Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Day 24 - September 17th 2015 - Tintagel to Bude

When Lea dropped me back at Tintagel I chose not to hang around and take a look at the ruins of the castle and abbey. Undoubtedly there is some interesting history here, but I found the fuss over the myths and legends surrounding King Arthur a bit off-putting and preferred to head straight back to the coast path instead.

The path immediately carried on as it had left off yesterday, quite hilly from the start, fantastic views of the rugged coastline in all directions from the cliff-tops. I saw many short diversions from the main path that led off to viewpoints. Progress would be too slow if I'd taken every detour, but I couldn't resist going up one that led to a cliff-edge above the main path east of Bossiney Haven. I enjoyed the great view and took a few pictures.

After only a couple of miles or so of pleasant walking I suddenly found myself descending steeply down into dramatic Rocky Valley. It is aptly named, full of rocky mini-cliffs and outcrops, yet still quite green with vegetation. A lovely stream bubbles along the bottom, a wonderful place to see. As I left I saw there was a car park and caravan site nearby, explaining why there were quite a few other people walking in Rocky Valley at the same time as me who didn't look particularly agile .

As I continued west the going stayed hilly, though not nearly as severe as yesterday afternoon just yet. As I went down the steps of one descent I was surprised to see a couple with two young children going the other way. They sounded Scandinavian. The children weren't complaining, in fact they actually seemed to be enjoying their coastal walk. I don't think my own daughters would have given such a favourable reaction if I'd taken them there at a similar age.

On a headland approaching Boscastle I saw an old coastguard watchtower with ponies grazing in the grounds. It was a nice spot, though close enough to town to attract several casual strollers and dog-walkers up the hill.

The pretty little town of Boscastle is of course well-known for the devastating flash-flood of 2004. It's amazing how the resilient locals have bounced back, it looked lovely as I passed through, no signs of any damage remain. Boscastle was justifiably a popular place, there were easily more tourists milling around here than I'd seen earlier at Tintagel. Looking back at the footage now it seems amazing that no lives were lost to the flood, the emergency services did an incredible job getting everybody out alive.

Leaving Boscastle I must have missed a sign and ended up on the wrong path. It was well trodden at first, but my mistake became clear when it petered out on a dangerous ledge on the side of Penally Point. I carefully back-tracked and went over the top of the headland. Somewhat bizarrely there was a flagpole at the summit with a wooden cut-out of a fish on top, no flag. The correct path, when I found it, goes behind Penally Point and requires much less leg work than the way I went.

At a place called Hillsborough I came to the sharpest descent of the day so far, there must have been at least a couple of hundred steep steps going down. Though typically for the coast path, what goes down soon went straight back up. I had to climb a similar hill almost immediately to get to the top of Beeny Cliff. Then there was a choice of paths offered, 'Coast Path to Fire Beacon', or 'Alternate Route', which went more inland. I took the Fire Beacon option. Most of the way around it was pleasant and easy on the side of a grassy hill. When I got to Fire Beacon itself I realised why the alternative had been offered, the last part required a fairly short but super-steep scramble up a loose rocky surface only a few feet from the edge of a scary cliff. Certainly not the sort of place for the faint-hearted.

My legs were glad that the walking got easier for a while after Fire Beacon, this lasted until I reached Rusey Cliff. When I arrived there a small group of ponies, one with a young foal, were grazing between the path and the cliff-edge. The sun was shining, a gorgeous view over High Cliff and beyond had opened before me. I had the place to myself, it was a magical. I did my best not to scare the ponies away and enjoyed the beautiful scenes. The ponies moved-on after a couple of minutes, but not before I'd taken about a dozen pictures to preserve my favourite moment of the week so far.

