South West Coastal Path – Stage 4

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July, 2017

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Family including children under 16

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I hate to repeat myself but, just to recap, my son and I (and other members of our family when they can) are trying to walk the whole 600+ miles of the South West Coastal Path (see previous reviews). Well, we walked another 15 miles of it in July/August over three days and this is how it went.

North Devon is very badly covered by railway routes and therefore we went down on a Sunday and stayed the night in Barnstaple . To get there we had to change trains at Exeter St David and the connection meant we had a couple of hours to spare. (I can strongly recommend the Mill on the Eke pub which isn’t far from the station and has a nice outdoor seating area and an extensive menu.) Our group consisted of myself, my son, Scott and my two grandsons, Jordan (24) and Andre (12). The reason we were only doing a short walk was that we were not sure how far Andre would be able to walk. He is not an outdoors kind of boy! (As his rucksack confirmed, he had very little clothes in it but a smart phone, a tablet and his DS games system!!)

The next morning we got a bus to Hartland from Barnstaple. (The buses down there don’t seem to run too frequently either! If we hadn’t got the 9am one, we would have had to wait for a midday one!

On the last stretch of our walk we had finished at Hartland Quay so when we got to Hartland we had to walk the 2 1/2 miles to Hartland Quay before we even started the walk. It was actually a nice walk but very muddy as there had been a bit of rain. We walked through the grounds of Hartland Abbey which looked fairly interesting.

When we got to Hartland Quay I was once again in awe of the scenery there, crashing waves on dark rocks. It looked like something out of a Poldark episode.
Then we started our walk. There are 9 river valleys between Hartland Quay and Bude (our planned destination) so it was all up and down. Through valleys, over bridges and then up the other side. We passed St Catherine’s Tor and Speke’s mill Mouth. We crossed stiles and saw the usual wonderful views. We were high up on the cliffs at times looking down at the slate like dark rocks that jut up out of the sea.
We only walked about 3 miles along the path when we came to where we were staying, Hardisworthy. Finding accommodation along this stretch had been difficult and we had ended up booking a caravan at Hardisworthy through AIRBNB. I am not really into camping or caravanning but it was the only place we could find and was quite cheap. On arrival at Hardisworthy farm we were directed to the house next door owned by Si and Helen. This Hampshire couple and their 3 children have moved to Devon and are living like the old TV series “The Good Life”, they are doing up an old house and have a few acres of land. They have sheep in their fields and are raising ducklings in their kitchen! They were the most hospitable people. Whilst we were they they drove us to the nearest pub one night so we could have dinner out and Si even got his pride and joy out, his old tractor which he let all of us drive around the sheep field! The caravan was very small but there was an awning so we could use that as an extra room and there was a tent as well (which Jordan volunteered to sleep in). Si had even built quite an impressive “long drop” toilet as well. If anyone wants to camp in that part of the world I couldn’t recommend them more highly.

Anyway after a rocky night (the winds gusted at 40 mph making the caravan rock a lot!) we headed off for our second day of walking. It was a similar pattern, up and down valleys, over bridges and stiles and stunning views. We passed South Hole, Knap Head and arrived at Welcombe Mouth Here we came across a lovely waterfall and a stream with stepping stones. A little further on we passed the hut of the poet Ronald Duncan where you can go inside and see where he sat to write, he had the most amazing view to inspire him, Another stream later and we found a sign saying that we had arrived in Cornwall. We walked carefully along Marshland Cliff as the wind was strong and the path was very near the cliff top edge. Down another steep valley, Litter Mouth and Yedmouth Cliff where we were able to look back at Gull Rock and see the square hole in it which is called The Devils Hole. As we neared Morwenstow we detoured off the path to have lunch at The Old Rectory Tea Room which was a lovely old building originally the home of the eccentric Parson Hawkes. He built the adjoining church in a mock Gothic design and also later on the walk we passed a hut he built out of driftwood where he used to go to meditate and smoke an opium pipe! He sounds like he was a bit of a character!

Suitably fed and watered we joined the path and we passed Higher Sharpnose Point, Tidna Shute and walked amongst sheep and cows grazing. We passed a huge satellite dish site owned by GCHQ and with extensive security all around it, then we came down the valley to Duck Pool. The flora and fauna on this part of the walk has been incredible, rhododendrons, colourful gorse and heather abound everywhere.

Duck Pool is a cove with a winding river that looks like it has been cut out of the earth by hand. We had arranged for a cab to pick us up and take us back to our caravan at Hardisworthy. We had walked about 8 miles today so were a little weary.

The next morning the wind was stronger and the rain was pelting down. Luckily by the time we got a cab back to Duck Pool it had abated (although the wind tried very hard to blow us off the cliffs for the rest of the day!) we didn’t have far to walk today, about 4 miles but it was even steeper terrain than the day before! When we got to Sandy Mouth we stopped at a cafe for a drink and snack then continued through more sheep and cow fields, and one field with a bull in! The views were amazing again, the rocks looked like they had been laid on the beach in a horizontal pattern by a huge hand!

At last Bude was in sight and we had added 15 miles to our walking total. Bude looked like a nice little place, with lots of surfers and a sea water swimming pool on the front. But we couldn’t stay long. We had a bus to catch and then a train.

We have now done 123 miles of the S W Coastal Path..only 517 to go!!!


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