135a Bude to Northcott Mouth

Standing on the cliff at Upton, I look back along yesterday’s walk. I thought I had left good old Cambeak behind, but there he is, pointing his gnarly finger out into the sea. And the farthest promontory must be Tintagel. I believe I can even see the Camelot Castle Hotel.

01 sunrise and Tintagel in distance, Ruth on her coast walk

But I am heading northwards, past Bude and onwards. The logical place to aim for is Hartland Quay. But that is 15 miles from Bude and 17 miles from my starting point at Upton. Too far.

The South West Coast Path Association have an excellent website (better than the official one). According to Andrew Lack’s distance calculator, the 15 mile walk from Bude to Hartland Quay is graded “severe” and would take me well over 10 hours at my usual walking speed. I only have 6 good hours of daylight.

The official South West Coast Path site advises that this is probably the hardest stretch of the SW Coast Path and rates the walk as “challenging”. They usually suggest a longer option, but here they say, “This walk should be enough for anyone!”

I am aiming to get to the village of Morwenstow, which is 7.5 miles from Bude and 9 miles from here. If I can manage a steady pace of 1.5 miles an hour, I should make it before nightfall.

Ahead I can see the antennae and discs of a radio or radar station. Morwenstow is only a couple of miles beyond. I cheer up. It looks very close!  But first, Bude.

02 looking across Bude to Radio Station, Ruth on the South West Coast Path

I follow wide paths across the cliff tops of Efford Down. This appears to be common land and popular with dog walkers. I walk parallel to a young woman for half an hour. She spends the whole time on her mobile phone while her dog runs wildly about.

The sun is burning the morning haze away and the November day is turning clear and bright. Out in the sea are lines of jagged rocks. One looks like a rusting submarine.

03 rock that looks like a submarine. Ruth Livingstone in Cornwall

Over the next rise and I get my first sight of Bude. I couldn’t see it yesterday as I walked the coast from Crackington Haven because it is hidden away, as I suspected, in its own little bay.

04 Looking up the coast from Bude, Ruth's coast walking

Before I get to Bude’s bay, I come across this strange little tower.

xxxIt is hexagonal in shape and appears to be either a lookout station or a shrine. The points of the compass are carved at the top of each wall.

Later I discover this is known as Compass Point or the Pepper Pot tower. It was built, privately, as a lookout point.

Given the treacherous rocks in the sea, it seems appropriate to have a lookout station here. But, from looking at Bude’s official tourist site, the tower was moved here from somewhere else. Where from? They don’t say.

Just below is the harbour wall, which keeps the Atlantic swell from invading Bude’s peaceful bay.

Here is Summerleaze Beach. What a wonderful name! And it’s a very pretty place. Across the water, the low rocky cliffs glow a warm russet colour in the slanting sunlight.

06 Summerleaze beach, Bude, Ruth's coast walk, Cornwall

Coming down from the harbour wall, the first thing I have to do is cross over Bude Canal, which passes through a lock gate and then runs along the side of the beach and empties into the bay.

07 Bude Canal empties into Bude Haven, Ruth's coast walking

I later learn that the Bude Canal is very unusual in its construction, as it drops over 400 feet but only has only two conventional locks. Inclined planes were used to haul boats up the gradients.

I walk across the sands to the opposite side of Summerleaze beach and up some steps. Here I find an amazing thing. A wonderful open-air swimming pool!

08 Summerleaze Sea Pool, Bude, Ruth's coast walk

There is something surreal about seeing the calm surface of the water with the sea breaking just beyond the concrete walls.

08 Summerleaze Sea Pool 2, Bude, Ruth's coast walk

This is Bude’s Summerleaze Sea Pool, part natural and part man-made. It is large and has diving platforms and pool ladders, all set against the striated rocks of the cliff behind.

08 Summerleaze Sea Pool 3, Bude, Ruth's coast walk

I would imagine it becomes crowded on a warm summer’s day. But this morning the water is like a mirror, only gently ruffled in places by the breeze.

Walking along the top of the cliffs, I come across a memorial bench with a difference. This one is in memory of a guide dog for the blind, Abba. There is an inscription in braille too.

09 Guide Dog memorial, Abba, Bude, Ruth Livingstone

I walk along an easy path to Crooklets Beach, a little cove just along from Bude, where I find a few dilapidated-looking beach huts and Bude Surf Lifesaving Club, which is shut today.

