Distance Walked: 281km
Distance covered this section: 72km
- May 2- Elmscott Hartland to Clovelly (22km)
- May 3 – Clovelly to Westward Ho! (18km)
- May 4 – Westward Ho! to Bideford (16km)
- May 5 – Bideford to Barnstable (16km)
Overnight a rainstorm made us feel very happy to be tucked up safe and dry in Elmscott Hartland YHA. During the evening a fellow hiker called Jonathan, who has been leading guided walks across England for about 10 years, gave us a few ideas about other walks to add to the itinerary! This could go on and on!
In the morning we woke to clearing skies but from the breakfast table we could see white horses on the ocean and the wind battering the hedgerows. So we decided to spend the morning cutting across county so the weather could calm a little before we took to the cliff tops. The long cut back to the cliffs took us through some truely beautiful old bridle ways in deep cuttings, bordered by holly and hazelnut woodlands, with bluebells just beginning to bring a violet hue and the odd pheasant bobbing down the lane ahead of us.
And when we finally caught back up with the path, at Hartland Point, the wind had dropped. That afternoon back on the coastal path was just perfect. The walking was not too arduous, the scenery spectacular and the weather mild and bright. All was good with the world!
We finished the day in Clovelly which has to be the most outrageously pretty village on this entire coastline. The cobbled mainstreet is not accessible to cars and the whole village perches on the cliff side just to prove it can.
That evening in the bar of the New Inn we found another hiker to chat to. Cameron is a lovely young guy from Portsmouth taking time out to do the whole coastal trail to raise awareness of MS, which his Aunty is living with. He can tell his own story better than we can so here is the link to his webpage.
And of course being a fit young fella he has been pretty much doubling the distances that we manage each day. Still he had a distinctive long distance hikers hobble going on when we met him which meant we could accept him as one of our own.
A lot of the next day’s walk to Westward Ho! (yes there is an exclamation mark in the place name) was through pretty woodland that brought to mind a word we had not used in years – ‘clarty’ – perfect to describe the sticky, squelchy mud that stuck in thick cakes to the bottoms of our boots giving the sensation of walking in platform shoes.
On the cliff tops the rolling path while not so steep really sapped our energy. Elaine resorted to what is known in hiking circles as the survival shuffle, on a couple of the ascents. By the time we got to the very elegant Victorian Guest House ‘Culloden’ Nicolas Crane’s words came to mind again.
On most arduous journeys there comes a point when the sum of imagined difficulties launches a surprise attack on the will to continue.
Nicholas Crane Great British Journeys
Thankfully we had a couple of easy days after Westward Ho! following the estuary of the Taw and Torridge rivers. The weather on Friday was overcast which suited perfectly the low lying watery landscape – sky, land and sea so similar in colour that it was difficult to tell where each ended and began.
It was a popular area, with birdwatchers galore and Elaine thought of her friend Wendy, a keen golfer, when we saw the handicap system in place on the local golf course…
The day ended with a horrible hour heading along a busy road through light industrial areas and out of town shopping centres, owing to an administrative error when booking the accommodation!
South West coast hikers often take a bus around the next bit of the path as it traces the other side of the estuary along a disused railway line that is now the Tarka bike trail. We decided to walk it and began by crossing the Bideford Long Bridge which dates back to 1248 – I kid you not! Bideford was located at the spot where the Torridge River could be crossed ‘by de ford’. But in 1248 those helpful local monks built a bridge (although we suspect they probably had a primarily managerial role) and it continues to be used today. Its a good thing they did build it given what happened when we attempted to walk the low tide route at low tide….
The Tarka Trail wasn’t great walking and the bus would have been a better option. It was hard on the feet and as the day turned into a sunny Saturday on a long weekend we spent the whole day in danger of being run down by novice bike riders!
We are pretty pooped now after 10 straight days of walking so are going to have a rest day in Barnstable at a B&B just down the road from the UK winner of the National Fish and Chips award….
….before our final week on this path. So although we are now in Devon we will sign off in typical Cornish style…
“There you go my lovelies.”