Burnham on Sea to Uphill 14.10.17

This has to be the quote of the day, splashed onto the sea wall at Burnham – but what is it trying to say?

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….and equally, what is this strange edifice further up the beach? I’m surprised it hasn’t been turned into a “luxury apartment”. I later discover that it is a listed building that still functions as a lighthouse.

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……..and later on a sign of extraterrestrial visitation a la Erich Von Daniken?

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……but these are decidedly terrestrial beings, plodding along up the beach. I always get a twinge of excitement when I see horses but these do look a little tired and fed up.

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By this time I have been walking on sand for 30 minutes, making very good progress when I start to see cars on the beach – a little strange.

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…….and then this makes me smile as there is no fence on either side of the gate, slightly surreal.

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……..and then I discover what all the cars with people have come to see – sand yachting.

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It looks fun, the drivers are almost horizontal as they whizz past me like grounded dragonflies.

From the unfriendly signs planted in the dunes I realise that I must be close to a village and on consulting the map I see that I have walked past my turn off into the village of Bean. Turning around I start walking back and soon find the path through the dunes which will take me to the road.

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From Brean there is a path up the peninsula up the hill named Brean Down but as far as I can see I will have to come back the same way unless I’m up for a bit of trespassing which I’m not – so I’ll save that for another day. Instead I am taking a road and then a short stretch of a cycle path inland.

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From where I turn off the cycle path I am walking on narrow roads with quite a lot of traffic. It is not pleasant but I cover distances quickly. A section of the road has been recently tarmacked and reminds me of my new perfume “Charcoal” by Lyn Harris. The description of this perfume alludes, amongst other things, to her visits to her grandfather in Scotland and remembering the smell of the coal she would help to bring in for the fire. IMG_3660

At a place called Wick Farm I turn off onto a footpath across fields, but the path is very overgrown and it’s hard work. All too soon I’m back on an extremely straight road which runs alongside the railway line until I can turn off up a cycle path.

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The walk through Bleadon Level is mostly gravel paths across salt marshes until I enter the parkland which overlooks the marina at Uphill. IMG_3665

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IMG_3668I now start to see people for the first time since I left the beach at Brean – ahead is Uphill castle. IMG_3667

There is also a persistent sound of revving engines coming from the other side of the town and stopping to talk to a dog walker I discover that the beach at Uphill has been taken over for an annual motorbike racing competition. The noise fills the air and is slightly annoying. What is even more annoying is that the event means that I cannot walk along the beach to Weston Super Mare unless I pay the extortionate entrance fee.

So that will be another day as well.

Distance: 12 miles

 

 

 

 

Bridgewater to Burnham-on-Sea 13.10.17

Well – this is a long way from Cornwall, both literally and metaphorically, but a much shorter train ride means I can fit in two days walking in North Somerset. I say metaphorically as most of the walk is up the eastern bank of an estuary. No salt spray from storm waves pounding majestic cliffs but a slow running strip of water snaking its way through chocolate brown mud banks and flat forsaken marshland.

I start in Bridgewater in Somerset, at the bottom of the estuary: a busy town with an enormous church and the tallest spire I’ve ever seen. For centuries the town prospered from the export of bricks and tiles but with the advent of the railways the river trade declined and in 1971 the docks were closed.

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To the north and east of the town the acres of industrial estates and roads full of snorting HGVs are clear signs that some industries in the town are still alive and well.

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I walk over the town bridge, trying not to breathe in the noxious air too deeply, following signs for not the South West but the England Coast Path. Unfortunately, one all important sign is ambiguous in its direction and after 15 minutes of walking up the main road I seem to be heading further and further away  from the riverbank. Stopping for directions I am sent off across a playing field where the recent mowing has turned up all sorts of unsightly rubbish that has not been cleared away (why can that not be part of the job?), only to find myself stumbling along on a small path of broken up concrete and brambles and coming face to face with this.

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Not the right way methinks……………

My next guide is a young welshman from Newport and his dog who points me in the right direction but after 10 minutes I realise I have walked a full circle back to the misleading sign! Oh dear.

My next attempt at getting to the riverbank is more successful. Although it is illogical I try crossing the bridge and half way across is a gap in the metal buffer where I can see a way down to the river and the trail. I scramble down the bank and turn right and I’m off!

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The path now takes me round the back of the main road with the painfully slow moving river on my left. Later on I pass office blocks with people hunched over computers – I make a mental note to be more aware of my own posture when using a computer.

