58. Chester to Flint

My first day on walking the official  Wales Coast Path, although I had completed the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path and other sections prior  to this some time ago. Although I had still one final section to walk on the SWCP, I decided to take advantage of the nearest section of the WCP to my home. I had decided to walk the WCP from North to South, purely based on convenience i.e. the northern section being closer to home.

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The Shropshire Union Canal in Chester

Although the WCP does not start until the Welsh border is crossed I decided to start my walk in Chester, just across the border. To do this I first drove to and parked in the small Welsh town of Flint, just off the A55. I then caught one of the frequent trains into Chester.

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Entering Wales and the start of the Wales Coast Path

It was lovely and warm, but slightly overcast as I emerged at a very busy Chester station. I walk about 300m and locate the Shropshire Union canal which runs through the centre of Chester. Although I am not a big fan of Canal walking, this walk is interesting with bends and plenty to see. The canal emerges at a large junction, with other canals joining and a set of locks which enable access to the River Dee.

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The old swingbridge at Queensferry

I walk down a small side street and through a small play area. I emerge onto the banks of the River Dee. Here, there is an excellent cycle path and the river has become channelized and is very straight. I pass close to football ground at Chester and arrive at a slight bend in the river at the Welsh border. There are various indicators for the start of the WCP and I set off along a very long and straight section of the River Dee, almost 5 miles of it. It is quite strange to walk along something so straight and level.

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The old wharf at Connahs Quay

I eventually arrive and pass under the newly busy A494 , the almost immediately the blue coloured the old swing bridge at Queensferry, where I cross over the busy  bridge and onto the opposite bank. This side of the bank, is no longer tarmac, but hard-core and grass. I soon come to the short, but old wharf at Connah’s Quay. The river has no begun to open out, with the large steelworks across the river dominating the views as well as the Power station which lies ahead.

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The futuristic Flintshire Bridge – the largest asymmetric cable-stayed bridge in the country, but obscured by power lines from the local power station

The path makes a slight detour inland to pass the Connahs Quay power station. Unfortunately, the signage seems to disappear and I do not see anymore signs until I reach the outskirts of Flint. Here I am directed off the busy A548 and down towards the shoreline, which is some distance away from the river. I emerge in a car park just by the ruins of Flint castle. 4 hours for the 15 miles.

Distance today = 11 miles
Total distance =  862 miles

 

 

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57. Westward Ho! to East Titchberry

My penultimate walk on the SWCP and one that would see me returning to Westward Ho! to walk to the farm at East Titchberry, close to Hartland Point.

As with my previous visit to East Titchberry I needed to park at in the National Trust car park and then cycle to the village of Hartland some 3 miles away. At Hartland I locked up my bike in the local car park and waited for the bus to Bideford. The bus was on time and quite busy as it weaved its way in and out of small villages as we headed towards Bideford. At Bideford I had a short wait for the regular service to Westward Ho!

I arrived at Westward Ho! to overcast skies, but which made for speedy walking. The path out of Westward Ho! was along an old disused railway track which soon turned inland. I could see my route along the coast almost all the way to Hartland Point. I could see the white houses in the seaside villages of Bucks Mills and Clovelly. At Peppercoombe I enter a wooded area which I would remain in for the majority of the walk. The path had a number of ups and downs as it would itself through the trees. I descended into Bucks Mills and then climbed steeply out of it and back into the woods. I eventually came to the Hobby Drive, a beautifully constructed “pleasure” road which contoured the steep coastline cliffs.

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A glimpse of Clovelly down through the trees
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Ornate wood carviing on shelter nr Clovelly

Noise and the occasional clearing in the trees told me that I was approaching Clovelly. It looked very busy with many people descending from the car park , situated at the top of the hill, down the steep cobbled street to the village below. Although I would normally have descended myself, somehow I did not fancy that steep climb back up to the path again. I headed on. Soon after Clovelly I came across a lovely seating shelter with superb wood carvings adorning the roof and upright structures.

