Rugged Tales

Wherever my feet may take me…


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Mists and legends

Excited by the promise of the legendary King Arthur’s castle I set off today for Tintagel, despite a lingering stiffness in my legs. Early sunshine quickly gave way to moody clouds that threatened rain, but it stayed dry as I made my slow way to Boscastle harbour.

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Scene of one of the most extreme floods ever recorded in Britain, there is little sign now of the devastation that occurred in 2004. I treated myself to a delicious brunch at the Harbour Light, a 16th century harbour-front building completely rebuilt after the flood destroyed it.

Climbing up out of Boscastle, however, the sea mist rolled in as I made my damp and chilly way round Firebeacon Hill.

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I consoled myself that the swirling mists would add to the mystical atmosphere as I approached my destination. But by the time I’d spent a fruitless hour searching for a campsite that turned out to have closed down, the sun had regained the ascendancy and I finally rounded Barras Nose to see Tintagel Head in sun-drenched glory.

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The sun also drew out tourists in considerable number, and upon drawing closer Tintagel revealed itself to be more Monty Python than Malory, with the 19th century Camelot Castle Hotel a particularly prominent and hideous feature. Having reconciled myself to being in a kind of Arthurian theme park, though, I’m actually quite enjoying it. Full of Granny Wobbly’s homemade ice-cream, and homemade fudge (stuck to each other with a generous coating of cream), and with an ATM, two well-stocked convenience stores, and numerous pubs within an easy walk even on my sore legs, I’m finding the amenities compelling. Cosy in Ye Olde Malthouse, the original 14th century village inn, with a glass of wine and free wifi, I’m more than happy to look past the rather lurid depiction of some round table event or another hanging on the wall next to me.

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Weary legs

It was a slow start today. After yesterday’s exertions, and with an uninspiring drizzle to greet me when I woke, I could cheerfully have stayed in bed until lunchtime! But with 15 miles or so to walk I dragged myself up and hit the trail.

The first obstacle was at Widemouth Bay. After just a few yards struggling through the piles of soft sand in the dunes I was cursing whoever had invented beaches and eager to trade them for a nice firm cliff or two. As is so often the case, I should have been more careful what I wished for…

The sun came out as I strode up Penhalt cliff before tackling a particularly steep descent into the valley at Millook, and then another dip at the Dizzard in increasing heat.

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Atop the cliffs near Cleave I came across a dedicated South West Coast Path bench – only 500 miles to go to Poole. Hopefully some of them will be flatter than today’s!

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Stopping for lunch on the hillside above St Gennys I was horrified to see a tick crawling up my leg. Having had quite enough tick fun in Oklahoma to last me for a while I flicked it away and hastily set off again. After four hours (and five steep valleys) I finally tottered into Crackington Haven: hot, sweaty and very tired. A cold drink partially revived me and I set off to climb back up out of the valley. But when, after having clambered over an inordinate number of stiles in the course of the day, I got stuck in a kissing gate of wholly inadequate proportions for someone with a backpack I came perilously close to a sense of humour failure. But the views back to Crackington Haven, nestling between the cliffs behind a sparkling turquoise sea, were so glorious it was hard to stay grumpy for long.

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Increasingly tired, I dragged myself up the aptly named High Cliff (one of the highest parts of the Path at 223m) believing it to be the last ascent of the day, only to discover a steep descent and the looming bulk of Rusey Cliff hiding behind it. I should have read the map more carefully.

Nonetheles, at long last I made it to my campsite in the hamlet of Pennycrocker – too small even to get a mention on the OS map – and relieved of my backpack I managed to totter the 30 mins each way to the pub at Tresparrett, the nearest available food. Yesterday’s route was reputed to be the toughest but I found today’s harder going, probably because I started it tired. It was barely dark before I fell into bed and to sleep.