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A little later I come to an information board where I learn how much more life and activity there would have been in Bridgewater in the Middle Ages. On this side of the river would be ship building yards and countless ‘beehive’ kilns producing bricks and tiles. “The air would have been heavy with the salty muddy tang of the river punctuated with the aroma of wild herbs such as fennel and acrid coal smoke from the kilns.”

Well there is none of that now and in fact the only working wharf is at Dunball which I can see in the distance. When I arrive there is building going on and I am struck by the combination of colours from the sands being used, together with the green of the algae.

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After Dunball the path strikes out west following the deep curves of the river. At one point  I am directed through the middle of an industrial yard and out the other side where my path appears to be blocked by fences cordoning off a big digger. I yell at the driver to tell me where the path has disappeared to and to his credit he stops the engine immediately, climbs down, and a tad shamefacedly moves the fences to give me access. On the other side the bank are two men in turbans and high vis jackets who watch me silently as I walk past, making me feel a little nervous.

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From here on I cross fields and more fields, all empty – not even a herd of cows to set my heart racing. The sky remains obstinately grey……..but at least it’s not raining.

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At the second turn off for a village called Paulett is a path marked on the map as White House Rhyne. I stop to read another information board which confirms a fact that myself and my sisters are very familiar with, having had it drummed into our heads by our parents. They had  a house in Penarth in South Wales and we would frequently visit Swanbridge which is a hamlet on the mainland facing Sully island. At the start of the causeway over to the island is a big signboard warning of the dangers of getting caught by the speed of the incoming tide. And that’s exactly what happened, when I lured my little sister over to the island one day only to find ourselves cut off by the rapid approach of the tide. Fortunately, our waving and shouting attracted the attention of the lifeguard and we were soon rescued by boat and brought back to safety.

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Up until now the sky has remained grey and slightly oppressive but suddenly the clouds part to reveal a promising patch of blue sky – hooray!

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This point on the walk is also marked by the village of Combwich on the other side of the river – so close and yet so far as there is no bridge.

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And more estuary walking – the isolation, the chocolatey mud and unremittingly flat landscape remind of the walks I did in Essex all those years ago.

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I know I am now approaching a sluice where I can cross an artificial river (to reduce flooding in the area) but before that I come across something that is typical of some inconsiderate farmers. The sign says public footpath off to the right.

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………and this narrow strip of ankle twisting lumpy ground is what one would have to walk on – the field has been ploughed as close to the edge as possible almost eliminating the path altogether. Hurrump!

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Soon the sluice comes into view but when I arrive I have a sudden moment of panic when faced with a barred metal construction which doesn’t seem to offer me any way through. In fact the very narrow passageway for pedestrians starts in the other corner of the building – phew.

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Here are a couple of photos of mud………………………….

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Walking on I start to see signs of civilisation in the form of boats beached on the riverbanks – some of them a little worse for wear.

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I am now approaching Highbridge. where I can cross the river and walk up the right bank of the inlet up to Burnham on Sea. At the end of the bridge I turn left and to my surprise come to what seems to be a dead end with a house on one side and a dense thicket of brambles in front of me. Stumped I start thinking that perhaps the path is no longer used and as such is completely overgrown – I start poking the undergrowth somewhat ineffectually with my stick. At this point the woman of the house, who must have been watching me, comes out and points me in the direction of a very narrow path  just a couple of meters behind me. The whole episode makes me feel a bit silly.

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Anyway, this path soon opens up to circle round the back of a holiday camp – I start to see people for the first time today.

By now I am very tired and hungry but the almost artificial colour of the water to my left stops me in my tracks.

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Finally I walk into Burham which on first sight is not particularly inviting.

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The pier is the shortest I have ever seen and there are lots of signs about keeping dogs off the beach.

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I am pleased to see that a couple of dog owners are ignoring this rule which to me seems unnecessarily harsh, particularly at this time of year. I am also pleased to see a detectorist out looking for treasure.

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This has not been the greatest of walks but as I sit with a beer later on I am party to the most wonderful sunset over Hinckley Point Power Station.

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Distance: 18 miles (including the getting lost at the beginning)

 

 

Pentargon to Crackington Haven 16.9.17

Our taxi drops us off on the road so that we can retrace our steps across fields and back to the coast at Pentargon – on the way back this lovely slate wall catches my eye. It is covered with lichen so it’s difficult to see, but unlike the ruins we saw yesterday the slates here are packed vertically rather than horizontally.

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At Pentargon the path dips steeply down – imposing black slate cliffs line the gully and climbing up the other side we get a better view of the waterfall that we couldn’t see on the approach.

