I set off along the road that runs from Woolacombe towards Mortehoe, and take a last look along the wonderful Woolacombe sands. It is a dull day, but people are already on the beach, determined to make the most of this Easter Sunday.
I walk along the top of the cliffs.
Treasured memories of
a loving and much loved son and brother
David Stephen Smith
aged 7 1/2 years
lost off these rocks
13th April 1992
I look over the edge of the cliff at the rocks beneath. The sea looks deceptively calm this morning and the cliffs aren’t particularly high, but I can imagine the water churning round those jagged surfaces. A little boy wouldn’t stand a chance.
He would be nearly 30 if still alive today. There are fresh flowers nearby. Someone is still tending the memorial.
I look at the route ahead. Morte Point (such a horrible name) lies ahead across the bay. A place of many shipwrecks and tragedies.
Onwards. It is shame about the weather – with low clouds, poor light and the constant threat of rain. I am forced to digitally enhance all the photos I take. On a sunny day, the views would be wonderful.
I walk a little farther along and look over a small cove – Barricane Beach. There are pleasant gardens, houses, a hotel.
Ahead the path seems easy enough. The slopes are green and slope gently down to rocky cliffs. I see a number of people out on the path, mainly dog-walkers.
I hope to get to Ilfracombe today. A longish walk for me – but I think it will be easy-going and anticipate making swift progress.
The slope gradually rises as I approach Morte Point. I stop for a breather and to take a photograph of the way I have just walked.
As I reach Morte Point, the path becomes wilder and more exciting. Yes, that really is the path, a ledge across the rocks, worn down by the boots of walkers. (Or maybe the trail has had some mechanical help at this point? I don’t know.)
Beyond Morte Point is Rockham Bay and here begins the really scenic part of this walk. Giant rock-fingers stretch out into the sea, their near vertical folds making interesting patterns. In the distance is Bull Point, with a lighthouse squatting above the cliffs.
I see a family peering over a fence at the edge of the cliff. At first I think they have lost something over the edge, but when I get near I realise there are access steps downwards. I am surprised to find a beach on this wild and rugged coast. Rockham beach. But access is closed off because of a landslip.
“Please do not attempt to get onto beach.”
The family look as though they have walked a fair distance to get here. How disappointing. The little girl is upset – and I catch a photograph of her stomping off in anger.
The lighthouse at Bull Point has been restored after the original was destroyed in a rock fall. There are a few holiday homes huddling around its base. I imagine this is a wild and windy place during winter storms. The circular apertures on the lighthouse once housed fog horns, but I gather these have been discontinued.
Why did I think the path was going to be easy today?
After Bull Point, the path climbs and falls. The first big descent takes me down the side of a long valley and into a rocky cove. The only name I can find on my map to describe this area is Damagehue Rock. A sinister name. I guess that is the outcrop of jagged peaks in the sea. It has the air of a smugglers cove, or a pirates hideout, but I wouldn’t want to try to land a boat in this place.
I cross the bridge over the stream at the bottom and begin my climb up the other side of the valley. It’s steep. I meet a family coming down, out for a walk with a bouncy dog. He barks at me, ferociously. The family is embarrassed. He is usually friendly. We agree it must be my walking poles.
Stopping for a breather, I watch them climb up the other side.
A few minutes later, from a higher view-point I look down and back.
Wow. That path is steep. And it’s only from here that you get a true impression of the climb. I wasn’t anticipating the walk would be as strenuous as this. I feel tired and hungry. I must stop for lunch in Lee Bay.
I come across a sign pointing down a path to Sandy Bay. This confuses me, as no Sandy Bay is marked on my map. I hesitate, but don’t fancy climbing down to a dead-end, so I continue along the main path.
It’s 1pm and I am looking forward to lunch.
There are two Lee Bays in north Devon. This one is a wide expanse of rocks and pools, nestled between two headlands. The main village is just inland, but there is a pub marked on the map and I can see it at the other end of the bay.
It is very quiet. There are a few people clambering about on the shore and a young family is walking with a push-chair along the beach road.
The pub windows overlook the sea, but they are boarded up. At first I think this is to cover temporary damage due to the winter storms, but it becomes obvious the pub is derelict. What a disappointment!
I ask the woman with the push-chair if there is another pub and she directs me up a footpath to the village. It is just beginning to drizzle and I find The Grampus Inn. A lovely place – jam-packed with families enjoying a Sunday lunch. The rain has driven everyone inside.
There is no table available, but I find an old chair beside the fire and roast in the heat with a cider and a bag of crisps. There is no decent phone signal, but I manage to send a text to my husband. I’ve had enough walking today. And it’s raining heavily now. Time to stop.
Miles walked today = 5 miles
Total since King’s Lynn = 1,406 miles
There is a good description of a circular walk published online by the Telegraph (2010), starting from the village of Mortehoe, going to Morte Point and then to Bull Point, before returning to the village. A map can be found here.