Great Heavens above; we did it. Dipped a toe in both the Severn estuary and the English Channel in one weekend with nothing but running in between. Here’s the story.
After a sturdy lasagne from Pam the night before we are stoking up on porridge at the Winchester Arms, when Barrie “I don’t do squash” Taylor comes to pick us up and take us to our startline in achingly scenic Watchet on the North Somerset coast. As if on cue, the North Devon Steam loco turns up to see us off. Those of us, that is, not making full use of the public toilets having over-hydrated on coffee and electrolytes in anticipation of the
With 25 miles laid out before us for the day we had no preconceptions as to how we’d feel that evening nor how we’d be feeling at the start to the second day. Although we’d done a marathon before on the flat, we had a 1,200 climb right ahead of us. This was therefore less about completing day one in style and more about saving energy for day two. So we walked the ups and ran the flats and the downs. The views from the top of The Quantock hills are spectacular and as Minehead and the north coast receded we pressed on towards Taunton along The MacMillan Way West.
This route is pretty well marked and the paths very run-able but it’s still easy enough to lose the path. My Polar GPS system was about as useful as a bilge-pump on a dune buggy; the GPS link failed after 6 hours and the watch ran out of memory after 12 hours. Adam’s map-reading was however almost flawless and we only got lost the once. We stuck mainly to trails and single track roads stopping only for map-checks and fuelling stops. From the Quantocks we arrived in Taunton and ran slap through the middle; into the gardens (Vivary Park) and out into the fields beyond. The last 5k was a struggle as a lot of it was uphill but we got to The Winchester in almost exactly 7 hours – a very slow
Day two started much as had day one – porridge. The legs, it seemed to me, had benefitted from the cold bath and stretches the night before or was it the recovery pint of DoomBar? The Winchester lies right on the East Devon Way and so we set off on the longer second leg (27 miles) towards The Blackdown Hills with as much of a spring in the step as we could muster under the circs.
The Blackdown Hills have a very different rhythm to the Quantocks. They are wooded and close as opposed to heathered and open. Each a pleasure in its own right though we soon crested them and descended through Buckland and Howley (must go back to the Howley Tavern one day!) then we found the River Yarty which was to be our friend for the rest of the trip.
The weather was kind and we enjoyed sunshine almost the whole way bar the last hour. Day two was a day of style-hopping and running through fields of long grass. It’s just not possible to climb a style elegantly when you’ve just run 20 odd miles and traipsing through long grass is a huge energy drainer and slow too unless you’re being chased by an entire heard of longhorn cows who must have laughed as we cleared the electric fence which caught Adam a stinger on his er, thigh…
We stopped for fuel in Kilmington which we knew was only 6 miles from the coast. JohnFol was getting some discomfort and most likely losing a toenail. We needed a boost and round a bend and over the next brow we got one; the English Channel lay before us glinting on the horizon.
The rain arrived in Seaton just before we did but nothing was going to dampen the spirits nor keep us from a big bag of chips on the seafront.
Total distance covered was in excess of 52 miles, calories burned around 7,000, total time on the road 15 hours, budget including meals and petrol: less than £200 each, enjoyment factor 100%. Liklihood to do it again? About nil. But then…