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After the pull up from the valley I am looking forward to some flat level walking but this is not to be. As we climb up Beeny Cliff the path gets narrower and narrower, winding round the side of the cliff – I am happy there is no-one coming the other way.

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And it get worse, we climb slowly up the very steep and increasingly rocky incline to Fire Beacon Point – at one point I start to feel a little dizzy from the exposure but then I am a bit of a wimp as far as heights are concerned.

After numerous stops to catch our breath we reach the top – Damian stops to entice a pony over for a chat with not a lot of success.

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The calm of the level walking is suddenly disrupted by the sight of the path suddenly dipping down a very steep incline almost to Rusey Beach, where I’m told, very well preserved fossils can be found. The headline in the distance is Cambeak Head and on the other side lies Crackington Haven which is our destination today.

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Feeling a bit of a fossil myself we pant and puff our way up the near vertical steps on the other side to the top of Rusey Cliff – ten steps and a breath seems to work.IMG_3572After a rest we carry on, passing two small beaches – the first one is named The Strangles and I wonder where on earth it got it’s name from. At the tip of the second beach stands Northern Door where part of the cliff has been hollowed out by the sea – where once was a cave is now a hole. IMG_3573IMG_3574……..and finally we reach Cambeak Head where we stop for a rest and to admire the striations in the cliffs – lying out in the sunshine, the rain of yesterday seems like a bad dream. IMG_3575……….soon we are looking down on Crackington Haven where we can catch the bus back to our BnB. IMG_3576There is a pub but it’s a bit early in the day so we head for the cafe for a cream tea and sit people watching for half an hour. Outside the public toilets is a stack of tools for picking up rubbish and a little further down a sign warning people not to take stones from the beach – this little hamlet is obviously very protective of its environment. A few stones lie in front of the sign, a guilty conscience perhaps?  IMG_3578IMG_3579This has been a lovely walk.

Distance: 8 miles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trebarwith Strand to Pentargon 15.9.17

A few minutes after leaving the warmth and comfort of our BnB we are hit by a sudden, unexpected deluge of rain leaving us scrabbling for waterproofs. And as we trudge silently down a narrow muddy lane to the sea, both of us are wondering whether this is a good idea.

At Trebarwith however the rain stops and after a quick hop and skip over the black slippery rocks we set off up the hill.

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The rain however, continues to haunt us so I don’t take out the camera until we are approaching Tintagel. Several Pac a Mac tourists are braving the weather to make the pilgrimage to the ruins of the monastery and the castle – we are more concerned with finding a place for a cup of coffee.

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After a coffee and a particularly good carrot cake, we join the path again and dally for a while to brush up on our history. It is remarkable how, through the centuries, the Arthurian legend has captured the imagination of people in Britain and abroad, particularly when you consider that the details of the story are mainly composed of folklore and literary invention.

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From Tintagel the walk to Boscastle is easy, we follow a wide path across the top of the cliffs past Bossiney Haven and Benoath Cove, until we reach a deep descent down into Rocky Valley.

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Coming up out of the valley, the rain starts but thankfully doesn’t last long. When the camera comes out again the map shows we are walking through Western Blackapit, an area littered with ruined slate structures. These are the remains of the quarries that produced slate here to be shipped out of Boscastle in return for coal and timber from other parts of the country.

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Around the next corner we look down on the narrow approach to Boscastle Harbour. Apparently, in the days when this was a busy port, it was never safe for ships to enter under their own sail, so on their arrival, a boat with nine men called “hobblers” would go out to meet them and tow them in to their berth.

Here we meet people for the first time…….

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Boscastle Harbour is very pretty and even on such a dull day the National Trust cafe is packed with visitors. It has an interesting display of photographs showing the damage done to the harbour by a flash flood on the 16th August 2004. On just that one afternoon, 75 cars, 5 caravans, 6 buildings and several boats were washed into the sea. Approximately 100 homes and businesses were destroyed, including this one which has now been rebuilt, complete with its original sagging roof!

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By this time the weather is picking up so we decide to walk on to Pentagon, where a footpath across fields will take us to the road and then back on the road to Boscastle.

Distance: 10 miles

 

Port Isaac to Trebarwith Strand 14.9.17

Another day of strong winds, roaring in the ears, trying to keep my balance – everyone’s complaining – keeps the flags flying though…………

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I walk up the steep coast road incline out of Port Isaac and down into Port Gaverne. Across the bay is a small inlet with a bridge connecting two sections of cliff but the path is closed.

