Tag Archives: Devon

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.

 

 

 

 

SW COASTAL PATH – LOVELY CLOVELLY.

Westward Ho! – Clovelly.

I’ve not been Clovelly for over 60 years and things have changed, a new intrusive visitor centre and more commercial development, but tonight I’m staying in The New Inn in the centre of the village after all the visitors have gone. There is no traffic down the cobbled street and I’m able to explore the lanes and cottages from a time past. Everything is brought in by sledge. Going back those 60 years to touring in the SW with my parents I remember collecting triangular car stickers from all the popular villages. Simple pleasures, must look in the attic.

It’s not been an easy day, a 1000m ascent and descent over 12miles. The ups and downs of the coastal path kick in and remind my leg muscles of whats to come.

The bus trip had me tuning into the friendly local accents once more. With its name taken from the novel by Charles Kingsley, Westward Ho! is the only place in Britain with an exclamation mark in its name. An easy but dull walk out of Westward Ho! with references to Rudyard Kipling, a one time resident, extracts from his ‘IF’ poem are embedded into the promenade alongside some fine beach huts.

At the end of the promenade was the spooky deserted haunted house pointed out to me by a local resident.

The ‘Haunted House’

Soon the climbs start, down steps and then back up more. Lundy Island is prominent out to sea. Ahead Hartland Point is visible with the white cottages of Clovelly reaching down to the coast. Looking back I make out the Woolacombe headlands.

Clovelly in the distance.

In places the path disappears into tunnels of gorse and thorn, an Alice in Wonderland experience. Whole armies could pass here unnoticed.

For lunch I sat on an uncomfortable stone above Peppercombe Beach, as is usual within 1/4 mile there was a picnic bench above the real Peppercombe.

Peppercombe. Back to Braunton and Woolacombe.

Up and down in woods and fields above red cliffs, the path slippy from recent rain, a glimpse of holiday houses at Bucks Mills which turned out to be a great little harbour with lime kilns from times past. An unexpected coffee from a window was very welcome. A waterfall on the beach, a lady shrimping in the sea, an artists hut – I was in no rush.

Then steeply back up into the woods on arduous muddy tracks.

Salvador Dali beeches.

Eventually and thankfully I join the estate track which gives easier contoured walking arriving high above Clovelly. It was late in the day and only a few tourists were dragging themselves back up to the car park. I walked down the cobbles past lovely cottages to the quayside and back to my traditional inn for a peaceful night.

 

 

SW COASTAL PATH – GETTING BACK THERE.

Preston – Westward Ho!

Sometimes reaching the start of a walk can be an interesting day in itself.

At the very moment I was being picked up to be taken to the station half a dozen sheep appeared in my garden, this led to a few frantic minutes of attempted sheep rounding up. I made the station on time but I’ve no idea what happened to the sheep.

Ironically given my destination my morning coffee was purchased at the West Cornwall Pasty Company kiosk, I resisted their ‘traditional’ pasty as I’m sure there will be more to come.

The waiting room and buffet at Preston Station has interesting information relating to when it was at the hub of troop transport in WW1.

Back in Barnstaple I had time to explore more of the town and was amazed at their covered Pannier Market, in use for 160years, and the adjoining Butchers’ Row previously populated with rows of adjoining butchers’ shops. A reflection of the importance as a port and market town Barnstaple has been.

My hotel for the night was further from the centre than I’d hoped but luckily round the corner was the friendly Reform Inn with their own brewed Barum beer at £2.50 a pint, that was the last I’d see of those cheap prices in touristy Cornwall. 

It turned out two gents staying at the same hotel were on their last leg to Lands End having ridden on strange Monkey Motorbikes from John O’Groats in 6 days.

I’m here for a week to complete another section of my John O’Groats Lands End walk using mainly the SW Coastal Path in this region as it gives spectacular walking. Feels as though I’ve done a day’s walking already.

 

WESTWARD HO!

Appledore  –  Westward Ho!

Westward Ho! was a novel written in 1855 by Charles Kingsley featuring the port of Bideford in a seafaring adventure. When a town was being developed on this part of the coast a few years later it was thought that linking it with the novel would help promote tourism. Hence the name and the exclamation mark. I remember an area in the NE that started putting up signs ‘Catherine Cookson Country’ for tourism, I felt that it was inappropriate at the time and I don’t know if they are still there. At least they didn’t christen any new town or village with the moniker. Anyhow today I heading appropriately west.

Again it was raining heavily so I lingered over my superb breakfast and talked amongst other things of travel and carpets with my hostess, she had once imported oriental rugs and the house is still full of them. Eventually I had to leave as my schedule was tight today with a train to catch home later. The streets of Appledore still looked attractive in the wet but on the quayside the tide was out exposing a lot of mud.

Lanes out of Appledore brought me to the entrance to Northam Burrows Park, a few cars were driving to the car park.  It was not pleasant with mist, wind and rain. but they were mainly dog walkers with a routine. The dunes of Saunton and the Croyde headland could just be made out. I short cut across the dunes towards the point, one minute I was on rough ground the next on a perfectly manicured golf course which I had not recognised in the conditions, fortunately those same conditions were too bad for golfers and I scuttled off towards the sea.

