139b Peppercombe to Westwood Ho!

Standing above Peppercombe, we should have a wonderful view along the coast, but we had to imagine it. Mist. Damn mist!

x01 looking over Peppercombe, Ruth's coastal walk, to Westward Ho

Looking at the grey beach below, I ask my husband if it is possible to walk along the shore, avoiding the ups and downs of the cliffs. It seems a long time since I walked along a beach, back in Bude.

“It’s pebbly,” my husband warns. “Shingle is difficult to walk on.” And I wonder if the tide is going in and out (I forgot to check) and whether we risk being cut off, maybe even pressed up against foot of the cliffs with nowhere to go.

There is a steep descent into Peppercombe, but I am disappointed at the bottom. My map mentions ‘Peppercombe Castle’ – but there is no sign of one down here, although we do come across an old ruin. My husband appraises it thoughtfully. He likes renovation projects but this one might be a bit too much for him!

x02 des res at Peppercombe, Ruth's hubby on coastal walk North Devon

A long steady climb out of the valley, and we stop to eat a snack on a convenient bench. We would have a wonderful view back towards Clovelly, if only we could see through the mist. I can just make out the white houses clumped at the water’s edge on the distant shore. That must be Clovelly. There is no other village along the coast between here and Hartland Point.

x03 view back towards Clovelly, Ruth in the mist on her coastal walk

“The next section of shoreline is up-and-down,” my husband warns me. He has already walked this part of the coast, in order to meet me.
“How many ups-and-downs?” I ask.
“Four or five,” he says, but looks doubtful.
“We’ve already done one.” I’m thinking of Peppercombe.
“Maybe more,” he adds.
“I knew we should have tried to walk along the beach. Too late now.”

A little further on and the path dips down to sea level. The actions of the winter storms are clearly visible, with huge chunks of driftwood cast up onto the beach and debris covering the path itself. I notice how large the pebbles are – boulders really – and am glad we didn’t try to walk along the beach after all.

x04 flotsam on South West Coast Path, Ruth on coastal walk

We climb up the next cliff. I think this is Higher Rowden. The path winds through gorse bushes and the views should be wonderful. But they aren’t.

Babbacombe Cliff, SW coast path, Ruth's coastal walk, Devon

Down we go, into a valley carved by a tiny stream. At the bottom of the valley the path drops down to the beach.

 Babbacombe Mouth, Ruth's coastal walk towards Westward Ho!A warning sign advises caution due to storm damage. We can see a tangle of driftwood and other debris piled up against the bottom of the cliff.

“Oh yes,” my husband says. “There is a bit of a problem here.”
“Problem? What sort of problem?”
“A scramble ahead. The steps are missing.”

warning notice, Babbacombe Mouth, Ruth's coastal walk towards Westward Ho!I look at the notice again and read it carefully.

“Should further storm damage render this path impassable, please seek an alternative route.”

I look around for signs of an alternative route, but can’t see any. We are near the bottom of a steep-sided valley, with a stream running down the middle. No other paths. No sign of a bridge.

The steps take us down to the beach and my husband is right, the bottom section of the steps is missing and we do have to jump down.

long jump up steps, coatal erosion, Ruth in North Devon SWCPI take a photo of my husband looking woebegone beside the missing steps. I wondered how he managed to get up here earlier.

steps up other side, Ruth Livingstone, SWCPThe stream disappears into the shingle rocks of the beach and we have a dry, but precarious, crossing over to  where another flight of stairs leads up and out of the valley. Luckily, these steps are undamaged.

Walking across the stones is difficult. They are large and irregular and slip and slide under our weight. It seems to take a long time to navigate a few yards and I worry about twisting an ankle.

At this point, I am very glad we didn’t try to walk along the beach.

[Looking at the photos, I realise the stones don’t looks as though they belong here. They are pale grey, while the cliffs above are red sandstone. Were they brought here deliberately to try to stop the cliffs eroding? But, a little research later, and I realise these are grey sandstone pebbles, caused by erosion of cliffs further along, and washed up onto this storm beach.]

Before heading back up the cliff, I take another photo across the bay, looking back to Peppercombe and Buck’s Mills beyond. The clouds are sitting low on the hills and covering the woodland I walked through earlier.

view back to Peppercombe, Ruth walking the coast path, North Devon

Climbing up onto Cocklington Cliff, we see the coast undulating before us. I am growing tired and pull out the map to work out how many more ups-and-downs. We have Green Cliff to come, Abbotsham and then Cornborough. None of them look too steep.

heading to Green Cliff, Ruth walking towards Westward Ho! SWCP

Further along, I take a photo looking back to Hartland Point. I can’t see the lighthouse, but I can just make out Clovelly, on the far left.

on Green Cliff looking back to Hartland Point, Ruth on coastal walk, SWCP, North Devon

Green Cliff merges into Abbotsham Cliff. My OS Explorer map, number 126, ends at this point and so I pull out the next one, number 139.

