South West Coast Path

Walking the South West Coast Path

Walking the South West Coast Path: My experiences

Ever since my experience of trekking the Great Wall of China last year, I have wanted to go on another trekking holiday. Not only do I love walking and hiking, I also find it helps my back whilst keeping me fit. Plus it’s a great way to relax and reflect. So this year, I decided to push myself (again!) and my friend and I took on the South West Coast path in Cornwall. Now, we didn’t walk the whole of this path, as it is 630 miles, which would take a month or two to complete.

As we only had a week, we decided to walk a section of the path (69 miles), but due to VERY bad and dangerous stormy weather (unfortunate) we had to cut some of the walks short (more on this later). Despite this, we still managed to walk around 34 miles in 4 days. And with some very challenging terrain and bad weather, I think this was pretty good going 🙂

We based ourselves in Penzance and got an apartment via Cornish Escapes (Air B n B are also very good for apartments etc). The reason we chose Penzance was because the bus links are very good from there, and this enabled us to catch a bus each morning to where we would start our walk and then catch a bus back to Penzance in the evening.

You could of course choose to stay in a different place each night, but with my back I wanted to avoid  carrying all my stuff on the walks, so this option suited us better. We loosely followed the St Ives to The Lizard route, detailed on the South West Coast Path website, but some of the walks were cut short or adapted due to the storms we had.


Day 1: Mousehole to Marazion (7.5 miles)

South West Coast Path - Day to Marazion
South West Coast Path – Mousehole to Marazion

We started with a fairly easy walk on day 1. Easy in the sense that it was mostly on the flat, walking on tarmac along the seafront. This walk was supposed to start at Lamorna and be 9.2 miles, but instead we got the bus to a place called Mousehole and started there which made it about 7.5 miles. This is because the weather was bad, with strong winds and the walk from Lamorna was across rugged cliffs, which we thought might have been a wee bit dodgy. So instead we missed this bit out and got the bus from Penzance to Mousehole (after I spent 5 minutes laughing at the name!) and started the walk from there.

I’d never been to Mousehole before – it was a cute little  place. A tiny fishing village full of charm with a pretty harbour and a few shops, pubs and restaurants.

South West Coast Path - Mousehole
South West Coast Path – Mousehole

We had a quick look around (there wasn’t much there) and then began our walk on the South West Coast Path, following the signs to Newlyn. Apparently, Newlyn is the third largest fishing harbour in Britain and was also very pretty. What I loved about walking the South West Coast path is that you come across some charming little places that you might not have seen otherwise. We carried on through Penzance and along the seafront to Marazion, passing the famous St Michael’s Mount along the way.

South West Coast Path - St Michaels Mount
South West Coast Path – St Michaels Mount

The views were amazing and we finished our walk with a well deserved cider in a local pub, before getting the bus back to Penzance and planning our day 2!


Day 2: Pendeen to Lands End (11.5 miles)

South West Coast Path Day 2
South West Coast Path Day 2

Well, this one was more challenging and the views – WOW. We got the bus to Pendeen and started there. It was definitely more remote here and it was mostly walking across the clifftops with a few rough ascents and descents.

South West Coast Path Day 2
South West Coast Path Day 2

It started with walking through an old mining district before leading around Cape Cornwall and finished at Sennen Cove, which was a lovely beach.

South West Coast Path Day 2
South West Coast Path Day 2 – Old Mining District

However, from here we walked another couple of miles to Land’s End to catch the bus, as we’d missed the last bus from Sennen Cove.


Day 3: Gurnards Head to St Ives (abandoned due to very bad weather!)

So today we started our walk in the middle of nowhere (literally!) at a famous pub called the Gurnards Head. Which I will forever remember as the pub where I dropped my phone on the concrete floor and smashed the screen (hooray!) There is literally nothing else around here, apart from the pub, which is bright yellow so you can’t miss it. Anyway, after a swift half of Cornish cider, we decided to brave the elements and begin our walk.

South West Coast Path - Gurnards Head
South West Coast Path – Gurnards Head

Even before we started, the wind was pretty strong. This section of the South West Coast path is rated as “Severe” in the Challenging stakes as it is one of the toughest sections of the entire path, due to rocky and boggy ground. It is also very remote and the path can be narrow and rough, plunging up and down the cliffs on the sea edge.

