Don’t be afraid, it’s LEJoG Day 10
Day 10 pre-amble
Four dots were originally placed at the end, to make the reader think of “don’t make it bad”. But then I moved them and added one, because “anytime you feel the pain” seemed more relevant. The climbs in the first half of this stage are tough, and recede in the memory only because Day 11 is considerably harder. I’m not sure I would describe them as “painful” though. No, if I felt pain during my five days of walking either side of Bude, it derived from solitude rather than the soleus.
Don’t misunderstand: it is a resolution of mine to refrain from self-pity on this blog. But I might occasionally touch on things that will be explained in more depth elsewhere. In this particular week, most evenings were spent reading my diary from the two years before I had a breakdown. I was seeking to identify where things went wrong and what I could have done to halt the downward spiral. It brought home two things above all else. First the sense of loss (friends, mainly) underlined by solitude. And second – as one friend literally told me in the diary – I already knew all the answers I was searching for.
But yes, I shall refrain here. This part of the site, at least, remains a walking blog.
LEJoG Day 10 (Tuesday 3 April 2018)
Crackington Haven to Bude (11 miles)
Cumulative: 127 miles
Facts: Time on walk: 4 hours 10 minutes. Average speed: 2.64 mph. Weather: Breezy, cloudy but much more blue sky, warmer, no rain. Still muddy underfoot though.
Practicalities: Bus from Bude to Crackington Haven (30 minutes) at 10:55. The walk finished about 200 yards from the Edgcumbe Hotel.
Start: Bus stop, Crackington Haven, 11:40am. End: Bottom end of Summerleaze Crescent, 4:00pm.
What sticks in the mind about this walk are the frequent descents and ascents, one particularly steep, in the first few miles. The climb out of Crackington Haven is reasonably steady and not much of a guide to what is to come. This is the view looking back down on the village:
Fairly soon after you make the cliff top, you are on the way down again, to the first of several river valleys. For me this required a careful descent on muddy steps. You then head uphill to Castle Point, a partially exposed ridge. It’s enough to get the lungs pumping, but in reality a mere appetiser.
An invigorating, almost arrow-straight path surrounded by colourful plant life is followed by a shallower descent and climb through fields to Cleave. Then there’s a descent to a footbridge and another climb to a field. And then…. the big one. A very long descent via steps (or footmarks in the grass, if you prefer) to the Scrade valley, which is one of the steepest on the whole South West Coast Path. I think you will realise this as soon as you see it to be honest. Scrade dwarfs Castle Point and virtually all other valleys you will have seen in the first 120-odd miles after Land’s End. It even has its own sign saying ‘Scrade’, which I don’t remember seeing for any of the others.
Of course, as you clamber downwards, you’re already stiffening sinew and resolve for the assault on Chipman Cliff which follows. Unless you close your eyes (not advised), you’ll be able to see what’s in store throughout. You can get some impression from the elevation profile here (about three quarters of the way to the right, don’t forget you are walking right to left) or from these pictures. And below are my photographs, first looking back from Chipman Point…
…and looking ahead from almost the same spot, to the lesser peaks of Millook Cliffs and Widemouth Bay:
Not surprisingly, I had a ten-minute food stop at this point.
You’ll be relieved to learn that the worst is now over. Only the climb out of Millook is remotely comparable to what you’ve already done. The couple of miles before that are more gambol than yomp: gently sloping fields, then a steeper downhill stretch through woods followed by a gradual climb through more fields. It’s round about now that the sun made its belated emergence, and the more spring-like weather put a spring back in my step.
You approach Millook via a steep, winding road – it’s not the B3314 by any means but be careful. As the road heads back up away from the cove, you take the SWCP to the left and tackle your last serious climb of the day. Having reached the cliff top, you return to the roads for around one mile. Shortly after a sharp right hand turn you follow the path past Barford Beach House to Widemouth Bay.
Widemouth Bay boasts a decent beach, and you will have passed close by its caravan park and holiday village just before coming off the road. It is certainly the first place to look and feel like an actual resort since Port Isaac or Padstow. I can safely say that these images convey that better than the photo I took on the day. The mud flats and the virtually empty beach unfortunately brought to mind the first verse of this 1988 single. Regardless of that though, it was still a pleasure to walk through Widemouth Bay. It resembled the coast path of my original naïve imaginings, where you just keep hopping from resort to resort via sand, grass and road, without the very real inconvenience of massive, remote cliffs and river valleys.
The remaining couple of miles or so to Bude is vaguely akin to a sprint finish in a cycle race. It’s almost completely flat and you can see the beach that marks the end. The path runs parallel with Marine Drive for over half the distance, and then there’s a gently undulating path through a couple of fields to the former coastguard lookout known as Compass Point. It’s definitely worth avoiding a shortcut to have a closer look at this landmark. You can see Compass Point from a distance in the upper centre of the photograph below, taken the following morning:
Having reached the edge of Summerleaze Beach, the coast path does not take the direct route across the sand to Summerleaze Crescent. Instead you make a U shape, heading along Breakwater Road and over the canal before coming back towards the beach and crossing the long stay car park.
One of the most enjoyable days on the South West Coast Path section. Under 12 miles – the toughest ascents are over in less than 4 miles and all major climbs behind you by about halfway – and an easy, triumphant final quarter. Still some mud along the way, but plenty of sun-dried ground as well.
Mussels and French fries for dinner at the Edgcumbe. Started to hear very good things about the ribs and earmarked them for tomorrow.
Postscript: My Listening Pleasure
More White Stripes, and the Pulp Fiction soundtrack album. The full version of the latter, with Rumble (inexplicably left off the original release). In a photo finish with Trainspotting as my favourite film soundtrack*. Probably not alone in that, at least among those who came of age in the 1990s.
But the main musical accompaniment was a 44-track compilation of Body Pump tracks – “songs” would be pushing the Trade Descriptions Act in many cases – from releases between 2014 and 2017. I started this in 2014 (release 89) as a complement to walking and gym work, and had attended three classes a week ever since. To be honest it was in decline by now (release 105), with my favourite releases being 89 to 96. Having started to feel a bit sentimental about the old stuff, I put together a compilation for my winter commute and was still enjoying it in April.
Picture (3 April 2018) shows Summerleaze Beach, on my final approach to Bude at the end of this stage. Summerleaze Crescent (including my hotel) in the background.
Next: Day 11 (4 April 2018)... in which a county border is crossed for the first time.