Monday, 22 May 2017

Ilfracombe to Combe Martin (South West Coast Path 98)

Ilfracombe from Beacon Point

We start this leg of the Coast Path at the back of the harbour in Ilfracombe. Ilfracombe is an interesting place and I have done a separate post about it. We walked along the landward side of the harbour. The tide was out, but the inner harbour was still attractive.

The outer harbour looked even more bereft.

We then headed up hill along a road and turned left into what felt like a park to emerge at this small cove. We wondered if we had gone the wrong way at first as we couldn't see a path upward (you can in fact just make out a handrail to the left of the concrete shelter. Fortunately a couple of chaps enjoying an early morning can of beer in a sort of belvedere to the left put us straight.

We climbed steeply up from the cove and continued a steady climb through trees and then more open ground over what the map shows as Fort Hillsborough. It seems to be named for an iron age chieftain called Hele. There were lovely views back over Ilfracombe and I used one of then to head my post about Ilfracombe. The best view however came from above Beacon Point (at the head of this post).

Now we descended through woodland along a winding path to finally emerge at Hele. The village was apparently once had a gas works (it closed in 1963) which was for many years supplied with coal by ships which moored at the wooden post which can be seen on the beach.  By the 1950s it had become a popular holiday destination (the coal now being delivered by road) and it was normal to have 200 deckchairs on the beach. And as the photo shows there is a rather tasteful collection of holiday chalets there now. the beach however is more like gravel than proper sand.

We climbed up the hill on a footpath beside the A399 road which continued just the other side of a crash barrier. We eventually took a left which led to the low-lying Rillage Point and then climbed. On the horizon the coast of South Wales stretched out before us.

I spotted a rather lovely Peacock and was quite pleased with this picture taken with the lens I normally use for landscapes and buildings, rather than the usual big zoom.

Soon we had a great view of the west side of Widmouth Head. No doubt we would soon be climbing the steep path on the left hand side.

And so it was. This is the view from the top of the path. In truth it wasn't too bad.

The view east from the highest point of Widmouth Point was wonderful. The narrow cove is called Water Mouth (a bit generic as name, I thought) and the peninsula to the left is The Warren. Hangman Point can be seen in the background. The Great Hangman at 318m is the highest sea cliff in England.

We enjoyed a nice break on Widmouth Point and saw a couple of Painted Ladies, neither of which would pause for a picture. I did get a nice one of a Stonechat however - we have seen lots of them is recent days.

We descended fro Widmouth Head to follow a path through woodland above Water Mouth and emerge opposite Watermouth Castle. This was begin in 1825 but not completed until many year later. It is now a family theme park, although this is not too evident from the road.

A little further on we left the road and walked uphill through a large, but mercifully empty, campsite. We then followed a high level path with at one point a wonderfully beautiful small cove down below. We later saw an access path.

Later the path was diverted so that we had to follow a road for a while as we meandered into Combe Martin. This was our first view. Around the corner is a sandy, but not all that attractive beach.

Conditions: Warm and sunny.
Distance: 5.3 miles.
Map: Explorer 139 (Bideford, Ilfracombe & Barnstaple).
Grading:  Moderate, Strenuous in places.
Rating: four stars.

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