10 Crooklets Beach, Bude, Ruth's coast walk

On Crooklets beach I see dog walkers and a few young men with surf boards. I can’t resist stopping to take photographs. I like the juxtaposition of old codgers and young dudes.

11 old and young on Crooklets Beach, Bude, Ruth walking the SW Coast Path

But I have been walking for an hour and need to get a move on. The difficult part of the walk is yet to come. Up and on. Soon I am walking over open land on the top of cliffs.

12 down to Northcott Mouth, Ruth's coastal walk on the SWCP, near Bude

The next beach is a mile or so further on from Crooklets and is called Northcott Mouth. It is National Trust land and marked on my map as a surfing beach, although the rocks look vicious to me.

Pollution incident, Northcott Mouth, Ruths coastal walk, north CornwallA public notice warns of pollution on the beach.

“A non-toxic fatty substance has been
washed up on this beach.

This could be dangerous to dogs
if eaten.”

I wonder what it is, but resist the urge to go and look for fatty stuff floating about in the surf.

up Bucket Hill, Northcutt Mouth, Ruth walking the coastAhead I can see the path rises up steeply from the beach, passing close to the edge of a crumbly cliff.

I check my map. This is Bucket Hill and the beginning of a stretch of coast designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. I have a feeling the route is going to get serious from this point onwards.

towards Sandy Mouth, Ruth on the South West Coast PathUp until now there have been strollers and dog walkers on the path. (But, after heading up Bucket Hill, I only meet one other person all the way from here until I reach the outskirts of Morwenstow village.)

From the top of the cliff, I take a photo showing the corrugated rocks running across the beach below. The next patch of sand must be Sandy Mouth.

About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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10 Responses to 135a Bude to Northcott Mouth

  1. Wingclipped says:

    Oooo I bet that stuff on the beach was ambergris and they were trying to disuade people from walking there so they could scoop it all up for themselves!

  2. mariekeates says:

    Sounds like a tough walk. I think the stuff on the beach was probably palm oil. We had some washed up here recently, no one seems to know where it comes from but it is poisonous to dogs even though they seem attracted to it.

  3. jcombe says:

    Beautiful photos, looks like you had perfect weather for it. I remember this walk well, I did it in one go from Hartland Quay to Bude and it certainy deserves it’s reputation as tough. Sadly it was grey and overcast all day and I think like you I saw just one person on the whole walk from Hartland Quay, and he was just north of Bude, I don’t think many people do this section. I then took the bus from Bude to Hartland and walked back along the road to Hartland Quay, I think I could have done without those last few miles. Enjoying hearing about your walk.

    • So you walked the 15 miles between Hartland Quay and Bude and then went and walked another 7(?) miles between Hartland and Hartland Quay? Crikey! I don’t know how you did it. Fantastic.

  4. paul sennett says:

    Ruth, good morning.. QUESTION.. Sorry to burden you.. Four of us are going to attempt Bude to Hartland Quay this coming Saturday… down wind!. any advice on walking sticks or no sticks on the steep downslopes/ upslopes.? and how tough is it really? the guides seem rather scary.

    • Hi Paul.
      It certainly IS tough. I took two days to do it (but you know I walk SLOWLY!). Although it’s only about 17 miles in horizontal distance, it is relentlessly up and down. You will definitely need sticks. And water. And snacks. Between Northcott and Hartland Quay there is nowhere to refill water bottles on the way (unless the poet’s hut is open at Marsland Mouth). I’m sure you can do it. But be prepared for a long day. 😀 Good luck, and would love to hear how you get on.

  5. Paul sennett says:

    Ruth.. We did it.. Finished at Hartland Quay car park almost in the dark… What a walk.. We lucky out with full Sun all day and winds on our backs.. 10 hours.. We were very surprised how much water we needed to drink on this walk.. We easily drank 1.5 litres each…. Thanks for your amazing guidance on your blog. The bull is still there! We walked past his field in the dark in red jackets… The river near hartland quay had to be forded we could not find a bridge in the dark.

    • Well done!!!! What an achievement! The bridge was upstream but hard to find, so fording was probably the best thing to do. It’s a beautiful walk, isn’t it. But I think you were brave to do it in one day. Fantastic 😀

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