Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Combe Martin to Hunter's Inn (South West Coast 99)

The Little Hangman and Hangman Point

Five more stages to go! We set off from Combe Martin and began the long climb which continues to the Great Hangman. Immediately, we saw our first Gatekeeper of the year, appropriately enough by a gate.

As we passed inland of the Little Hangman (not so little at 218m) we enjoyed lovely views back to the west across Combe Martin Bay towards Watermouth Castle and Burrow Nose.

And a bit further along, a few houses in Combe Martin became visible as well.

Now the Great Hangman lay ahead.

We were surprised to see a fox wandering along the track ahead of us, but it soon got wind of us and hurried off.

As the climb continued, the views back became ever more wonderful.

And eventually we reached the simple, but rather large cairn which marks the summit at 318m. This makes it not only the highest point on the South West Coast Path, but the highest sea cliff in the whole country.

The path down looked straightforward, but we soon realised that we were being forced a long way inland to be able to cross the steep and very deep Sherrycombe. We descended steadily on a diagonal line towards the bottom of the combe and then climbed up the other side towards a plateau at about 260m.

On the way down we began to see some large fritillaries and I was pleased to get a good shot of a Dark Green Fritillary on a thistle on the way up. Another first of the year.

Later we hit a stony section and were rewarded by the sighting of several Graylings, the third first. There has also been lots of Meadow Browns and Ringlets and a smattering of others.

We were now on a classic level path two-thirds or more up the cliffside.

We continued alon g in this way towards the imaginatively named High Cliff.

As we approached Heddon Mouth it was fascinating to see a sudden change in the cliff - it became a great deal more rocky. But at least we could continue on the level high path.

Suddenly we turned a corner and the Heddon Valley stretched out in front of us as we looked into the sun.

The high path gradually descended towards the valley bottom and the River Heddon.

At the bottom we followed the track down to the lovely Hunters Inn where we were staying.

Conditions: Warm and sunny.
Distance: 7.3 miles.
Map: Explorer OL 9 (Exmoor).
Grading:  Strenuous.
Rating: five stars. A wonderful section

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