Saturday, 15 September 2012

Coastwalk , South West Coast Path

Barnstaple → Westward Ho!

tarka-trail.png Distance: 12.3 miles
Ascent: 88 metres
Duration: 4 hours 8 minutes

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Some places carry a certain mystique. Some walks are unique, and are anticipated for a long time. Today these two things come together with my love of cartographic trivia: Westward Ho! - the terminus of today's walk - is the only place in the country whose name includes a punctuation mark. How could I not be looking forward to it?

pab-instow.pngThe walk itself was rather tedious. Between Barnstaple and Instow, the coast path follows a cycle route along the track-bed of a dismantled railway. Earlier in the day the Tour of Britain cycle race had commenced in Barnstaple, encouraging half the town into the saddle. Every few hundred metres we'd hear a bell behind us, or see a wobbly toddler riding out for the first time ahead. What should've been a straightforward section was a stressful gauntlet run.

Towards Instow an alternative, more coastal path diverged from the wannabe-Wigginses, and normal tranquil service was resumed.

instow-ferry.pngA seasonal ferry runs across the River Torridge from Instow to Appledore two hours either side of high tide. We'd timed our walk to coincide, resulting in a leisurely start this morning, and a somewhat late finish in the evening. The ferry service was resumed by a local community group last year after a gap of many years. I sincerely hope they'll be able to keep it running since it was utterly charming, and lent these North Devon villages a flavour of the South Cornwall twin villages such as Fowey and Polruan.

After landing, and a circuit of England's oldest golf course at Northam Burrows, we finally reached Westward Ho!.

hartland.pngIf the village's name intrigues you, and fills you with a sense of inquisitive wonder, then I beg you read no more. Let it forever live that way in your imagination. For Westward Ho! is a confused village. Half of it looks run-down and tacky; the other half has been rebuilt on the dream that this can once again become a bustling seaside resort. I hope it succeeds, but at the moment the jury's out.

Optimistically I would note that the first two places we tried to get a meal this evening were fully booked. On the other had, the pub we ended up in, while charming, was tired and in need of a jolt.

I hope that should we ever return to Westward Ho!, the optimists will have won.

Posted by pab at 21:50 | Comments will be back one day. Please email me instead!