Putsborough Sands is yet another long stretch of golden sand with an award winning beach cafe. An environmentally conscious affair, the food is presented in cardboard trays with wooden cutlery. All very admirable but it did spoil my cooked breakfast – there is something about wooden cutlery that puts my teeth on edge quite literally. Anyway, after figuring out which dustbin to put my rubbish in, I jump down onto the sand, heading for Woolacombe.
Up on the cliff, with a wonderful view of the sea, is what I’m told is an illegal caravan site. Apparently there are certain months in the year where any empty field can be legally used as a camping site – first I’ve heard of it.
The beach is empty so early in the morning but as I approach Woolacombe, I can see people milling about and surfers in the water.
On the beach would be surfers listen intently to their instructors, some looking worried, others excited. I don’t know how many times I have thought to myself what a pity it is that surfing had not yet arrived on British shores when I was young. Never too late I hear you say – but yes it is.
Woolacombe is an assault on the senses, packed with tourists, mostly from the Midlands by the sound of their accents, and mostly families. I am here to catch a bus to Ilfracombe, deposit half of my back pack with my bnb and then walk back.
The first thing I notice in Ilfracombe are these huge kiln like structures that sit uneasily amongst the rows of tall Victorian buildings and the brightly coloured plastic of the bouncy castles.
I later discover that these conical structures, locally referred to as Madonna’s Bra, house the Landmark Theatre – an award winning theatre with excellent acoustics………..and more hydrangeas.
Elsewhere the town is prim but definitely quirky.
………………with a high street full of independent shops with whacky names – a lot of them sporting union jacks.
And where do you see this on offer nowadays? And so cheaply.
There is also something strange happening at the entrance to the church. Are they desperately trying to get out?
Anyway, it is time to move on, I have spent too long exploring Ilfracombe so I head up behind the theatre, following a sign, and soon I am up onto the cliffs on my way back to Woolacombe.
The narrow path ascends steeply up onto the cliffs but then widens out and is fairly flat for the next three miles but I can feel that destination Woolacombe is looking unrealistic. Instead, after a mile of tarmac lane, which leads me down into the hamlet of Lee, I decide to call it a day.
Lee is a pretty little cove with a summer let house right on the rocks above the beach.
There are very few people about – they’re all in the pub – which is where I’m going. I will come back tomorrow and finish the last stretch into Woolacombe.
Distance: 9 miles