Day 1: Bude to Crackington Haven
Anyone who has read any of my previous reviews will be aware that my son and I (with other family members when possible) are attempting to walk the whole of the South West Coastal Path. We have had 4 trips down to the West Country so far and in October this year we decided to get in another few days walking before we the weather got bad.
The rail connections in that part of Cornwall are so bad that we decided to drive down this time. We had finished our last walk in Bude so we found somewhere to leave the car for 4 days and headed off. The weather was almost spring like which was a nice surprise and today we were planning on walking from Bude to Crackington Haven which is about 9.8 miles.
The first 3.5 miles to Widemouth Bay were fairly easy and we were just following the cliff top path and enjoying the wonderful scenery as usual but then it got much harder. The path got much more narrow and rough and we came upon some really steep valleys. The hardest was Scrade where the hill was almost vertical and once you got to the bottom you had another almost vertical hillside to take you up the other side! I had invested in a new walking pole as I had been having a few problems with my knee when I went downhill. I have to say the walking pole was a wonderful help and I can’t imagine why I haven’t thought of getting one before! It gives such support as you go downhill and is also a great help when you are trying to climb upwards too!
I think Scrade was the hardest climb I have come across so far on the S W Coastal Path. I really felt at one point that I might faint, it was such hard going but it is amazing, once you reach the other side of the valley, how much better you feel. En route we had passed an 1830’s storm tower on Compass Point (this is actually known as the Tower of The Winds after the Temple of The Winds in Athens). The guide book said we might see grey seals along this route but unfortunately we didn not spot any. We saw the impressive folded strata of Millock Cliffs and passed through Chipman Valley which is locally called Butterfly Valley because of the many red admirals and other butterflies found here (and even though it was late October, we did see quite a lot of them!)
We also passed through Dizzard Woods where they have dwarf oak trees (stunted by the force of the Atlantic winds). Supposedly there are rare lichens and mosses here but we weren’t quite sure what we were looking for so I am not sure if we saw any or not! Dizzard Wood is supposed to be a remnant from the prehistoric wood that once covered the entire country.
We arrived at Crackington Haven as the sun was going down and it was quite beautiful as we descended the steep hill into the town. The orange sky behind the dark rocks was breathtaking. Our overnight stay was in The Coombe Barton Inn and it was wonderfully cosy and comfortable. We had a great meal (and the odd glass of wine) in the dining room and had a very pleasant night. I would highly recommend this hotel for both walkers and non walkers. It was extremely hospitable.
Day 2: Crackington Haven to Boscastle
We started off today in good spirits as we had an excellent breakfast at The Coombe Barton Inn and our route today looked fairly easy and was only 6.4 miles. However our good spirits didn’t last long as the overcast skies suddenly got darker and then the rain started! We were here when the UK was receiving the tail end of one of the hurricanes and along with the wind we had the strongest wind ever! My son was convinced I was about to be blown off the cliff tops. Having read up about this stretch in the Guide Book the night before, we already knew this was quite a dangerous part of the Coastal Path. Erosion has caused the cliff to crumble in many parts and you are advised to stay well on the path. This was easier said than done as the rain lashed down and the wind tried to lift us off our feet! Because of the rain the paths became muddy and slippery so our 6.4 miles began to feel more like 10 miles! At one point we came around the corner to find 4 cows blocking our path! They were trying to shelter by some gorse bushes and had blocked the whole path! We couldn’t go round them because there was only gorse bushes on the one side and on the other it would have meant us walking literally on the edge of the cliff itself which in that weather wasn’t safe! After a few half hearted attempts to shoo them away, I suddenly morphed into Mrs Farmer and started herding them off the path. Surprisingly they responded to me and my son later told me that he was very impressed at how I got them to reverse, do a 3 point turn and pull into the gorse bushes to let us through!
We continued through valleys that had horses, sheep and Soay goats in them. We climbed High Cliff (the highest cliff in Cornwall which is over 700 feet) and we passed by The Stranglers where Thomas Hardy wooed his wife. We still didn’t see any seals but then the sea was so rough they would have been mad to not taking shelter.
We finally arrived at Boscastle and dragged our squelching bodies up to The Riverside Inn. Not quite as hospitable as the previous night! My room was like a cupboard and I couldn’t get the radiator to work and also had problems with the TV and shower (all of which were sorted out by a very pleasant lady called Catherine). Finally with the radiator working I was able to dry off and we had a pleasant meal in the restaurant that night (served again by Catherine who I would say is probably the heart of the Hotel).
Day 3: Boscastle to Tintagel
Before we left Boscastle this morning we went into the information centre to watch a video about the 2004 flood in Boscastle. The footage was incredible. It was wonderful to see how the town had managed to turn itself around since then and repair all the flood damage after nearly all the town was swept away.
We only had 4.8 miles to walk today and the weather was nice again. We walked across Willapark with its promontory fort constructed around 200 BC. The path rose there and then fell into Grower Gut and then the path almost disappeared into a wild bracken area. We passed Benoath Cove where we watched the surfers for a while. At the next beach Bossiney Haven there is a pierced rock referred to as Elephant Rock because of it’s resemblance to an elephants trunk however we struggled to see this and it looked more like an elephant’s foot to me!
The most beautiful part of this stretch is Rocky Valley. This is a steep ravne where the rocks have been carved by milennia of water action into a series of gullies and mini cliffs. It is quite stunning!
Along this part of the coast there used to be lots of puffins, razorbills and guillemots but their cliffs were decimated by a cliff fall which enabled rats to reach their nesting grounds so only a few are left now which is a great shame.
As we have been to Tintagel before when we arrived there we just headed off to catch the bus back to Bude to collect our car. So now we have done another 20+ miles and have walked 143 miles in total! Only another 487 to go!!!