Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Bude to Crackington Haven - walking the South West Coast Path

Mick wanted a cup of tea before setting off. So we hung around eating croissants from the local shop until the café opened at nine.  It was a fine pot of tea except for the jug, one of those ubiquitous little metal ones with no proper lip so it always spills. As the only real function of a jug is to pour liquid, I think it can consider itself a failure. Harsh, I know, but there it is.

The campsite was at Maer just north of Bude so after finally finishing our tea we set off across the dunes and around the back of Crooklets Beach into Bude itself. By now it was half past ten. Mick declared he was still hungry so we went into the town and found a fine little café which served a superb jacket potato with crayfish (Mick) and prawns (me). Opposite the café was a bakery so we stocked up on pasties and scones as well.

Bude is a pleasant little town, popular with all sorts it seems from surfers and canoeists to retired folk who wanted to do nothing more strenuous than play crazy golf. Although this was not without risk it seemed, a sign on the course warning patrons that ‘this game is played at your own risk.’ I wondered what horrors could befall an unfortunate participant.  Falling into the (empty) mini castle moat? Getting a windmill sail stuck up one’s nose? Who knows. Anyway, if you do decide to play crazy golf at Bude you have been warned.

Extreme Sport at Bude
We headed up to Compass Point where a fine little tower (The Pepper Pot) is inscribed with the points of the compass, built in 1840 for the Acland family, who held considerable amounts of land in Cornwall as well as Devon and Somerset, at one point they owned 45,000 acres. It was said in the eighteenth century the Aclands could walk from the Bristol Channel to the English Channel without setting foot on another person's land, and this was only a slight exaggeration. 

The Pepper Pot
Finally on our way, we strode out towards Widemouth Bay. The first section was easy walking aside from accumulating a bucketful of sand in each shoe. But after Widemouth everything changed. The path joined the minor road and headed up some truly vicious climbs. I remembered this section from a cycle ride a couple of years ago, having exchanged the bike for a backpack, it wasn’t any easier this time.

At the top we caught up a chap who had been ascending slowly with the assistance of two walking poles. He told us he was walking the coast of Britain in stages. He had walked the coast of England from Berwick-upon-Tweed to Land’s End and across the top of Scotland. At this point his hip had worn out and having had two hip replacements he was now tackling the west coast of England, sleeping in his camper van as he went.  My one hundred and twenty miles or so seemed pretty insignificant compared to his efforts.

Awesome folding
The path left the road and continued climbing through and then above woods until we finally reached the highest spot at Dizzard Point. Here Mick spotted a mileage marker. For some reason someone had decided that the leg of a bench, almost hidden by long grass would be a good place to put it. Bizarre. Anyway, carved onto the legs was ‘Poole 500m’ and ‘Minehead 132m’.  Only five hundred miles to go!

Just after Dizzard Point at Scrade the path lunged down another v-shaped gully. On the other side we could see wooden steps rising on the edge of the cliff, hanging over the sea, more like a ladder than a staircase. On the top at the other side we could see a tractor cutting the grass along the edge of the drop. ‘Look at that maniac!’ said Mick. We made our way gingerly down and then Mick looked up at the onward route. ‘I’m off to find another way up,’ he announced. ‘See you at the top.’ He disappeared inland along the valley.

As I climbed up I could see the sea hundreds of feet below sliding onto to grey pebble beach. It was a long way down. I didn’t look again until I had reached the safety of the stile at the top where I sat for a while catching my breath and enjoying the view waiting for Mick to appear from his alternative route. Judging by the worn path from where he appeared at the top he was not the only one who had elected to take a detour. I later discovered this is one of the steepest valleys of the Cornish section of the path. 

Just before Crackington Haven I made a navigational error and we found ourselves heading inland towards St Genny’s church.  So we decided to make for the campsite marked near here and call it a day. It was a lovely little campsite with nice facilities and a comfortable TV room where we made ourselves at home for an hour before trotting the mile down the road to the pub where we sank a couple of pints of St Austell’s Tribute and I won myself a hat.

Distance: 12 miles
Total Distance: 136 miles
Accommodation Ranking: 5/10
Accomodation cost: £6.50

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