Day 11 – Boscastle to Widemouth Bay

Woke feeling much more positive after the half-day yesterday and a fairly decent night’s sleep. I’m always a little nervous at the start of a long day’s walk over unfamiliar terrain, and the fact that both the End to End book and the SWCP guide talked about how strenuous this stretch was made me wonder if I was really up to it, especially after the struggle I’d had making it to Boscastle yesterday.

In the event, I shouldn’t have worried so much, as this was one of the best day’s walking I have ever done. It was undoubtedly tough, and I was tired out and extremely sweaty by the end, but it was well worth it – definitely one of the most rewarding days I have yet had on the walk.

I started early (8am, about the earliest possible with kids in tow), but it was already very hot, and I was just making my way gasping and sweating to the top of the path out of Boscastle harbour when I met a local sauntering casually down the path. “You’re doing it all the wrong way,” he said smugly, “if you had taken the private road above the village there’s a path up from there which is much much easier”. I managed a sickly grin and thanked him for his advice.

The ups and downs were demanding, but doable – a great relief after the leaden effort of yesterday – and the walking and views over Rusey Cliff and the imaginatively named High Cliff were fantastic. As I was standing on the summit of Rusey Cliff, looking out over High Cliff and the headlands beyond, enjoying the breeze on my hot face, a woman came running up the hill, not even breaking a sweat. I’ve noticed a few of these fell runners on the coast path (can they be fell runners if it’s not a fell?) and I don’t really get it – I don’t see how you can run at that pace without spending all your time looking at the ground, and if you do that then what is the point in running paths in such beautiful surroundings? Still, their absolute fitness and commitment puts me to shame. Mind you, there are plenty of walkers too whose fitness puts me to shame – including a number of groups of people well into their 60s and 70s who are leaping round the hill paths like gazelles!

From High Cliff the path descends smoothly past farmland to Crackington Haven. I had paced myself to get to Crackington Haven for lunchtime and managed it nicely, so I was able to have a longer break and a cup of tea, as well as a nice chat with a man named Bill, who was waiting for his friend Steve to walk over from Widemouth Bay. I met Steve at the top of the ridge about 40 minutes later, striding cheerfully next to a very purposeful-looking Labrador, and surprised him by addressing him by name. We had a nice chat and I went on my way full of renewed determination.

Steve had prepared me for some more steep ups and downs round Dizzard Point, so that I wasn’t too taken aback – the hot weather really does make a difference though, as when the path descends into the valley there is very little breeze to keep you cool as you toil up the other side. By the time I made it to Millook, which is really the last of the steep switchbacks, I was feeling very hot and tired. I sat on a large rock on the beach and ate my remaining fruit and nut mix, gazing at the spectacular zigzag rock formations in the cliffs and enjoying listening to a group of very excited schoolchildren trying to ‘skim’ stones the size and shape of cannonballs.

One last steep ascent out of Millook and it was round the bay in a gentle descent, marred only by getting a bit lost on a ‘permissive’ section where it would have been quicker and easier to stick to the road. I made it to Widemouth with enough time to spare for an orange ice lolly on the beach, watching the surfers make it look effortless (it isn’t, as I discovered on a weekend in Newquay a few years ago).

Highlights: the view from Rusey and High Cliff; cool lemonade in the sun at Crackington Haven; the bay gradually unfolding through the day’s walk; Bill and Steve; endless sunshine; the sense of the immense time taken to make this landscape; satisfaction at the end of a great day’s walking.

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