Boscastle to Morwenstow

August 1991

Friday 16th

From the campsite Rosalind and I walked along the coastal path to Widemouth to join the rest of the family on the beach, before continuing along the canal to Bude. Here we all met up except for my brother-in-law, Alec, who had misheard the arrangements. Eventually Alec joined us and we all walked along the coastal path to Duckpool.

Saturday 17th

Today everyone walked from Crackington Haven to Boscastle. There were lots of ups and downs and lovely patterns of gorse, heather and grasses on the slopes of the cliffs. We had a huge cream tea at Boscastle, possibly the reason why Rosalind’s husband, Verney, was ill the next day. He designs rockets and fires them from the campsite, which creates much interest.

Monday 19th

We all walked from the campsite along the coastal path to Crackington Haven, taking nearly five hours, which was rather longer than we had anticipated. Our son, Mike, walked/ran back in just over an hour! Rhonda’s knee is playing up, Rosalind has twisted her ankle and Alec has sore toes. The older generation is cracking up.

Thursday 22th

After a tour around Dartington Glass Factory we drove to Duckpool just in time for a ‘sausage sizzle’ which set us up well for our walk along the coastal path to Morwenstow. Alec cried off because of his sore toes and Verney because of his vertigo. Mark, my nephew, cried off to keep them company.

Friday 23th

A dull start to the day so we went to Lyndford Gorge to see the White Lady and Devil’s Caldron, after taking Jean to the station (job interview on Saturday). After lunch we went to Tintagel and walked to Boscastle but arrived too late for cream teas (Rosalind later told me that I was ‘evil’). Played cheat and blackjack. The surfers arrived for the weekend and one promptly pranged his car on the stone gatepost.

Sunday 25th

A beautiful morning. Rosalind and I got up early and walked to Millook and back along the cliff path. The mist was tumbling over the cliffs. Verney had a good rocket launch. A ‘double decker’ reached 2,000ft.


We jump twenty years for the continuation of our journey.

Morwenstow to Appledore

June 2011

I met Rosalind at Exeter station again. All was peaceful and there were no bomb scares. We caught the train to Barnstaple where we were met by my daughter, Trish who drove us back to her ‘hobbit hole’, a surprisingly light and airy basement flat in a listed Victorian copy of a Georgian Terrace at Ilfracombe, centrally positioned overlooking the town.

After a cup of tea, we went down to the harbour to watch the lifeboat go out on a practice run while we ate fish and chips on the harbour wall. We then went to see a production of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ at the Landmark Theatre on the front. The two prominent conical appendages on the top of the building are locally referred to as ‘Madonna’s Bra’. Afterwards we returned to the hobbit hole to admire the solar light display in the garden, accompanied by the two cats, Benny and June.

The weather forecast for the following day was very bad.

It was however still bright and sunny when we awoke next morning. After breakfast Trish drove us to Morwenstow, the most northerly parish in Cornwall, where we had coffee at the ancient Bush Inn before setting off on the next section of our journey.

The first stop was at Hawker’s Hut on Vicarage Cliff, the National Trust’s smallest property. Reverend Hawker constructed it out of driftwood from wrecked ships and here he smoked opium and wrote poetry while keeping watch for bodies of drowned mariners washed up on the shore. These he carried to his church for a Christian burial.

There were many shipwrecks along the treacherous coastline and smuggling was rife in the area. Legend has it that sometimes the hapless vessel would be lured to its doom by wreckers, although there are no records that this took place.

Hawker was a very colourful character, often sporting a claret coat, blue fisherman’s jersey, pink hat and poncho made from a yellow horse blanket. In 1843 he introduced a special thanksgiving service for the harvest which is still celebrated today. Shortly before his death he became a Roman Catholic and at his funeral mourners wore, not black, but purple as a mark of respect.

