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Thursday, 25 February 2016

Walk 168 Bude to Morwenstow (Cornwall)

Walk 168 Bude to Morwenstow (Cornwall)

(Third leg of English coastal walk – Lands End to Bristol)

Map: L/R 190
Distance: 8 miles or 12km
Difficulty: Demanding and tiring
Terrain: Coastal path
Access: Parking at both ends.
Public transport: Difficult. Bus 216 once a day leaves Crosstown near Morwenstow at 4:22 for Bude. Or to walk the other way round 216 bus leaves at 9:30 from Bude to Crosstown. As always, check with Traveline.

Start the walk in the centre of Bude. Bude Castle (built in 1850) contains a heritage centre and art gallery both of which are worth a visit. The castle, which stands in public gardens, was once the home of Sir Goldsworthy Gurney the inventor of the steam carriage. He also enlightened lighthouses, the House of Commons and his own house by inventing a system of prisms and mirrors. In 2000 Gurney and his lights were commemorated by the colourful cone in the Castle Gardens which is lit up internally at night. If you are around the town in the evening you could try the Bencoolen Inn whose walls tell the story of the famous local shipwreck of the same name. Good for a beer and meal as well.

Follow the coastal path out of Bude to Crooklets Beach. There is a sandy beach here popular with surfers. Continue to Maer Down and Northcott Mouth and beach. The nature reserve near here is an important resting and feeding site for migratory birds blown in by gales from the Atlantic. On the land side is the MOD Tracking Station at Cleave Camp.

Further along is Sandymouth, a highly picturesque setting especially when the tide is out and sands exposed - the back ground of the twisted rocks make a great contrast. The jagged rocks on Warren Gutter beach provide another good photo opportunity. Duckpool near the hamlet of Coombe is a popular spot for surfers. About a mile further along is Stanbury Mouth with yet another surfing beach and the added attraction that seals can sometimes be seen playing in the water.

Do not miss Hawker's Hut on the cliffs at Morwenstow which is maintained by the National Trust. It can be accessed easily by a dedicated path. This was where local parson Robert Stephen Hawker much of his time meditating, writing poetry and keeping a lookout for shipwrecks. He was always alert to providing a Christian burial for those washed up from shipwrecks. Hawker was vicar at Morwenstow from 1834 to 1874 and some sources (including the reliable Andrew McCloy in his Coastwalk book) say he was rather eccentric, striding around in Wellington Boots, fishermen's jumpers hung with holy medals and a purple overcoat. At times he allegedly dressed as a mermaid, excommunicated one of his ten cats for catching a mouse on a Sunday and occasionally smoked opium in his pipe. The latter might explain the rest! On a more sober note, he is the composer of the famous, 'Song of the Western Men'.

Take the path into the village of Morwenstow and past the part-Norman church where Hawker was vicar. The vicarage at the side of the church was built by him. Maybe, if it is open, pop in and see if someone has more information on this interesting character.

Photos show: Gurney 'light' memorial, Bude; Hawker's Hut, Morwenstow; Morwenstow Church.

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