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Looking out towards Lundy

I was still in a wooded area, but occasionally got excellent views across the Bristol Channel to the Welsh Coast and the nearby island of Lundy. I had two significant descents and ascents at Mouth Mill and Winbury Head, which in the increasing made me flag somewhat. On climbing Windbury Head I could see the rest of the path towards the Radar station was predominantly open fields and fairly level. I pass a small memorial to a Wellington bomber crew that crashed at Exmansworthy cliff in 1942.

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Memorial to Wellington Bomber crew

The SWCP comes quite close to the road at east Titchberry and I make the short walk to my car completing the walk in 6.5hrs.

 

 

 

 

Distance today = 16.5 miles
Total distance =   851 miles

56. Bude to East Titchberry

Today I would need to use my bicycle to cycle about 3 miles from East Titchberry – where I parked my car to Hartland – where I would catch an early morning bus to Bude. The cycling is quite easy although there are a couple of steep sections where I must get off and push. I lock my bike up to a railing in a small local car park.

The bus I am catching to all intents and purposes is a school bus, although it does take fare-paying passengers. The bus fills up with children, all attending the main high school in Bude. By the time we reach Bude and the School, the bus is full of school children. Other than the driver I am the only adult on the bus – I feel rather odd.

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The route north from Bude

I call into a local convenience store and bought a Cornish pasty and some water. Although the forecast was for bright sunshine, the early morning weather was quite overcast – which was nice. I set off across the coast path, which was very easy-going. My first objective and you could not miss them is the large white radio dishes for GCHQ, which can be seen for miles around. The path seems to lose itself and me as I try to keep a respectful distance from the perimeter fence of the high security establishment.

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GCHQ is listening

I had counted about 12 “ups and down” on todays walk and with the sun now beginning to break through I knew it was going to be a tough day.

The sea cliff become quite steep and dramatic as I come upon Hawkers Hut, the little hideaway of the Victorian Poet the Reverend Robert Hawker, who used the hut for quite meditation and smoking opium. I met a Belgian couple at the Hut and we have a small chat.

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Hawkers Hut

As I descend a steep valley after Marsland Cliff, I cross the County boundary from Cornwall to Devon. It was sad to see Kernow go, I had enjoyed walking its coastal path immensely. I manage to avert the next two steep sections by walking along the beach, the tide is well out.

 

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Goodbye to Cornwall

The sun is very hot now and as I approach Hartland Quay and drop into the Hartland Quay Hotel. I order a pint of bitter and drink it almost immediately, my second pint is a pint of Shandy. I meet a fellow walker, Brian from Yorkshire, who is also walking the path with his dog. We talk about walking and before I know it, an hour has gone. I bid Brian farewell and set off to complete the last 3 or 4 miles.

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The dramatic Devon coastline

I set off towards Hartland Point and am amazed at the cliff and rock formations on display. I round Hartland point and begin walking due east. I am rewarded with great views of the Isle of Lundy, which shimmers in the afternoon heat out in the Bristol Channel. I eventually come to my turn off for East Titchberry. I complete the walk in 8.5hrs.

 

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Hartland Point Lighthouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

Distance today = 20 miles
Total distance =   834.5 miles

 

55. Boscastle to Bude

Today was a continuation of where I left off yesterday with my route north from Boscastle to Bude. The first 5 or six miles was going to be tough with many ups and downs, but the latter part would generally flat with some beach walking. The sun would be out later, but fortunately it was a nice cool start as i climbed aboard the 7:04 #595 Bus for Boscastle at a cost of £3.70.

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Boscastle Harbour

It was very quiet in Boscastle as I followed the twisting harbour path out towards the sea. I climbed above Boscastle and could see the route ahead consisted of a number of steep up and downs. By the time I reached Crackington Haven, the sun was well high in the sky and it was very hot. I bought an additional drink at the shop/cafe, before setting off up a gradual slope that climbed above the tranquil village. Immediately I noticed that there were more steep ascents/descents ahead. In the far distance through the morning haze I could just make out the white radar dishes north of Bude. I was re-assured to know I would not be walking that far today.

