August was a funny month, what with the saga of Commando’s broken leg and him being at home recovering. There was walking, but not nearly as much as I’d have liked and most of it revolved around hunting for zebras or running around for the crocked runner. Still, on my virtual walk around the coast I was on relatively familiar territory, from Somerset into Devon, where I’ve had many a holiday when the children were little and many happy memories. Now the place names began to be recognisable as places I’d visited or passed through. It all felt far closer to home than it has for a long time.
My week one miles came from zebra hunts, bike buying trips and an RR10, with a bit of dashing up and down the hill thrown in. There were just 28.42 miles in all but they took me to Lynton and Lynmouth in Devon. Two villages straddling the West and East Lyn rivers, Lynmouth at the top of a deep gorge, Lynton below, connected by a steep cluff railway with two cable cars using gravity and water tanks to go up and down. We visited when the boys were young and took the railway from top to bottom. Recently I found a photo of CJ and I on our way down, old and faded but a lovely memory.
Gainsborough honeymooned there and described it as, “the most delightful place for a landscape painter this country can boast.” In my memory it’s a pretty place, green and damp with quaint stone cottages, small boys throwing stones in the river and a steep, slippery climb back to the top of the gorge. Ruth was there in July 2014 and got caught in a storm right at the beginning of her walk but got some pretty photos before the rain began to fall.
The miles in week two came from my spooky walk in Telegraph woods and yet more zebra hunting. There were 33.35 miles, better but not really enough. The hot, muggy weather didn’t help, the long walks left me headachy and dehydrated and I had to slather on sun cream constantly.
Those miles took me through so many familiar places, Combe Martin, Watermouth Castle, Illfracombe and even Woolacombe. We’d visited them all many times. We loved the little shops in Ilfracombe, filled with shells and pretty things, we visited the pretty little harbour at Combe Martin and the boys had great fun at Watermouth Castle.
On Woollacombe beach we lost Bard when he was about three. He’d gone down to the water with his big brother to get water for his sandcastle. Big brother returned alone. I still remember the feeling of panic, the frantic searching. It ended well, even comically. While Commando was off searching I waited by our windbreak in case he came back, scanning the beach, half hysterical. Then I spotted a small child in the distance, wearing a turquoise t shirt. It was Bard. He was zigzagging up and down the beach with a string of ladies running behind him, so much like a Benny Hill sketch I expected to hear the music. The ladies had seen him crying, known he was lost and tried to talk to him. He knew he mustn’t talk to strangers though so was running away.
The week ended in Croyde Bay, a beach we didn’t visit back in those far off days but, seeing Ruth’s photographs I wish we had. She passed through Croyde Bay in April 2014 and thought it a pretty beach. She certainly had nice weather for her walk across the sand and saw a surfing lesson and old whale bones.
In week three there was more zebra hunting, the last RR10 and even a parkrun. The miles were better, 37.86, and places like The Big Sheep and The Milky Way conjured up sunny days with three small boys in ball pits and feeding animals but I knew I was falling badly behind. Even so I was happy to reach Clovelly. It was somewhere I remembered well. It began life as a fishing village owned by three families and is still privately owned to this day. The main street is cobbled and so steep cars, or any wheeled vehicles, are not allowed. Instead donkeys and sledges are used to cart goods from the top to the bottom. It has an otherworldly feel about it, as if you’ve stepped back in time by several hundred years. All but seven of the houses are listed and most are wattle and daub cottages, breathtakingly beautiful, although you have to pay for seeing them with a breathtaking climb.
When Ruth visited in March 2014 her husband struggled to get down the cobbled hill to the pub in his cycling shoes. She took a lovely photo from the harbour looking up the hill though and, like me, thought it was a lovely, if impractical place.
So to week four. More zebra hunting a very special Olympic inspired Parkrun and a visit to Utopia gave me 49.64 miles. Plotting them on the map was like a reprise of so many holidays as I walked, virtually, through Devon into Cornwall. Passing through Bude, Boscastle and finally Tintagel, the mythical home of King Arthur. Plotting on the map I recalled the steep climb to the castle and a precarious descent to Merlin’s Cave with a beach filled with so many strange stones, I had bulging pockets by the end.
The rich history and the legend of the place would take up more than one post but suffice to say the ruins of the castle at the top of the cliff are, if you believe the stories, the place where King Arthur was conceived. According to Geoffrey of Monmouth, Uther Oendragon was in love with Igraine, the wife of Gorlois, the Duke of Cornwall. While her husband was at war she was hidden away at Tintagel. Merlin cast a spell on Uther, disguising him as Gorlois and he climbed the steep path and spent the night with the unwitting Igraine who became pregnant with King Arthur. In fact the ruins are more likely those of a Norman castle but most people prefer the romantic legend and who am I to argue.
Thanks to the Arturian legends, Tintagel is the most visited place in Britain and Ruth was there in September 2013. She seemed to be as enchanted by the place as I remember being. She took some wonderful photos of the castle and Merlin’s Cave.
All in all it wasn’t a bad month, with 149.27 miles in total. Ive made it through Devon and into Cornwall, home seems so close I can almost taste it. With four months left if 2016 it remains to be seen whether I will get there before the end of the year.
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