By: Blonde Two

Blonde One and I led another great map-reading walk for the East Devon Walking Festival last Sunday. We were blessed with an enthusiastic and engaged group who asked lots of map-type questions, learn fast and, as a result, got further into their navigation skills than we expected them to. Our map reading walk wasn’t on the South West Coast Path but it was within reasonable walking distance of it so, after we had finished, we decided, in true Blonde fashion, to go and explore around Sidmouth and its stunning coastline. We chose a section of South West Coast Path, looked at the contour lines on the map (a classic Devon combe reminiscent of the North Devon coast), chose not to think about these too much, and, after munching our sandwiches in the car, set off to explore on another short South West Coast Path walk.

Ignoring contour lines is never to be recommended, the steepness they represent always exists on the ground, even if they are hidden in the mist.

they  We opted for an ‘up the steep ground’ route rather than a ‘down the steep ground’ one, mainly to save my knees, and walked from the car park, down to the coast, admired the toposcope (pointing desolately into the mist), crossed a beautiful open space (most of which we couldn’t see), skidded down the wooded path, followed the lane up to Springcombe and then cut down across the fields (admiring the location of the farmhouses nestled into the valley) and back down to the coast.

I didn’t take photos of the steps that lead back up the Sidmouth cliffs to the (most welcome) bench from which we had started our combe circumnavigation because steps photos always seem to flatten them out… and these were definitely anything but flat! We have worked with youngsters long enough to know that by far the best way to deal with a steep hill is to turn it into a game, so we played ‘guess how many steps to the next bench’ (the fact that the slope had 2 benches mid-way up it tells you something about the slope!) B1 was better at guessing than me, she also remained standing at the benches whilst I felt compelled to sit. Somebody has worked very hard at installing and maintaining these steps (they are part of the South West Coast Path) and I take my hat off to them (well I would have done if it hadn’t been raining). This doesn’t mean, however, that I had any great liking for them. They were many (we ran out of energy for games before the top section so I can’t tell you exactly how many) and they were steep.

So steep, in fact, that at one point I used the last bit of my ragged breath to comment, ‘Some of these steps are cliffs!’

Time for the Tide: St Michael’s Mount and the South West Coast Path