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From the top of the cliffs there is a lovely view of my walk today………

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………and as I wobble along the path, fighting the wind I am very glad to have these stone slabs protecting me from the precipitous drops on the other side.

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At the top of the next drop I pass a couple huddling into the bank – the girl looks very scared.

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…..and I myself am a little apprehensive about the wind, the narrow path and its proximity to the edge.

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……………and then it starts to rain………………..heavily. I tuck all my precious electronics away and take stock. And what I come up with is RETREAT – this is not an endurance test and I don’t want to die.

So, at the very next opportunity I turn off on a footpath that leads me over fields to the road running parallel to the coast. Here, the wind is not as bad and there is very little traffic. I walk for a couple of miles, the rain stops and the sun comes out – I decide to go back to the coast path.

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This of course is not without its challenges – a field full of frisky bullocks sets my heart racing but they’re not blocking the path and as advised, I make no eye contact.

The footpath takes me through the ruined farm buildings of Dannonchapel, first recorded in the Doomsday Survey of 1086 as housing 1 villager and 4 slaves.

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Climbing up to Crookmoyle Rock I look down into the deep gorge beyond and take it very slowly.

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At the bottom is a lovely wooden bridge to take me over the stream…….

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…………..and another one to take me across the ravine at the top …………..

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In the distance is Gull Rock which marks my destination……………

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…………..and then I find this – too late in the year for cuckoo spit but I am about to find out.

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Just before the next steep descent I look down on a little cove of foam, whirling up from the rocks and settling on the path ahead. I realise this is spume, which is when the waves are whipped into foam or froth by a strong wind. I have only seen it once before and that was many years ago when Damian and I tried to walk a section of the Pembroke Way in a 30mph wind.

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I walk down this winding narrow path to the bottom of the valley and give myself a rest and a banana by the side of this pretty little stone bridge.

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And from here on the walk is easy, along the top of the cliffs, although there is one last steep drop down into Trebarwith Strand.

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The beach here is a large area of layered flat stones with a stream running through them. There are quite a few people milling about staring out to sea or messing about by the stream – Gull Rock stands to attention out to sea. The village amenities are one fairly big hotel, public toilets and a cafe. I am also surprised to see two surf shops but the shop assistant tells me that when the tide is out there is a wide, long sandy beach and plenty of opportunities for surfing.

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I sit on one of the large stones and finish off my lunch thinking about how I’m going to get out of here – there is no telephone signal and no bus service. In the cafe I ask the owners if they would call a taxi, which they do, but I will have to wait an hour – it is school run time of day and there are none available. Ah well………

Later, from talking to other walkers I discover that the walk I did today is considered the most dangerous section of the South West Coast Path and is labelled “severe” – even without the wind!

Distance: 7 looooong miles

 

 

Padstow to Port Isaac 13.9.17

Padstow is gently waking up as I arrive. Stripped of the blanket cover of tourists you can see it for what it is – not Rick Steinsville but a Cornish fishing port.

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I stand and wait for the ferry to take me to the other side of the estuary – there is a small patch of blue sky ahead.

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………………and here it is………….I love a ferry in the same way I love stepping stones.

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On the way across I ask the ferryman about cafes on the other side – he grins and tells me there is one but you’d have to mortgage your house to get breakfast in Rock. I decide to wait for my morning coffee.

On the ferry are a Dutch couple who I chat with for a while. They tell me they come every year to do a section of the South West Coast Path – sleeping in tents. The woman tells me she is suffering from a lack of sleep due to the recent storms and that tonight they are treating themselves to a BnB – hardcore.

On landing at Rock I set off at a fast pace not wanting to chat all the way to Port Quin but I needn’t have worried. When I look round to take a photo of Padstow I see that the poor woman is struggling to keep up with her partner who keeps having to wait for her.

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The path from Rock crosses an area of dunes and passes some beautiful stretches of golden sand, which I think was where Damian and I went for a swim many years ago on a weekend break with his sister and husband.

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IMG_3502A piece of beach art catches my eye……………..

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At Trebetherick the shore becomes rocky until I come to Hayle Bay, the surfing beach at Polzeath. I do wish surfing had been part of my childhood, although I hate to say it I think I may be too old to learn now.

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Here, I find myself a cup of coffee and bun which will help me on my way up to Pentire Point and around the headland.

Walking out of Hayle Bay I pass a patch of succulent plants that I recognise from a visit to  the coast of Portugal. Anybody recognise them?