South West Coast Path - Gurnards Head
South West Coast Path – Gurnards Head

We managed to do almost 3 miles of our planned walk before the weather took a turn for the worse. The fog dropped, the wind picked up and it started raining really heavily. The winds were so strong it felt too dangerous to continue, with us climbing up and down slippy rocks right next to the rough sea. So we made the decision to turn back and head up to the nearest village which was called Zennor.

South West Coast Path - Gurnards Head
South West Coast Path – Gurnards Head before the weather turned…

There wasn’t much there apart from a church and a cafe but we took shelter in the cafe and had some lunch before deciding to get the bus to St Ives. Which would have all been fabulous if there were buses running from Zennor to St Ives. As we were now out of season, we soon realised that there were no buses. And we had no service on our phones as we were in such a remote location.

We weren’t sure what else we could apart from start walking towards St Ives, along the road. It wasn’t ideal as cars came pretty fast down this road and it was twisty and turny so potentially dangerous for us, but it was that or braving the coast path again which wasn’t really an option in the weather. Luckily as we walked along the road in heavy rain towards St Ives, a nice man stopped and gave us a lift to St Ives. He literally saved our lives that day!

Safe to say, once in St Ives we enjoyed a large, stiff drink 🙂


Day 5: Marazion to Porthleven (11.5 miles)

We had a day off from walking on day 4 – mainly as the weather was so bad! We did manage to see a couple of nice places on our day off from walking though, including Porthcurno where there is the famous outdoor theatre on the cliff. We saw a pretty beach here and spotted some dolphins which was cool, before getting drunk in a pub in Penzance. 😀

So anyway, back to day 5.. I was a tad hungover for this walk, which was not ideal as it was pretty long and challenging! This section of the South West Coast Path is actually graded as Moderate to Strenuous so yeah, it wasn’t easy.

That being said, I think it was my favourite section that we walked simply because of the stunning views. Much of this walk is through an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and there is a mix of terrain, including level walking, narrow paths up and down cliffs, rocky sections and sandy beaches.

We came across an amazing beach on this walk – it was our favourite one that we came across during our trip (Praa Sands). It was so chilled and hidden away from the tourists, it reminded me of some of the beaches in Sydney, Australia.

South West Coast Path Day 5 beach
South West Coast Path Day – Praa Sands

After a brief rest on this beach watching the surfers, we continued on towards Porthleven. This was quite a challenging section of the path with some tiring climbs for our now aching legs – we were so glad to see Porthleven come into view I can tell you!

South West Coast Path Day 5 porthleven
South West Coast Path Day 5… Porthleven

Porthleven is a pretty fishing village and we had a well deserved drink here followed by a beautiful seafood meal for dinner. 🙂 Perfect day!


My tips for walking the South West Coast Path

South West Coast Path - Weather
South West Coast Path – Weather
  • Take layers – if you are walking the path in the Autumn like we were, you need layers. We experienced all seasons in one walk, every day! One minute it was sunny and warm, the next it was freezing, then it was raining heavily! As a result you need to prepare for all seasons and eventualities. I took waterproofs, thin fleeces, neck warmer, a headband which covered my ears (needed due to the wind), my running t-shirts (wicking material), walking trousers (full length, waterproof and shorter ones), walking boots, walking socks, sunglasses, suncream. Yes, you need it all!
  • Don’t be afraid to turn back – if the weather is bad, it can be dangerous on some of the routes.
  • Plan your routes before you set out – make sure you can get a bus back to where you need to be. the buses run less frequently out of season.
  • Buy a weekly bus pass – if you are using the buses. You will save loads this way and you download the pass to your phone, nice and easy and allows you unlimited travel on the Kernow buses.
  • Take a map if you have one – the South West coast path is well sign posted for the most part, however there were some bits where we weren’t sure which way to go on some of the routes.

So there you have it, this was my adventure in Cornwall last week! I would love to go back when the weather is better and attempt more of this beautiful path. If you are in Cornwall/Devon I would thoroughly recommend walking parts of this path as the views are simply amazing 🙂

Louise X

September Link up with A Chronic Voice

September Link Up with A Chronic Voice

Well I cannot believe it is mid September already! I really do not know where this year is going, I wish it would slow down!

