Day 84 – Philham to Clovelly 18th October 2016

Day 84 – Philham to Clovelly 18th October 2016

It rained hard during the night and looked distinctly miserable at breakfast this morning. Jon, who had had a bad night, decided to do a shorter route but I was not to be dissuaded from the full monty and Chris decided to lend me moral support.

It soon cleared up and we have had a bright, windy, blustery day.  It took surprisingly little time to get back to the coast, compared with the hopeless trekking about of yesterday evening.  We rejoined the path about 1.5 miles south of Hartland Quay. Hartland Quay itself is a little strip of cottages, a pub and a hotel, all owned by the local manor.

Lighthouse at Hartland Point

Lighthouse at Hartland Point

There were several steep drops and climbs, but the path soon levelled out towards Hartland Point.

The views were great. Lundy was so clear today that we could almost see the puffins for which the island is famous.  12 miles off the coast, it marks the point where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Bristol Channel and was once owned by the Knights Templar (my completely random fact of the day!)

Around 12.15pm, we rounded Hartland Point, and began walking directly east, after days of north-north-west. We had a leisurely walk along the cliff tops for about 5 miles before dropping into several wooded groves.

Towards Clovelly

Towards Clovelly

I have never seen so many pheasants in my life. They were everywhere: in the woods, in the fields, skittering along the paths. Just outside Clovelly, the scenery becomes very woody, and the walking was lovely, through the fallen beech trees.

Clovelly itself is very odd. It seems to be entirely owned by the local estate and there is a distinctly feudal air about the whole place, which I guess might be friendly if you live there, but I found a bit overpowering.  The village is one long, and very steep, cobbled street from the top to the dock at the bottom.

Clovelly

Clovelly

It is famous apparently for donkeys, although we have not seen any – we were told that either ‘health and safety’ or ‘Europe’ has got rid of them, but I can’t remember which. The street down to the sea front is very steep and slippery – I didn’t much fancy going up and down it twice, so we went down to the pub and stayed there all evening.

On the up side, there are lots of cats, all very friendly and we were impressed by the clever use of baker’s palettes for carrying everything up and down the narrow street.

I was rewarded for resisting Jon’s attempts to lead me astray with a short walk as he had a scary cow incident that I am glad to have avoided.  On tomorrow to the wonderfully named Westward Ho! 13.2 miles.

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Day 83 – Bude to Philham 17 October 2016

Day 83 – Bude to Philham 17 October 2016

Today has been pretty hardcore. Not the very hardest day I have ever done, but definitely in the top five, perhaps even the top three!

We managed to start a bit earlier today. Rachel had a bus to catch to get back to London for work tomorrow, so we had an earlyish breakfast and set off a few minutes before nine, fortified with an excellent meal including including Cornish pudding –  a sort of sausage but very peppery.

I slipped a Cornish pasty and some lemon cake into my rucksack. I was so full from last night and breakfast that I contemplated not taking lunch but everyone warned it would be a long tough day. The weather was blustery as we set out, blowing foam like confetti onto the land. img_1605The wind has been strong all day but although a few squalls crossed onto land, they were behind us, just giving us the odd shower. Not enough to get really wet.

What has been so tough are the relentless ups and dens. At least twelve times we climbed down steep slopes or staircases from the top of the cliffs to sea level, and up the other side. Absolutely exhausting, especially as the wind was fierce at times, although blowing us onto the coast rather than off.

We could see Lundy getting and at the end of the day it was plain visible whenever the clouds rolled back, although it frequently was obscured by clouds.

