Sunday, 26 August 2018

South West Coast Path Section 13 Crackington Haven to Tintagel

Crackington Haven
It pays to think on your feet when doing any section of the South West Coast Path and that was especially the case with this section of the walk.  For some reason I had a time that I needed to be at the path for the purposes of the bus but when I arrived I found that I had read the timetable incorrectly and I had to quickly change plans.  So it was then that I started this section, having already committed to parking all day, rather than getting the bus over to Bude and walking from there.

Cam Head
This is a longer section than from Bude to here and I reckoned that it was going to be very tight to make the bus at just after 6pm but I decided to go for it anyway.  It promised to be quite a tough day of walking - one of the toughest sections I have left to do.  The beach at Crackington Haven looked very inviting and was filling with people at mid-morning when I got underway.  I made a mental note to try it out when I had finished walking for the day.

Cattle at High Cliff
It was a fairly gentle introduction to the path on an undulating route away from Crackington Haven but soon I reached Cam Head and the first stiff climb of the day up a zig zag path.  It was quite tempting to divert inland from here as there was a path cutting off the headland but I am glad that I didn't for the view at the top was quite magnificent and enabled me to get a flavour of what I had to do for the rest of the day.  Way off in the distance I could see Tintagel and a little closer I could see Boscastle, an intermediate staging point and where I had already clocked would be a good ice cream stop.  I paused to catch my breath and enjoyed the view for some time before steeling myself for the next section.

View From High Cliff
I crossed a bit of a moonscape with very little vegetation and what looked like an area that had been extensively quarried hence the scarred landscape.  My way forward was generally uphill but relatively gently and with quite a lot of up and down sections along the way.  After escaping from Cam Head I largely had the path to myself now too and it was a delight.  As I climbed steadily the inland landscape opened up too and the views became more extensive by the second.  Strangely although I think there are far stiffer climbs in the county I eventually found my way to High Cliff, the highest point on the Cornish part of the South West Coast Path.  At the top were a small herd of cows all clubbed together to presumably protect themselves from the worst of the heat.  They were my only companions for quite a while.  I was glad of that since I was probably quite a sight on this very hot day slogging up the hills.

New Gorse
This section would not be for the faint hearted if they were to look down from any of the cliffs.  They are truly vertigo inducing!  However I found the contorted folding and general geology of the rocks utterly fascinating.  The sea could be heard waging war on them from below but it is going to take a very long time indeed to denude them.  Perhaps a sign of their robustness is that this part of the  coast has few rock falls interrupting the flow of the path.

Popular Spot
I passed by the first walker for a while near Rusey Cliff.  I remembered him for his lack of shirt, very suntanned and weather beaten face, bushy beard and looked like he was carrying his life on his back.  We exchanged pleasantries and went on our way - I would be seeing him later.  Further on and I came upon a lot more walkers going in the opposite direction.  Having been down a large dip and back up the other side in quick succession I felt a little smug as I headed down the next descent as they slogged their way up.  I was now at Fire Beacon Point and as I made my way down to the bottom of this particular slope I could see gorse flowers already coming out  for the new season.  It amused me as I once heard that gorse actually manages to flower all year round - difficult to argue when I see them flowering in July!

By now the path was getting a bit busier as I approached Boscastle.  The path to the inlet called Pentargon was largely level and was a delightful interlude after all the climbing and descending but any notion that it would be like that for the short distance to Boscastle was soon scotched when I saw yet another plunging descent into the small valley and stream that empties into Pentargon.  Once I was back up the other side it was a nice easy walk into Boscastle.  I did have the sense that I was unlikely to get to Tintagel by the appointed time for the bus and quickly checked the timetable and realised that if I didn't make the bus I had intended to then there was no way I would get back to Crackington Haven as the last bus didn't stop there.  A quick rethink was needed and a new plan was hatched.  I would run along to the bus stop in Boscastle and head back to Crackington Haven straight away.

Entering Boscastle Harbour
This proved to be a good plan as I made it with a few minutes to spare and the bus was also a bit late much to the chagrin of the couple already waiting at the stop.  They reported that the previous bus a couple of hours earlier failed to show up at all and they were worried that the same would happen with this one.  Thankfully it came and I snoozed on the short trip over to Crackington Haven, waking up only just in time!  An ice cream here soon revived me and I headed over to Tintagel so that I could catch the bus back to Boscastle and recommence my day's walking.  All a bit convoluted perhaps but it provided a much needed couple of hours break in the middle of a very hot day when I most needed it.  I stocked up in the charming village of Boscastle before heading on.

The path took me down the side of the very narrow harbour, which was the scene of a horrific flood in 2004 when the effects from more than 1000 people were swept away.  Miraculously no-one was killed but the devastation took some time to repair afterwards.  Looking at the narrow river mouth it was easy to see how such an event could take place.  Even the pleasure craft had only a small entrance to negotiate before being able to head out into the open sea.

