The Great South West Coast Path Walk

To celebrate the South West Coast Path Association’s 40th Anniversary, the path was walked along the whole 630 mile length as a series of 56 sponsored walks, each guided by a local expert. Over 1000 walkers joined in to celebrate and raise money for improvements of the South West Coast Path and other charities. The northern start point was Minehead and the Southern was Poole on April 19th, and the finish point for both North and South was Land’s End on May 7th. Every walker could choose to do the whole path or just a daily section.sw coastal manning

Ever since moving to Sheepwash I was determined to explore the North Coast Path, and this event gave me the incentive to get started. I chose the Hartland Quay to Bude section on April 25th, which is one of the most spectacular and difficult of all the walks, covering 16 miles.

Arriving at the Hartland Quay car park, twenty-five intrepid souls gathered on a dank morning, but we were greeted with enthusiasm and professionalism by our walk leader, Martin, who told us that as it was a difficult section he would lead at a “steady pace”. Thank goodness he did – even the climb up from the car park had most of us puffing and blowing!

I am sure this is a reasonably strenuous stroll for regular walkers, but for me the official grading of “severe” was appropriate. Nevertheless, with all of the motley crew (from a retired plastic surgeon whose most interesting time was patching people up at Belfast Royal Infirmary during the “troubles”, to a retired teacher who had recently climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in East Africa) jollying us along, we kept up the pace.

We went up and down and up and down, past St Catherine’s Nose, Elmscott Mouth, and South Hole, before we emerged through the mist to Morwenstow and the Hawkers Hut. The full story of the Reverend Hawker is too long to go into here, but suffice to say he sat in his hut and wrote about all the poor sailors who perished when they were shipwrecked on this stretch of coast and were buried in his church. Cramp in my legs was trivial compared to that!

After lunch we went on, up and down and up and down, with a new leader, Steve, who if anything was even more enthusiastic and professional than Martin had been. The mist and drizzle was relenting by now and we could see much more of the spectacular coast line. Welcome Mouth was just superb, and was soon followed by Marsland Mouth, Northcott Mouth, Duckpool, and Sandy Mouth, before we finally “eased” ourselves on to Crooklets Beach in Bude. We all qualified for our T-shirt and goody bag, and thanked our leaders for a great day.

For those who have not done it I would thoroughly recommend a visit to Hartland Quay, particularly the Museum. I would also recommend you visit Morwenstow Church, and see the memorial to the shipwrecked sailors. Both have good pubs nearby!sw dmanning

And finally, thanks to family, villagers, and the members of the Sheepwash Golfing Society and Hatherleigh Cricket Club who sponsored me on my walk. We managed to raise £350 for the Jenson Tucker Fund.

David Manning

June 2013 (Summer issue)