Sunday, 4 June 2017

Morwenstow to Hartland Quay (South West Coast Path 86)

Henna Cliff

We set out from Morwenstow completing the detour route we encountered yesterday. This meant that we didn't get to see the celebrated Hawker's Hut. (Robert Stephen Hawker, 1803-1875, was the local clergyman, and also an antiquarian and poet. The hut in which he spent many hours writing poems and smoking opium, is mainly of timber construction and is partially built into the hillside with a turf roof. It was originally built from driftwood and timber retrieved from shipwrecks.

When we reached the coast, our first challenge appeared: Henna Cliff, which first required a descent to sea level to Morwenna's Well – a stream in fact, no sign of a well as such. This was followed by a climb to about 140m.

On the way up there was a nice view back to Higher Sharpnose Point, one of the highlights of yesterday's short section.

At the top there was another fine view backwards.

And the coast as far as Hartland Quay and the Hartland lighthouse stretched out ahead.

After a brief section along the cliff top we descended to the curiously named Westcott Wattle 

and climbed the grassy Yeolmouth Cliff. This provided us with a sight of the interesting, but unimaginatively named Gull Rock.

We descended again to Litter Mouth – we now realised that wherever you see the word "mouth" on the map in this part of the world, it denotes the mouth of a river, or more likely a small stream, and you face a descent and immediate ascent. The steps up were quite hard work. At the top we had a fine view of the adjacent Marsland Mouth and Welcombe Mouth.

 Marsland Mouth was especially complicated with the stream following a winding course through deeply indented ground. We were surprised to see a substantial house at the back of the cove.

The climb up was very steep, but did reveal our first butterfly of the day, a Painted Lady. Near the top was Ronald Duncan's hut, a sort of modern version of Parson Hawker. Duncan was , according to an information sheet on the wall a "poet, playwright, journalist, farmer and lover".

There was no respite at the top, simply an immediate descent to Welcome Mouth. This marked the boundary between Cornwall and Devon. 

As we began the ascent out of Welcombe Mouth we took great heart from a sign post telling us that it was now only 4 miles to Hartland Quay. We knew really that it couldn't be right and it actually turned out to be 5.5 miles. This is not the first time a sign post has been wildly inaccurate - how does it come about?

My reading of the map suggested that we would now follow the cliff top for a a good while and this turned out to be right. We started to see more butterflies: Large Skipper, Meadow Brown (the first of the year), Common Blue, another Painted Lady. 

After Emburey Beacon, the terrain began to change and the view ahead showed fields.

At Nabor Point there was a dramatic view of the coast ahead.

But soon we were routed away from the coast and along a road for a short while before again heading back to it along field edge paths. We continued along the cliff top until at Longpeak the path continued inland away from the coast along an inviting valley.

 Here we saw Large and Small Whites and some Green Hairstreaks. This valley met another valley where we turned left towards the lovely Spekes Mill Mouth.

This inevitably triggered another climb after which we passed inalnd of St Catherine's Point with its dramatic triangular rock thrusting up into the sky.

Shortly afterwards Hartland Quay hove into view.

This, finally, was the dramatic view of the coast ahead seen from the Wreckers pub at Hartland Quay. 

Conditions: cloudy at first, later bright and sunny.

Distance: 8.0 miles.

Map: Explorer 126 (Clovelly & Hartland).

Grading: Severe. 

Rating: five stars.

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