South England Loop

by Mike Conroy

The Trip

A loop starting on the North Cornish Coast via Lundy, Bristol, London, Dover, Isle of Wight and returning to Newquay.

This was an unsupported solo trip, generally taking it easy, with many lazy mornings. It was an unusually hot and dry summer, I was generally very lucky with the weather and wind direction. I was never very far from habitation and was able to keep my onboard store of food and water to a minimum.

I loved every minute of the trip and stopped off for a wander in lots of places along the way. It’s a fantastic trip, I wonder why more people have not done it.

Start Point: Newquay Cornwall
Finish Point: Newquay Cornwall
Distance: ~900 nm
Elapsed Time: 54 days
Start Date: 19-May-22
Finish Date: 11-Jul-22
Boat: Tiderace Pace 17

Summary of Major Sections
Newquay to Lundy (105 miles)

Exposed to the Atlantic with a big swell running, staying well offshore, minimal landing spots. Exhilarating.


Lundy to Bristol (110 miles)

The tides in the Bristol Channel need respecting. I decided to paddle the Minehead to Bristol section in one day to save having to traipse through lots of mud.

Bristol to Reading (110 miles)

Up the Avon and along the Kennet and Avon Canal. I learnt that river locks are much more formidable obstacles than canal locks, which don’t need to cater for large changes in water level. My KCS wheels were indispensable. It was a nice change to see all that greenery.


Reading to Gravesend (115 miles)

There’s plenty to look at on the banks of the Thames, especially past Henley. I was advised against camping in central London so I did the stretch from Stains to Gravesend in one session. Whizzing past London Bridge, the Tower and the Houses of Parliament on a fast ebbing tide, while dodging the Uber catamarans was pure joy.

Gravesend to Hythe (110 miles)

I managed to take in the Maunsell Sea Forts off Herne Bay, felt a long way from home when I stopped for lunch in Sandwich Bay and got a personal escort boat through Dover Harbour, all good fun.


Royal Military Canal (25 miles)

This was not in the plan, but on hearing about it, I decided it was preferable to going round Dungeness. It is not officially a navigation and clogged with weeds for miles on end, but it’s not everyday you have an entire canal to yourself.
Rye to Isle of Wight (120 miles) Probably the most heavily populated part of the British coastline with huge stretches of shingle beach. Passing by the Seven Sisters was the highlight.

Isle of Wight to Bridport (75 miles)

After crossing from the Needles to Swanage I finally reached the less highly populated beauty of the Dorset Coast. The Swanage to Kimmeridge section felt very exposed, beautiful though. I was glad when I pulled into the protection of West Bay harbor after the long crossing from Portland Bill.


Bridport to Exmouth (50 miles)

I particularly enjoyed this section which was new to me, especially the stretch between Beer to Budleigh Salterton.

Exmouth to Plymouth (80 miles)

Lots of variety, lonely stretches of exposed cliffs, long shingle banks and tranquil stop offs at Dartmouth, Salcombe and Newton Ferres.


Plymouth to Newquay (160 miles)

I loved getting back to Cornwall. Blessed with bright sunshine and light winds, I was able to relax going around the Lizard and Lands End and had my best ever opportunity to explore the North Coast up close.


Mike Conroy
Dec 2022