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The route ahead over High Cliff

I descended into yet another secret cove , this time with horses, which had become a feature of the walk in the morning. I suspected they were Exmoor ponies.

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Whalebone at Wanson Mouth
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GCHQ north of Bude
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Bring on the Bride – Bude

I was relieved to descend to Millook, where I ascended my last steep climb of the day. It was tough going at this point. As I descended again at Wanson Mouth I was able to get onto beach, which I stayed on for the next mile. I came across the remains of a whale, although time and tide can had had a large effect with little but a couple of bones still remaining. At Widemouth the crowds were out in force, on the beach along the shore line. After passing through Widemouth the path snaked alongside the road almost all the way to Bude. The walking was lovely in places especially as I approached Bude, which had gently undulating paths carrying me towards Bude Compass point Tower, an octagonal building with a compass point carved on each face. I looked down on the large beach and could see that many people were out enjoying the sunshine.

I ambled the half mile to my car, passing a beautifully turned out wedding carriage with grooms and horses. The 16.6 miles had taken 6.5 hrs.

Distance today = 16.5 miles
Total distance =   814.5 miles

54. Port Isaac to Boscastle

It is a gorgeous morning when I arrive in Boscastle, the sun is out and there is not a breadth of wind. After parking my car, I amble around window shopping at the few craft shops, none of which are open. One particular sculpture piece catches my eye, it is a beautiful head-piece of Venus by Edge Studio. I did not know at the time that they are based 6 miles away from where I live in Telford. The cost of the piece is £140. I will mull over this piece for the duration of my walk.

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Looking down on Trebarwith Strand

As I still have some time to kill until my bus arrives, so I climb a small hill overlooking Boscastle. As I near the top I hear music blasting out across the village – tourists I think. As I home in on the music I can see that it is coming from the local Primary School and the children are all in the yard doing their morning exercise to the music! The music is very catchy and I later find out it’s by Clean Bandit and called “Rather Be”. The song now always reminds me of that beautiful morning in Boscastle and the children doing their mornings exercise.

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Tintagel

I catch the bus to Port Isaac. Its been about 4 months since I was last in Port Isaac, due to the fact that I altered my sections to fit in with my Winter schedule.

Today I was not using my walking boots, but a new pair of Karrimor walking shoes. I got them for £30 from Go Outdoors. I normally buy North Face Hedgehogs, but at £90 a throw I thought I try a cheaper alternative. Big Mistake! They give me blisters! I rarely get blisters and never with walking shoes. They are relegated now to occasional social ware.

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Arriving at Boscastle
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Footbridge over the River Valency, Boscastle
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One of the buildings destroyed in the 2006 flood
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The sculpture in question – Venus by Edge Studios

Although not a great distance, todays walk will have many ups and downs, probably about 8 in all. I set off along easy walking atop Bounds Cliff. After a mile I reach the first of my up-and-down. Five other steep descents and ascents follow, before I come to Trebarwith Strand situated in a steep valley, which is tough to climb out of. I am nearing Tintagel and I see on the cliff side, evidence of quarrying with large pillars left by the quarrymen. The quarry cliffs are vertical and plummet down to the foreshore. Before I know it, the crowds have increased and I am at Tintagel. I attempt to use my NT membership card to get in, but its English Heritage and their having none of it! I must admit I was rather under-whelmed by Tintagel. From the photos I had previously seen I was expecting something better, more dramatic. I move on and follow a small group through Rocky Valley, which is an interesting ravine that the path passes through. I am soon at Boscastle and I have made my mind up to go into the shop and make an offer on the sculpture I had seen at the start of the day. I offer £100. They say no, as the prices are fixed. I skulk away, deflated and sad. The walk has taken 5.5 hours.

 

Distance today = 14 miles
Total distance =   798 miles