48. Croyde Bay to Hele Bay

Quite a wet and windy day, as I parked up at Hele Bay. I did have second thoughts about starting my walk, but the weather forecast was for a slight improvement during the day…which did not happen. I caught the bus to Croyde Bay, where one or two people got off.

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Looking across to Woolacombe Sands
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The lighthouse at Bull Point

It was just spitting with rain when I set off. I was heading into a very strong wind as I headed out along the excellent footpath towards Baggy Point. I had soon rounded the Point and was heading east and descending to the extensive beach at Woolacombe Sands. As the tide was out I was able to get onto the beach and take a direct route to the village of Woolacombe. Walking was difficult, especially in the wind and with squalls coming and going. I came ashore at Woolacombe and transferred onto an excellent path out to Morte Point and then onto Bull Point passing the lighthouse on my way. It was certainly not a day for sightseeing or loitering as the wind and rain had not abated.

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Heading towards Lee
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Residence below cliff with cave access.

As i neared the village of Lee, the path remained on the road for a while. I could see the familiar geology typical of North Devon as I left the road and entered what is called the Torrs Park area of Ilfracombe. the path descends steeply through zigzags into Ilfracombe itself. I cliffs here are quite dramatic and some of the tiny coves have houses built above them with access via a series of caves. I pass the iconic conical Landmark Theatre, which reminded me of cooling towers. At Windy Corner the waves are quite rough and breaking high on the promenade. The path rounds the small headland of Capstone Point and brings me through streets to the harbour.

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The Landmark Theatre
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Verity

Across the harbour I notice an unusual statue guarding the entrance to the harbour. It’s a woman and she has a sword raised high and she is pregnant. I suddenly realise what this statue is! Its Damien Hirst’s Verity. In true Damien Hirst style the statue has a woman split in two with one side showing the out skin of the pregnant woman, while the other side shows a cut-a-way of the womb with the growing embryo inside. This cut-a-way is extended to reveal bone, muscle and tissue peeled back. I am not a big fan of Hirst, but I love the siting of the statute at the harbour entrance – it’s both evocative and provocative.

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Looking down on Ilfracombe from Hillsborough

I head over the final hill, Hillsborough, which offers a grand view looking down on Ilfracombe. The rain and wind continues as I drop down into Hele bay and my car.

 

 

Distance today = 15.5 miles
Total distance =   706.5 miles

 

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47. Croyde Bay to Barnstaple

My first walk of 2015 and I needed to do a simple quick one day walk, so it was down to Barnstaple to carry on from my previous visit. I parked in Barnstaple taking advantage of  free street parking close to the Bus Station. I caught the 21A bus to Croyde Bay at a cost of £2.40. Today was a wonderfully sunny winters day, with a stiff breeze blowing.

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Looking back at Croyde Bay

The bus stop at Croyde Bay is very close to the beach and in less than a minute of leaving the bus I was making my over Croyde Sand towards the far headland. Here I climbed up off the beach and continued around the headland below the main road for 400m. The path then ascended the small hill to join up with the main road. I slightly back tracked along the road to join the path on the far side of the road. The path continued above the road for the next 2 miles, contouring below Saunton Down.

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Braunton Burrows
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Remants of the old railway line
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Looking up the Taw Estuary towards Barnstaple

Lundy was slightly hazy in the far distance, but I had a spectacular view of Braunton Burrows, a vast Nature Reserve of dunes and sands. I seemed to have lost the official path in the Burrows somewhere so I made my own route through the area. Eventually, the MOD warning signs shepherded me towards the official path, which I eventually picked up. The path emerged at the shores of the Taw and Torridge estuaries. I followed the path around Horsey island and up the minor tributary of the River Caen. The first crossing point of this river is at Braunton and onto the Tarka Trail. For the next two miles I have RAF Chivenor on my right. I have been walking on the old railway route from Barnstaple to Ilfracombe and I make good progress along the route.

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Charity event Barnstaple

When I reach Barnstaple I have a quick look around the town, it’s a saturday afternoon and quite busy. I note with some amusement a building undergoing restoration with scaffolding all around it bedecked with bras and other undergarments, I believe in aid of charity. Great idea, but I kept my pants well and truly on! I take 4.5 hrs for the walk.

 

 

Distance today = 15.5 miles
Total distance =   691 miles