For anyone who has read any of my previous reviews, you will know that my son and I are trying to walk the whole 600+ miles of the South West Coastal Path and are doing this in small stages. If you have never read any of my past reviews (and why would you? I am sure most of you have far more interesting things to do, even re-arranging the sock drawer might seem preferable to me prattling on about my blisters!),but you might be planning to walk part of the path and therefore the following might be of some interest.
In May this year we headed off for our 3rd trip down to Devon and during our week there we started out from Westwood Ho! (where we last finished back in April) and walked to Hartland Quay.
This trip was slightly different in that we went down for a family holiday and the walking was just something we fitted in with our other family activities. We had the luxury of the car so we didn’t have to lug huge backpacks with us. My son’s partner, Pauline (who has no interest whatsoever in walking) dropped us off each morning and picked us up each afternoon. Oh the joy of not having to carry your week’s wardrobe on your back!
WESTWOOD HO! TO BUCK’S MILL: (7 miles)
We had driven down to Yeovil in the evening and stayed in a Travelodge overnight before beginning our walk from Westwood Ho! on the first day. Pauline drove us to the start and me, my son, my 23 year old grandson and my 12 year old grandson set off on the first leg of our walk. Pauline waved us off cheerfully and went off to enjoy a peaceful day in Westwood Ho!
Andre, the 12 year old, had never walked with us before and he is more of a technology geek than an outdoorsy person but he started off in good spirits. It was a very up and down route, over Comborough Cliff and Abbotsham Cliff. However the path was so overgrown I really began to wish that I had brought a strimmer with me so that I could cut back some of the nettles, bracken and thistles that took delight in trying to trip us up. These were the most overgrown paths I have seen so far on the South Western Coastal Path. There were beautiful views from the tops of the cliffs. After Westacott Cliff we took some steps down to the beach and had to walk across the huge stones before heading up the other side.
We passed through a thicket of willow, hawthorn and hazel and this is the domain of the Speckled Wood Butterfly and for a while quite a few flew alongside us. We came out of the thicket onto Higher Rowden and that was a lovely cliff side walk. Andre was beginning to complain now and we had agreed that his mother would drive to meet us and take him if it got a bit much but we hadn’t counted on the bad phone reception in Devon. Trying to contact her proved fruitless so he had to finish the whole 7 miles with us which meant we walked past Peppercombe, through Sloo Woods and past Worthy Gate Wood before taking a zig zagging path down to Buck’s Mill. Pauline met us there and we had an ice cream then headed off to our booked accommodation. (Buck’s Mill is a tiny little place with a structure by the edge of the beach that used to be a lime kiln but is now covered in greenery and wild flowers and resembles the ramparts of an old castle. There is also a small waterfall that crashes straight onto the beach.)
My son had booked a holiday chalet (No. 43, Holmes Lodge) in Hartland Forest Park in the wonderfully named village of Woodfardisworthy. The accommodation was nice enough with a very “lived in” look but it was perfect for us 5.
BUCK’S MILL TO BROWNSHAM (7 miles):
This morning Pauline dropped us off again at Buck’s Mill and we continued our walk. No Andre today, he pleaded tired legs and decided to disrupt his mother’s peaceful me-time!
We headed off from the beach with the waterfall and passed through Buck’s Wood which is part of a nature reserve. There was a steep zig zag track going up the hill which was quite strenuous. We kept winding in and out of these wooded areas all morning until we came out into Hobby Drive. Hobby Drive was built in the early 19th Century and is a very straight and even path to walk. In fact the whole walk today was a joy with amazing views. We then arrived at Clovelley. What a delightful place that is (albeit rather weird too). Andre and Pauline met us there and we had pasties and ice cream down by the harbour in the sunshine. There is a £7 charge to go into the village which is a bit strange but this does include the range rover ride back up the hill from the harbour. Clovelley is build almost perpendicularly into the cliff and with the cobbles and steep gradients, living there must be a nightmare. We saw how the locals get their groceries down to their houses. They park at the top of the cliff, load everything onto a “sledge” made of pallets and drag it down to their houses over the cobbles. (It made me appreciate my Tesco online shop more!).
After our lunch break we continued on the walk. It was another lovely route. We walked through fields and along cliff tops. We passed Mouthmill Beach where we detoured to see the huge monolith of layered lime stone with 2 natural arches that is called Blackchurch Rock. we passed another old lime kiln and then followed a small path (where pheasants strolled in front of us!) to Brownsham car park where Pauline was waiting for us. Today’s walk was definitely one of the nicest stretches of the South West Coastal Path so far!
BROWNSHAM TO HARTLAND QUAY (7 3/4 miles):
Today it was raining when Pauline drove us back to Brownsham for the last part of our walk. It was very misty and drizzling and within an hour of setting off we were soaked. We headed through fields and kept seeing sheep mysteriously appear out of the mist, it looked very eerie.
There were a few up and down bits and then about 4 miles of a straight path. Unfortunately this was another very overgrown path (why didn’t I take that strimmer?) and the grass and wild flowers were waist high on me. Eventually my raincoat, trousers and boots were covered with grass seeds and it sent me into a sneezing frenzy and a hay fever attack that lasted for a good 12 hours afterwards. We were on a cliff top but because of the mist we couldn’t see much of the views. When we finally arrived at Hartland Point the weather was clearing up. There is an impressive lighthouse there and also a small mobile cafe in the car park that we were very pleased to see. We were all covered in wet grasses and must have resembled a trio of Worzel Gummidges (or Aunt Sally in my case)! We had another 4 miles to go but the weather was clearer now and we saw some wonderful views, rough seas crashing across dark rocks, huge deserted bays, all very Poldark like! This leg had taken us up and down, over Fatacott Cliff, past Shipload Bay and East Titchberry Cliff. We were right by the edge of the craggy cliffs (much to my son’s dismay – he thinks I am more doddery than I actually am!). After the lighthouse we looked down at Damehole Point and Gull Rock which were very impressive. We passed through a little wild valley called Smoothland and up Upright Cliff (which was indeed very upright!) There were lots of stiles to climb and I did this all whilst sneezing and wheezing from my hay fever attack!)
At last we were walking down into Hartland Quay. It is so impressive here, the waves aren’t so much crashing as thundering! An old smugglers haunt it has a nice pub and places where you can sit and look at the incredible views.
This is where our walk finished for this part of the walk. Pauline and Andre picked us up and we drove to nearby Stoke Church which was a lovely little church with a vicar who seemed very much like Dawn French from The Vicar of Dibley!
So we did another 21 3/4 miles of the South West Coastal Path. Only another 522 miles to do. Watch this space!