Around 2pm, we finally left Cornwall and crossed back into Devon. The Cornish coast has taken me twenty-three days to complete – definitely the longest county coast so far.img_1684

Above the long valley leading into Welcombe Mouth beach, we came to the writing hut of Ronald Duncan. I had never heard of him before, but Duncan was an important playwright and poet from the mid-twentieth century. Duncan was a pacifist and a conscientious objector, who, before the Second World War worked with Benjamin Britten, and is best known for writing the libretto to Britten’s ‘Rape of Lucretia’.  During the war, he began a co-operative farm near Welcombe Mouth, although not with conspicuous success. His little hut, which must have taken huge grit to complete, as all of the stone would have had to be dragged up or down a precipitous slope, made a welcome retreat from the wind.img_1694

Unfortunately we could not book anywhere to stay in Hartland Quay (the nearest settlement to the path), so had to go several miles inland to find one. It was getting dark and we were exhausted, so my navigational error that took us nearly a mile out of our way was not my finest hour. I must say,  Jon and Chris were very forgiving!

Pleasingly, we have a little suite to ourselves, and my bathroom has an enormous bath and numerous fluffy towels. Our hosts gave us a lift to and from the pub, for a rather indifferent meal.  I am now about to plunge into the aforementioned tub.

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Day 82 – Crackington Haven to Bude

Day 82 – Crackington Haven to Bude

We left our excellent hotel bright and late but as we had only a short day to do, we were in no hurry.

It was an absolutely beautiful morning. After heavy rain in the night, which soaked everything, the sun was warm and everything sparkled, with the sea completely calm.

The path out of Crackington Haven is steep, sloping diagonally img_1499from behind the hotel across at a north westerly angle. From the top we could see back to Tintagel Head. The massive Camelot Castle hotel is a very handy landmark. From the first headland we could also see ahead as far as beyond today’s stop at Bude. There were another two big drops and ascents, but the countryside is becoming more like the south Devon coast – lots of up and down, but not as steep as much of Cornwall.

Around 12, we stopped to eat the pasties we had carried all the way from Tintagel. Despite being locally made there, they were distinctly second rate, compared with some img_1564I have had. Shortly after, it began to spit. Chris and Jon were quite a way ahead when Rachel suggested we put on our rain gear – but we were too late. Dancing about trying to get myself into my horrible plastic pants, the rain poured down in a flash squall. It persisted, less violently, for about an hour giving some amazing views of clouds and rainbows.

We eventually found a café at Widemouth Bay, where I had a rather good scone. The last hour and a half into Bude was uneventful. Bude does not seem very prosperous. We are in a very nice hotel, looking down over the town after an easy 10.7 miles (17.1km).

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Day 81 – Tintagel to Crackington Haven 15th October 2016

Day 81 – Tintagel to Crackington Haven 15th October 2016

img_1387Another bad journey down from Paddington yesterday. This time the trains were delayed for two hours because someone had been hit by a train at West Ealing. With nothing to do but wait we whiled away the time in the pub.

Two glasses of wine and a Cornish pasty, later we got on the packed train – along with all the other passengers from delayed trains. Including a dog, named Daisy. The dog was fine but its owner talked to it incessantly. At one point it made a break for freedom, Jon guessed in search of the quiet carriage.

It was noticeable how much shorter the journey was than the last one down to Penzance – progress measured in train journey times!

We managed to rearrange our lift from Bodmin and got to Tintagel around seven. Sadly too late to go to the headland, although there was a splendid moon.

This morning were delayed in setting off because the luggage people hadn’t confirmed the pick-up. We mooched around the village before concluding that we would leave cash with our B & B to send the bags on by taxi, if they weren’t collected. We also collected some pasties for lunch. We finally set out around 9.40, down the lane to meet the coast path just to the north east of the village.

Today is marked as strenuous in the book.  There were lots of ups and downs and, although no single one was as fierce as the days before Tintagel, there were fewer long flat bits. All the way, looking back, we could see the vast Victorian Hotel, the Camelot Castle, out on the headland. It never seemed to get much further away. Whilst the weather started sunny, by the time we got to Boscastle – the place almost washed away by floods a few years ago, it was beginning to spit.img_1417

We stopped in a very nice tea shop for coffee and cake, and as we ate the rain began to come down in stair rods. A vote was held to delay setting out for half an hour to see if it cleared. But it didn’t. So we left around 1.45, suitably plasticked up. It poured for another forty five minutes.