View From Willapark
The path out of Boscastle was possibly my favourite part of the day's walking.  I plodded up to Willapark - a rather curious looking tower on the cliff above Boscastle Harbour.  It was orginally built as a summerhouse but its lookout potential was obviously realised quite quickly as it soon doubled up as a watch tower for the Board of Trade to help with the war against smuggling.  It then served as a coastguard lookout until the 1970s and is now a Coastwatch station, one of so many that I have passed along this coast.

Further along the coast was a structure of a different sort - it looked like the remains of a mine.  I haven't been able to find out much about it but apparently there were seams of silver and lead that were exploited here.  I felt my pace slowing down as the miles under my feet started to tell and I was very please to see a eat with a great view back to Willapark a bit further on.  I found that the seat was actually dedicated to a certain Harry Hill MBE.  Well done that man - much appreciated!  After lingering here for a few minutes I felt ready to push on along Trevalga Cliff and soon swapped the view back to Willapark for a forward view to Tintagel that was starting to get quite close.

Harry Hill's View
I had a couple of narrow valleys to cross first - the first was the delightful Rocky Valley where I had to negotiate a valley that was definitely rocky!  It was obviously popular enough of a local attraction that it had managed to acquire a caravan park next door.  Quite what the dog walkers thought of me as a sweaty mess when they were out on their sedate evening stroll is anyone's guess.  Having traversed Rocky Valley I had a smaller one to cross a bit further on - this time crossing a track that led down to a secluded beach.  Even at this late hour there were a number of families heading down for a late swim, no doubt taking advantage of the low tide.  I suspect that the beach disappears when the tide comes in.

Top Man
One more big climb awaited me and I was mighty relieved when I got to the top of the rather confusingly named Willapark - I hadn't gone round in a circle; the locals obviously ran out of names for headlands!  As I headed along this stretch I was followed by a friendly stonechat - I have really appreciated their curiosity and friendliness along the path.  They make nice companions and it's almost as if they are willing me on to finish!  This little one I reckon was the welcoming party into Tintagel.  I certainly welcomed the end of the day's walk - it was spectacular through but I felt like I had had a thorough examination!


Wednesday, 15 August 2018

South West Coast Path Section 57 Chapman's Pool to Swanage

Chapman's Pool
This is another part of the coast where public transport is scarce so I had to be creative with how I broke up the sections.  This led to the rather contrived start point for this walk, using Kingston village (about a mile and a half inland) as a starting point.  I parked in the village, leaving the bus journey for last.  This wasn't too much of a problem for there is an hourly service from Swanage.  It promised to be another hot day during the heatwave that is summer 2018 and I had made sure that I was very well stocked with stuff for there are no places to resupply along this route until almost at Swanage.
This way
The walk down from Kingston village is easy - just follow the road down from the church that eventually becomes a farm track.  It is pretty much downhill all the way from the village to the coast.  When I hit the coast finally it was at the top of Houns-tout Cliff and down I had to go once again this time down a very steep slope to just above Chapman's Pool far below.  Now reunited with the path I had to take a rather convoluted route inland a bit to a place where I could cross the valley easily but a cluster of very attractive houses.  This route has changed in recent years because of the unstable nature of the cliffs, rendering the original route unusable. On the other side I had to practically double back to climb the slope of West Hill (on the eastern side of the valley!).
Emmett's Hill Memorial
Once I had slogged to the top I got one of the best views on the whole of the South West Coast Path across the turquoise water of Chapman's Pool and the chalky landscape of the Purbeck coast towards Lulworth.  The familiar shape of the Isle of Portland loomed on the horizon, the last part of the coast going eastwards that it is possible to see it.  The path along West Hill and then Emmett's Hill is a delight - level walking for about half a mile with superb views all the way out on the right hand side.  As I walked along this stretch of route I became aware of large groups of walkers both ahead and behind me.  From a distance they looked like school groups and my heart sank.  My peace and quiet for the day would shattered.  For now I enjoyed the fact that they were some distance ahead and some distance behind.
St Aldhelm's Chapel
Along the level part of Emmett's Hill I came upon a memorial to the Royal Marines.  This was originally put here in 1989 to commemorate the atrocity at Deal when the barracks there was blown up by an IRA bomb attack.  The memorial was commissioned by the Poole Branch of the Royal Marine Association and they wanted a site that looked out over the wild coastline.  I'd say that this location fits the bill perfectly!  It was beautifully planted with poppies and other flowers and looked very well kept despite its relatively remote location.  I lingered for a short while before pushing on towards St Aldhelm's Head.
Radar Research Memorial
Soon my nice level path came to an abrupt end just shy of the headland as it plunged down into a deep valley.  I decided to stop at the bench at the top for some refreshment especially as I seemed to be catching the group up in front.  I noticed for the first time now that they weren't school groups but adults all wearing the same T-shirts.  While I was trying to decide what was going on a couple from the same event came past and I could then see that they were all on a charity sponsored walk.  I was most surprised to learn that they were actually supporting a hospice nearby where I live and not a local one at all.  They were walking from Corfe Castle to Bournemouth, a tidy step at 30 miles especially on such a warm day.

