Thursday, 28 June 2012

Ilfracombe to Woolacombe

Saturday 9th June, 2012

My last day.

I had planned to leave in the morning and stop off somewhere along the way home. But as it dawned a gorgeously sunny and warm day, and as I still had what should have been the first part of my walk to do, I couldn't resist sticking around and completing the missing link in my South West Coast Path wander.

It didn't take long to pack up and I was soon on the road to Woolacombe. I wanted to park in Woolacombe and catch the 8.30 bus to Ilfracombe and walk back from there. However, the big car park was closed - it didn't open till 9 o'clock. I drove west along the front to the next car park which was open, but I knew I wouldn't want to walk the extra distance on the way back. The roadside parking was all limited time only and so was of no use. Instead I drove to Mortehoe, a small village about mile to the east of Woolacombe and parked in the small car park there. It was about half the price of the car parks in Woolacombe and meant I got to see the village which I would have otherwise bypassed. It's a quaint place with a few little shops, a pub or two, a church and a museum. I hoped to get back in time to have a look around the museum but in the end was too late.

Morte Point

I bought a croissant for breakfast and walked down a lane at the side of the church to reach the coast path. Morte Point was to my right and Woolacombe to my left. I set off towards Woolacombe musing on the back-to-front-ness of my walk: I was walking the first day's walk on my last day and the last bit of the day's walk first. It might not be ideal but at least I didn't have any annoying niggly bits missed out.

There was a bit of a steep downhill into Woolacombe and I was glad I was getting this over with and not having to do it when my knees were tired and sore at the end of the day's walk. I was in good time for the 9.30 bus which took about half an hour to get to Ilfracombe.

Once in Ilfracombe I bought a sandwich for my lunch and wandered down to the seafront to look for the coast path. I could see where I'd finished walking when I arrived in Ilfracombe last year, but couldn't see where the path continued. After a bit of wandering I got the map out and figured it out properly.

Leaving Ilfracombe
Tunnel Beach

The path left Ilfracombe by winding up through a residential area with regular panoramic views back to Ilfracombe. At one point, peering over the wall, I could see down to one of the tunnel beaches. These beaches are only accessible via a series of tunnels for which there is a charge. The beach I could see looked very nice with a decking area and loungers. It would probably be quite nice to spend a lazy few hours here on a hot day, so maybe I'll check them out properly sometime.

Seven Hills

Walking towards Lee
The path then wound up towards the Seven Hills and zig-zagged quickly to about 140m. I stopped frequently to stare at the view and take photos. Leaving the Seven Hills behind the path followed the coast to join a lane leading into the hamlet of Lee. I got tantalising glimpses of the little shingle bay as I threaded my way down the lane and into Lee itself. I found a bench and sat here for a while chatting to a couple from Dorset. They usually walk the South West Coast in their own area and this was their first time on this part of it. They were very impressed.

A glimpse of Lee Bay

Bull Point Lighthouse
Leaving my bench I climbed steeply up the road out of Lee and onto a path following the rocky coastline. When I reached the gleaming white Bull Point lighthouse I knew I was on the last stretch of walk for his holiday. First I had Morte Point to go though. This juts out on the north side of Morte Bay and shelters Woolacombe Sands. It's along here I'd been told I had a good chance of seeing seals so I walked slowly and spent a lot of time peering at rocks in the sea in case they moved and became seals.


Part way round I spotted my first seal. I watched it for a while bobbing about, disappearing and reappearing some way away. Then a second one appeared. They were lovely to watch, but moved far too fast for me to take a good photo. They seemed to sense when I was about to press the shutter and would duck under the water so I'd either get a picture of empty sea or a picture of a blurred blob.

An elderly man stopped to chat to me and pointed out an oystercatcher nest on the rocks. Both the male and female were around and taking it in turns to sit on the nest.

Morte Point looking towards Woolacombe Sands

Eventually I had to draw myself away and walk the last stretch along the coast before turning inland and heading back to the village of Mortehoe and my van. Turning back I had one last lingering look and one last photo before leaving the coast for this year.

Last look

Back in Mortehoe I treated myself to an ice-cream before starting the long drive back to Manchester.

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