Strangely, it is easier to walk on a soaking path, than a damp one. Damp paths are far more slippery than wet ones. The views were tremendous – the autumn colours looking very dramatic against the grey sky. img_1428 The rain stopped and the sky turned bright blue, the water turquoise and calm, and the last couple of hours were gorgeous.

Now in the pub at Crackington Haven in what would be a nice room if the window were not nailed shut. We had an excellent dinner – I tried some Cornish gin very good indeed! Quite herby. We covered a pleasant 12.5 miles.

The moon was full so Rachel and I had a brief walk down to the sea front it was gorgeous in the moonlight apart from a very disconcerting shadow that looked like Quasimodo beating someone with a club.

 

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Day 80 – Port Isaac to Tintagel 17 July 2016

Day 80 – Port Isaac to Tintagel 17 July 2016

img_1326We’re all aboard the 16.18 from Bodmin Parkway to Paddington.

We made a fairly early start, by our standards, leaving our very modern B & B at Three Gates Meadow at 8.30. The day is marked as ‘severe’ in the book, same as the Pendeen to St Ives stretch, but only 14.8km rather than 23.5 (that is less than 10 miles).

We decided not to walk back to the cliff edge at Port Isaac but to go along the road for a mile to avoid the first big drop, and we were very glad to have done so. We cut back to the coast and after about a quarter of a mile, the land fell away into one of the steepest valleys of the route so far – ie since setting out from London Bridge! Going down was horrible. My knees have been pretty good this trip, with no heavy bag to carry and shorter distances but this was evil and they were protesting severely. Up the other side, I was almost on all fours – generally up hill is less troublesome to me butimg_1350 this was a killer.

Back on the top the path was flat for no more than a quarter mile before dropping away again, not quite so severely but bad enough. Up again, and along (through a herd of young stirks who hovered near the stile, of course). A flat bit and then down the dip we’ve christened Big Bertha for obvious reasons. We met a man and his daughter who are doing the whole South West Coast Path, – camping!  Ugh!  They were bowed under the weight of the kit. Rather them than me, but they seemed pretty jaunty. Bet they didn’t enjoy Big Bertha.

From the map, it looked as though the worst were over, but no.  Dropping down into Trebarthwith sands was an almost vertical staircase.  A quick ice-cream as reward, then up the other side and a final 2 miles into Tintagel, where we cut across the fields to the church before collapsing into a pub for lunch. We had made it with just 20 minutes to spare to bolt some food before picked up by our taxi.img_1364

The weather today was a fascinating mix. There was a heavy sea mist when we set out, which cleared off the tops, leaving bright sunshine above, with thick mist over the sea – very atmospheric.

The temperature has now soared. It must be around 28 degrees, but fortunately, our train is air conditioned and Jon and Stephen were very happy whilst waiting for it, as a steam train pulled in, to be ooh’d and aah’d over by admiring crowds.20160717_153626

Goodbye to another part of the great adventure, although I am feeling as though I have barely scratched the surface yet…

In theory, I have now done 20% having broken through the 1,300 mile point today – assuming the 6,500 guestimate is close enough to the reality.

Day 79 – Padstow to Port Isaac 16 July 2016

Day 79 – Padstow to Port Isaac 16 July 2016

Today was another glorious day. I really do love North Cornwall. I think it has overtaken Dorset in my favourite English counties. But definitely North Cornwall, rather than South which I didn’t especially like – although that might have been the bag carrying…

Last night we walked into Padstow from our excellent B&B (called ‘Tamarisk’ and run by Betty – definite recommend). We decided that we: a) would not eat in the most expensive place – meals here are equal or more than London prices, and it can’t be transport or staff  as they all claim to serve local produce and wages are low; b) would not eat in one of Rick Stein’s numerous places – not that we object to Mr Stein but after a day’s walking even following a shower and change we don’t really look the part, and c) we would not eat outside. The wind was very sharp and we had spent all day outside. So we went to Rick Stein’s Bistro, ate in the garden and paid a very fine price! But it was an excellent meal.

