiences! But I am a scientist by background and not a person who believes in spirits or spooks, in premonitions or in the supernatural. And so, funnily enough, I’m relieved to discover it was all in my mind.


Miles walked today = 10
Miles since beginning of South West Coast Path = 689
Miles from start of my round the coast trek = 1,452

Route:


About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, Doctor, woman, etc.
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10 Responses to 149c Minehead, and the end of the South West Coast Path.

  1. Rita Bower says:

    Congratulations on finishing the SW coast path Ruth. I’m looking forward to doing the same next year & your Blog has been whetting my appetite….can’t wait! Have fun in Somerset – I haven’t quite made it there yet, despite good intentions. You’ll be in Wales before you know it! Have fun….!

    • You will love the Southwest Coast Path, Rita. Every step has been a treat (well, nearly every step!). I wonder if you are starting from Minehead, or doing it the wrong way round as I did.

  2. jcombe says:

    Congratulations, that is a big milestone. Don’t be downhearted though, there is plenty of wonderful costal walking ahead. The West Somerset Coast path and then it’s not that far to Wales and then you have another coast path all around Wales.

  3. Wingclipped says:

    Congratulations, Ruth! Just as you are finishing, we are about to start. I wonder what elements of the coastline will have changed over the last couple of years between our respective visits?

    • You are in for a real treat. I suspect the main change will be coastal erosion from the winter storms of 2013/14. It’s been interesting reading your blog and seeing how much damage has been done.

  4. mariekeates says:

    How exciting to have a new path to follow. I’ve been to Minehead, but only as a child and only to Butlins. It looks nice and I love the sculptures.

  5. Pingback: 149b Hurlstone Point to Minehead | Ruth's Coastal Walk (UK)

  6. paul sennett says:

    Totally agree with your thoughts on the end of the path…, but the sculpture is lovely.. The golf onward to Dunster Beach was very busy. You need to keep an eye out for low flying golf balls. Pre Christmas we went o Dunster Castle by candlelight very special if you are there at that time. We stopped in the bizarrely named Ship run Aground pub by the harbor… awesome landlord….. and found the Beachside Suites very good to saty in overnight.. super breakfast too

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