The South West Coast Path – Part 2
I awoke smiling; rested but still sore of course! Prising my creaking joints out of the Bideford Hotel bed I packed my belongings as quickly as I could and switched the kettle on; keen to make a start on the day ahead. I enjoyed ALL of the coffee provided in the hotel room and then set out towards Appledore; the next village along on the South West Coast Path.
Appledore was a gem, and I really liked passing through the little seaside town filled with multicoloured cottages, welcoming signs and smiling faces – a pretty place that I will look forward to returning to. The village gave way to footpath and fields, and after passing a rather massive and unbothered rat on a country lane I again joined the path that ran close to the sea and welcomed the gentle breeze on my face. I marvelled as I walked past a totally dilapidated house that had a large garden and steps across the SWCP down onto the beach. What an opportunity! How could anyone have let it rot? On my travels so far I had seen a number of properties like this – right next to a remote beauty spot but with boarded up windows and nature invading the doorways. How do they end up this way, I wondered.
My next stop was the town of Westward Ho!; the only town in England that ends with an exclamation mark! It was named after the eponymous novel written by Charles Kingsley in 1855 in an effort to drive tourism to the location. People clearly still come to visit the sandy beach and surf but the town itself made me a little sad. It was a strange mix of mix of old charming beachside huts, arcades and candyfloss stands from the 1980’s, and the ruthless modern ruination of our seafronts (in my opinion) with huge characterless glass-fronted apartment complexes built in random sections along the beach. The atmosphere wasn’t for me so I trundled through and headed on out towards my final destination of the day; the incredible palate cleanser of Clovelly. It was an absolute joy walking along the cliff paths towards Clovelly and seeing that tiny stripe of village swell in size amidst the trees as I edged ever closer.
The village clings to the cliffs and there are no cars of any sort allowed down its single cobbled street that winds and undulates down to the working harbour. The village is all part of an estate which once belonged to William the Conquerer and is now is privately owned by the Rous family. Possession of the village passes down through the female line of the Rous family (unless they express that they’d rather not!) who have owned it since the 1800’s. Local families have rented cottages on the estate that leads down to the shoreline for hundreds of years and continue to do so today, working as part of the community and continuing to preserve the unspoilt beauty of this location. I was lucky enough to stay the night in the summerhouse of my cousin Jerry and his wonderful wife Emma who live on the estate. Shielding so that they could see loved ones, they put me up in comfort in their summerhouse and we drank distanced tea and caught up, before I succumbed to the land of nod.
Fed and watered in body and soul the next morning, I headed back on to the cliff paths. The scenery opened up again with huge expanses of rock and pebble beaches. As I dipped down into coves I felt tiny next to huge swathes of unbleached logs and driftwood that had looked like twigs from the clifftops. It amazes me the amount of debris the sea can hold and deposit, and how small we are in comparison. Onward, and more cows made their way towards me along the dewy fields trying to lick my legs and poles – I think I might be the cow whisperer. Ha! Beyond this bovine adoration I watched the clouds come in fast, and then then building winds started to hurl pearls of cold rain at me as I skirted the cliffs to Hartland Point. I had imagined camping on a a nice exposed field with a view (I’d called the local farmer to check it was ok) but the evening ahead didn’t bode well for a peaceful sleep. I checked my various apps and bombed off down an inland footpath to stay clear of squall, managing to get my soggy mitts around my phone and after stabbing numbers into it in the rain I bagged myself a room at the old Smuggler’s Inn at Hartland Quay – perfect for me as they also have a little museum there – I was in heaven.
After a night at Hartland the coastline became more jagged; little sand and cold jutting rocks as far as the eye could see when the tide was out. On towards Bude I ambled, back in glorious Cornwall and little did I know that I was about to meet a Cornish Trail Angel! Trail angels, if you remember, are those who spend time looking out for trail hikers and try to make their journeys a little easier in some way, whether it’s a hot (or cold!) drink, a bed, a shower or some laundry. Mine was the lovely Maz from Wroe’s Outdoors in Bude who made the effort to hike out to me just outside of Bude and take me for coffee and some food. I was absolutely delighted meet her and was so humbled that she’d made the effort to come and say hi. Knowledgable about the outdoors and the coast path, she shared her info with me and set me up for the next leg with her enthusiasm and kindness; especially well received in the time of Covid.
After this lovely encounter the sky truly opened and dumped rain down upon me. I took a taxi from Bude to a little campsite out of town that had room – difficult to find midsummer! A soggy night’s sleep amidst some late night camping ravers and then I jumped on trail the next morning for an unexpectedly truncated hike towards Tintagel. Sadly, brutal weather came through and I was rescued from precarious cliffs in winds and sea mist by a guardian angel. Whisked away to get warm and dry, I’d already arranged to meet someone to hike from Tintagel the next day but I hadn’t got there yet! So I chalked those miles onto the board for filling in after I finished, and set off from Tintagel for an escapade towards Rock- especially excited for Port Isaac on the way!