Bude to Newquay

Sept 8 to 14 2010

Day 1 to Coombe Barton Inn, Crackington Haven EX13 0GJ

Unlike the previous two stretches, I started with a full day's walking, travelling down the previous day by train to Exeter and bus on to Bude. It was a tough way to start this stretch, but maybe it was just the shock of having a full rucksack on my back again. I certainly appreciated having my new walking pole, particularly on the downward stretches that often seemed to include an excessive amount of loose stones. It was also quite a sunny day, and as beforehand I had been more concerned about wet weather forecasts, I hadn't brought any sun cream.

Generally I plodded on along quite an isolated stretch once Widemouth was passed, with plenty of spectacular views. The guidebook mentioned a severe descent followed by a climb to exercise the heart/lung system, at the top of which Crackington Haven came into view. When I thought I must be nearly there, I came to a descent and climb which seemed to fit the bill, only to find the path stretching ahead with still no destination in sight, which was a bit of a downer. Luckily when I did reach the section so described, it did not seem so bad, and I did a bit extra walk to go out onto the headland before descending into the village.

The Coombe Barton is a friendly comfortable place. The restaurant served good food, and during my meal I was able to watch the sun setting over the sea. However I am glad I chose to eat early as it is apparently the only eating place in the area and quickly filled up, even though it was only a Tuesday. By the time I left they were advising guests that there was a one hour wait.

Day 2 to Grange Cottage, Bossiney PL34 0AX

Another rugged, challenging stretch of coastline to start with. Quite early on the path takes you over High Cliff, at 223 metres the highest point on the path in Cornwall. Fortunately the ascent is gentler than some of others, and there wasn't too much wind. However the descent is quite hairy. Anyone who chooses to wear shorts over this section might run into trouble with the rampant gorse.

It was another sunny day, so the views were again quite special, back to the satellite tracking station the other side of Bude, and forward to Tintagel. The geology of this section is also particularly interesting. After a few more climbs and descents, you reach Boscastle, which I went straight through. I was ready to sit down for a rest, but the place was quite crowded and all the obvious seats were taken, so I climbed up the other side before finding a patch of grass to sit down on. I must come back some time and have a proper look.

From Boscastle to Tintagel is slightly easier. Bossiney, where I was staying is only a short walk from Tintagel, but to get there you leave the path with more than a mile to go, which I was glad to do as I was getting rather hot. When I reached Grange Cottage, Mrs Jones made me a most welcome cup of tea.

Day 3 to School House Hotel, Port Isaac PL29 3RD

Also staying at Grange Cottage was Philip Williams who is walking the whole coast of Britain in aid of the Alzheimers Society, which rather puts my efforts in perspective. He had set off from Brighton in February. It was most interesting hearing over breakfast about his experiences, his plans and why he was doing it.

I decided to start the day's walking by doing the section of the path round to Tintagel that I had not done the previous day. However I was half way round when I realised I still had the keys from Grange Cottage. The actual path bypasses the village, but I now had to head back. I was able to drop my rucksack off at the Visitor Centre, so that I did not have to carry it all the way, and it was a 15 minute walk there and back to Bossiney. I then headed back to the path, only to realise that I had left my nice new walking pole behind. This time I decided not to go back.

I was sorry not to have a chance to visit the castle, which looks most interesting, but I felt I did not have time to do it justice, and the next section was categorised as severe. The first two miles or so to Trebarwith Strand were not too bad, and there was a shop there where I could buy a new pole. This came in useful within minutes. The path climbs up a severe flight of steps some of which were high enough even to give me difficulties, so how a small person would manage I am not sure. When I eventually reached the top and was standing there breathing very heavily, a chap coming the other way kindly informed me that there was worse to come. Philip Williams had reckoned that there were only two really bad climbs in this section but if that is the case, then eastbound is a lot easier than westbound. I lost count of the number of times we descended almost to sea level and were back up again immediately. At least it was overcast this time.

As Port Isaac got nearer, the gradients got less severe, and it looked as though it would be a fairly gentle run in. Not so! A waymarker appeared which said Port Isaac 1 mile, with an arrow to the left saying Public Footpath and another straight ahead with the tell tale Coast Path acorn symbol, with the subliminal message "Don't even think about cheating!". This path disappeared over the edge and you could see it snaking up the other side of the valley. So it was down and up once again. Eventually there was a signpost saying half a mile to go, then when it joined the road, one saying a quarter of a mile pointing up a hill. Half way up the hill you passed the sign saying you were entering Port Isaac, but at the top there was a sign saying another half mile to the harbour, which was where I was staying. Luckily I found the School House without any problem and flopped down in my room. This was the only place I stayed in this section that I did not find in the SWCP book. It was very pleasant with good food, but a bit expensive. As the name implied, the building used to be the school and it retained the atmosphere. The rooms instead of having numbers were given subjects, and mine was Religious Studies.

