hele, the hangmen, the haddon, and me

The last long, physically taxing day of the Path.  Twenty tough miles from Ilfracombe to Lynmouth via a good few steep north Devon hills.  Started out swinging by Hele Bay, Watermouth and Combe Martin primarily on relatively uninspiring roadside trails.  Good to see a low a mileage count to our finish line show up in the latter though.

From there a couple of long, but relatively gentle, grassy climbs to the tops of Little Hangman and Great Hangman. The latter is the highest elevation one reaches on the whole of the SW Coast Path.  Great views from up there inland and out to Wales across the Bristol Channel.

The route then wound around the clifftops on first grassy and then sharp-stony paths, a challenge to the feet.  Not always that much in the way of direct sea views at times, but when the Path did swing seaward, the drops were dramatic, precipitous, and different in nature to previous clifftop routes.  The rocky promontories are rounded, sort of elephantine, and smoothly-imposing here.

A hard right turn led first inland and then sharply downards to the River Heddon near the turn to the Hunter’s Inn further inland.  A superb woody path along and over the river, before a knackering climb up the top again.

Following a few more mini headlands, the path dropped down to Mortenhoe and Woody Bay, along tracks and a road, with gorgeous, but very fleeting, glimpses of the nearby bays and cliffs through the trees.  Pleasing to see a sign at Woody Bay pointing the Way Home…

A mile or two to the west of Lynton, the Valley of Rocks suddenly came into view.  Hard, jagged rock outcrops with more steep drops down to the surf.  Sadly no goats around – a wildlife feature the area is known for.

From there it was a relatively short distance into Lynton above, and Lynmouth below. We rode the fun funicular railway up and down the cliff:  a simple but very effective water-driven mechanism drives the cars up and down an extremely steep gradient. Less positively water-related, Lynmouth is famous for its devastating flood of 1952:  the UK’s worst flooding disaster on record.