It is November and I am back at Crackington Haven. It’s still windy but not as windy as the last time I was here. Today the beach is deserted. Across the water I can see the humpy finger of Cambeak and the mound where I once sat to eat a bar of chocolate.
I am nervous about walking today. It will be dark by five pm. I only have six hours of daylight and over 10 miles to cover. And I know there will be many steep climbs.
Sure enough, after a climb up the headland of Pencannow Point, and within a few minutes of setting off, I see the path drops down into a deep valley. The cleft is in shadow and I am unable to take any decent photographs, but I do manage a snap of the waterfall at the base of the valley. This is Aller Shoot.
On the way down, white droplets, like large snowflakes, come floating up from the sea and flow across the path. The grass is speckled with them. At first I wonder if it’s some sort of flower blossom but, when I get up close, I see the white clumps are collections of froth.
It must be sea foam. I have never experienced anything like this before, and all the way down and up again the bubbles continue to rise from the sea, like an upside-down snowstorm.
(If you blow up the photo on the left you can see the white specks of foam against the darker rocks.)
I climb up the other side of the Aller Shoot valley and look back.
One of the joys of walking is checking the map and reeling off the names of rocks and bays in my head. Below me is Orchard Strand, Little Barton and Great Barton Strand, Pencannow Point and I can still see good old Cambeak – my constant waymark since I set off from Tintagel.
I feel a pang of loss at the thought I will soon be leaving Cambeak behind. Silly, I know! But I walk alone and I guess these headlands become my surrogate companions.
The path sets off along the edge of a ridge of land. To my left is the sea, to my right is a drop down gorse covered scrubland to fields below. The morning clouds are clearing and the sun is shining in my eyes. When I reach the end of the ridge, I turn around to take a photo of this lovely path.
Apparently gorse bushes flower throughout the winter, but at this time of year the scent is subdued and I only get a faint whiff of coconut and honey.
I have a brief period of easy walking along the top of gently sloping cliffs, through fields, in an area called Lower Tresmorn.
Then the path plunges down into another cove and, at one point, seems to lead straight off the edge of a cliff. Is this the right way? Yes, there is the friendly acorn sign of the South West Coast Path, set right alongside a warning triangle showing a person plunging to their death.
Onward. There are many ups and downs along this section of the South West Coast Path, but perhaps the most dramatic is the steeply sloped Scrade Valley.
[Later, on the official South West Coast Path web site, I learn this is one of the deepest and steepest valleys of the Cornish path. Luckily, I am blissfully unaware of this fact. And lucky too that I come across this climb while still feeling full of energy and in the early part of my walk.]
Only 132 miles of the South West Coast Path left to do? I must have already covered nearly 500 miles, then. But I don’t want this stretch of coast to end. It’s been wonderful.
Now I can look ahead and see the sands of Widemouth Bay. Bude is just beyond. It looks tantalizingly near, but I still have a long way to go.
It is 12:30pm and I have been walking for two hours. Four good hours of daylight left.
And here is another bench. This one is particularly beautiful, made from 2 large pieces of slate with an elegant script and a memorial to Mervyn Northcott, a local farmer.
The path continues, dipping up and down.
Back on top of the cliffs and I make good progress along flattish land and open fields. I have not come across a village since I left Crackington Haven, but the sands of Widemouth Bay are growing nearer and this is where I am going to stop for lunch. And I can see the town of Bude behind.
I know Bude has a bay and a beach, but I can’t make out where. It must be hidden between some of the headlands.
I am approaching Millook. My B&B landlady told me to watch out for the amazing rock formations in the cliffs here. But first I have to join a road that winds down and takes me into the little hamlet.
[Later I learn this type of rock is called killas and is a feature of the north Cornwall coast.]
The climb up the other side is just as tough as I anticipated, but is the last serious climb before I get to Bude. The rest of the walk is straightforward, but slightly spoiled by inland diversions at Wanson Mouth to avoid private property.
Further along and the path descends and flattens out at Widemouth Sands.
I walk along the beach, enjoying the first decent sands since I left Trebarwith Strand. Interesting rock formations stretch across the beach and form cliffs with dramatic, vertical folds.
It is 3:00pm when I get to the end of Widemouth Bay. Here I meet the first people I’ve come across on the entire walk today. The car park is nearly completely submerged in sand. I wonder if they clear it out with bulldozers in the summer.
And here I find a strange man in a very bright yellow jacket, trying to hide his bike behind some bushes. My hubby. We eat inside and enjoy the views across the bay.
But, when we come out, I am faced with one of the penalties of a leisurely late lunch. It is 4:15 and the sun is low in the sky. Dark clouds have appeared. The view is lovely but the light is fading.
I decide not to continue into Bude. It is only three miles further along, but I am tired and it will be dark in a hour’s time. So my husband arranges to pick me up at Upton, a mile and half away.
Anticipating tomorrow’s walk, I look along the coast. Bude is still invisible, but there is a radar station on the cliffs beyond. My current map only extends to a mile or so the other side of Bude, and so I can’t put a name to the distant headlands, nor the island that is visible out to sea.
Later, I find out the island is Lundy Island and the most distant headland is probably Hartland Point, more than 15 miles from here as the crow flies and considerably further by foot, as I will find out over the next few days.
In the sea below me there is a lone surfer. I sit and watch the sun set.
It is the perfect end to a wonderful day of walking.
Miles walked = 8.5 miles
Total distance travelled = 1,318.5 miles
Vertical distance today = 2,600 feet