After the path zig-zagged steeply down from Rusey Cliff I found myself facing a long arduous uphill slog to get to the top of High Cliff. At the time of writing I'm fit enough to go straight up most hills without taking a rest, but I don't mind admitting I stopped for a breather three times on my way up this monster of a climb. I was spurred on by the knowledge that at 731 feet High Cliff is the tallest cliff in Cornwall (for comparison Golden Cap measures up at 626 feet, Blackpool Tower 519 feet). When I eventually made it to the top I fist-pumped to celebrate and stopped a while to take in the massive views. I could see a long way to the south over various headlands and islands I'd passed over the last couple of days. To the north I could see miles of coastline that await me, including large white structures where there's a listening station at Morewenstow over the border in North Devon. On leaving High Cliff I noticed the way down was quite gradual, no steps needed. I assume walkers heading along the coast path the other way find their ascent much easier.

Apart from a short sharp climb at Cambeak the walking from High Cliff to Crackington Haven was easy. Lea was waiting in the car park behind the beach with lunch. Our get-togethers had gone like clockwork this week. Using the Google Streetview tool to work out in advance where to meet in unfamiliar places was a tactic that was working very well.

After lunch there were immediately more hills to tackle. After climbing up from Crackington Haven I enjoyed walking along the top of the ridge at Castle Point. The toughest valley of the afternoon came just south of Chipman Point, after a very sharp descent the climb up the other side was another tough scramble on small loose stones and rocks, getting a good grip with my boots was very difficult all the way up. At the top my attention was drawn to a bench bearing the acorn symbol, the sign which always indicates which way the coast path goes. Engraved into the bench next to the acorn were the words 'Minehead 132 miles'. I didn't think to look while I was there, but I wondered minutes later if it also says 'Poole 498 miles' on the other side. For the first time it dawned upon me that there wasn't too much walking left on this amazing journey.

The going got easier again through grassy cliff-top fields, cows grazing. Passing through one field my attention was drawn to a trig-point that was tilted to one side, a bit like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Usually they're well mounted on a solid base, perfectly upright. I thought maybe itchy cows had been rubbing themselves on it. Or perhaps there was subsidence underneath, it was near a cliff. Unfortunately while distracted by the matter I managed to tread in a fresh cow-pat. The smelly green mess went right over the top of my right boot. Yuck. I spent several minutes deliberately walking through the longest wettest grass I could find, successfully washing most of the muck off.

After the fields I was surprised to find myself entering muddy Dizzard Wood. I couldn't recall walking through any other woods since leaving St Ives four and a half days ago. It started to feel a bit more like Devon than Cornwall here. Arriving at nearby Millook I saw the extraordinary folds in the huge cliff, apparently a site of national importance. The walk over the cliff would be the last energy-sapping hill of the day.

The rest of the path through Widemouth and Upton on to Bude was grassy and easy. There were people enjoying the beach at tranquil Widemouth, the ever reliable RNLI guards keeping watch as usual. Approaching Upton I was overtaken by a young lady walking very quickly, quite a surprise as it's usually me who does the overtaking. I realised why she was moving so fast when she left the path and darted into a restaurant. Arriving at dead-on six in the afternoon, she must have been rushing to get to work on time. I suppose you could say a walk on the South West Coast Path is her way of commuting, how wonderful.

Approaching Bude I walked by the tower at Compass Point. It looked like it was quite close to a cliff-edge where there were fresh falls. I wondered how long it will be before it either gets moved or falls into the sea. After a short but pleasant walk along the canal I met Lea again in the car park. I'd enjoyed a fairly tough but absolutely delightful day of walking. I couldn't think of any way I'd rather have spent my forty-ninth birthday.

Distance Walked Today 22.30 miles (35.89km)

Walking Time; 8 hours 28 minutes

Average Walking Speed 2.6 mph

Cumulative Distance Walked 541.20 miles (870.98km)

GPS Track; https://runkeeper.com/user/GaryQQQ/activity/658037138

A short detour gave me this cliff-top over Bossiney Haven
Rocky Valley
Boscastle, the coast path crosses this bridge
I chose to go via Fire Beacon of course
The view from Fire Beacon
Ponies graze on Rusey Cliff, High Cliff is in the background, North Devon in the far distance

Looking back the way I came, the view south west from High Cliff

What lies ahead, the view north from High Cliff, North Devon and the listening station
at Morewenstow are visible on the horizon

Spectacular folds in the cliff-face at Millook

Tranquil scenes at Widemouth

Arriving in Bude

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