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

Friday, 25 January 2008

Hartland Quay to Widemouth Bay

Another perfect day on the coast path, taking me into the final county of the journey. The scenery was even more impressive than yesterday; skirting the rounded hill of St Catherine's Point, I watched waterfalls being blown upwards at Speke's Mill Mouth. There were high cliffs with extensive views down the coastline and steep secluded valleys that the path zigzagged into and back out of. Sometimes these zigzags lead out onto thin rocky peninsulas, where the waves gurgled and crashed beneath. Streams flowed out of hanging gorges and plunged down to rocks and foaming seas below. The landscape was constantly engaging, with something wonderful waiting over each hill. Time flew by.

The only blemishes were the huge satellite dishes of Cleave Camp, which would be elegant if they weren't surrounded by tall fences and warning notices, and the holiday parks and decaying hotels of Bude. The regular obstacles of the narrow valleys mean that I've climbed and descended more height than any other day so far, over five thousand feet. The trick seems to be to rest on the way down, then tackle the uphill in one push, since although steep, the cliffs are no more than five hundred or so feet high. If you give in to your aching calves and stop for a rest, it then turns into a bit of a struggle to finish the hill off.

The ever changing sea was a constant companion, and I never tired of looking out into the vast emptiness. It feels like you are approaching the very tip of the country as the coastline becomes more striking and scarred by weather and waves. This landscape is perfect for contemplation and in these final days (hopefully) I'm looking back and savouring what has gone before, while beginning to think about how I will readjust to normal life.

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