|View Down To Watermouth Bay|
I took the bus out on the short journey to Combe Martin and on arrival left the village straight away, not hanging around to sample the delights of the various tearooms and ice cream shops that seemed a little forlorn at this time of year.
The path mostly followed the road, albeit along old stretches that had been left behind after re-engineering works had straightened it out to a slightly faster standard (all things are relative since I still didn’t manage to drive more than 35mph along this part of the route. Part of the old route had been completely closed off to all traffic including walkers and I had to revert to the pavement alongside the new road for a short stretch up to the top of the hill by Berrynarbour.
At the turning of the old road into Berrynarbour village, I resumed course on the old road for a short while before once again heading out into the fields, which was a short relief. Here I could once again enjoy the rocky coast and this part was teeming with birdlife, both the expected seabirds but also a large flock of crows that were perched in a tree. The path descended to the bottom of the hill and through a very empty campsite. I assume that there is no life here for at least another six weeks or so. I then rejoined the A399 road past Watermouth and unluckily for me the tide was in so I had the rather unenjoyable diversion along the road instead. The castle from this view was a little less than impressive and I certainly didn’t want to linger on this very busy road, which had no pavement. I managed to get past it without having to dodge too many cars and was relieved to rejoin the path above the waterline.
I briefly left the line of the road and headed out along the headland that formed one half of Watermouth harbour. Along here I met a woman walking her two dogs that were both very excitable and I was horrified when one bit me on the arm. She offered no apology and I was too shocked to say anything to her (I was really annoyed with myself about my response later). My arm was sore for some time afterwards, but luckily I was compensated by the views across Watermouth harbour, which were magnificent.
As I rounded the headland I was surprised to see someone that I had seen earlier in the day. She looked a little more tired now, but it was obvious to me that she was doing the day’s walk in the opposite direction to me, so I made myself known to her. She was almost done with the hike, although ironically the stretches that she had left to do were the only ones that I had already completed. We wished each other luck and parted company to reach our ultimate destinations that day. Further round the headland and I met with the coastguard cottages and the A399 once again. From here it was a short hop down to the settlement of Hele, technically a separate village but now almost indistinguishable from the rest of Ilfracombe. The path left the A399 at Hele Bay and continued straight up to Hillsborough, the hill that separates Hele from the larger resort of Ilfracombe where I was staying.
The climb to the top of Hillsborough was a bit of a slog, but the views from the top were worth it as the whole of Ilfracombe glowed in the late afternoon sun and Lundy could clearly be seen like a rock in the ocean some miles distant. The descent into Ilfracombe was steep and summed the day up; a rollercoaster! The path continued around the harbour, which was full of boats bobbing up and down on the high tide rather than being stranded on the low tide sands. This was my finish point for the day, but I had of course completed the next part earlier in the day.
|Landmark Theatre and Ilfracombe|
Leaving for the next section of the hike was a joy since I could complete this section without any onward travelling first. I left the flat and walked around Capstone Point, a section that felt strangely divorced from the rest of Ilfracombe. I then passed the Landmark Theatre, a very oddly designed building that looked like a couple of cooling towers recycled from an erstwhile power station. Out of town I headed, past the Tunnels beach, that was completely obscured from view on the landward side. Ilfracombe has seen better days, with many B & Bs and hotels struggling and others that are now completely derelict. However, its location and character gives it a charm that many other more well-known resorts lack.
|Looking Back to Ilfracombe|