Last May I wrote a review about my son and I walking part of the South West Coastal Path. We intend to walk the whole path but at 600 miles plus we are doing this in small stages. This April we set off on our second leg of the walk.
We got a train down to Barnstaple and spent the night there in a wonderful apartment that we had found (17 Riverside Court , Castle Street). It was beautifully decorated and the owners had even left us some bread and milk etc which meant we didn’t have to go out for breakfast the next morning.
The next day we got a bus from Barnstaple to Woolacombe which is where we finished our walk last year.
WOOLACOMBE TO BRAUNTON: (15 MILES)
We started our walk alongside the beautiful white beach of Woolacombe then we followed a bridle path up to Baggy Point Peninsula. The weather was so clear that we could see the island of Lundy and Wales in the distance. Baggy Point was covered in bluebells and bright yellow gorse, it was absolutely lovely. The day got warmer and warmer which was very unexpected. We passed a flock of black long horned sheep who were just roaming the cliff side. As we rounded the Point we were on the sheltered side and stopped for a picnic of jam sandwiches (courtesy of the owners of the flat in Barnstaple)! We then descended into Croyde Bay. This smaller beach has some very impressive sand dunes. We headed along the beach and clambered over some rocks then took a path that headed up the hillside. The pathway was lined with more gorse and lots of tiny butterflies flew along with us as we walked. Below us we could see the popular surfing beach Saunton Sands.
We then came to Braunton Burrows sand dunes. Very impressive but unfortunately the path goes away from the coast up the estuary and it did get to be a bit of a straight boring road. There were plenty of rabbits hopping around this area. Braunton Burrows is the core centre of the North Devon Biosphere Reserve. Things began to get a little more interesting when we passed through a field with a “Bull in FIeld” sign! This was the place where we walked the fastest! (No bull was actually seen!) We then had to manoeuvre through a rather busy golf course, luckily the golfers waited for us to pass before hitting their balls in our direction! The next part of our route was past an MOD firing range. (No shots were heard!)
So with no bull attack, golf injuries or gun shots we then saw Braunton in the distance. This is the worst time for me. When I am nearing our destination I suddenly become aware of the aching back, neck and knees and those last few miles seem to take forever.
Eventually we arrived at Braunton and our B&B “North Cottages”. The place was nice but nothing special and although I was given a family room all to myself I was told very firmly that I was only to use the single bed! The best thing was the pub across the road “The White Lion”. That evening we enjoyed a pie and mash dinner and a very welcome drink!
BRAUNTON TO INSTOW (11 MILES0:
The next morning we headed off towards Instow. I had blisters so my feet resembled a geisha girls, all padded with plasters and bandages. (I have a theory about feet. I think they didn’t evolve properly. Surely with the weight we have to carry and the amount of time we spend walking they should be more like elephant feet? Definitely a bad design fault!) I had also decided that 15 miles is too much to do in one day so I have asked my son to plan our route in future so that we don’t do more than 11 miles a day.
Anyway our path today was alongside the Tarka trail and followed an old railway line. It was all alongside an estuary and then back down the other side. It was low tide so we saw lots of birds on the mud flats: ducks, geese, swans, curlews, sandpipers and egrets. This was a strange route as it takes us back through Barnstaple (where we spent our first night). I felt a little like we were walking back on ourselves but that is just the way the South West Coastal Path goes. We stopped for lunch at Fremington Quay where there was a very popular cafe which was in an old railway station. There was a small Heritage museum with some really interesting photos. These were sepia photos of when the Devon clay was transferred from rail to boat and exported all over the world. There was also a look out.
We then followed the Tarka Trail to East Yelland Marsh where there are 2 old dilapidated piers and a couple of rusty boats stranded on the beach. We then arrived at Instow Sands and our accommodation for the night was at “The Wayfarer Inn” which was right opposite the beach. This is a lovely place with nice rooms and a restaurant in the bar so we didn’t even have to go out to eat tonight.
INSTOW TO WESTWOOD HO! (11 MILES)
The next morning it was raining but by the time we had finished the excellent Wayfarer’s breakfast it had stopped and we followed the route alongside the beach for a while. We walked past another old railway signal box and then the path heads up into bluebell covered woods. There were also loads of primroses in the woods. It was a lovely walk into Bideford and then we passed under a large bridge and then back over the River Torridge on an older bridge. As we left Bideford we came to a lovely area where there were lots of small cottages and bigger more expensive looking houses. There were some more hilly bits of the path before we arrived in Appledore. This is a delightful place, lots of terraced cottages with nautical names. This used to be a boat building community.
Then we came out into Northam Burrows Country Park. This is a beautiful part of the walk. It reminded me of the New Forest. Sheep, lambs and horse were grazing and the park follows the coast with large boulders on the beach and impressive sand dunes. As we came out from the Park we were in Westwood Ho! and at our final destination for this part of our walk. (Westwood Ho! is named after the Charles Kingsley book of the same name).
From here we got a bus back to Barnstaple and a train home.
So we have now done about 89 miles on the South West Coastal Path. With another 500 + miles to go we will be having a few more visits down to the West Country! Our next one is later this month but the whole family will be coming then so we won’t be walking every day. At least I have a few weeks for the blisters to heal!