Planning the route
I used the Long Distance Path Chart to plan
the overall route from Oxford to the start of the South West Coast Path
at Poole. I needed detailed Ordnance Survey maps to plan the route from
the end of the Ridgeway National Trail to the start of the Avon Valley
Path at Salisbury.
For a map of my route, click
here. For my day-by-day log, click
Route finding on the ground from the end of the
Ridgeway was fair, although some of the paths were little used and
overgrown. The Avon Valley Path was mostly well waymarked and
maintained, but with a definite improvement when I crossed the county
boundary from Wiltshire to Hampshire.
I timed my walk to make sure that I would arrive
at Kimmeridge when the Lulworth Range Walks are open (i.e. at a
weekend). That is a dramatic stretch of coast, and definitely worth
doing. I was less concerned about the other army ranges en route - I
was unlucky on Salisbury Plain and lucky at Tregantle.
River crossings in South Devon and Cornwall
required attention to tide tables and ferry timetables. The
South West Coast Path Guide has details of both.
I stayed at B&Bs and youth hostels. I
booked accommodation in advance for the first 4 nights. On the coast,
where there is generally more accommodation, I found accommodation by
ringing round the morning or the day before I needed it. That mostly
worked well at the time of year (June and early July). But there are
some stretches where B&Bs were sparse (East Dorset and around
Start Point) and I was lucky to find somewhere at short notice.
Saturday nights were busy, and I should have booked in advance then.
Costs for B&B varied from £22 to £45 a
night. I noticed that B&B's were more expensive than when I
walked the north Cornwall coast in 2004 - the yachtie places like
Dartmouth and Salcombe were quite pricey.
The South West Coast Path Guide
(South West Coast Path Association, annually): up to date and includes
details of accommodation.
SWCP Reverse Guide (South West
Coast Path Association, 2006): the only guide written from Land's End
to Minehead, but now out of print.
Coast Path - Bude to Plymouth by Edith
Schofield and others (Trailblazer, 2012): I found the detailed sketch
useful, even though I was walking in the "wrong" direction. (I used an
earlier edition, which only covered Padstow to Falmouth.)
There is now also a Trailblazer guide to the Dorset and South Devon
section from Plymouth to Poole: South West Coast Path: Dorset & South Devon Coast Path - Plymouth to Poole Harbour Part 3 by Henry
Coastwalk: Walking the Coastline of England
and Wales by Andrew
McCloy (Coronet, 1997): by the author of the LEJOG bible. Out of print,
but sometimes available used. This book will convince you that most of
the coast of England cannot compare with the South West Coast Path.
To navigate from Oxford to the south coast I
mostly used Ordnance Survey Explorer maps (1:25,000). On the coast
path, it was pretty difficult to get lost (just keep the sea on your
left), but it was good to have the OS maps.
I used these maps:
OS 1:50,000 (Landranger): 173, 192,
201, 204, 203
OS 1:25,000 (Explorer): 170, 130,
OL22, OL15, 116, OL20