Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Boscastle to Tintagel

South West Coast Path signpost

Cornish dry stone wall
Having headed north yesterday, today I thought I would try a section of the coast path south of Boscastle. Leaving the hostel I crossed the new bridge which has been built since the floods. It's much less picturesque than the old one but has a wider span. The old bridge was something of a bottleneck and so as part of the new flood defences it was decided to put a wider bridge across the river. As I climbed out of Boscastle I realised that I should have gone to the loo before setting off. I had drunk several cups of tea at breakfast and I am now of the age when it is definitely one-cup-in-one-wee-out. I looked up and down, there was no one about, so I had a quick pee by the side of the path.
Willapark Coastguard Station

Farther up I soon came to the path which leads to Willapark with it's white coastguard station perched high on the promontory. The door was open so I went to take a look. Three oldish  chaps were in there peering out of the windows.
'I reckon it's that one,' said one of them, looking at a sheet with pictures of various vessels on it.
'That one's white. The one out there is blue,' said one of the others. They turned to me, as I stood in the doorway.

'Come on in!' they said. 'Here, take a look at this, what do you see?'
I peered down the telescope at a tiny spec far out to sea. 'Um, it's a boat, but that's all I can tell you,' I said.
'Never mind,' they said.
I noticed a chart on the wall which said "walkers on coast path". 'Do you track walkers as well then?' I asked. 'If they're on their own, we do, yes. Just in case. You're kitted out fine but you would be amazed what some people wear to walk the path. We try and keep an eye out for them where we can.'
They then told me about an incident a couple of weeks previously when a prison officer had called on them. He had been taking a group of low risk offenders for a walk when one of his party had absconded. Had the coastguards seen him? They confirmed that they could see the offender legging it across a field. Apparently he was finally picked up in a pub in Tintagel. The coastguard told me that they were all volunteers, I was impressed. I waved them goodbye and then as I trudged back down to the main path an awful thought struck me. When I had stopped for a pee it would have been in full view of the coastguard station. I fervently hoped they had been looking the other way.

Ladies Window
The path hugged the coastline and I enjoyed watching the waves pounding the coast. Soon I reached Ladies Window, a natural arch formation in the cliff and I sat for a while on another of those memorial benches. It was about now that I realised that I had a problem with my boots, which were causing me a lot of pain on the front of my feet. They were fairly new and the ground was particularly hard here. Heading on there was a spectacular down and then up at the canyon at the end of Rocky Valley, a beautiful valley where the Trevillett River joins the sea. There is a sign warning you not to go too near the edge, freak waves have been known to sweep people from here into the sea. It looked pretty calm though, so I climbed past the sign and sat on the rocks for a while enjoying the view and resting my sore toes.

The climb up the other side once again reminded me of my lack of fitness as my puffed my way up. In full view now was the controversial hotel known as Camelot Castle. I have never stayed there, and at 200 quid a night I'm not likely to either, but Trip Advisor is worth a read if you are planning a visit. The path rounded another spur known as Barras Nose before dropping down to the (closed) visitor centre and (closed) island on which sits the remains of Tintagel castle. I know it's November but I still couldn't see why English Heritage couldn't open for a few hours. After all, with global warming, winter days can be lovely and warm. There were a few disconsolate souls milling about, obviously disappointed that they couldn't get onto the island. Apparently this is the first year that they haven't opened the castle during the week and unsurprisingly, local businesses say they are suffering.

Superlative North Cornish coast
I plodded up the steps and considered what to do. My feet were killing me now. I decided to head into Tintagel and try and find a pub or cafe open to give them a rest. I wandered up and down the main street; The King Arthur's Arms was open and looked like they had a reasonably priced menu so I stopped there for fish and chips and a fine pint of Cornwall's Pride from Tintagel Brewery and read a few more chapters of Mike Parker's new book, The Wild Rover.

After an hour or so, sated with food and ale I regretfully heaved myself out of my seat and padded in my socks over to the door. I thought about the five miles of switchback coast path I had in front of me to get back to Boscastle. I baulked at the thought of the climb down and up Rocky Valley and decided to take the road for at least the first section. Five minutes along the road I came upon a bus stop. This was rural Cornwall and it was mid-week in November. I fully expected the timetable to say the next bus was due on Saturday afternoon. That's what it would have said in my area of Bath and North East Somerset (BANES!!).  Anyway, I could hardly believe my luck when I read the timetable and a bus was due in three minutes time. Awesome!

So I rode the bus back to Boscastle for two pounds, purchased some provisions in the local store and limped back to the hostel to cook my tea. I was currently the only resident, and with no radio or TV, no phone signal, and no wifi the place was very, um, peaceful. I was getting a lot of reading done.

route here

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