Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Crackington Haven to Widemouth Bay (South West Coast Path 82)

The towering headland of Pencannnow Point

We pick up the coast path at Crackington Haven and start by climbing up to Pencannow Point, which we pass to the back of. The tide is out today and there is a nice view back towards Cambeak.

Next up is a steep descent into a long valley and then a corresponding climb up the other side.

Once at the top, an inviting ridge stretches out ahead.

Across the valley the spire of St Genny's church is visible. The ridge continues and at the end then is a lovely view back down the valley. 

There now follows a section of high grassy cliff (Lower Tresmorn) which ends with a vertignious descent down to just above a seemingly unnamed inlet.

The inland valley is (or was) known locally as Butterfly Valley and once was home to a colony of the rare Large Blue butterflies which became extinct in the late 1970s. We have been seeing a reasonable selection of butterflies as we walk along: Large and Small Whites, Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, Speckled Wood, but now to great excitement we spot our first Clouded Yellow of the year.

The opposite side is Chipman Cliff, a steep and slippery climb.

The next section along the cliff top is reasonably level and views of our destination, Widemouth (pronounced Widmuth) Bay soon become available.

This area is called The Dizzard and is notable for the tree-lined slopes leading dpwn to teh sea. Theer are Sessile Oaks, Mountain Ash, wild Service Tree, Beech, Hawthorn and Blackthorn. It is said to be a remnant of the prehistoric forest which once covered the whole country.  Briefly the path dips down into the woods near Bynorth Cliff and then continues until above Milloook.

 Here it joins the road which passes behind the strange rocky cove with its gravelly beach - apparently a sort of geological heaven with extraordinary rock formations. It leads to another steep climb (we have a leaflet produced by the North Cornwall Heritage Coast and Countryside Service which describes it as one of the steepest on the coast path and we are not inclined to disagree). A further clifftop section rejoins the road above Wanson Mouth where the coast continues to have a sort of black rocky reef. It is probably rather a crass comment, but we found this whole stretch of coast rather gloomy and oppressive - where were the nice sandy beaches we had seen previously in North Cornwall?

On this section of road our day was brightened hugely by the sight of a newly emerged Painted Lady which offered a lovely image with the sun behind its wings.

 At the bottom of the hill we took a path on the left to reach and then walk behind Widemouth Bay.

The North Cornwall Heritage Coast and Countryside Service leaflet mentioned earlier describes this as "one of the finest sandy beaches in North Cornwall". To be honest, having seen several sandy beaches in North Cornwall, I have to say that they must be joking. I would go for "dismal".

Conditions: warm and eventually sunny, but hazier than yesterday.

Distance: 6.8 miles (Distance now covered 502.8 miles - woo hoo!)

Grading: Strenuous.

Map: Explorer 111 (Bude, Boscastle & Tintagel)

Rating: Four stars, principally for the first section.

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