Because of the late start we delayed having lunch, but when we did decide to take a break we were caught by a heavy rain squall. Ignoring our empty stomachs, we pressed on, luckily soon coming to a hut used by Robert Duncan, a poet. Having sated our hunger and dried out, we wrote our names followed by ‘Land’s End to John O’Groats the Pretty Way’ in the message book before continuing up and down the cliffs as the sun came out, affording us some fine views.

We were spending two nights at West Titchberry and on reaching Elmscott we waited for the promised lift from our landlady. She had been catering for a big funeral, completely forgetting that we had ordered an evening meal, but she produced an excellent one later in the evening. Afterwards we walked to Hartland Point to watch the sunset, Lundy Island an orange glow in the indigo ocean. A peregrine falcon was hovering seemingly motionless in the sky, waiting for the right moment to plummet on its unsuspecting prey.

Seeing a storm out to sea heading our way, we hurried back along the track, passing some disdainful llamas chomping the grass in the gathering gloom. We reached the farmhouse just before the rain came down in earnest.

I was returning to our room after a trip to the bathroom when an elderly gentleman passed me in the corridor. He had lost one of his stockings and was hoping to retrieve it. I don’t know whether the stocking was eventually reunited with its owner.

Over breakfast the next morning we made the acquaintance of the elderly gentleman I had met the night before. He was a professional artist who toured the country painting landscapes, selling his watercolours in local galleries. He confided that fewer and fewer of the galleries were taking his pictures as his photographic style of painting was less popular than it used to be. He was now finding it hard work to earn his living.

We got a lift back to Elmscott where we sat in the car until a very heavy hailstorm passed over, then set off up the lane which was now awash with slurry. Back on the coastal path we passed some bedraggled, dejected young backpackers. But the flurries of rain soon passed, and it became a lovely day. This is a beautiful stretch of coast and the walking was not as strenuous as we were expecting.

The ruined tower up on The Warren is all that remains of the warrener’s substantial house. In the thirteenth century this important personage had the responsible job of overseeing the warren, making sure the rabbits had enough to eat, space to breed and a safe environment. The rabbits were re-introduced into the country by the Normans but were ill adapted to the climate. In the wild they were easy prey for predators. Poaching was also commonplace as rabbit stew made a tasty meal.

A little further on we passed Blackpool Mill Cottage which became Barton Cottage in the TV series of Jane Austen’s ‘Sense and Sensibility’, some of which was filmed near Hartland Quay. We then made a detour inland along the valley as far as the back entrance to Hartland Abbey, the big house in the series, where we stopped to have a picnic which some very friendly donkeys tried to share.

There were more ups and downs on the next section of the coastal path; the jagged rocks like the spiny backs of dragons were jutting out into the sea. We passed the lighthouse at Hartland Point, watching the house martins and swallows swooping over the grass to catch insects as we approached the radar tower. There were good views of Lundy Island and we could see the windmills at Ilfracombe clearly.

Back at West Titchberry Farm we had an excellent supper, roast pork with all the trimmings followed by a scrumptious gooseberry crumble. Afterwards we went out to the point again to see another beautiful sunset. Although ‘Red sky at night’ is supposed to be a ‘shepherd’s delight’, the weather forecast for the next day was atrocious.

We woke up to high winds and driving rain. Roswenda had obviously lost her battle with the dark weather lords. However, another substantial breakfast set us up for the day, so we girt our loins to brave the elements. The first three miles were along field edges on the top of the cliffs with the rain coming at us horizontally from the right. The terrain then altered, and we were back to the familiar steep ascents and descents, but luckily most of this section was in the shelter of trees. We came down to the shore at Mouth Mill Cove, once the haunt of smugglers, then climbed steeply onto the top of the 350ft high sheer cliffs. There was a misty view back the way we’d come from the look-out point. A little further on we made use of an intricately carved shelter inscribed ‘Angels’ Wings’ which gave us a brief respite from the elements.

On reaching Clovelly we managed to bypass the visitors’ centre by climbing over a gate and walking down the road to the harbour.

