Walking from John O'Groats to Land's End in the winter of 07/08.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Bideford to Hartland Quay

Fully rested and with good weather on the way I was eager to get going, just as soon as I'd tackled the momentous breakfast served up by the hotel. I picked a road heading out of town and kept going past the hospital, colleges, bunched up rows of terraced houses and finally the sprawling estates of detached properties before I was out amongst the rolling Devon countryside. Passing the Big Sheep, I wondered just how desperate tourists are to find something to do on a wet day, since obese livestock is enough is pack them in.

Country lanes took me back to the coast, completing the short cut I'd been taking across the headland. I turned left and followed the well made path through some of the most spectacular scenery I've encountered so far. Endlessly climbing and descending, I followed the edges of huge cliffs that look over rocky platforms and pools, past sandy bays, descended into gorges lined with rows of white houses and wandered across steep slopes covered in trees until I reached the little gem of Clovelly. This is a perfect Devon coastal village, clinging to the cliffs in the groove of a small brook. The cobbled high street is too steep for vehicles, and I watched the residents taking their shopping back home on wooden sledges.

It was time to cut across another headland. My focus is still on Land's End, so I won't be indulging in all the twists and turns of the coast path. This short cut took me into a peaceful wooded valley, through the small town of Hartland for supplies and then along a lane that varied between open fields and wooded dells beside streams. I felt the setting sun on my face I approached a hotel perched on huge boulders beneath the cliffs. As I look out the window to see waves crashing over the car park, it feels like I'm on holiday again.

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