In which: the weather starts fair but deteriorates ● a delightful natural harbour is passed ● I get familiar with zigzags ● the bright lights of Ilfracombe tempt me ● there is a turntable for cars ● the path has even more ups and downs ● I swap the views of south Wales for north Devon ● the journey comes to an end, for the moment
Date: 13 April 2009 Time of walk: 0915 to 1650 Today’s walking: 24.0 km Progress along SWCP: 22.1 km Estimated ascent: 1270 metres
Breakfast was good but rather slow. The initial part of the walk was a little uninspiring, though it was interesting to find that the South West Coast Path around Sandy Bay had been rerouted due to cliff-falls. The larger part of the Old Coast Road was open, however, and led me to an attractive campsite, after which it was the delightful Water Mouth, a natural harbour. Part of the Coast Path alongside Water Mouth was underwater because of the high tide. A circuit of Widmouth Head gave good views back to Water Mouth.
From above Rillage Point there were views across Hele Bay to Hele and Ilfracombe. I took advantage of the walk passing through a town in the middle of the day to have an early lunch in a café followed by a nice ice-cream, and wandered along to the old chapel.
Eventually escaping Ilfracombe by way of a long series of zigzags up Seven Hills, I then joined the old road from Ilfracombe to Lee. The weather which had been largely sunny this morning, gradually deteriorated, and I put my coat on ward off the wind, then as I descended towards Lee Bay it became too hot. I was able to help out a couple of lads whose football had become lodged high in a hedge by using my trekking pole to pull it out.
There were views to Lundy, looking more hazy as the weather clouded over, those clouds darkened and the wind picked up from time to time, with occasional spots of rain. Particularly on a route which is all up and down, some sheltered and some not, this produces the classic walker’s dilemma – what to wear. The coat was on and off twice this afternoon before it was finally donned for a third time. Just as when leaving Hele, the path from Ilfracome also zigzags a lot to gain height, with five levels visible at one point.
It was still a fairish walk into the centre of Woolacombe and then around its extensive developments and up the hill away from the centre to get to the B&B, called Bellacombe. The directions said that it was ¼ mile up the hill, but I measured it at 710 metres (0.44 miles). It was a family home, with just me staying. By good chance, the man of the family is also the local taxi driver, so I sorted out him to take me to Barnstaple tomorrow, and after a rest he dropped me back down in the centre of Woolacombe for something to eat.
That proved problematic as the place I’d selected was packed with no free tables, and the second place had failed to take my order after 15 minutes and I wasn’t impressed with it. I found a pub up a side street that gave me a passable burger, then plodded back up the hill to the B&B.
And so came to an end my second Easter holiday walking the South West Coast Path. It has been enjoyable again, if hard work at times, particularly because of my knee. The weather has been much kinder to me than I had expected when I left on Thursday, when at least some rain was predicted for every day.
Breakfast at Bellacombe was very good, and the only morning of the five when I’ve had a sea view from the breakfast table, which made it even better. The chap took me in his taxi to Barnstaple station, where we arrived almost 50 minutes early. A small part of me wondered whether the enthusiasm for an early departure wasn’t just the worries about traffic that didn’t materialise, but also to fit in with his other bookings. That may be totally unfair, and whatever the reason, it wasn’t a problem as there was a decent cafe where I bought a drink and a paper, and sat there reading, which is all I would have done in Woolacombe. The train journey back to London went well, and as last Easter I was left pondering whether I’ll be back, and if so which section will be next.