Dancing Ledge
I walked with them on and off for a couple of miles, a rare experience for me.  Mostly small talk and after awhile I got the sense that they wanted to continue talking without me so we wished each other well and walked at our own pace.  At St Aldhelm's Head I passed by the small Norman chapel which looked rather incongruous in this exposed location not near any other housing.  I guess you would have had to be rather pious to make your way up here!  It is likely that the chapel also doubled up as a daymark for passing ships, a use that has long since been outdated.  Just by the chapel is a watch tower of a different sort - the National Coastwatch station.  The chaps inside were pretty dedicated to their watching and paid no attention to me.

Jurassic Coast
The section of coast that followed was reminiscent of the coastline of the Isle of Portland and even had a number of quarries along the cliff line; all long since out of production.  They did make for interesting industrial archaeology sites although nature is doing its best to reclaim them.  Most of the quarries were now filled with wildflowers and red valerian, that cheerful looking invader that seems to love our coastline.  From St Aldhelm's Head to Dancing Ledge the going was very easy - far more so than I have been used to on the coast path in recent years.  Of course the fact that I was walking on my beloved chalk helped considerably.  It was like walking the South Downs!

Climbing Groups
At Dancing Ledge there was a large school group doing some kind of climbing activity that also including being in the water.  I imagine the children were thankful for the seawater as it was now building into a very hot day.  I also noticed a small cannon protecting the coast and later when I returned I looked it up as it did seem like an unusual place to put one.  Apparently it was lost from a ship called Halswell that was sailing to India when it was caught in a storm and wrecked just offshore here. Not long past Dancing Ledge I seemed to threaten the pace of the very large group ahead of me so I slowed a bit so I wouldn't catch them up.

Anvil Point Lighthouse
The path eastwards to Durlston lighthouse was fairly featureless and I managed to walk this section very quickly.  I paused at the lighthouse - it did look very good against the powder blue sky.  By now I was joined by lots of other visitors and not just the sponsored walkers.  This is because the lighthouse is at the edge of Durlston Country Park, one of the main attractions of Swanage.  There was significant evidence of more quarrying here in the shape of Tilly Whim caves.  This name appears to come from a quarryman called Tilly who worked here in the 1700s and Whim was an old crane that did the work of loading the stone onto ships.  Apparently the caves were once open to the public but are now closed as there were a number of rock falls in the 1970s.

Anvil Point Lighthouse
Just up from the caves is what I initially took to be a bird hide but in fact has a rather different function - this small shed with viewing is actually for watching dolphins.  Knowing that I wasn't blessed with a lot of time and that I would need a lot of patience to see any dolphins I decided not to linger but pushed onto the 'castle' at the heart of Durlston Country Park instead.

Dolphin Watch
The castle was built by George Burt, nephew of the founder of Mowlem (the large building company).  Much of the park features architectural salvage from some of the construction projects he was engaged on.  At the heart of it is the castle that was actually (and still is) a restaurant to cater for the visitors to the park.  The whole place is now owned by Dorset County Council rather than the Mowlem/ Burt family.  Nonetheless it did make for a very welcome watering hole and I quickly drained an ice cold pop.

Red Valerian
My way onwards from the park was through a wooded area, which was very welcome as the heat had really built during the morning.  There were peepholes through the trees every so often to see the view beyond and for the first time it was possible to see the Isle of Wight - it almost felt like home territory as I can see the Isle of Wight (albeit the other side) from Worthing!  The path then wound around the end of the park before I had to climb up and out into a housing estate, passing an amazing looking yew tree on the way.

Descent Into Swanage
I came out into the light blinking from the powerful sunshine and was pleased that the stretch through the housing estate was pretty short lived.  I turned right along a path that had been adapted for wheelchair use and this led down into Swanage, my destination for the day.  As I got lower down the slope the magnificent situation for the town came into view; for my money this small seaside town has one of the best backdrops of any town anywhere in the UK.  It was also surprising to look back at Durston Country Park - I inadvertantly walked a long way without even realising it!

Swanage Vista
I soon found the main road into Swanage and wandered along into the centre of town. I have to confess the smell of fish and chips soon got up my nose and I just had to have some.  Somthing about the sea air I suppose!  Despite the fact that it was a school day the beach was surprisingly busy and I sat on the promenade wall scoffing my chips and watching the families on the beach with some amusement.  I couldn't help but think that the coastline was already giving way to a holiday coast rather than the rugged one I have been walking all these years.  Only a short hop from here and I would be seeing the end of the walk at South Haven Point.  That remains for another day though...

Swanage Beach