Sunday 27th October 2019
The first two days of this trip from Bude to Hartland Quay had been planned for August and a cottage booked for a week in Bude. My son Tom, his French girlfriend Amondine (Am) and their dog Margo (a Rhodesian Ridgeback – a breed renowned originally for tracking down lions and holding them at bay) were going to join me on the walk. I was looking forward to this as, quite apart from the company, Tom is a paramedic which I thought could be useful given the severity of some of the climbs, Am for asking the way if we encountered any French people and Margo for dealing with any lions that we might meet on route. Unfortunately events at home meant that my wife and myself were unable to make the trip so here I was on my own as usual in the autumn.
Leaving home at 5.20am (on the day the clocks went back so more like 6.20am) good time was made in arriving in Bude a little after 9am. The journeys are getting noticeably shorter now as I walk eastwards.
Parked in the car park of the Brendon Arms (GR207061) where I will be staying the night and came out of the car park and turned right over the bridge and left down the first road by the harbour.
I soon realised that I had somehow lost my walking stick and had to retrace my steps to the car park but could not find it. Set off again from the car wondering how I was going to cope on the steep climbs without a walking stick and thinking about where I might be able to buy a replacement when I found it lying in the grass.
It was a beautiful autumn day, sunny, cloudless sky and about 10 degrees.
Passed the recreation ground to take a footbridge (GR208064) over the River Neet which was flowing rather fast because of the heavy rain in the last few days. It must have been particular bad in this part of Cornwall as everyone I met such as taxi drivers and publicans all commented on how bad it had been on the Saturday. Strangely it had no effect on my four days walking as all rivers were passable and it was not particularly muddy.
On reaching a large car park took a road up to the right to walk past the guest houses above Summerleaze Beach. The coast path started at the end of the road just above some white beach chalets.
Passed above the swimming pool (GR203068) at Summerleaze Beach which strangely enough was being cleaned. I thought it unlikely that anyone would wish to use the pool at this time of year although it being half term there were one or two people about.
Crooklets came into view over the first rise of Summerleaze Down. This is a distinct place with its own beach and separate from Bude. The café here was open and was likely to be the last chance for refreshments but was obviously too early in the walk for me.
Looking across Crooklets Beach towards Bude at least three headlands could be seen. The furthest of these looked to be more than 20 miles away (this was probably Trevose Head which had actually taken me 50 miles of path walking).
The path climbed up from Crooklets on to the low cliffs of Maer Down from where the radar station was clearly visible although it had been visible in the distance back down the coast on the previous trip. At the end of Maer Cliff reached a stony track (GR203083) above Northcott Mouth. Followed this for a few yards and then just before a car park turned left on a signposted path leading towards Bucket Hill and its steps.
Crossed the pebbles at the back of a small beach to reach a wooden footbridge over a small stream that was again running very fast after the weather we have had this weekend. Bucket Hill was a short sharp climb of 107 steps and really quite steep. At the top was a rather unusual bench.
The path continued on a really good clifftop walk along the grassy clifftop looking down on the beach with its many rock formations. It would probably have been possible to walk the beach all the way to Sandy Mouth which might have been easier but could well have been more difficult if the sand was soft.
The radar station kept popping into view without seeming to get any closer and Lundy Island could be seen. Dropped down to the road and car park at Sandy Mouth (GR203100) where there was a café that was open and busy as it was half term. Had a cup of tea but in Cornwall every cup of tea has to be paid for by a climb out of the cove containing the café. In this case it was a long and steady rather than steep climb up Stowe Cliff above a series of beaches (Sandy Mouth, Warren Long, Eliza and Warren Little). On reaching the top of the climb the radar station suddenly came into view but on going through a gate the path immediately started to drop steeply down steps to cross a small stream by a wooden footbridge at Warren Gutter (GR202110).
Shortly after a further two small wooden footbridges over very small streams the climb started again in an area made very muddy by grazing cattle. Warren Point (GR202112) was at the summit but of course immediately the muddy path dropped steeply to a footbridge across another swollen river and into Duckpool (GR203116).
Duckpool was a pleasant enough place although there was not much to be seen, just a car park and a couple of houses. No café as far as I could see and actually not much of a beach either. Stopped for my normal lunch of Scotch egg, Mars Bar, Kit-Kat and a nip of Southern Comfort. Perhaps not the healthiest food but it always cheers me up and helps to overcome the rigours of cliff climbing.
The cup of tea rule applies at Duckpool although as there was no café you don’t get the tea, just the climb out. A signpost at Duckpool says Morwenstow 2¾ miles. Not sure I believed this at the time and from my GPS log at the end of the walk it was over 4 miles.
After a long climb up Harscott High Cliff reached the summit (GR200124) at the GCHQ radar station although at this point only one of the dishes could be seen. The path of course immediately started to descend.
The path meandered along the top of high cliffs to Lower Sharpnose Point (GR197127) and then went inland climbing up through gorse bushes to the main part of the GCHQ radar station (GR200127). It was eerily quiet up here as there was no wind noise and I realised that there were no seagulls which is unusual despite the good cliffs for nesting (although it was not the nesting season obviously).
A gentle descent along the cliff top above Holacombe and Rane beaches eventually became quite a steep and slippery descent down into Stanbury Mouth (GR201135). Got a good view from here of the full horror of the climb back up the other side.
The initial climb was helped by a zig-zag in the path but it was a steep climb and a fairly long one. Near the top Higher Sharpnose Point could be seen with Lundy sticking out behind it quite clearly.
Climbed up to the first part of Higher Sharpnose Point to reach the old lookout hut where Hartland Point could be seen for the first time (GR196147).
It was possible to walk out onto Higher Sharpnose Point along the steep ridge (Not that I did).
Dropped down to the footbridge at Tidna Shute (GR197148) to take the path off to the right up to Crosstown and Morewenstow. The path climbed up gently up through the woods alongside a small stream but I was getting very tired by now and found it very hard work. One last steep climb up through the woods to a field eventually led to a very wet farm track leading to the Bush Inn (GR208150).
The Bush Inn was to be my next night’s stay so after a couple of pints I asked the friendly bar staff about getting a taxi. While they were looking bemused a pub customer offered me a lift back to Bude. Very kind of him particularly as he was a New Zealander still smarting from England beating the All Blacks in the Rugby World Cup the previous day. I suspect he was not unhappy about England being beaten in the final by the Springboks the following Saturday.
As seems to be usual on these first days of my trip I checked in at the Brendon Arms, lay down for a rest and woke up at about 10.30 going to bed without an evening meal.
Days from Chepstow 181
Miles today 9.1
Miles from Chepstow 2181.7