18. South West Coast Path (North Devon)

186. Westward Ho! to Bideford

Monday 13th January 2020

Staying at the Royal Hotel in Bideford was handy as the bus stop for the 21 bus route was just outside and so I caught the bus back to Westward Ho!.

Rather grey day today and overcast, but the forecast wind had not appeared. It had been raining through the night so everywhere was rather wet. Followed the road round to the Tesco store and then turned left towards the sea (GR433293). Westward Ho! is very much a seaside resort and very much closed down at the moment.

Beach at Westward Ho! (433295)

Crossed the car park to pick up the path alongside the sea where half the pebble beach seems to have been thrown up over the path.

Pebble covered path, Westward Ho! (GR433295)

A boardwalk crossed a waterlogged flat area to reached the small access road into Northam Burrows Country Park (GR435295). I followed the road but it would have been possible to walk the shingle bank closer to the sea but this would probably have been very difficult. Quite a few people were arriving to go surfing, something I always associate with sunny beaches in California rather than a wet, cold day in Westward Ho!

Westward Ho! from Northam Burrows (GR436300)

Eventually walked on the short grass of the golf course (Royal North Devon Golf Club) rather than the road to reach the car park and Visitor Centre signs to the right of Sandymere (GR438305). From the Visitor Centre (GR440308) took the path up over the dunes where it became a bit more exposed to the wind. It was very busy up here with people surfing, playing golf, walking, running and even (so I thought) camping. Mainly as usual it was dog walking and the camping turned out to be an up-turned boat.

Northam Burrows (GR443316)

The official path seemed to go along the beach but I thought it easier to walk on the short grass into the estuary of the Taw and Torridge with Appledore and Instow coming into view. Followed the road to the exit of Northam Burrows Country Park at Appledore Bridge (GR452304) although again there was a good grass verge to walk on. The forecast but previously absent headwind was now becoming a bit problematic.

At the park entrance the official South West Coast Path followed the road over the cattle grid but there was a low tide path off to the left which I investigated. The path crossed a field to a stile and then across a couple of sections of beach to a set of wooden steps to regain the official path (GR456306).

Low tide route to Appledore (GR454305)

The path ran alongside a field to the top of some low cliffs and concrete steps dropping down to the slipway of the lifeboat station (GR459309).

From Appledore lifeboat station back across the estuary to Westward Ho! (GR459309)
The Old Custom House Appledore (GR460310)
Appledore Lifeboat and across the estuary to the vast expanses of Braunton Burrows

Reached the road and continued on through Appledore passing through terraces of rather attractive cottages ending at the Royal George pub with views across the estuary to Instow.

Appledore (GR461310)

Passed the Beaver Inn and again walked down the road through rows of terraced houses to St Mary’s church (GR464307).

St Mary’s church, Appledore (GR465307)

At the Seagate pub Instow is very close over the now quite narrow estuary of the River Torridge.

Instow from Appledore (GR465307)

Reached and went round the abandoned old docks and turned left on the road at the Appledore Community Centre (GR464303) to arrive at the more industrially derelict part of Appledore at Newquay. Appledore seems to be a transition from what was once a serious ship and boatbuilding location into something that has the remains of that but also is a pretty seaside town.

Went round the main shipyard facility (GR464296) by road, climbed up the hill and took a path off to the left signposted ‘Bideford 2½ miles’ (GR461297). The footpath dropped down through some pleasant woodland and then up a field path to reach a small lane. Turned left for a few yards and then right on a signposted footpath to regain the estuary side have completed the circumnavigation of the shipyard (GR463294). The last part of the path was on boardwalks down to the estuary where there were three of four boats lying derelict.

Abandoned (?) boat on Torridge Estuary (GR463294)
Wrecks on Torridge Estuary (GR463294)

Turned right along the estuary wall and could see the ‘new’ bridge high over the river and beyond that Bideford (actually built a third of a century ago in 1987).

Houseboat (?) with wrecks behind (GR463294)

At Hyde Barton (GR 462291) there was a small inlet with a bit of a slipway and the path climbed up through the woods from here and then turned left signposted into National Trust Burrough Farm (Charles Kingsley author of Westward Ho! lived here). The path continued down to another inlet where quite a large houseboat called Cannis was moored (this obscures some old ship wrecks which lie in the inlet).

Quite a sharp little climb up after the Cannis houseboat up through the woods led onto a rather muddy path which undulated alongside the estuary with the Torridge road bridge coming into view.

Torridge Road Bridge from Northam (GR455282)

A better drier path goes round the houses at Cleave Quay (GR455284) to come out right by the Torridge Bridge. At the end of the road with houses on it reached a sign with routes posted for high tide and low tide. I took the low tide route across the beach, but eventually underneath the road bridge it became impassable. I ended up with one foot firmly stuck in smelly estuary mud worried that I was going to lose my boot and at the same time I was faced with the prospect of crossing a small but deep tributary (see bottom of photo below).

‘Footpath’ under Torridge Road Bridge (457279)

I had to turn back and take the high tide route. The problem soon became obvious as I should have only crossed the small beach and then turned up right instead of going under the Torridge Bridge. Having said this my Ordnance Survey map shows a footpath on the route I attempted.

Passed under the bridge and reached a group of modern houses in Riverside Close. After passing four or five of these turned left down a signposted path. There is a notice here seeking consultation on the closure of the footpath I tried to use as a number of people had ‘got into difficulty’ trying to use it. I think I agree with them.

Torridge Road Bridge (GR456277)

One way or another, maybe because of the mud, the section from Appledore had proven more difficult than I thought it would be. Anyway I was now on the outskirts of Bideford and ready for a lunchtime drink. A walkway continued alongside the embankment wall with nicely located houses on the right. Soon reached the road again. The path around here is well-signposted including the SWCP metal footprints set into the pavement (albeit in the opposite direction of travel to mine). Passed the rather splendid Riverside House of Torridge District Council and carried on through a series of car parks built on the old wharfs of Bideford port.

Made it to the King’s Arms (GR455265) and had three pints of very cheap (£2.40) Timothy Taylor Landlord. Meanwhile outside the weather was turning extremely bad, high winds of about thirty miles an hour, driving rain and quite cold. This was Storm Brendan – we used to just have bad weather but now we have regular storms. Left the pub after about an hour and walked across the Long Bridge against the wind and sat in my car and had my lunchtime snack before going back into the Royal Hotel.

Days from Chepstow   186

Miles today   8.7

Miles from Chepstow   2225.1

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