In the morning, we took recommendations from Bimg_1208etty on pasty shops and waited for 20 minutes for a gluten free batch to be finished for Jon.  We then hung around Padstow harbour waiting for the ferry across the Camel.

The first section of the walk was easy, from Rock on the east of the estuary to Polzeath where we had coffee. The weather was very fine, quite hot in fact and copious applications of factor 30 were required. Stephen, after feeling rather tired yesterday was full of beans today and in full snipping mode. I can’t remember whether I have mentioned that as an act of selfless public good, Stephen walks with a handy pair of small secateurs and clips over-exuberant brambles from the path.  It is a treat to walk in his wake with nothing catching at hair or legs.img_1296

From Polzeath the route became progressively more difficult, with a number of ups and downs. We reached Pentire Head around 1pm and stopped to eat our pasties, still slightly warm inside mmmm. The views were absolutely superb, particularly at the eastern side of the headland. Apparently, it is possible to see Tintagel Head, and possibly even Bude, but it was not clear enough for that.

Port Quin a very narrow inlet, also owned by the National Trust, was impossible to see until you were on it. We had promised ourselves ice cream when we reached it, but there was only a tea van with a very grumpy lady in it, who shut up shop promptly at 4pm.

From Port Quin to Port Isaac is somewhat over 3 miles, and a very steep three miles at that. The path drops and rises precipitately, with steps cut into the cliff that look as though they will drop right down into the sea at various points. img_1314We toiled and moiled slowly along, reaching Port Isaac, which is delightful, except for the stony beach. After being turned away by several restaurants (they claimed they were full, but I fear they thought we would lower the tone), we had an excellent meal in the Golden Lion pub, before ascending yet another hill to our B&B.  Today’s distance was 12 miles (20km).

Day 78 – Porthcothan to Padstow, 15 July 2016

Day 78 – Porthcothan to Padstow, 15 July 2016

img_1135Today has been a gentle day, 17.3km (nearly 11 miles) of fairly flat walking, with only one major down and up. We started late after a very convivial breakfast with our host, as the distance was not too great.

Yesterday’s sun had completely disappeared and the sky was overcast. The turquoise water had turned to a rather attractive petrol green. A couple of miles brought us to Treyarnon. Unlike yesterday, there were few surfers about, as, despite the chilly wind, there was no surf. After a coffee in the pub there, we carried on around another couple of coves, and crossed Trevose Head. This is yet another area of coast largely owned by the National Trust. From the tip of it, we could just about see back to St Ives. Because of the lie of the land, from this point onward, St Ives will be out of sight.

Moving north-east, we then skirted Harlyn Bay and eventually arrived at Stepper Point, the headland overlooking the Camel Estuary.  Just on the tip is the Stepper Point Coast Watch station. This is run by a charitable body which notes all (and I mean all) of the movements along the coast with watch points all around the Cornish coast. The public can enter and see the very fancy equipment that tracks vessels. For future reference, we were marked down as soon as we came within sight in the book as ‘1m white shirt (Jon) 1f green blouse (me) + 1m (Stephen).’img_1176

One of the most interesting things in the watch house was a map and list of all the wrecks along the stretch of coast since the early 1600s. It was a fascinating record, ships from Jamaica and Malaysia, Dublin and Falmouth, and even as close as St Ives, many wrecked on Doom Bar, a shifting sand bar across the Camel mouth. Where known, the cargo, the captain and the number of crew lost were noted. The charity is always looking for volunteers, so if you are on the coast, and fancy helping out, make enquiries.

After this, we turned down the Camel estuary. The sun had come out and we decided to make for the tea gardens at Prideaux house, a Tudor mansion where the Prideaux family has lived for 14 generations. Before we got there, we were side tracked by another tea spot, the Rest-a-While, overlooking the estuary. So we did, and watched the rather lovely yachts zipping up and down the Camel as we ate a very satisfactory cream tea.img_1183

It was fortunate we were weak-willed as Prideaux House was closed for filming.

We are now in a very comfy B&B in Padstow. Definitely one of the best of the trip.