Three years ago we had enjoyed a wonderful week on the South West Coast Path on the border between the counties of Dorset and Devon...so the next step we felt was to go to Cornwall and see what the extension of this path would look like on the north coast between Cornwall and Devon.
The South West Coast Path is perhaps the UK’s ultimate challenge for the long distance hiker - a 630 mile (1,014 Km) adventure around the coastline of England’s southwest peninsula...from Poole in Dorset around Lizard Point and back up to Exmoor. You don’t have to walk it all at once though!
For more detailed information go to: https://www.southwestcoastpath.org.uk and also download their new app from the Apple webstore.
Driving down from London, after the morning rush hour had finished, was realtively trouble free and by mid morning we found ourselves in Exeter for a pit stop and an opportunity to check out the cathedral that The Blonde had not been to before. It wasn’t the most fruitful stop. Parking meters everywhere and with limited time, and then we couldn’t get good photos of the main entrance of the Cathedral because of trucks parked outside, plus, a shortage of public toilets.
The Blonde outside Exeter Cathedral......full frontal, plus scaffolding truck!
However, the main entrance is very impressive with dozens of statues on the facade, although strangely these don’t get a mention in the list of “notable” features.
These are the "misericords", the minstrel’s gallery, also featuring the astronomical clock and the organ. Notable architectural features of the interior includes the multi-ribbed ceiling and the compound piers in the nave arcade...as the workmen were in and there was limited viewing we decided to give the inside a miss, but, David does however manage to find me some very delicious lemon drizzle cake from the shop that serves "homemade loveliness"!
The "Cakeanddoodledoo" sell "homemade loveliness" in Exeter...
Back on the road and by lunchtime we are in Bude, Cornwall. We have not been there for more than 5 minutes before David manages to sample the first of a few Cornish pasties he will enjoy this week! This one, he pronounces at the end of the week, turns out to be the best of them all (even if every Cornish Pasty we come across in every shop or bakery is an... “Award Winning Pasty”!!!).
It's "award winning" pasty time in Bude!
As we can’t access our cottage until later this afternoon we take the opportunity to get our first glimpse of the South West Coast Path (SWCP). We find a car parking space on the side of the road which saves us a ridiculous £6.50 car park fee (am I sounding a bit mean today?) and climb up out of the town onto the cliffs. The views are spectacular. We can see along the coast towards Tintagel to the West and Summerleaze Beach to the northeast and further in the distance to Devon. The SWCP stands out as it weaves and winds and goes up and down like a white lace ribbon along the cliffs. In the distance is Bude’s GCHQ station (Government Communications Headquarters - the British intelligence and security organisation responsible for providing signals intelligence (SIGINT) and information to the British government and armed forces).
Carpets of wildflowers "dressed" the cliff tops as we hiked out of Bude.
We head south and west up the cliff from Bude Canal.....Oh, boy, looks like we’ve come to a pretty neat place! Soon we’re at Compass Tower - an eight sided storm tower on Compass Point which was built in the 1820’s as a Coastguard Shelter - its sides indicating the points of a compass. The tower would have been used for the coast guard to watch the sea and cliffs.
Looking back towards Bude and the Compass Tower.
We walk along the cliff tops as far as Widemouth Bay and then head across fields to join the canal at Helebridge to go back into Bude. It seems a very strange place for a canal. Well it was built to serve the hilly hinterland in the Devon and Cornwall border territory, chiefly to bring in lime-bearing sand for agricultural fertiliser. The canal system was one of the most unusual in Britain using inclined planes to haul tub boats on wheels to the upper levels with only two conventional locks. It had a total length of 35 miles and it rose from sea level to an altitude of 433 feet.
The Blonde poses by a serious tie up point along the Bude Canal.
Back in Bude we head for the the supermarket to stock up for the week ahead. Then off to our little cottage at West Woolley Farm and oh, boy, have we struck lucky!
Our little cottage on this farm with dozens of "pet" farm animals will be just perfect for a week. We needed a good walking base and as we're right on the South West Coast Path we have heaps of options. Our hosts John and Helen couldn’t be more helpful. They’ve put Ordnance Survey maps and walk brochures in our cottage already and John has given us tips on everything in the area.
The new kid on the block...with The Blonde @ West Woolley Farm.
There’s also a list of things happening over the next week, scones, jam and cream in the fridge, fresh flowers, a welcome card and tea, coffee and milk to get us started. They really have put a lot of effort into making us welcome. In addition, John has offered to help us get our car to the end of our walks on the Hartland Coast as this part of the SWCP is not serviced by local buses. Our cottage, “Shepherd’s” is really well appointed and we have everything we need including great views over farmland to the Atlantic Ocean. And, on top of all that, there’s a great forecast for the week ahead! F-A-N-T-A-S-T-I-C!!
West Woolley Farm Cottages
Our little deck in the sun, looking out to the coast.....
Day 2 - Tintagel and Port Isaac
David reminded me Day 1 was yesterday at Bude - and I thought that was just to stretch our legs after the journey and to work off the first of several giant sized and delicious smelling Cornish Pasties. Day 2 and the morning is a little bit overcast and rain threatens. We’re are a bit weary from our long journey over the last two days and David has had some late nights so today is destined to be a ‘gentle’ day! Out to Tintagel via a farm shop which had a great gift section, but it’s fresh foods were not so exciting (and definitely not what “Farm Shop” conjures up) and the staff were not warm towards us either - hmmmm, a bit early in the season to be getting weary of tourists! So no coffee and cake there today...The Bear a litle disappointed that he didn't get to sample another "award winning pasty" here!