I take another photo, looking ahead. Somewhere hidden around the corner is Westward Ho! Across the bay I can make out the line of land stretching away to the north. According to my new map, the distant shoreline consists of Braunton Burrows and Saunton Sands, with Baggy Point and Woolacombe Sands beyond. The final headland is, probably, Morte Point.

 on Green Cliff, looking ahead to Saunton Sands, Ruth's coastal walk, SWCP

We pass over a little bridge and begin to meet other walkers. Must be approaching civilisation. Ahead is Cornborough Cliff.

one more hill to go, Cornborough Cliff, Ruth's coastal walk, South West Coast Path

I take a final photograph back along the coast. Low cloud still sits on the top of the cliffs.

looking back along cliffs to Buck's Mills, Ruth on the South West Coast Path

The last stretch of the South West Coast Path runs along the route of an old railway line. It is straight, flat and has a packed earth and stone surface. We meet families out walking. To the right is a piece of National Trust Land called Kipling Tors, named after Rudyard Kipling.

Westward Ho! is the only place-name in the UK to include an exclamation mark. It was built as a seaside resort in the second half of the 19th century, and took its name from a Charles Kingsley novel. With such a romantic sounding name I was expecting something very picturesque, but the reality turns out to be quite disappointing.

Westward Ho! - Ruth on her coastal walk around the UK

The large house which dominates this approach is derelict and boarded up. The beach is grey and unfriendly looking. A holiday camp, consisting of rows of nondescript pre-formed statics, does not improve the place.

We did, however, have a very nice meal in The Pier House, where the food was surprisingly good and the service excellent.

Walked today = 11
Total distance = 1,359

A fantastic page detailing the geographical features of this section of coast, and illustrated with aerial photographs, can be found on the Open University Geological Society’s website.


About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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17 Responses to 139b Peppercombe to Westwood Ho!

  1. Oh! This looks so lovely! I like walking around in cities when I travel but a coastal walking tour sounds really good. I hope I will get a chance to do this someday. Thank you for sharing your experiences!

  2. burhinus56 says:

    Hi Ruth
    Did you manage a scone and tea at the tearoom on the green? They are fantastic.

  3. Rita Bower says:

    Hope you have some mist free walking next time. It’s so frustrating when you know you’re missing out on some fantastic views. And definitely a good decision not to walk along the beach…..I got seriously grumpy with prolonged shingle tramping…!!

  4. mariekeates says:

    What a shame about the mist. I’m glad you made it down those steps too.

  5. Pingback: 139a Clovelly to Buck’s Mills | Ruth's Coastal Walk (UK)

  6. Alan Butt says:

    Westward Ho ..where I live is actually a lively up & coming place. Lot money been spent here to bring it into this century. The holiday parks are well used where lot’s re Holiday year after year it’s that poplar.Why you were so surprised the food was good amazes me..What we to yokel to be able to cook & eat proper here. The beach is a top surfing & kite surfing beach. Believe you me on a fine summers day it’s as crowed as any Spanish resort. Guess you would not like that.Many come from all over uk & indeed Europe to kite surf here. Sorry it was not a dreamy Clovely or Porlock Wier.
    Kinda glad you walked on by before you found anything else wrong with it..

    • Hi Alan, it is always tough when someone criticises your home town, so apologies if I caused any offence. I’m sure you will understand that I have to report things honestly, as I see them. The sands at Westward Ho! were lovely. But the approach as you walk along the coast path from the west is not pleasant. And the pub looked like a pile-em-high and serve-em-cheap establishment. Nothing wrong with that if you want quick grub, but it was a surprise to find the food was cooked with love and really good.
      Best wishes,

  7. Jennifer Roe says:

    We walked northway to peppercombe on Saturday. 44 of us, to celebrate my and my husband’s 40th wedding anniversary. None of us proper walkers. Our party was all ages from 4 to 68 (me)! All related. And 3 dogs. Then today, Monday I walked from worthygate to bucks mills. Horrid path as I have a stiff knee which doesn’t like downhill! Met some members of my family on the beach. A family pilgrimage as we are related to the Braund’s of Bucks Mills. Wonderful weekend. All 5 of my children and 8 of my 9 grandchildren there for the party. I wish I”d seen your blog before as I was ages planning. Lovely blog. Great reading. Xx

    • Hi Jenny 🙂
      44 of you!? That was quite a group. It’s a lovely area of coast, but the walking is tough on the knees. If you go again, you should walk along Hobby Drive to Clovelly. It’s an easier walk and rather lovely in the woods.

  8. paul sennett says:

    Thank you so much for the recommendation of the Pier house.
    We loved it. Thank you
    The walk was one of the most tiring we have done. It is so steeply up and down at times. but worth every inch of shoe leather to finish it

  9. paul sennett says:

    I meant to add that the steps have been beautifully repaired half way along.. no longer steps now a clever ramp. The SW Path Association have done marvellous work here

  10. Pingback: 185. Horn’s Cross to Westward Ho! – Albion Ambulations

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