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It is a lovely walk up and around the headland and down along the edge of Port Quin Bay.

 

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Rumps Point with its spiky spine stretches out into the sea……………………………

 

 

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A mile to two later I come to what the map calls Lundy Hole, where a narrow wooden bridge has been constructed to take walkers over a steep ravine into which the waves  heave and smack against the rocks.

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The path now becomes a little more challenging, steep and uneven, I walk past disused mining shafts, fenced in with flat stones – they look a little mystical.

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I am now heading for Doydon Point where the landscape opens up to a wide stretch of green, overlooked by a grand house.

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And opposite the house, perched on the cliff is what looks a little castle – even though I have to leave the path to investigate I am curious as what it might be.

This is Doydon Castle, which is locked and let out for short term breaks. It is a very isolated spot, and taking the full brunt of the strong wind from the sea. You would have to stock up well, there is no twenty four hour corner shop.

By the way, the coloured bubbles from the top window are just reflections on the camera lens – quite pretty though.

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From here it looks like there are two paths to Port Quin – I take the low road which winds down, joins the high road and follows the bank of the inlet down into the hamlet. There is no refreshment to be had here and I am now quite hungry. There is also no phone signal – what to do? Keep walking.

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The next three miles are quite strenuous and I have very little energy left. In desperation I search all the small corners of my rucksack and find a small wrapped biscuit which must have been an unwanted accompaniment to a coffee in a more satiated moment – I gobble it down.

This lovely little calf is unfazed by my pitiful condition………………..

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And at last I top the last hill and look down on the Garden of Eden ………………….

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Port Isaac…..

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From here I check the buses – there is one in 40 minutes which will take me back to my Bnb. I make straight for the nearest pub where I claim a corner seat overlooking the harbour, two packets of crisps and a pint of Proper Job – heaven!

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Distance: 12 miles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trevone to Padstow 12.9.17

Arriving on the Newquay plane today means I can manage a half day of walking. I’m staying at the place I finished last time, a crumbling family hotel with board games, quiz nights and an ancient labrador. On the beach a couple of good citizens are picking up litter – wish there were a few of those where I live (including myself of course).

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I haven’t been walking for about six weeks and I can feel it in my legs on the steep pull up out of the bay. The sky is overcast but there’s no mention of rain in the forecast.

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Down in the valley I cross a little wooden bridge and then up the other side from where I can see what looks like a lighthouse on Stepper Point. From here it looks all downhill on the map into Padstow – but more of that later.

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One of the stiles is offering refreshments but it is much too early – I have to earn them.

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I walk high up above a cove called Butter Hole – must be the colour of the sand?

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…..and later the sky starts to darken ………..here we go again. Off to the left is a tall grey brick chimney and as the rain starts to get heavy I head towards it to see if it can provide any shelter – the wind picks up, practically throwing me through the arched entrance.

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Inside it is fairly dry and I prepare myself for a wait. There are two arched windows looking out to the sea – maybe this was a look out tower.

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Half way through the remains of my ham sandwich, I am startled by the sudden appearance of a young girl in the entrance. She is dressed unsuitably in a skimpy top and long gypsy skirt, a handbag over her shoulder. Both her hair and clothes are drenched.

“Just my luck” she says in a strong Cornish accent, “always happens on my day off”. I shrug and mumble something about it soon clearing up, wondering how else I can continue this conversation in such a confined space. There is a few minutes of silence.

“Ah well, no peace for the wicked” she says over her shoulder and lowering her head into the driving wind and rain, disappears. I am left with a feeling I have just witnessed a visitation from another century.

It looks like the rain has set in so resigned to my fate I too set out to rejoin the path which leads me down the side of the estuary into Padstow but there is still a way to go.

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Across the bay I can see what must be Rock where I will be starting my walk tomorrow.

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I pass the coastguard station and a little hamlet called Hawkers Cove. Here, I mistakenly walk some way up a minor road thinking it would lead to Padstow but a quick look at my online mapping app tells me I’m wrong…………..sigh. I turn round and find the path again which leads to the edge of an area of dunes – and then get lost again.  This time it is really not my fault – I consider the options, look at my map and cannot see where I should be heading unless it’s right into the middle of a copse of drowned trees. Panicking only slightly I try walking up a narrow tarmac lane and there it is – the sign! In completely the wrong place………I will write a letter……………..

After all this excitement I arrive at the war memorial which marks St. Saviour’s Point.

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….and from here on it IS downhill into Padstow……………………………

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Distance: 6 miles