Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Boscastle to Bude

Up early to see that it’s a glorious day with a perfect blue sky. An excellent breakfast to compensate for last evening’s lack of a meal, and on my way by 8:30. I have two hours to reach the meeting point with Frank Brierley.

 My new travelling companion ...
Jack has warned me off the initial bit of the Coast Path around the headland south of the village, and pointed out the alternative of a path leading inland with lookouts over Boscastle, followed by a number of fields before rejoining the Coast path after it turns back inland around the bay to the North. The path is lovely, solid with wildflowers and fluted with birdsong. And the whole ascent is so gentle as to be almost unnoticeable. Minor gradients don’t count! This is what happens if you get used to climbing down into and up from the combes that characterise so much of the SWCP.

I arrived at the meeting point agreed with Frank only fifteen minutes late than intended. Brian Rowson had driven him there from Bideford, where Frank had stayed with the Rowsons the previous night. Their route had paralleled the Coast, so Frank had a fair idea of what lay ahead.

... faced immediately with High Cliff - the highest point on the SWCP
Which to start with was High Cliff – the highest point in Cornwall on the SWCP at 223m – over 700ft. It’s made worse by the fact that one has to descend into a valley before tackling the steps – 176 of them – and the slopes between them and at the top. But the view is thoroughly rewarding, and the rest and refreshment at the summit are well deserved. We can now see people labouring up the long haul from Crackington Haven, and it’s out un to feel ahead of the game. That morning I had encountered only a couple of fit young solitary walkers walking South; now they began to be more numerous.

The descent towards Crackington Haven is a long, gentle one, which is just as well after previous exertions. It is at this stage that we notice that the numerous swallows are all flying North. This is visible migration, and over the rest of the afternoon we see several hundred if not thousands of birds. I had seen the same phenomenon in Spurn in Yorkshire in 2011, where the swallows were flying inland after the long North Sea crossing, which must be similar in distance to the crossing from Brittany to Western Cornwall.

But the view from High Cliff is magnificent ...
However it is not all easy, as there are a couple more combes with descents and climbs before Crackington Haven itself. There we had ginger beer shandies and sandwiches, a recharge of my i-Phone, and refills of water bottles. Plus more sunscreen – it was now vey warm and bright. Then it was back on the path, with the next way-point, Millook, advertised as 4¼ miles distant. 4¼ tough miles, as it turns out. After climbing up from Crackington Haven there were several sharp descents and climbs to regain altitiude. The coastal vegetation is different here – lots of small, wind-blown shrubs and stunted trees, with open pasture at the top of the cliffs. Fewer wildflowers than further West, and different species, though there are primroses and violets everywhere. Disappointingly there were none of the tiny blue star-shaped flowers I had wanted to show Frank. (I subsequently discovered that these are spring squill, restricted to coastal clifftops in the far West.

... even though there's still this sort of thing to come.
After Millook there were two more combes to cross before reaching Widemouth Bay. This is a two-mile stretch of sand, with occasional rocks, and an extensive dune system behind. There are small seaside shacks, caravans, surfing gear hire shops. Not attractive in comparison with the remote beaches we had passed earlier, but obviously popular. It was a surprisingly muddy stretch across the top of shallow cliffs to start with, followed by sandy tracks through the dunes.

It was here that Frank decided that he had had enough at 13 miles or so, so peeled off to a local pub to organise a taxi. I continued along the Coast Pat5h for a further two and a half miles, where I turned inland for Bude itself. I arrived at the Atlantic House about 45 minutes after Frank, only to find that he had been obliged to move room because the loo in the first had overflowed.

 A remedial bath with whisky to hand was followed by dinner at the nearby Tandoori restaurant.

Weather glorious – not a cloud in the sky at ant time. 31.4km. 1,298m ascent, 1,280 descent. Very severe.

No comments:

Post a Comment