Day 061: Bude to Hartland Quay
Distance: 15.66 miles
Ascent: 4902 feet
Weather: Light rain, Overcast
Accommodation: The Prouse's house
I woke up this morning instantly thinking about changing today's plan. I had received an email last night offering accommodation in Hartland in the Prouse’s House, and at the time it hadn’t really registered as I was too tired. But I had planned to do a very short walk today to Morwenstow (where I had also been kindly offered a bed) but due to the weather not being to bad today it felt sensible to extend today, which would also mean a short walk tomorrow making the rest day seem longer.
I set off today wondering what the cliffs and hills had in wait for me. The temperature was slightly warmer and definitely above freezing, but it was raining slightly. The roads and pavements were obviously well gritted in Bude, and I was soon leaving the town and heading up onto the cliffs.
Fortunately, the snow drifts appeared to have disappeared, or at least the larger ones covering the paths. The ice was also beginning to thaw, though at this point there were still some very slippy points. The first stage of the day had several stream mouths & gulleys which had very steep ascents and descents. In fact the worst of these was not slippery due to ice, but the snow/ice had made the soil quite sand like and as the snow thawed it made the descent very slippery, in fact so slippery I had a good fall. All these early descents were very slow going.
When I reached the bottom of one of these descents, I heard something behind and unbelievably there was a trail runner which astounded me, he was slipping and sliding all over the place, but I suppose it was his momentum which kept him upright. He was in fact the only person I passed on the actual path all day.
The path headed up and around a large radio station, which looked very impressive with its giant dishes and globes. It turns out this is a GCHQ site, so unsurprisingly I can't find much info about it. From here it was not long till I reached Morwenstow, where I had my lunch.
The next part of the walk was graded as one of the hardest parts of the South West Coast Path, and the locals had no confidence saying I wouldn’t make it by 5 the time I had stated to the people picking me up.
There was a slightly sad situation on the next part of the walk with multiple dead lambs over a fairly short stretch, about 8/9 all seemingly with no injuries and they appeared to have just frozen to death. Then even more sad was a dead Ewe (number 51), and sadly here 2 lambs (with their little number 51’s) still snuggling up to her. I was not sure what to do, and for a moment I even considered carrying the 2 lambs to the nearest farm, but as it was not clear where the farm was and I would have struggled to grab them anyway I had to just leave them behind.
Then whilst walking through another field of sheep and lambs a few minutes later, something strange happened, a couple of ewes started following and running towards me then more joined aggressively baaing at me very loudly until one actually rammed me knocking me into the gorse/brambles, I quickly got up before she got another go. I did not really know what to do as others started to butt me, so I just thought f*”^ if and started to run towards the gate about 30/40m away. The ewes didn’t react instantly, but a couple of seconds later I heard their hoofs chasing behind me. Luckily the gate was a kissing gate so required no fiddling with locks and I just got through it as one sheep ran straight into the gate a second or so after I had gone through it. This may sound funny written down when you have images of docile fluffy sheep but being there confronted by dozens of sheep several ramming you didn’t, it actually felt quite dangerous and it was lucky it was me and not a parent with a kid. I do not why this flock acted so differently to the literally hundreds of other lambing fields I have been through. I am always careful not to go to near the lambs and try not to disturb the sheep at all which makes this incident even stranger. I am genuinely considering reporting it as I feel it was very dangerous to have this particular flock on a field with a public byway crossing it.
Despite all the warnings about this stage being very severe, I do not think it was much if any harder than several other parts of the South West Coast Path I have done, though there were 3/4 steep climbs in a row. I made good time and despite the warnings I had made it to Hartford Quay at 4:45 slightly ahead of my prediction. I waited in the Wreckers Retreat, which sits in a very scenic spot at the end/bottom of a little outcrop, and my kind hosts, Vicky and Marc turned up very promptly at 5. I was incredibly grateful for the bed and even more grateful for the lovely curries including homemade naan bread.
This was a really scenic day, and even with the scare from the sheep, is a day that I really enjoyed. Being ahead of schedule means that tomorrow is a short day which my body will really appreciate.