South West Coast Path Adventure – Leg 6 – Unlicensed Cliff Tops

Now firmly into Devon for leg 6 of this journey and logistics were getting a little more complicated with travel times for runs increasing. However, we made the effort to squeeze in one more before Xmas and any further hold ups with Covid restrictions. With a relatively early start we headed to our next end point of Exmouth to leave the car at the finish and got a taxi back to our start point in Beer. A quick stop for a festive breakfast on the way down and greeted with some strong wind and heavy rain showers in Exmouth we were anticipating a tough day.

Image may contain: 2 people, drink and coffee cup

We got out of the taxi in Beer and the sky had cleared a bit blessing us with some blue skies, although the wind was ever present. Starting straight up the hill out of the town we knew a rolling leg was ahead and with the rainfall that had come down recently we took no risks with shoe choice and had the Inov8’s on. Straight away we were greeted with stunning sections of coastal path, winding up and down the cliffs only metres from the sea. We are now familiar with the pattern of path climbs followed by descents into small towns and beaches along the way, with most legs accumulating fairly significant elevation gain as you go. A missed gate left us wandering up someones driveway instead of 5 metres to the right on the actual path but we turned around and got back on track before anyone noticed.

As the miles ticked off the climbs and descents to secluded beaches continued, grateful that the pebble sections were nothing like we experienced on Chesil Beach a few weeks ago. We hit a couple of significant climbs that really stung the legs, with one of the biggest flights of steps we have come across so far. This brought with it stunning views all the way back into Dorset but also the need for someone to take the opportunity for a lie down!

We weren’t moving badly and taking in the views as we hit more forgiving sections we managed to run a fair few miles at a quicker pace to bring us into Sidmouth and the first bigger town on the leg for the day around the half way mark. A long promenade gave the legs some much needed relief before leaving the town and onto the coast path again and the rolling hills towards Budleigh Salterton. The wind was still blowing straight into our faces as we hit a short section of road taking us out of Sidmouth, following the wooden posts that have guided us this far we stopped to make a left hand turning back towards the cliffs. Kirsty got there first and confirmed this was the direction pointing up to the sign and exclaiming it was “this way to the unlicensed cliff tops”. Moments later as I caught up and after initially not questioning what she said, I read the sign and then got her to re-read it. Bursting with laughter as she this time read it properly and realised it actually said “unfenced cliff tops”. Actually needing a few minutes to calm down and keep her bladder under control we set off again still chuckling away. It wasn’t long before she got her own back as half way up the next hill fatigue had overridden the power of speech and what was meant to be a sentence with energy and effort had somehow come out as ‘enerfort’! A day of vocabulary fails, but a word that will likely stick with us!

We could see Budleigh Salterton from quite a way out, as the path followed the edge of a field towards the town. The path then takes you quite a way inland to cross the river mouth then back out to the sea front. With only a few miles to go at this point we were both feeling tired and hungry. We hadn’t managed a coffee and cake stop on this leg despite a couple of opportunities but knowing we weren’t far from Exmouth we took the path straight out the town and into the final few miles. A long climb out opened up stunning views again and we could see the rough direction of travel ahead, right through a holiday park. Some really soggy and sloppy sections of grass helped soak the feet one more time and as we worked our way through, the signs once again caught our attention. One sign read 1.5 miles to Exmouth and the other one said 3! A couple of minutes later we saw why – there was an offer of a shortcut! Despite both feeling tired and hungry now we decided to keep it honest and follow the full route via the Geoneedle towards Exmouth. Just as we approached the stone spire and started to read up on its history with Exmouth in the background the first rain shower of the day hit and we moved on quickly. Dropping down onto the seafront and heading towards the car!

No shortcuts for us

An open cafe right by the car park was a welcome sight and with a coffee and pasty in hand there was a feeling of relief and accomplishment as we got warm and set off back to Dorset. Another successful leg ticked off, some challenging conditions underfoot, fairly relentless wind and constant hills, showing us there are going to be no easy days on this journey but the views and the things we have seen so far making it totally worth the effort.

Run 6 Stats – 20.5 miles (117 out of 630) – 4h59 moving time (28h28 total) – 5h36 total time (32h13 total) – 4219 feet of elevation (18,559 out of 114,931)

4 clif bars and some bloks during the run – refueled with coffee and a pasty!

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