Welcombe to Hartland – Springtime on the SWCP

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Looking Towards Welcombe, South West Coast Path

This walk took place on the 14th April 2018. The distance between Welcombe MOuth and Hartland Point is about nine miles, but as you will learn, my walk comprised of 11 and a half miles. The pictures used in this blog were all taken by myself, either on my DSLR or they are screenshots from my Vlog, which is live on the Summit or Nothing YouTube Channel. 

Summit or Nothing on YouTube

Its been a long winter, with two bouts of heavy snow and below freezing temperatures hitting us in the early spring, I was beginning to wonder if we would ever see Spring at all. But, alas, it has arrived, and my last outing onto the South West Coast Path was living proof of that. The flowers were out, birds were nesting, jumpers were off and the ground underfoot was drying nicely.

It felt like Summer, actually, although a chilled yet welcome breeze on top of the cliff tops would remind me that it was not quite upon us, but still, conditions for walking were perfect and a good ten mile stretch of the Coast Path was most definitely in order.

I chose to start off where I had left off once before, back in February when I had walked from Sandymouth towards Hartland, Cornakey Cliffs. Back then, I had no one to pick me up at the other end, so had to walk until it was time to turn around, and Cornakey Cliffs was that point. So today this was to be my starting point. Well, sort of…

Welcombe Mouth, South West Coast Path

I parked my car at Welcombe Mouth, which was where I had hoped to reach previously. I didn’t know where else to park in order to find Cornakey Cliffs, so thought Welcombe would be a good enough spot to park up and head back to my desired starting point.

I didn’t realise that the two locations sat 2km apart and over three rising clifftops, too, so by the time I reached my start destination, I was out of breath, over heating and a little low about having to return over the path that I had just trodden.

However, as I said, the day was a beaut, and the views (as always) were amazing, and any path I would have to retread was only going to be a small distance compared to the amount of the Coast Path I have walked twice in the past, having commonly walked backwards and forwards in one day. Today, I was at least fortunate enough to have my wife meet and collect me from the other end, which I hoped would be Hartland Point.

Anyway, less rambling, Trev and more… urm… rambling. The cliffs between Sandymouth and Cornakey were among some of the most severe and constant that I had climbed so far on the Coast Path. My return journey had almost seen me ascend the equivalent height of Ben Nevis, and today was going to rival that too.

Ronald Duncans Hut

Both the beginning and the end of my walks were going to contain some rather high climbs and steep descents, but I am undoubtedly getting fitter, and, with thanks to Country Walking magazine (have I mentioned that I got letter of the month?) I have a brand new pair of Berghaus Hillmaster II boots to wear, and they seem to make a lot of difference (especially gripping on the way down). 

I wondered what marvels I would see today, and having been spoilt with some amazing coastline along North Cornwall, I was almost certain that today’s walk would not be so interesting, but I was to stand corrected. Apart from a slight lull in sights over the middle stretch of this walk, I was going to see some amazing things today, some fantastic wildlife and some of the most awesome sights so far.

One of the first points of interest I passed on the cliff tops just before Welcombe was a small hut overlooking the coasts interesting rock formations. Ronald Duncan’s hut sits just across the Devon Border, before Welcombe. 

Its a quaint little hut, built by the writer, poet and playwright to sit and work, whilst taking in the stunning views of this dramatic coastline. The hut has now become a shrine and memorium for the late writer, and gives a nice spot to rest, and sign the guestbook before carrying on. 

The rocky beach of Welcombe Mouth

Soon, I was back over Welcombe Mouth, and back to where I started (I say soon, actually one hour and forty-five minutes into my walk!) Welcombe was a stunning little beach, a scenic plateau between two towering hillsides, with row after row of rocky fingers reaching out into the ocean. An idylicc spot, with a cute little stepping stones crossing the river. A beach that I had visited often as a child, searching for life amidst the endless rockpools the beach has to offer. But anyone choosing to visit this beach via the road, beware, the drive down is steep, windy and riddled with frighteningly deep pot holes.

The climb out of Welcombe was to be the last climb for a while, and also, the last time that I would see another living soul too. The walk from here for a good 5km is fairly level, fairly featureless too, you even leave the cliff tops for a spell and take a road, I assume to avoid private property. But don’t be put off by this, take it as a nice break in the grind of the constant ascending and descending, after all, the views are always great looking at the clifftops that span ahead and behind, the wealth of colour and patterns in the cliffs and the rocks, and the sound of the birds and the coast is a perfect soundtrack to relax too.

There’s also plenty of spots to stop, including the bench that marks the spot of where the Tanker the green Ranger ran aground in 1962. The bench is made of debris from the ship, and still in the beach below, you can still see remnants of the ship, strewn across the rocks. It’s not until you reach Spekes Mill that the walk once again becomes a more scenic and arduous route (don’t the two always seem to go hand in hand?). 

The breathtaking views of Spekes Mill

Spekes Mill broke open in front of me and instantly it’s an astounding site. The lush green clifftops rise and fall towards into the distance towards amazing St Catherines Tor, which stands at the farthest end like the spine of some great dinosaur. This also became the point where I saw more people, surfers take to the ocean, ramblers walking the coast path, people picnicking on top of the hills, and people coming to see the centre attraction of this gorgeous little beach, the Waterfall. 

The waterfall at Spekes Mill was an impressive fall at over 60feet, and at this time of the year, after a considerably wet winter, it produces a twin falls too, so I was fortunate enough to witness that! I clambered down the rocks to the foot of the waterfall, to get another view.

Twin Waterfalls of Spekes Mill

I could have spent all day here taking in the views, enjoying the waterfall, exploring the beach, so have noted this as a great place to revisit one day with the family, when I am not in quite so much of a rush to reach my end destination.

So I continued on my path, once again climbing up to the top of the towering cliffs and began my long trek out of this beautiful little valley, stopping once more at the top to look back and take in the tremendous views that this landscape offers, before dropping down and walking around the amazing St Catherines Tor, a mountainous hill that rises sharply from the earth on one side, and has been sheered in half by the ocean on the other.

Not long after St Catherines Tor, I came across one more waterfall, not quite as impressive as Spekes Mill but still a fantastic sight none the less, and then it isn’t long after this waterfall that Hartland Quay appeared beneath me, and the rocks beyond becoming increasingly more threatening and harsh.

The cliff tops above these rocks, however, are a tranquil green, and the expanse of Warren Cliff is the unlikely home to an old ruin that stands out of place in the middle of an otherwise featureless area. It is just beyond this area that I saw my first snake since I have been doing my walking, an adder! Upon seeing me it soon shot away quickly into the long grass, thankfully more scared of me than I was of it, but still, an experience that left me a little unnerved and a little excited. I didn’t have time to get a good photo, but I did manage to capture some footage on my Vlog

Warren Cliffs Ruin

And from here, it was another arduous walk onwards to our end location, Hartland Point. Two and a half miles of more high cliffs and low valleys, with plenty of views along the coast to take in. You know you are getting close to Hartland point when you see the mast and strange mushroom-shaped satellite come in to view, as well as one of the more pleasurable monuments, the Lighthouse!

And so ends our walk, and I was grateful to find that at the car park at Hartland Point there was a cabin-cum-cafe, where drinks and food, hot and cold could be purchased. And being one of the hottest days of the year so far, a lemonade ice lolly hit the spot for me as I waited for my wife, who unbeknownst to me, was waiting at Hartland Quay! 

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