So this month I have decided to participate in a link up with A Chronic Voice – a monthly get together for anyone with a chronic condition. This involves writing around 5 topics, designed to get the creative juices flowing! This month’s prompts are below, so let’s give this a go! I’ll try and link my thoughts around these words to my year so far and my scoliosis.

  1. Reconnecting
  2. Confessing
  3. Relaxing
  4. Romanticising
  5. Sharing

Reconnecting

At the back end of last year, my relationship of 13 years suddenly ended. As a result, this year has been a huge year for me, of change and personal transformation. I used the first part of this year to reconnect with my friends, but also to reconnect with myself. I think sometimes if you are in the wrong or an unhappy relationship for some time, you risk losing yourself and I think this is what happened to me over recent years.

As I relied on my ex partner a lot, I lost my independence and confidence when I was suddenly left on my own.

Fast forward to now and I’m in a really good place. I have my own flat, I have done some amazing things so far this year, both on my own and with friends and I have met lots of new friends through doing what I love – running.  In fact, I think I have met and connected with more new people in the last year than I did in the previous 13 years of my relationship, which says a lot really!

As a result, the year of re-connecting with myself and connecting with new, like minded people has made me more confident, happier and also more comfortable doing things on my own again. I am now happy to cook a meal for myself, for example, go places on my own or drive on my own to new places. These things may not sound like big things but for me, they are huge steps forward and things I really did struggle with at the start of the year.


Confessing

My confession is that I’m often too hard on myself, in life and with my running/fitness. I compare myself to others a lot – with running it’s my race and Park Run times – and sometimes it makes me feel bad. For example, there are some really fast runners in my run club and I know some incredibly fit people and it’s sometimes easy to feel like what you are doing is not good enough, or you are unfit. But what I’ve realised recently is, it’s all relative. There are people I know who don’t do any running/exercise and tell me I’m the fittest person they know, and yet I feel really unfit compared to the fast runners at my run club. These fast runners probably also feel like they are not good enough and probably compare themselves against even quicker runners or elite athletes.

What I have been trying to do is to compare myself to MYSELF and against where I used to be, as I really have improved so much. For example I now run a 5K over 10 minutes quicker than I used to and have shaved a good minute off my 5K time this year alone. It’s so easy to forget that sometimes and be too hard on yourself.

The added factor for me, is that I do have a chronic back condition and while I don’t let it stop me, it does give me certain limitations and means, although I don’t like to admit it, I do find it difficult sometimes to keep up with and train as hard as others.


Relaxing

Running is a great stress relief for me, as when I’m doing it I don’t think about much else. It sounds crazy but I find taking part in running events such as Park Run and running with my run club incredibly therapeutic and it helps me to relax and manage my anxiety. Running is known for helping with mental health and it’s certainly helped me to get through a very difficult year.

However, I do  need to learn to relax more and be proud of and happy with everything I have achieved – in life and with my running. They say the grass is always greener and I’m always stressing about everything in life, worrying about my decisions and if I’ve done/am doing the right thing. I also tend to constantly stress about the things I haven’t done, instead of all the amazing things I HAVE done.


Romanticising

I’m not sure if it’s my personality type but I am constantly romanticising about the future. I think because of my change of circumstance last year, I’m wondering what is next? I’m not tied down at the moment and there are so many options and directions I could go in. It can get a bit overwhelming sometimes. I romanticise a lot about travel and possibly moving away somewhere abroad in the future to escape the “rat race.”


Sharing

I love sharing my journey with scoliosis online via my Instagram and of course, my blog. I think it is very important for others with scoliosis to be able to connect with others with the condition, as it can feel quite isolating. I know I felt isolated and alone when I was diagnosed as a teenager and as I didn’t know what the future held for me, it was quite a scary time. I now make it my mission to share my story and hopefully everything I have achieved post surgery will inspire those who have had or may be facing scoliosis surgery.


If you’re a blogger, why not join in on this link party? Alternatively, let me know your thoughts in the comments. How would you answer these word prompts?

Tough Mudder and Scoliosis

Running Tough Mudder with scoliosis

I’m always looking for ways to challenge myself following my scoliosis surgery, and this weekend was no exception.

