DAY 63: Taylor’s Cross (Bideford) to Crackington Haven – 16.45
I decided on a light breakfast this morning as I would be walking through Bude around lunchtime and wanted to take a proper stop then. However I did leave the Peels with clean clothes, some invaluable advice about the South West Coast Path, my next couple of nights booked and a warm goodbye. Despite the heatwave the south east were experiencing today, first thing this morning as John drove me back across the Cornish border to where I’d finished walking yesterday, the weather was particularly grim. Thankfully the worst of it seemed to be over as I turned off the busy main road at Kilkhampton, onto the nicer side roads which I would follow all the way into Bude.
Stopping in Bude for the obligatory Cornish pasty, I continued through this busy little seaside town and out the other side towards the coast, and the South West Coastal Path. I had touched on this path briefly just north of Bideford as it runs alongside the Tarka Trail, but now I had the chance to experience it by the ocean. Accordingly to Wikipedia, the South West Coastal Path is England’s longest waymarked long-distance footpath (and one of the longest in the UK) and a National Trail. It stretches for 630 miles (1,014 km), running from Minehead in Somerset, along the coasts of Devon and Cornwall, to Poole Harbour in Dorset. Since it rises and falls with every river mouth, it is also one of the more challenging trails.
To put that into context, the most direct route from Bude to Lands End is 83 miles, but via this path you would end up walking 133 miles. And, as I was soon to discover, each step seems to use up twice the amount of energy as opposed to walking on a normal path or road. Thankfully the section south of Bude didn’t involve too much fluctuation in elevation but it was still stunning with rugged plains, dramatic cliffs, golden sands, crazy waves and even crazier surfers! Also weirdly even through the sky remained grey all afternoon with low lying rain clouds on every horizon, there was no wind or rain at all… like I was walking in the calm centre of the storm. After a few hours following the coastal path I realised the amount of effort I was putting in didn’t seem to be clocking up the miles, so I switched to the ups and downs of the road instead. Finally arriving totally exhausted in Crackington Haven at gone 7pm.
Tonight I had managed to get a discounted room at the lovely Coombe Barton Inn which was right on the coastline. Immediately after dumping my stuff in the room, I limped back into the busy bar to get some food and was immediately approached by a local guy who had seen the notice attached to my backpack as I first came in. Turns out Gary had worked in Nepal for years so was interested to hear about the charity I was raising money for and then kindly offered to pay for my dinner. When I then went over to thank him again, I was given further donations by some of his family sat around the table. Such a long day, but ultimately a successful one.