We have just had a glorious week when it would have been a sin to stay indoors. Donning walking boots plus map in hand we set off for the National Trust carpark at Welcombe Mouth - last stop in North Devon before crossing the border to Cornwall.
This was my first time on this stretch of the South West Coast Path and it didn’t disappoint. At Welcombe Mouth the small stream cuts it’s way through thick layers of rock to cascade down to a rocky beach and the Atlantic Ocean beyond. Like many bays on this section of the coast low tide exposes an eroded platform of rock ridges. Walking south along the coast path we encountered more exposed and folded rock layers with coves, caves and hollows carved in the softer sections.
The route is a series of steep switch backs crossing successive valleys – great for muscle tone! Descending into the first valley to Marsland Mouth we came across the cliff edge writing room of Ronald Duncan – twentieth century playwriter, author and agriculturalist – what an inspirational space to sit and write in at the edge of the North Devon Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Another descent brought us to the stream that marks the border between North Devon and Cornwall. Two hours and barely 3 miles from Welcombe Mouth we turned inland towards lunch at Rectory Farm Tea Rooms in Morwenstow (it had been hotly debated whether to go to The Bush Inn in Morwestow but on this occasion the tea room was nearer – both are very good!). Our friends were disappointed that they had sold out of Cornish Pasties but enjoyed delicious well filled sandwiches and savoury cheese scones instead. Wary of the undulating return walk we regretfully decided not to tuck into their yummy home baked cakes.
The Norman built Church of (local saint) St Morwenna and St John the Baptist at Morwenstow is a Grade 1 listed building with Saxon heritage and is the most northerly in Cornwall. One of its 19th Century vicars, Rev R. S. Hawker, is credited with creating the modern harvest festival to give thanks for bountiful harvests. Our route back took us through the churchyard past the figurehead from a local shipwreck and under trees full of nesting rooks.
Onwards over rolling pasture grazed by recently released cattle and flocks of sheep with spring lambs at their heels and high stiles to reach the Marsland Valley Nature Reserve. This is an oasis of calm with varied habitats including hay meadows, dense woodland, marshy valley bottom and exposed coastal cliffs. It is home to many rare species including the Dormouse and Pearl Bordered Fritillary butterfly.
Back at the carpark, we all had sun-kissed faces and sore limbs – amazing how deceptive a ‘short’ 6 mile walk can be when it’s on the South West Coast Path!