It was overcast and muggy as fuck today. We packed up and reluctantly tore ourselves away from our lovely camp spot and made our way down the hill. I’ll take the muggy over the searing sunshine of yesterday though, this was much better weather for walking up ridiculous fucking hills. We filled up our bottles from the stream in the valley as we gazed up our first ridiculous fucking hill. Last night I was congratulating myself for all of my life choices as I basked in the sun applying the view to my eyeholes. This morning I regretted every single one.
Right then. Off we fuck, and seriously, this experience wasn’t exaggerated by those who came before us. It was utterly, utterly brutal. Of course we just plodded. At one point you could see the old path snaking up the side of the hill and next to it they’d built the brand new steps, straight up in a perfect line. What happened to all those lovely zig-zags? Where have all my zig-zags gone? It’s a proper case of head down, one step at a time, putting my new poles through their paces, using them to drag myself up.
We finally left Cornwall today, fittingly at the bottom of a fuck off great big hill, just before a climb up another fuck off great big hill. Marsland Water seems to serve as the border between the counties and we trotted over the bridge and back into Devon.
You have the opportunity to visit two huts today by the way; Hawker’s Hut built by a poet and clergyman, Robert Stephen Hawker. He’d just hang out, smoke opium and write shit. According to the mighty Interwebs, when he started at his new parish it was full of wreckers and smugglers. He eventually convinced them to help steer ships away from, not towards the rocks, and if ships were wrecked he got them to help the sailors rather than looting them and gave any drowned men a proper funeral. We didn’t visit because it was down a small hill and we just didn’t want to have to walk back up it again just to look at a shed. It’s the National Trust’s smallest property.
Ronald Duncan’s hut is right on the trail but I don’t think Ronnie was quite as interesting as Hawker. He was a poet and a playwright, I don’t know if he smoked opium too, but he used the hut to spend several years writing a five volume epic poem called “Man”. I think poets take themselves very seriously. His hut comes complete with signs telling you that the hut is locked at night and camping isn’t permitted anywhere in the area. I’m aghast that you’d even think we’d consider it! (We definitely considered it).
I think what helped with all the climbing today was the drizzle. We didn’t bother with waterproofs, it was the perfect level of drizzle to keep you nice and cool as you coaxed your calf muscles up the hills. I swear they got steeper too. Every molecule of water tried to make a break for freedom through my face, I felt like you could hear my heart throwing itself against my ribcage in desperation all the way to Boscastle. There’s nothing good to say about these hills, they just fucking hurt. Oh, aside from the eyehole fodder. If you had any breath left the views would take it.
We had the added horror of stepping stones at Welcombe Mouth too. I was all for just paddling through the river, I was done with this trail and its games, but Tarrant helped me over them. The climb out had at least two false summits, then after the initial steep bit you had one of those long, incessant inclines that just don’t give up, then everything just kind of… flattened out.
You’d think I’d be pleased but my legs were so fucked by this point they couldn’t quite work out how to cope with the flat ground resulting in an awkward hobble fitting of a woman twice my age with one leg shorter than the other after sixteen pints. There was a gradual descent into Speke’s Mill where there’s a gorgeous ribbon of water cascading into a plunge pool. I bloody love a waterfall, me. Love them. I’d go swimming in it if I thought u could get down there without breaking my neck, I don’t even care that it’d be so cold I’d take out half the cliff with a nipple.
It’s the perfect place to pitch too but we really wanted to smash a few more miles so I settled for a nap. God I love napping. The right to nap should be enshrined in law. The climb out was predictably awful but we were a mere mile from Harland Quay which has all manner of exciting things including a pub. Wonderful. We’d definitely earned some manner of tasty cold motor impairment beverage.
We tackled the last few hills with gusto largely driven by the need to shit on account of there being zero bogs along this stretch and nowhere to nip for a danger poo in a hole. My poor bowels. Kids dropped off we sat down to enjoy our pint. Beer always tastes better when you’ve worked for it, and also when it’s less than £4.50 a pint.
Utterly forgot to get our water bottles filled though and the three miles to Hartland Point are a repeat of this morning, except somehow more relentless. Up and down three horrific hills. We’d really need to find a place to fill up. As we descended one hill we saw a static caravan just plonked in the valley. There was a chap milling about outside it and as we walked past he asked us if we were walking the path. We replied that we were and he asked us if we wanted water.
Oh my gosh, yes please! What a star. We got chatting to him and he rents that caravan permanently. He’s been there three and a half years. He seemed like a really nice bloke, I got a really good vibe off him. Of course he may turn out to be a serial killer and he just fed us drugged water but hey. If anyone came into the tent uninvited they’d be immediately gassed unconscious from the stench of two unwashed lesbians farting in their sleep.
One last hill up to Hartland Point and we’d start looking for a place to tuck ourselves away for the night. There wasn’t much at the Point, just a few grassy patches surrounding the car park but I’d guess that it’d be full of dog walkers (or doggers?) for a while and it was forecast to piss rain soon. Not that lovely, cooling drizzle of earlier, actual proper rain. It was going to be farmland for miles but a couple of fields weren’t fenced off. They were mown, the grass piled up in neat lines. This would do, we set up the outer in a corner and sheltered from the rain.
Ooh I picked I tick off Tarrant this evening too, our first tick of the trip which puts her in the lead 1-0. Though I’m not sure if the aim of this game would be to get the highest or lowest score. I mean, nobody wants a tick. It’s one thing being stabbed by a mozzie hell bent on relieving you of your blood but ticks literally bury their fucking heads in you, the feral little bastards. I think she’s winning in injuries too. Or losing? My knee is a lot better, I can ignore it for miles now. She went over on her already fucked ankle yesterday so she’s back rocking the supports.
Anyway. We waited until a bit later before finishing pitching in case the farmer decided he wanted to collect all his mown grass. Only a few people walked past, the weather probably puts most normal people off being outside. I mean, technically we weren’t outside given that the tent passes as our home these days.
Higher Sharpnose Point, Cornwall to Titchberry, Devon, England
Stayed at: Wild camp in the corner of a farmer’s field
Useful shit to know…
- The only toilets are at Hartland Quay and there really aren’t many places to duck for a danger poo in a hole. My poor bowels.
- As for filling up water, not every stream you’ll cross today is accessible. The one down from Higher Sharpnose Point, Marsland Water, and Welcombe Mouth are your easy options.
- There’s a pub at Hartland Quay complete with toilets. There’s a café at Hartland Point but there are no toilets apparently.