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Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Walk 169 Morwenstow (Cornwall) to Hartland Quay (Devon)

Walk 169 Morwenstow (Cornwall) to Hartland Quay (Devon)

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

Map: L/R 190
Distance: 10 miles or 16km
Difficulty: Demanding and challenging, allow plenty of time
Terrain: Coastal cliff path
Access: Parking at both ends.
Public transport: Not practical to get to Hartland Quay using public transport. Possible to get buses to Hartland but this involves a few miles walk inland after what is already a tiring walk.

I walked much of this in murky, damp weather which spoilt the views. I have heard, these are spectacular but the wet underfoot conditions made the downward slopes a bit worrying for slip hazards. Not far along the path from Morwenstow is the towering Henna Cliff one of the highest sheer cliffs in England.

When passing alongside the lonely rocky beach of Marsland mouth the border between Cornwall and Devon is crossed. A short distance further on is Welcombe Mouth. The valley near here was the haunt of a Danish sea captain called Coppinger, sole survivor of an 18th century wreck near Hartland Point (to the north of here). He later turned smuggler and wrecker and became known as 'Cruel Coppinger'.

Continue along the cliff tops for a few miles before arriving at Speke's Hill Mouth. Here, a waterfall pours down over the rocks into the cove.

The walk ends at Hartland Quay and for me, thankfully, the misty rain started to clear. This is an interesting little place with a small museum (opposite the hotel) which is well worth a visit. The history of the area is chronicled, including the high number of shipwrecks. One, in 1983, became infamous when a ship called the Johanna was stripped of its cargo by 200 people, some from as far away as The Midlands. Welcome refreshments are available near the museum.

Hartland Quay was known to have been a port and smuggling area from the 17th century. The port dealt in such things as coal, agricultural supplies and fancy goods. A local limekiln enabled burnt limestone to be used on the fields and produce bumper corn harvests for export out of the port. For a while, in the 18th and 19th centuries, there was a Hartland Quay Bank which produced its own currency notes. Hartland remained a port until the late 19th century but trade was in decline and there was not enough money to sustain costs and repair the pier.

The hill up to the car park provides some panoramic views of the coast.

Photos show: rocks to the west of Hartland Quay; the main street with hotel and museum at Hartland Quay.

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