LEJOG09: Hartland Quay to Westward Ho! (yes, there really is an exclaimation mark in the name)

Today started out with a good omen-there was no dew on the outside of tent. This is a good thing. The whole dew and condensation issue is a new one to me and requires a lot of effort to deal with. How do you dry the outer? Even if you have a cloth (which I haven’t got space for) the moisture is so icey cold that it freezes your hand after the third wipe. I’ve been told some people hang the outer from their rucksac in the morning and let the sun dry it, but I’m concerned mine will snag on something and rip. I’ve tried laying it out to dry in the sun during my elevenses and late lunch, but this depends on the weather being glorious as it is currently, which can’t last.

The fact this is new to me means that either I am more of a camping novice than I realized, or that I am camping at a time of year that most people wouldn’t shy from using a caravan. It might be lovely during the day by it’s bitter cold at night. If anyone has any suggestions/advice/experience please pass it on in the comments. I need it!

No dew was a good sign, which I needed. The walk the previous day was a success and an achievement but the evening had been quite a faff due to the lack of mobile reception and access to hot water at the campsite‎-I had to run to the pub to finish my blog and attempt to wash some clothes in the shower cos it was only place with a water temperature breaking out above tepid. My dinner was disapointing as well-a soggy pasty whose crust was moister than it’s contents. This was why the blog post was quite fragmented.

Today was always going to be better. My Nazi of a guide book author had recommended a route which another more human source said would take 11 hours. Sod that. I identified a short cut that would save me at least two hours. It cut off an interesting part of the coast around Hartland Point, but to be truthful I was getting coasted out.

The short cut was mostly along a lovely little b road which was nice enough for it not to be a demoralisimg experience, but boring enough for me to listen to a talking book for a little (‘the night watch’ by Sarah Walters). I made fantastic time and felt like I was actually ahead of myself for the first time. V. +ve.

I then cut back to the coast path thanks to a very kid man who let me use his private lane despite their not being a right of way. He told me to run if his wife saw me! Negotiating things like rights of way is quite a mindset shift for a city person like myself. You see a road or a field and automatically think that you can cross it, you don’t see it as the equivalent of somebody’s house of garden. I’d never barge my way through somebody’s house but i have to fight my instinct to go whereever I want out hear.

The first section of coast path was though a wood that bordered the cliffs. It was lovely, with the sunshine falling through the trees and laying dappled on the grassy forest floor to my right, while to my left was the sight and sound of the ocean. It didn’t matter that it was quite up and down, it was such a magical experience.

At this point I realized that my blister saga had progressed. The previously serious blister on my left heel, the one covered in a strata of different foot care plasters, was now a pussy cat. Excellent-I was getting better. However, the one on my right heel, which hadn’t been blitzed with products because it was more minor, was now starting to bite. I wasn’t hobbling just yet, but I’d need to be careful.

Coming out of the woods I has a few cliff bastards to deal with. However, there werent too many, I wasn’t too tired and i had got use to the weight of my pack. They were still bastards and I still had to atop at several points (one had a comedy 45 degree angle), but I never felt aggrevied by them.

These were to be my last cliff bastards as I was starting to head inland tomorrow. I shall almost miss them. There will definitely be more natural obstacles to deal with (I’m particulaly looking forward bogs), and they’ll all offer their own challenges. These were the first and will have a special places I’m my heart along with all the other enemies that I have to keep closer than my friends.

As I walked into my destination for thr night I was slightly taken aback as I hadn’t realised that westward Ho was such a tourist town. I was confronted by a ghost town of beach huts, static caravans and holiday apartments. I’m sure last week they had been heaving, but this week they looked like something out of a post-apocalyptic film, especiallly with the clouds and mist coming in.

Having said that, my B&B is fantastic-there was even a mini twik and kit kat waiting for me! I quickly did a bit of washing in the on-suite bathroom- cleaning stuff in the sink and using the shower to rinse them simultaneously. The room now looks like a jungle with clothes and tent parts and hung up everywhere. These are the types of skills i’ve developed over the past week, not the ray mears bushcraft living off the land stuff, but how to make the most of B&B, campsite and hostel facilities, and how to do it quick enough that you still have time for dinner and a blogging after.

Also there were my next load of maps waiting for me thanks to sasha, jenna’s immensely kind housemate, who went completely out of his way to get them to me after I’d managed to balls up the first delivery of the trip. I owe you one!

I feel rested and a bit better prepared now. Also I have newsnight on the telly, a comfy bed and a cup of hot chocolate for tonight, an easy day ahead of me tomorrow, and there’s no real rain predicted until saturday morning. What could possibly go wrong…?

