17. South West Coast Path (North Cornwall)

182. Morwenstow to Hartland Quay

Monday 28th October 2019

Drove from Bude to the Bush Inn at Morwenstow (Crosstown more precisely) (GR208150). The Brendon Arms in Bude last night was fine and I had a good breakfast after missing out on a meal entirely the previous evening. Quite cloudy today, rather windy and considerably colder than it was yesterday.

After yesterday’s exhaustion I decided to use the back lanes to Marsland Mouth to cut out a few of the bigger downs and ups which are notorious on the coast near Morwenstow. Took the lane outside the Bush Inn uphill to James’s Cross (GR218151) and then the lane to the left signposted Marsland. Followed the lane for quite some way past Cory Farm and after a dip down and a climb up the other side to Marsland Manor and as the road turned right sharply took a track off to the left (GR218169). Extensively signposted to Marsland, To the Coast Path and Little Marsland.

At Little Marsland took the track off to the left through the woods of Welcombe and Marsland Valleys Reserve. As Marsland Mouth came into view came across a memorial to Christopher Cadbury (1908-1995) of the chocolate family. He was President of the Royal Society for Nature Conservation and who bought up land round here, and elsewhere in the country and abroad, to save it for wildlife.

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Approaching Marsland Mouth from inland (GR216173)

Soon after the memorial dropped down to re-join the coast path (GR212174) as it went down into Marsland Mouth (GR214175).

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Marsland Mouth (GR213174)

Crossed the bridge over the quite strongly flowing river (Old Mill Leat) which is the border between Cornwall and Devon.

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Leaving Cornwall at Marsland Mouth (GR214175)
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Entering Devon at Marsland Mouth (GR214175)

Signposted as Cornwall on one side and Devon on the other this is another of those very significant points on the South West Coast Path. It feels as significant as starting the path at Poole, entering Cornwall by ferry from Plymouth, The Lizard and Land’s End. There is sadness in leaving Cornwall as I have spent 34 days walking the 325 miles of its coastline and although it has been extremely hard work in places it has also been beautiful and magnificent. (I don’t realise it at this point of course but the scenery does change dramatically on moving into Devon – the next up and down to Welcombe Mouth is pure Cornwall but from that point on and particularly after Hartland Point it is a very different prospect).

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Footbridge at Marsland Mouth (GR213176)

The climb on steps up the cliff away from Marsland Mouth was very steep but at the top was rewarded by finding Ronald Duncan’s hut (GR208171).

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Ronald Duncan’s Hut (GR213176)

Duncanwas a poet and built the hut that was later restored by his daughter as a memorial. The hut is open to the public and has great views across Marsland Mouth and has seating for a rest after the climb.

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Ronald Duncan’s Hut (GR213176)

Reached the top of the climb shortly after Duncan’s hut and crossed a grassy open clifftop for a short while to a stile where the path led down into Welcombe Mouth. The steps up to to Ronald Duncan’s hut were not too bad, quite well spaced really, and similarly on the way down the other side to Welcombe Cove (GR213180).

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Welcombe Mouth (GR214178)

Went through the car park to the stepping stones. Given the heavy rain that the locals tell me occurred on Saturday and the swollen states of all rivers that I had crossed by bridge I was concerned what the situation would be here. I always have a certain fear of stepping stones not so much about getting wet but breaking bones on the rocks as I fall. I had no need to worry as the stones looked OK apart from one which looked a bit overrun by water.

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Stepping Stones at Welcombe Mouth (GR213180)

Crossed the stepping stones successfully to begin the longest and highest climb of the day up to Knap Head. The first really steep section had a zig-zag path with steps and the climb was actually not too bad in the end. After a stile the next part of the climb was on a steepish but not quite so steep stony path. At the top of the main climb come to a signpost Embury Beacon ¾ mile (GR213185). Continued upwards on the path on a much gentler incline.

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Lundy Island from Knap Head (GR216191)

There then followed a pleasant clifftop walk on a grassy path later going slightly up but basically fairly level. At Embury Beacon (GR217194) could see ahead what must be Hartland Point with the lighthouse. Ahead it looked quite flat and level but I expected this to be deceptive.

At Broadbench Cove (GR219197) joined a track for a few yards and then the path off to the left around the clifftop on what was still quite an easy and pleasant section of the walk. Reached the road just after South Hole (GR220205) and turned left. Stopped here by the roadside for some lunch.

At the fingerpost at Sandhole Cross (GR224211) turned off left from the road along a footpath heading towards the sea.

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Towards Hartland Point (GT223214)

Now walking a long gentle descent of over a mile along Mansley Cliff and over Milford Common.

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Mansley Rock (GR224222)

At Longpeak (GR224228) a signpost offered a clifftop or valley route. Decided to take the valley route skirting Swansford Hill as the valley seems to be the official route of the South West Cost Path anyway.

The path was muddy in places because of grazing cattle but fortunately they were all off of the path at the time. Just after the clifftop path joins the valley path (GR226236) crossed a footbridge to reach the waterfall at Speke’s Mill Mouth.

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Speke’s Mill Mouth (GR226236)

Leaving the waterfall there was a climb up steep steps but fortunately quite a short climb. Just two more of these climbs to go today. At the top the path started to drop down of course to a gate (GR226240). Through the gate and across the valley plain behind the huge lump of St Catherine’s Tor.

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St Catherine’s Tor back towards Morwenstow (GR225244)

At the end of St Catherine’s Tor went through a gate by a river and across a flat area to start going up the next bit of cliff above Screda Cove. The path gently curved round the cliff a bit uncomfortably stony but suddenly and miraculously the hotel at Hartland Quay (GR223247) came into view.

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Wreckers’ Bar of the Hartland Quay Hotel (GR223247)

Had a couple of beers in the Wreckers Bar of the hotel and then the very helpful and friendly staff let me use the house phone to call a taxi from Bideford to take me back to the Bush Inn at Morwenstow.

I learnt that a general election had been called for December 12th. My wife texted me to tell me of the June 8th 2017 general election while I was standing on Dodman Point so it seems that my walk along the Cornish coast is taking longer than the lifetime of a government.

Days from Chepstow   182

Miles today   8.9

Miles from Chepstow   2190.6

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