Day 4 to Trealaw Guest House and Tea Room, Padstow PL28 8AB

This day was not quite as tough as I expected, even though once again I had an unnecessary diversion at the start. My original plan had been to go as far as Polzeath, but I was unable to find accommodation so I decided to go the extra 3 miles and ferry on to Padstow. Since I had caught the sun earlier and the weather forecast was good, I thought it advisable to find some sun cream. The girl at the hotel suggested I try the Co-op, which was half a mile uphill in the wrong direction. When I got there I was told they had sold out.

My route out of Port Isaac found me at one point in somebody's back garden after I missed a turn, but in due course I was on the correct route, faced quite early on with more downs and ups. The views again were magnificent, still being able to see as far back as the satellite dishes beyond Bude. However I did not see any seals or dolphins that were supposed to be in abundance in the seas below. As far as I remember, the path got easier as Polzeath came into sight, with the ascents not being too steep. It's possible to cheat and miss out Pentire Point, but that would be a mistake because of the range of views in both directions. At Polzeath you can also miss out a chunk by crossing the beach, depending on how you feel about walking on sand.

At Polzeath I was able at last to get some sun cream from a surf shop, though it was quite expensive being aimed at surfers. The path to the Padstow ferry is pretty flat, with a choice of walking on the beach or across the dunes, which I did, and found they were not too soft under foot. The ferry left from the beach where there was a big sign for it, though it was a bit disconcerting as the ferry crew took down the sign just as it was about to leave, so I'm not sure how obvious it would have been for those who came along after.

For once on this section I had company for a lot of the time. Three chaps about my age from Surrey passed me early on and I didn't expect to see them again as they were going a bit quicker than me. However they obviously took longer breaks than I did as our paths kept on crossing. In the end we did most of the final stretch together. They had started from Clovelly and had come from Bude in a day less than me. However they were using luggage transfer, rather than carrying all their stuff as I was doing.

Day 5 to Well Parc Hotel, Trevone PL28 8QN

As I only had five and a half easy miles to do this day, I decided to take the morning off, particularly as my hosts served lunch in their tearoom, and kindly let me leave my rucksack with them. I explored Padstow, checked my email at the Tourist Information Office and went to St Pedroc's Church for their morning service. In fact there is a tenuous connection with Malmesbury in that when King Athelstan annexed the kingdom of Cornwall he established the church in Padstow as a place of refuge. The church is also the start of the Pilgrim's Way, which was apparently used by pilgrims from Ireland who would walk it to Fowey from where they would embark to the continent.

After a good lunch I eventually set off. Fortunately there was nothing taxing on the day's walk, and it didn't take too long to reach Trevone. Just before you get there, there is a rather spectacular collapsed cave.

Day 6 to Penlan, Porthcothan Bay PL28 8LP

Another comparatively easy day's walking. However I took an unnecessary detour quite early on at Newtrain Bay. You have to walk quite a long way along the beach. I was confused by a locked gate which had an arrow on the fence behind indicating the coast path to the right. I assumed it meant to the right above this exit, and walked back to the road, only realising after about a quarter or a mile climbing that I was going too far from the coast. Anyway once I had successfully exited the beach it was very pleasant with once again attractive views particularly at Trevose Head. Beyond Treyarnon Bay there are three narrow headlands that the path bypasses, but I stopped for lunch on one of them where there was an iron age fort to explore.

There is a shop at Porthcothan, but not much else. At Penlan I had the use of two rooms with a range of books to read, and skilled saxophone playing from the son of the house as a background. There was no television but I listened to John Adams' El Nino on the radio, a fascinating piece of music.

Day 7 to Dewolf Guesthouse, Henver Road, Newquay TR7 3BL

When I set off it was overcast and a stiff breeze. By noon visibility was down to about a mile and it was blowing a gale. Replacing the views that I had enjoyed the previous days there was a chance to see a really spectacular sea. There were a few squally showers but I didn't get too wet. And though there were times when I was really battling the wind, as it was coming off the sea I was never in danger of being blown in the wrong direction.

Most of the route was fairly easy, though maybe it was because I was fighting the wind rather than the terrain. There should have been a fine view as I approached Watergate Bay, but it was around that point that I seriously thought about leaving the path when an alternative heading inland was signed, as it was getting quite narrow and the cliffs were high. But I persevered, and I realised afterwards that I would probably have ended up walking down a main road, with a different kind of danger. In spite of (or maybe because of) the strength of the wind, there were plenty in Watergate Bay not just surfing but parascending.

I left the path at Porth to find my guesthouse, where I had a very comfortable room and was able, so I thought, to remove my walking clothes for the last time. However when I went out afterwards to look for somewhere to eat, I got absolutely soaked and had to retrieve my old trousers as they were only damp and still wearable.

As I had a spare morning before catching the train home, I was able to walk the section of the path from Porth to the centre of Newquay that I would otherwise have missed. I also spent some time exploring Trevelgue Head, the site of an ancient settlement.

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