Ups and downs

Stage 31, 26th March: Boscastle to Bude

A bright puffy cloud day with a biting but light easterly greeted me on the path out of Boscastle harbour. From the start it was all up and down with some really juicy steep climbs. Progress was slow.

I was back in my world of field trip history and the walk around to Crackington Haven evoked memories of staying as an A Level student in the little, slightly run-down hotel on the sea front. It was still there, but I didn’t venture inside to see if things had changed at all as I didn’t really want to update my memory. Both Cambeak and Millook Haven displayed spectacular Hercynian orogenic folding in the rocks and though that might mean naff all to most people, the chevron patterns in the cliffs can’t do anything other than make you marvel at the power of nature (photo).

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Dizard Point offered me the pleasure of a particularly steep climb and at the top I met to share a bench with another SW coast path walker who warned me to expect that tomorrow would be the toughest section of the entire path – hmm cheers pal! I responded by telling him to expect some really steep stuff too.

A bench at the top of the next hill told me that Poole was 500 miles away and that Minehead was a mere 132 miles – yeah, I thought, about right.

The last 4 miles were fairly flat, featureless and easy around Widemouth Bay and I was a little disappointed that the beach wasn’t quite up the standard of others I had really enjoyed through Cornwall. Nevertheless I took a fairly easy if rather exhausted stroll into Bude.

Stage 32, 27th March: Bude to Hartland Point

So – reportedly the hardest part of the SW coast path awaited. The biting cold easterly wind coming off the moors was still nipping at my nose but once we had got a very welcome tow off our slippery but excellent pitch (with thanks to Kevin, Cornish Coasts Camping Park, Poundstock) I was happy to get cracking.

Yesterdays warning was to expect ten steep valleys to cross, one after an another. I counted nine before I was able to get any decent stride on. I then got another four increasingly steep ones and another token one to finish. Fourteen in all! My knees had taken a pounding with all the descent and I could feel them both complaining a little.

As for the vista. It was largely steep craggy cliffs and they were almost becoming monotonous now even though I was very much aware that there would be many other parts of the coast ahead that would be far more tedious. I thus told myself to enjoy them and not even consider the sharp cliff faces as anything even vaguely dull. Even so, with the cliffs opening out after Welcombe Mouth I felt relief at the loss of the peculiar claustrophobic feel the crags and cliffs seemed to have instilled in me.

For me things blossomed considerably at St Catherine’s Tor where, in dropping sunlight, the lush green valley and bubbling stream offered something very new and entirely satisfying.

I met Banger in the car park at Hartland Point where we were to stop for the night. Not voluntarily I might add. Someone had locked us in. Oh well – at least it was a freebie and a good one to enjoy the Cornish greenery and a sky full of stars.

Stage 33, 28th March: Hartland Point to Westward Ho!

I had to don the waterproofs for a correctly forecast (thanks Kate) wet morning. After the deep valleys of yesterday, today was one of hidden valleys as the landscape changed completely. I was now walking through deciduous woodland which, in places, looked and felt like a temperate rainforest. Initially it was refreshing and easy walking with birdsong and primroses still in flower. But there was little else to look at. The trees hung a little forlornly after their long winter and were only adorned with lichen and moss. The bluebells were all green and lush but not yet blue. Maybe this part of the walk would’ve been so much better if I had done it in another couple of weeks time.

I passed a pair of women walking to Hartland, my only human contact for five hours. We had a grand chat and passed a good ten minutes comparing the qualities of waterproofs and trail notes.

Over the top of the tourist and chocolate box village of Clovelly and a walk around the track of Hobby Drive I could barely hear the sea at all and only saw it now and then. I found myself missing it already. Eventually I emerged out of the woods and was greeted with a couple of unexpected steep valleys. I overtook a couple trudging through slippery mud and headed confidently down a steep bank where I slipped uncontrollably to unceremoniously slide bum first. My third slip in nearly six weeks of walking was, for once, not through lack of attention just very, very slippery mud. But my pride was still bruised, my clothes sported a large red-brown stripe and my trekking pole was bent almost double. I straightened it by wedging it between two boulders on the beach below and I think the result made it look fashionably worn.

As I climbed the hill on the other side I looked back to watch the couple I had just overtake try the same slippery descent. I guiltily raised a wry smile as I watched both of them take the same harmless but muddy bum slide downwards.

I met up with Banger at his preferred rendezvous point of The Village Inn in Westward Ho! (apparently the only place-name in Britain with an exclamation mark) and a long drive to the other side of Barnstaple for the only available overnight stop he could find that gave me a chance to do some much-needed laundry. Though a long way – the bonus was a great local pub with a carvery……I took the opportunity to fill my stomach, socks, boots and every available space in my body!

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Rest Day, 29th March: Westward Ho!

After a quick changeover at the campsite, Banger headed back to Truro, with my thanks and I suspect a little relief to be escaping me, for another night of Cornish greenery with friends and Mike took over for his second week. We decamped back to The Village Inn car park in Westward Ho! and, after a little ham and egg lunch, stocked up for the coming week. Just to finish my rather cold week I just sneaked in a 99 cone from the van on the seafront. It just had to be done!

Tongue in cheek note to Banger…..put kettle on, place tea bag in cup, pour on boiling water, add milk….done!

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