What golf course…

… oh that one.

A sandy path of sorts above the beach sufficed to bring me to the remarkable black pebble bar which stretches down to Westward Ho! There was not much to delay me and I was soon on the road and catching a bus to Barnstaple for my onward journey home.

 

A murky pebble bar and distant Westward Ho!

It will be awhile before I return and head towards Lands End, shall miss the salty air and the friendly soft Devon lilt.

 

DEAD LEVEL THROUGH BARNSTAPLE.

Braunton  – Instow/Appledore.

It was raining hard so I was happy to chat with my sociable B and B host over breakfast, So It was almost eleven when I was on my way. After a bit of clever navigating through streets and parks I was on the old railway track into Barnstable. Today was going to be virtually all walking on old railways, the Tarka Trail follows the same route. At first there were new houses built close to the track and then Chivenor Royal Marine barracks. Plenty of joggers and cyclists were using the flat track for their exercise.  Somewhere along the line the sun came out and suddenly I was alongside the Taw estuary which at low tide wasn’t very attractive.

Walking quickly I was soon under the new Taw Bridge into Barnstable and having lunch at the great little cafe attached to the railway station. 

When I set off again it was hot and sunny, the weather has been so changeable this week. There is a cycle hire depot at the station so lots of cyclists of all shapes and sizes were using the old railway line. It was good to see whole family groups out and everyone seemed in a cheerful mood. A girl coming towards me was walking Land’s End to John o’Groats, she was just getting into her stride after two weeks on the trail. The tide was coming in and I was amazed at how quickly the channels filled with water. The old station halt at Fremington Quay has been converted to a cafe and was doing a great trade with the cyclists most of whom went no further. They were so busy I didn’t stop but was lucky to come across a mobile coffee stall further along. A young man had packed in his job bought the tricycle and set up shop. He’d obtained a license to trade and was hoping for a good summer, his coffee was excellent! The walking along the railways has not been as boring as I thought.

How many miles?

Fremington Quay.

At Instow I took to the beach for a stretch with plenty of activity happening in the water. The sand dunes at Braunton were visible and a yacht race was in progress on the open water. I was now alongside the mouth of the River Torridge with Bideford downstream, just across the water was Appledore. I didn’t fancy the long detour down river to the first bridge and was in luck as the ferry was operating, it only does two hours either side of high tide. So for £1.50 I was soon stepping onto the quay in Appledore, the journey across delightful in the afternoon sunshine. The ice cream sellers were doing a roaring trade.

Approaching Appledore.

This old fishing and shipbuilding village was a delight with tiny houses in traffic free narrow winding streets. Most of the tourists disappeared in the early evening, so I enjoyed an exploratory stroll around in the warm sunshine with clear views across the coast.

Looking back to Instow.

A decent pub meal for a change and back to my stylish B and B for an early night. http://www.torridgehouseappledore.com

 

 

BAGGY POINT, CROYDE AND SAUNTON BAYS.

Woolacombe  –  Braunton.

It was going to be hot today but as I left, rather late, spots of rain were falling and people were coming off the beach. Somehow I managed to get onto the sand dunes which were heavy going,  Herb Elliot comes to mind. I retreated to the firmer sand on the beach as the tide went out. It’s a long beach. Climbing out on a lane I looked back at Woolacombe.

Sand dunes along Woolacombe beach with Baggy Point in distance.

Back to Woolacombe.

At the far end of the bay was Putsborough Sands which seemed popular with surfing groups under instruction. Now onto open land I began the traverse to Baggy Point high above the beach. I was looking forward to this renowned climbing area which I’d never visited. Lots of people were walking out from Croyde Bay. At the point I could look down onto the loose slabs on which there are some classic climbs , always fancied Kinky Boots. There was no climbing today as a bird ban was still in progress. I examined the metal belay stakes and imagined the exploratory abseil down into the abyss.

Main climbing area at Baggy Point.

A made up path, popular today. took me directly into Croyde and a cafe primarily for surfers. Tea and panini. People were setting off excitedly on surfing and coasteering [a new ugly term for an unusual pastime thought up by commercial organisations]. Again I extricated myself from soft dunes and arrived back on the coastal road by a monstrosity of a  building project, don’t they have planning controls down here?

Croyde bay.

A path above and  parallel to the road proved really pleasant with lots of flowers and views. a seat provided the perfect lunch spot. It came to an end on the main road above Saunton beach and its busy car parks but I found a path back up onto the open heath populated with sheep. This super highway eventually brought me back down to earth near a little chapel and I walked along the road as a short cut into Braunton, it was very hot and I had no desire to do the longer route.

Saunton bay.

Braunton from on high.

Fish and chips at the famous Squires sufficed me before reaching my B and B. This latter turned out to be interesting in that it is run by a garden nursery, or rather propagator, man. Long discussions ensued on horticultural topics. The accommodation was first class. www.escallonia.co.uk

Inanda B and B.