Category Archives: SW Coastal Path

SW COASTAL PATH – THE TV COAST.

Port Isaac – Padstow.

This is the ‘Newly wed and Nearly dead’ season according to the locals which explains the large number of tourists still out and about. The two villages linked have a high profile, Port Isaac is Doc Marten country and Padstow is TV cook Rick Stein’s domain, not without controversy. They are both pretty ports best visited in the evenings when the coach parties have gone. Boat trips and shopping have taken over from the fishing industry although local catches are still available but on the whole commercial tourism has taken over.

Walking through the sleepy village, without a sight of the Doc, I picked up a coffee and croissant and carried them up to a seat on the headland overlooking Port Isaac. A great place for breakfast on a sunny morning. The harbour was below me and looking across the bay Tintagel Head could plainly be seen. The first couple of miles was a real roller coaster with the path clearly visible ahead in the rugged scenery. Varley Head and Kellen Head were crossed on muddy paths slippy from yesterdays rain.

Round the corner the inlet of Port Quin was entered. People were parking up and heading for the coastal paths unfortunately the mobile tea van hadn’t opened yet.

On Doyden Point was a folly built by an 19th century merchant to entertain his friends. Nearby were two fenced off mineshafts, previous silver mines. Vapour was rising from one of them and on peering down the sound and smell of the sea came up, the shaft had obviously reached sea level maybe 25m down.

A little further I had a break by a dramatic sea arch, Lundy Hole.

Grassy paths wandered through gorse and people seemed to be coming from everywhere, looking at the map I realised there were many circular walks from nearby Polzeath. A gentle circuit of the rocky Rumps Point and Pentire Head gave good views of rocky islets with speed boats whizzing around. From the point i could see right back up the coast to Hartland Point and Lundy.

Then I was into Polzeath on Hayle Bay with the usual surfing crowd in the waters.The first cafe I came to was in a side street, an old fashioned establishment with home made drizzle cake.The elderly couple gave me a sample of rocky road cake which I’d never come across, very rich and chocolatey. Apparently popularised by Nigella Lawson – another TV link. Next door was a beach house based on an old railway carriage. Third class strangely from the Rhondda and Swansea Bay Railway closed in the 60’s.

Walking past seaside houses I arrived on the beach of Daymer Bay the site of the treacherous Doom Bar now famous as the name of one of Cornwall’s beers. There were lots of people strolling along the beach but as the tide was coming in I kept to the higher signed path up through the sand dunes for a final flurry to the quay at Rock. The small ferry to Padstow arrived and before I knew it was elbow to elbow with tourists shopping in the narrow streets. I had a bus to catch so will leave exploration till next time.

Accommodation was expensive in Padstow so I’d booked into a pub in nearby Wadebridge from where my 10 hour journey back to Lancashire would begin tomorrow. Eight great days of coastal walking are behind me and the legs remind me of the strenuous nature, time for a rest. Not sure when I will be back to finish to Lands End.

 

 

SW COASTAL PATH – AN EXHILARATING DAY.

Tintagel – Port Isaac.

The forecast was dire – rain by 2pm and wind all day. So I set off expecting the worst, you never think about not going. Within 20 mins I was hiding behind a wall at the clifftop YHA putting on full waterproofs. The wind was ferocious and I was very wary of getting too near the cliff edges.The start of the route was above slate quarries and wet slate was not the best footing.

Slate quarries and Gull rock.

Approaching Trebarwith Strand.

On reaching Trebarwith, all of 2 miles, I dived straight into The Port William pub for a coffee out of the wind. Quite an expensive place to stay in, the chatty barmaid said in a whispered voice that you paid over a £100 for the view, obviously way out of her budget. She had walked parts of the coastal path and wanted to do more.

From the steep steps behind the pub I could have a breather and watch the waves in the bay.

There was more evidence of slate quarrying in the next valley.

The route continued in the same difficult manner in and out of small coves. The wind made it difficult on some of the exposed ridges and I was glad to take shelter in one of the bays just above the pounding sea. 

