18. South West Coast Path (North Devon)

185. Horn’s Cross to Westward Ho!

Sunday 12th January 2020

As usual left home early at 5.20 and drove down to Bideford arriving just before 9am. Again it seemed strange turning off the M5 before Exeter after so many trips that carried on into Cornwall. Took a taxi from the Royal Hotel, East-the-Water out to the Coach and Horses at Horns Cross (GR385231).

Coach and Horses Horn’s Cross (GR385233)

Walked down the lane towards the right of the pub and then turned right at a signpost through a gate into National Trust Peppercombe.

It had been raining so things were wet but the hope was that it was not going to be too muddy (a hope soon to be dramatically dispelled). At the moment it was cloudy but dry. This was a stony track down through the woods. I remember it being very tiring at the end of the walk when I was last here but is quite gentle going down now.

A car passed me on the way down as it seems to be the only way to the two or three houses down here. A pretty rough old route for a car particularly in bad weather I would have thought.

Just before the little National Trust building at Peppercombe turned right on the signposted coast path (GR382241) just as it started raining.

Towards the headland at Rock Nose (GR383243

Soon reached the sea on top of some low cliffs where the path was a bit muddy although the rain had stopped. It became very slippery along here and I fell over, my walking stick being driven into the soft ground and then broken as I fell across it. The path dropped down to the beach (GR387247) just before Rowden Gut and then started to climb back up again.

Back to Peppercombe and Hartland Point (GR382243)

It was quite a climb up Higher Rowden (GR394253) particularly struggling against the mud and of course as soon as the top was reached the path immediately started dropping down again. The path here was mainly through bushes, particularly gorse bushes, and the climbs up were on wooden steps in places.

The path at Higher Rowden (GR395253)

Eventually the path opened out to a good view of the sea and started to drop down towards Babbacombe Mouth (GR396255). It was very muddy and slippery here, particularly when going down rather than up, and halfway down I fell quite painfully flat on my back.

Back along Babbacombe Cliff (GR399262)

The path went down almost to the sea and then started climbing back up again with steps in places and then down to wooden steps to reach the beach near Cockington Farm (GR397260). Sat down for a rest at the bottom of the wooden steps down to the beach only to have to move for a women and her dog, the first people I had seen all day. These steps have been repaired since Ruth Livingstone passed this way in 2014. After a short rest and a snack carried on along the beach on the huge rocky pebbles for a few yards to reach wooden steps leading up off the beach.

This was the start of the major climb of the day, 300 feet starting at these wooden steps up onto Cockington Cliff. At the top of the climb (GR400263) went over a large wooden ladder stile and the view opened out across the bay to the next headland which must be Baggy Point. Baggy Point was not far away but there would be several days of estuary walking to go first. Westward Ho! could be seen slightly off to the right with a whole lot of wind turbines beyond. The route looks easy but experience tells me there are always obstacles to be overcome.

From Cockington Cliff towards Westward Ho! (GR400263)

Going down Green Cliff I slipped and had another bad fall somehow falling on top of my right leg.  This made me think of the danger of breaking my hips as I get older – then again I think I need a new hip anyway. More positively the sun was out a little now. Soon after Green Cliff met a path junction (GR407271) and turned left across a wooden footbridge to continue through the mud to Abbotsham Cliff.

This was followed by a gentle climb up the green but very muddy and wet Cornborough Cliff (GR412281). Getting close to Westward Ho! now and there were many people about walking dogs and so on.

Cornborough Cliff (GR410278)

The path became a puddle-strewn track which must have been an old railway line as it went through a cutting to bring Westward Ho! fully into view.

Estuary of the Taw and Torridge (GR419290)
The first building Westward Ho!, rather derilict at Seafield car park (GR424291)

Walked on the path in front of the beach huts passing the Pier Hotel (but there was no pier) and onto the promenade. The tide was out revealing a massive beach stretching for miles to the sea.

Beach huts at Westward Ho! (GR426292)

My plan had been to walk at least as far as Appledore and perhaps even my hotel in Bideford but I spotted a 21 bus and all my resolve disappeared. Caught the bus back to the Royal Hotel, East-the-Water, Bideford.

The day had been unexpectedly hard mainly because of the mud and falling over but I consoled myself with the fact that the 25 mile route around the estuaries of the Taw and Torridge through Bideford and Barnstaple is rated ‘Easy’ by the South West Coast Path Guide. It did turn out to be easy in the sense that no climbing was involved but as the next three days were to prove rain and the consequences of today’s fight with the mud were to take their toll.

Days from Chepstow   185

Miles today   6.4

Miles from Chepstow   2216.4

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