The little village of Clovelly clinging to the side of the cliff dates from the 9th century when it was the king’s property. The Gifford family acquired it in the 13th century and unusually it has been privately owned ever since. With its ancient houses and cobbled walkways, so steep that sledges and donkeys are used to transport goods up and down, the village is usually a very popular tourist attraction. This grey afternoon there were few people about.

Half way up the main walkway we found a café which was open, so stopped to enjoy a slice of tasty chicken, leek and tarragon pie before continuing our upward journey. In Wrinkleberry Lane I took a tumble on the wet cobbles but didn’t hurt myself. The wind was directly against us as we made the final push along the road to East Dyke Farm where we were to spend the night, but at least the rain had eased. Our waterproofs had coped well with the extreme weather and we were dry inside. After a leisurely bath we had biscuits and cheese for supper while watching on TV an exciting model train race along the track-bed of the old Barnstaple to Bideford railway, now part of the Tarka Trail. It was plucky Brits versus German technology. The Brits won 2-1.

The extensive breakfast menu offered everything from the standard bacon and eggs to exotic fruits, as well as boiled eggs with soldiers. We wouldn’t have done better in a four-star hotel.

The weather started off dull but gradually improved throughout the day. We went back down Wrinkleberry Lane, where it was Rosalind’s turn to slip, then set off along The Hobby, a wide, cobbled walkway also slippery after yesterday’s rain. The cobbles gave way to mud as the path meandered up and down along the wooded cliffs.

At Bucks Mills we found a small area of sand on the pebbled beach where we had our lunch, followed by a paddle in the sea. We could see back to Clovelly and further away to the radar dome at Hartland Point.

On the switchback to Peppercombe we met a young lady with a large pack who was walking the whole of the South West Coast Path on her own and was really enjoying the experience. Extending from Minehead in Somerset to Poole Harbour in Dorset this 630-mile switchback is the longest of the long-distance paths in the country, also one of the toughest. It has been estimated that the height gained and lost if completing the whole distance is the equivalent of climbing Mount Everest four times. We will be able to claim two accents of Everest by the time we have walked from Land’s End to Minehead.

The next section of the path was VERY hilly, and we were beginning to get tired. We had to watch our footing all the way because of the mud but by now at least the sun was shining. Thankfully the terrain levelled out as we approached Westward Ho! The path joined a disused railway track then we continued along a road. Our B&B was up a hill, but luckily not far as we may not have made it. Cullodon House had been a ‘gentleman’s residence’ in Victorian times. The original ‘gentleman’ was a lieutenant colonel who had employed five servants to run the house. The current gentleman had far less help to run his B&B.

We had a light and airy room with an en suite bathroom plus a dressing area. After a rest and a clean-up, we went down to the coast for fish and chips (and mushy peas for me) before walking along the promenade. The sea was out exposing a large expanse of sand behind the pebble bank. There was a lovely sunset.

Westward Ho! did not exist until Charles Kingsley, wrote his novel, after which there was a marked increase in the number of tourists visiting the area. This resulted in the village being built, and subsequently a railway from Bideford. The railway, however, was never viable; rising coal prices and the intervention of WW1 didn’t help. The track-bed is now part of the Tarka Trail.

It was our last day and the sun was out. After a good breakfast we followed the coastal path around the Burrows and along the estuary. Looking back, we could still see the lighthouse at Hartland point.

There were sheep grazing on the salt marsh; ponies let out of their paddock picked their way gingerly over the wet sand then galloped off after reaching firmer ground.

We took a photo towards Crow Point on the other side of the estuary then walked through the pretty village of Appledore, the houses all painted in pastel colours.

Another of the more strenuous sections of our walk completed, we celebrated with a cup of coffee at the Royal George Hotel before catching the bus to Barnstaple then the train to Exeter, where we went our separate ways.

We go back to May 1992 for the next section of the walk which starts at Crow Point. This was our first long distance trek and we took very few photos. Some taken on later visits to the area have been added.