A small snail hitched a ride on my rucksack and another had to make its own way.

Back into the wind and rain I battled over more headlands whilst the waves crashed below. I was beginning to enjoy myself. Port Isaac could be seen ahead.Reaching a road I walked into the little harbour of Port Gaverne, i was dripping wet and didn’t feel I could go into the many starred hotel. So I pushed on into Port Isaac and found a quiet cafe in a side street for my favourite toasted teacake and coffee.

Ignoring the rest of the village I just wanted to get to my airbnb and have a bath. The Coop provided a cheap supper as I couldn’t be bothered to go back down to the restaurants.

 

 

 

SW COASTAL PATH – NO EASY DAYS.

Crackington Haven – Tintagel.

Today’s plan was simple – enjoy a good early breakfast, climb the high hills over to Boscastle where I’d lunch in a cafe and then enjoy the afternoon’s stroll into Tintagel. Somehow I staggered into my hotel at 6pm.

As usual the first obstacle of the day was a steep climb up a headland – why did I eat such a large breakfast? Looking back though revealed the amazing convoluted strata of the cliffs at Crackington.

Onwards up to the highest cliff in Cornwall where the only bench for a rest and the best view was occupied by a lady. She happily shared it and we exchanged conversations far and wide. She was walking to Boscastle where she had left her car. Not wanting to interrupt her day I wandered on but as I was always stopping to admire the views and take pictures we kept passing each other.

A little further and she was taking lunch, she warned me about some steep sections before Boscastle but I continued expecting an early lunch. She knew something I didn’t. It was a beautiful day and there was lots to see and yes lots of climbing. The feral goats on Beeny Cliff appeared on schedule ready for their photo opportunity. More than one ascent of 200 steps had me puffing. 

Eventually I dropped into Boscastle. What a shock, packed with tourists and gift shops. The cafes by the quay were all full so I walked into the village and found a less twee place who did me beans on toast.

Leaving about 3pm I met up with the lady again as she walked out of the port to collect her car, she wished me well for the ‘short’ stretch into Tintagel. Motto, Always listen to the locals. I missed out the diversion to Willapark headland with its white lookout post. Valley streams were crossed on footbridges, steps climbed and rocky sea stacks seen. Ahead was the headland at Tintagel, the castle I could see was a hotel not the famous ruins.

A feature along this stretch were the Cornish walls of well crafted stones often in zig zag patterns, ‘curzyway’.

Passing a prominent caravan site I started meeting people walking back from a day in Tintagel they had varying estimates of the distance I had to go. First into the steep attractive Rocky Valley with its stream heading to the sea and then another dip with steps, I never seemed to get closer. Perhaps I should have taken a short cut into the village but I found myself back on the beach under Tintagel Head. The castle grounds were closing for the day, all was Arthurian but there is little to substantiate the claims but who cares in the pursuit of commercial tourism.

A trail up to the village and I was installed in a room in the appropriately named The Cornishman. It was soon dark, there are no easy days on the SW path.

 

SW COASTAL PATH – A BUSY STRETCH.

Bude – Crackington Haven.

The bus services between some of these Cornish villages is fairly regular which may explain the number of people enjoying this stretch of the path today, the weather was good too. First thing this morning I was drawn by the aroma of freshly baked bread into a bakery for a coffee and pasty. I was not impressed with Bude last night but this morning as I wandered out through the old town and past the canal area things improved. I passed The Bude Light, which is illustrated on the OS 190 Map cover, a millennium project to commemorate an early oil lamp invented by Sir Goldsworthy Gurney in the mid 1800’s. Apparently this multicoloured monument is lit internally at night, shame I didn’t realise.     After a long chat to a sprightly Octogenarian I began the climb up to the prominent Storm Tower on Compass Point. This gave a view back over Bude Bay to yesterday’s walk and views ahead to more and more headlands.