PS any walkers out there with suggestions for t-shirts with good, ahem, ‘odour-control’ properties? I’m tired of having to wash my synthetic wicking t-shirts everyday 😦

11 Responses to “LEJOG09: Hartland Quay to Westward Ho! (yes, there really is an exclaimation mark in the name)”

  1. 1 Gayle April 22, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    Firstly for the quick and easy answer – for a pong-resistant top you want Merino wool. It’s a very fine fabric, so doesn’t feel like wool (no scratchiness), and its ability not to pong is incredible. Personally I would recommend an Icebreaker Bodyfit 150 (the lightest weight one) for summer use, but other brands are available.

    As for the condensation problem, here are my thoughts:

    1. Ventilate as much as you can. I think I saw on a photo that you’re using an Akto, in which case make sure you leave both end vents fully open at night unless the weather makes it inadvisable to do so (i.e. don’t have the windward one open if it’s raining!)

    2. Leave the door zip open at the top too, if the weather is amenable to that.

    3. Only cook inside if you have to, and if you do have to, try to keep the zip open as much as the weather will permit.

    4. If you do wake up to a lot of condensation (inevitable on low level campsites much of the time at this time of year). You could wipe down the inside (I use half of a J-cloth type thing: weighs nothing and screws up to a tiny size), and you could shake off as much as you can, but inevitably you’re still going to be carrying a wet tent.

    5. Put the tent in a separate waterproof bag to everything else and either throw it into the top of your pack or strap it to the back (to protect other stuff in your pack). Then, if you get the chance on a nice day, try to air it at lunch time.

    My husband and I walked LEJOG last year (and do quite a bit of other year-round backpacking) and found that for the first few weeks we were overloaded with condensation every morning – we just couldn’t find a breezy pitch to keep it at bay. Very occasionally we get the tent out at lunchtime to dry it a bit, but usually we just accept a ‘heavy’ day with a wet tent in the packs. I’m afraid that at some point you’ll inevitably be faced with rain too, and likely have a tent that’s wet inside and out…

    • 2 brendanbolger April 26, 2009 at 5:17 pm

      Fantastic advice, the stuff about the tent I was starting to realize but hadn’t thought about breezy/high level stuff. At what point in the year does the condensation ease off?

      As u might have seen I’ve gone for the 120 (I think) ultralite. It definitely works, although as you see from some up coming posts it has issues of it’s own. However, the main problem is not having to wash my t-shirts every bloody night, and it scores pretty highly on that.

      What route did you take? Any other advise to make my journey a bit smoother?

  2. 3 Gayle April 22, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    Blimey – that was an epic comment wasn’t it? Sorry if I went on a bit!

  3. 5 Graham Faithfull April 22, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    Hi Brendon,
    If you want underwear with odour control properties have a look at something made from merino wool Chocolate Fish sell a good range
    I’ve been following your blog since you started the walk,keep up the good work!

    • 6 brendanbolger April 26, 2009 at 5:10 pm

      I can deal with the idea of a t-shirt that you wear for several days without washing but a pair of pants? I’m a bit scared at the idea! In fact I’ve just got myself another pair of lowe alpine’s to stretch out the washing, otherwise I’d be spending my entire trip washing my pants. Please Keep the advice coming, it’s all amazingly helpful!

  4. 7 Bill Mattinson April 22, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    Brendan, the only cure to dew on the outside of the tent is the weather! Its bound to happen on cold nights! Stick with it, Spring has really sprung and cold nights will soon be a thing of the past, I reckon that by mid June your problems will all behind you!!!

    Keep up the good work I am really enjoying your daily blog


    • 8 brendanbolger April 26, 2009 at 5:06 pm

      Oh dear, it’ll be mostly over by Mid June! I really am a fair weather camper. Thanks again for the OS maps, I’ve just crossed exmoor and they came in incredibly useful. Keep the comments coming, it great to know that people are reading.

  5. 9 Karen April 22, 2009 at 7:40 pm

    Heya Brendan

    I’ve been following your blog from the beginning – well done you! I’m still planning my own LEJOG for one day and will do it, honest! For ages I’ve been trying decide between the coastal walk or going inland through Cornwall and Devon. From reading your experiences so far, the coast path sounds way too strenuous for me.

    • 10 brendanbolger April 26, 2009 at 5:01 pm

      hello! Don’t be put off by the effort, the coast is truly amazing and just a little more preparation would make it all ok. I would advise doing whatever you could to go via the SWCP. Youll have plenty of other timeto explore inland. When it comes to it give me a bell and I can give u some suggestions to make it slightly less painful.

  6. 11 Gayle April 28, 2009 at 6:12 pm

    To save writing another epic comment here I’ve dropped you an email at the address on your Contacts page.

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