The cliff sides and banks were adorned with golden yellow gorse bushes as we aspproached Tintagel Island.
On on to Tintagel then. For those of you unaware, Tintagel is situated on the North coast of Cornwall and is renowned for its association with the legend of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. The magic of the association is captured particularly by the castle, King Arthur's Castle, which is reached by steps leading from the main land. Originally the Castle was attached to the main land but by erosion over the years a bridge had to be built. For a more detailed understanding and also to see what is on offer, visit the excellent English Heritage website: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/tintagel-castle/
"Are you kidding me?"...The Blonde not impressed by the entry charge for Tintagel Castle/Island
We follow John’s advice to drive around the town and head towards a cliff top church to get the view of Tintagel ‘Island’. I really wanted to see the new statue called Gallos, which is Cornish for "power", but a £9.30 entrance fee per person it is pretty steep. If you look REALLY closely at the island you can see him there on the horizon! So next time we’ll bring binoculars, cough up the entrance fee or buy a National Trust 14 Day Overseas Visitors Pass for £63 for a couple and then we can visit up to 300 other NT properties around the UK.
Celtic Cross gravestones were a major feature in the Tintagel Chapel graveyard
There was however a small NT Visitor’s Centre with some stories about the fictional (?) King Arthur and some pretty cool paper art. The center was very nicely displayed and very informative, even if the staff were somewhat disinterested. We were told that Tintagel is the top most visited tourist site managed by The National Trust in the south west....maybe the staff are just tired of their "customers"....good job the displays were so well laid out then.
Cool paper art.....
By now the skies were darkening and so we headed to Doc Martin’s town, Port Isaac (..or Port Wenn as it is better known in TV land). I loved this little bay - it was so charming despite the many tourists standing and dreaming on the beach and perhaps imagining their favourite episodes, as we drove through! We meandered through the streets after finally parking up at the top of the hill in the all new car park, built now to provide for the ever increasing amounts of tourists, wanting that Doc Martin fix. Of course we "walked the walk", up the hill to Doc Martin's house alas with no little dog in sight...and like everyone else took the photo outside and across the bay.
Port Isaac....or Port Wenn as it is better known by TV viewers of Doc Martin.
Port Isaac developed as a pilchard fishing port from mediaeval times and once had the second largest pilchard fishery on the north coast. Then trade grew around the shipping of slate. At the Lifeboat House there were lots of photos of the first Lifeboat station built in 1869. The boat was run down the street on an iron carriage, a strong man guiding it and 20-30 men with ropes taking the strain from behind, launching the boat took no more than 3 minutes. Bringing it back home left score marks on the corners of buildings in the narrow Temple Bar.
The Bear posing by the entrance to Bert's Restaurant on the lane down from Doc Martin's House......
.....and The Blonde posing in front of the Doc's house in Port Isaac.
The day turned drizzly so a second "award winning" Cornish pasty was purchased and we headed back to our cosy cottage to plan the hikes for the next few days.
Day 3 - Welcombe Mouth to Hartland Point
John kindly drove us to Hartland Point so we could drop off our car and then returned with us to the start of today's incredibly beautiful hike - Welcombe Mouth.
This spectacular section is said to be the toughest part of the entire South West Coast Path and involves a long hard day of walking, with some very relentless and tiring ascents and descents...some more hardy hikers will continue into Bude if doing the north south-route making it over 15 miles long. It is, however, definitely worth the effort! The Coast Path climbs above the rocky shoreline, notorious for shipwrecks (over 150 ships lost on the rocky outcrops between Morwenstow and Bude). There is a real sense of being out on your own here and the views are stunning.
Our first port of call Welcombe Mouth...on an epic hike on the SWCP
This was our first real close up look at the staggering rock formations along this part of the coast. We spent almost an hour taking photos of these amazing jagged fingers of rock and watching a group of about 20 Collie dogs chasing about on the sandy beach. What a start to today's hike!
The "Jagged rock fingers" @ Welcombe Mouth beach.
As expected this path takes us up and then down and then up again. Over and over! The cliff tops are ablaze with colour from the yellow gorse, pink wildflowers and bluebells. The rocks, the cliffs, the views. Oh my, this is truly a great place to hike.
The EarthRoamers climbing out of Welcombe Bay on the SWCP
The SWCP in all its glory...hi ho here we go.....
We stop and picnic, The Bear disappointed there is no "award winning" pasty in his picnic pack, and then we drop down to Hartland Quay which has a very popular hotel with seating around the quay and plenty of people on this sunny Sunday.
On the cliff top path hiking into Hartland Quay.
Climbing again out of Hartland Quay (well, why not?) we complete the next section through to Hartland Point and the lighthouse by late afternoon.
....and up, up, up, we go again....
There's a little cafe in the car park for a much needed mug of tea and a piece of GF coffee cake for a treat. The Bear has a Dandelion and Burdock to drink! That's a blast from the past! Not sure he enjoyed the D & B, as much as he would have done a nice cold beer...and an "award winning" pasty of course!
....call this a reward for a strenuous 14 mile hike?
However....on our way back to our cottage we decide to pop into The Old Smithy Inn..."just to check it out" says The Bear....yeah right....!!
Chilling out with a glass of Somerset cider...in a deck chair...in the pub garden...on a blue sky day....PERFICK!
This has been a memorable days hike for both of us and the coastline definitely rivals the Jurassic coast we saw in East Devon. Back at West Woolley Farm it’s time to relax in the late afternoon sun, John kindly finds some sun loungers for us and we take them out back into the field and chillout, reading and listening to music until almost 8pm. Perfick day!
See our next blog for Part 2.......