To be honest the walking this morning to Widemouth Bay was easy, more Downlike than rugged Cornwall. A road ran alongside and I was soon walking through car parks in the bay. there wasn’t much activity in the sea but plenty of dog walkers out. They all seemed to head for the cafe I took morning coffee in, the result was chaos with constant barking and unruly dogs knocking over tables and drinks. The walk now changed character with some of the steepest sections I’d come across, unrelenting all the way to the end. There wasn’t much happening in sleepy Wanson where I took to a steep road for awhile. A couple of blondes in an open top Merc stopped for a chat to pass the time. Back on the headland path I met a man walking the whole LEJG route, he was taking short cuts and diversions away from the coast to make his journey easier. Up here a couple of parapenters were making the most of the thermals. They had views back over Widemouth Bay and even distant Dartmoor. The only place to sit for lunch was on a stile and this prompted a steady stream of walkers to disturb me. Several were staying in Bude and having forays each day onto the coastal path using buses to link up. A family were making slow progress because of the father’s knee problems, the steep ups and more so the downs are not knee friendly and this section had some really steep climbs. There was a green interlude at Dizzard in oak woods, this is NT land as are many sections of the coast which I had forgotten to mention. Then three more headlands and valleys to negotiate, I lost count of the number of steps.From the last high point, Pencannow, Crackington Haven eventually came into view and a lovely rake took me down to holiday cottages and my hotel for the night. The tide was out and people were enjoying teas in the cafes before departing. That is the good thing about this path and finding accommodation on it – in the evenings the places revert back to their quiet existences.

 

I’ve met some lovely couples today all enthusing about this coast. It is good to see so many people out walking and appreciating our national heritage.  The stairs up to my room, the final steps of the day, in the Coombe Barton Inn were creaky and my room a bit lopsided. I’m looking forward to some good Cornish beer and food.

 

 

SW COASTAL PATH – SOUND OF THE SEA.

Morwenstow – Bude.

A leisurely breakfast was taken after the night before [beer festival]. I was in no rush to leave the comfortable pub as it was misty and forecast to rain. Faff and talk. Waterproofs on from the word go. Once I was back on the coast the ups and downs started but I was in mist and could only have glimpses of the coast, no idea what was happening inland. There was no wind only a strange world of silence, just the sound of the pebbles on the beach being washed out to sea and then back in again. In this silence was the background sound of bird song – most of which I don’t recognise. Eerie.

The slabby climbing areas of Higher and Lower Sharpnose passed mostly unnoticed.

Next thing I was face to face with a high security fence with dire warning notices. I had lost the path and stumbled into a GCHQ listening compound. There were radar domes and dishes which pointed east and west, I guess we are in the middle now, Trump and Kim Jong-un. I retreated to the coast.

In the mist headlands and valleys came and went. There were views down to distant beaches and all the time this strange silence.Relief came in one of the valleys, Sandymouth, in the form of a great little cafe but I managed to spill most of my tea.The terrain evened out but not much of Bude bay was seen till the end as the mist slowly cleared. Looking back along the coast was dramatic. Beach huts announced the arrival of the seaside holiday resort with a few hardy souls on the beach.

Bude looked grim as I walked in with wet and dreary families heading home, my hotel was even grimmer.

 

SW COASTAL PATH – INTO CORNWALL.

Hartland Quay – Morwenstow.

A cliff top walk of the highest calibre. I had been warned about the section from Hartland to Bude, 16 miles and 4500ft of ascent/descent so taking my decrepit state into consideration I looked for alternatives. The map showed a PH at Morwenstow, half way, and phoning them I secured a bed for the night. The only problem the landlord warned me of was that they were hosting a beer and cider festival – even better but that’s another story.

The morning at Hartland Quay was perfect, the previous nights storm had vanished and I enjoyed a pre-breakfast stroll to admire the dramatic coast. Visible distant headlands would soon be reached but it is what they hide that makes the SW path challenging. Side valleys  coming from the hinterland contain lively streams cutting down through the cliffs, often ending in a waterfall onto the beach, giving so much character and diversity to the walk. I wanted to explore all these enchanting valleys inland – so little time. Today there were a lot of these. In one of the first campers were scrambling down to the beach for some early morning surfing.