Yesterday, I completed my first Tough Mudder – a 10 mile mud run with 20 obstacles that you have to see to believe! The obstacles are extreme and include electrocution, being plunged into ice-cold water, swimming/wading through freezing cold lakes, crawling through the mud under barbed wire, climbing (or being pulled!) over huge 12 foot walls – the list goes on!

With having scoliosis and a fused spine, this event was a huge challenge for me – but I don’t do things by halves.

In the lead up to the event, I felt really nervous. I wasn’t too concerned about the running side of it, as I knew that it would be very stop start with the amount of obstacles and also quite difficult to run some parts due to all the mud!

I was more concerned about the obstacles themselves and whether I could do them, as I have a distinct lack of upper body strength.  I have done Pretty Muddy before but that is much tamer in comparison and doesn’t really require any upper body strength. I was also worried about how my back would cope with all the bending, twisting, crawling and clambering! Also, I was worried about getting badly injured – falling off something and breaking my leg for example…

I do quite a lot of running anyway, I usually do Park Run on a Saturday and I run with my run club every week but I didn’t really do any specific training for this event. I was a bit concerned about this, as I had planned to follow a training plan and work on my upper body strength leading up to the event, but this fell by the wayside after I was in quite a bad (non-running related) accident a few months ago, which put my training on hold. I decided to go ahead and attempt the event despite this and I’m so glad I did.

It was tough, and very challenging. Some of the obstacles were fun, some were terrifying and some were definitely outside of my comfort zone. But sometimes you have to push yourself to grow and I’d rather look back and say – I can’t believe I did that, than I wish I did that.

Tough Mudder Obstacle
Tough Mudder Obstacle

With having had scoliosis surgery, there were a few obstacles that I couldn’t do. For example, there were a couple of electrocution ones that said not to attempt if you have excess metal in your body – so unfortunately they were a no, no for me! To be honest, I was a bit gutted as I wanted to attempt all of the obstacles – I don’t like being told I can’t do things…

There was also one bit where you had to give people piggy backs, and I just do not have the strength in my back at the moment, so I received a piggy back rather than giving one!

All of the obstacles requiring upper body strength, to be honest I struggled with and had to be pulled up by others. But after completing the event, that’s what I’ve realised. Tough Mudder is about teamwork more than anything and most of the obstacles you cannot complete without the help of others – either your own teammates or complete strangers. This is the case whether you have scoliosis (or any condition) or not. The atmosphere is fantastic – everyone works together to get your across/over the obstacles, which is amazing.

Tough Mudder Pyramid Scheme Obstacle
Tough Mudder Pyramid Scheme Obstacle

I’m glad I gave Tough Mudder a go and it is definitely one of my highlights of this year so far. It has made me more determined to work on my upper body strength at the gym and try again next year. What’s amazing is that my back coped fine and did not hurt at all, all the way through. My legs felt heavy and tired after about 8/9 miles but my back was completely fine.

Even today (the day after the event), yes I’m sore, in pain and I’m covered in cuts and bruises, but the pain is muscle pain and no different to what anyone else who completed Tough Mudder will be feeling today.

There’s no reason why having scoliosis should stop me from doing ANY of the obstacles (apart from the electro ones). A lot of it is mind over matter and yes, upper body strength definitely helps!

Next year I want to get stronger, go back fighting, try the ones I struggled with again and smash them! 😀

Tough Mudder Selfie
Tough Mudder Selfie

A bit of advice if you are doing a Tough Mudder (or similar event) for the first time…

  • Do it as a team! It is best to do an event like this as part of a team, and it helps it someone in your team is strong and can help lift you up/over things! This was a LIFESAVER in my case!!
  • Don’t panic like I did! It is supposed to be fun. Everyone is really friendly, there is a team spirit atmosphere, and everyone looks out for each other. Plus if there are obstacles you cannot do you can skip them.
  • Wear leggings that cover your knees
  • Take a change of clothes and a towel as they have showers and changing areas on site
  • Wear trail running trainers – if you wear normal gym trainers they will be ruined. Plus, you will be slipping and sliding everywhere.
  • Give things a go – put yourself outside of your comfort zone and try things that make you scared/nervous. You will feel amazing after you’ve done it trust me.

 


Have you ever taken part in an event like this? Would you ever? Let me know in the comments below! 🙂

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Running Tough Mudder with Scoliosis