After that there was a good level cliff top section when I had time and breath to admire the views back to Harland Quay and Lundy, there was even a perfectly placed picnic bench to have a snack whilst doing so.

Then the ups and downs kicked in with lots of steps. Somewhere along here was an old coast lookout dedicated to Ronald Duncan a local poet who lived nearby, 1914 – 1982.

And then into Cornwall, or Kernow its Cornish name. Recent strimming from here on suggests Cornwall has a higher priority or budget for the path than Devon. The spectacular scenery continued and looking back Hartland Quay was still visible as was Lundy Island.

After more steep valleys the church tower at Morwenstow came into view but first I had to visit Hawker’s Hut. Parson Hawker occupied the vicarage from 1834-74 and being the eccentric character he was built himself a little hut from driftwood, here high on the cliff he would contemplate the Atlantic. I spent some time doing the same.

A path led into the village by the vicarage where Hawker had erected chimneys representing the steeples of his previous churches. The Norman church was just above.

Then a path led me directly to the Rectory Tea Rooms where a Cornish cream tea was indulged in, well you have to.

I then made my way to The Bush Inn  for the night. A traditional inn which hasn’t changed much over the years; possibly, along with others, one of the inspirations for Jamaica Inn. Murderous wreckers were common on this coast. Oh and did I mention the beer and cider festival?

 

 

 

SW COASTAL PATH – ‘FURTHEST FROM THE RAILWAYS’

                                                                  Hartland Point.

Clovelly – Hartland Quay.

Hartland Point used to be described last century in tourist brochures as ‘furthest from the railways’ at that time Bude and Bideford, it is even further now. It feels a remote spot on the NW Devon coast marking the place where the path swings from a west to a south direction, the Bristol Channel becomes the Atlantic and the scenery becomes more dramatic.

I’d left Clovelly before it was awake and walked through parkland initially to reach to reach the Angel Wings an old estate carved wooden shelter. A couple walked past doing the path.

I resisted  a walk to a viewpoint as I wasn’t sure one could continue and so dropped down through woods to Mouth Mill Bay with views ahead to Lundy Island, a place of so many memories for me. Remains of mills and lime kilns in the valley and rocky bay were a reminder of past labour and prosperity. Limestone was brought in by boat and processed into lime for agriculture inland.

Steep steps into NT woodland and then zig zags back down into a valley before the inevitable climb back up and over Windbury Point. From here there were dramatic views back to the hollow arch of Blackchurch Rock which I hadn’t realised was on the beach round the corner at Mouthmill.  A  memorial plaque to a Wellington bomber crash of 1942 was passed. Further on was another memorial, this time to a ship torpedoed by a U-boat in 1918. Both are well tended.

Ahead was a radar dome which was being decommissioned and the path was diverted inland on quiet lanes to Titchberry, no hardship.The walking couple caught me up [we would leapfrog the next few days] – they had been seduced by that viewpoint sign which was as suspected a dead end. By now the wind was increasing and I was glad to reach the great little refreshment shack by a car park. A pleasant young man served me a good coffee and homemade cake, what a treasure.

The lighthouse at Hartland Point was out of bounds but the cliff edge by the CG lookout gave dramatic views. A switchback route went in and out of green valleys to arrive opposite the dramatic cliff of Dyers Lookout. I’d seen pictures of James Pearson climbing impenetrable looking rock to produce  Walk of Life, E9 6c or harder. In real life this looked impossible.

More steep ups and downs and eventually a grassy headland passing an old tower framing Stoke Church and then down to the dramatically situated Hartland Quay Hotel. By now the wind was gale force and the rain troublesome. The hotel was a welcome refuge and a wonderful place to spend the night listening to the waves.

View from my window.