WALK: FROM CLIFF TO COOMBE
PUBLISHED: 11:23 25 December 2015 | UPDATED: 12:56 30 August 2017
Discover one of the most striking coastal locations along the National Trust coastal path at Duckpool
From Duckpool, a spectacular section of the Coastpath takes you to Sandymouth beach, and then you can meander back through a wooded valley and a charming hamlet, writes ROWENA MILLAR
Duckpool is one of the most striking coastal locations you could wish to discover. The boulder-strewn beach, with its sandy centre at low tide, is flanked by steep-sided hills studded with maritime wildflowers in spring and summer. The first section of your walk to nearby Sandymouth takes about 45 minutes at an easy pace along breathtaking cliffs, with some strenuous climbs and downhill scrambles.
1 Climb the stile to the cliff path on your left as you face the sea behind the beach at Duckpool. There is a lifting post to allow dogs through, but keep dogs under close control near the cliff edge. After crossing a wooden bridge over a stream, climb steeply up the narrow path. As you look back, against the horizon on the opposite cliffs you can see the white, mushroom-like structures of the GCHQ MorwenstowSatellite TrackingStation known as Cleave Camp. Ahead, on a clear day, there are distant southward views of rocky headlands (Foxhole Point, Dizzard Point, Pencarrow Point and Cambeak Point). Changing your focus to the flowers at your feet, look for clumps of soft-furred kidney vetch (usually with yellow petals, but sometimes found in unusual colours here) and the purple, thistle-like heads of sheeps-bit. In early August, big white mushrooms spring up from the close-cropped turf, mirroring the distant satellite dishes. If it’s sunny, you will notice butterflies and day moths including the dainty common blue and the vivid black and red burnet moth.
Watch for loose stones and dangerous cliff edges. Below, jagged reef formations formed from eroded, tilted rock strata stand in line amidst foaming waves. At Warren Gutter, a cleft in the hills offers impressive views of the rocky shore. Between climbs, little wooden bridges allow you to cross narrow streams that cut across the path.
2 As you approach Sandymouth, there is a stile at the bottom of the dip and an acorn sign where you should bear right. The grassy path to the beach is easy walking. At Sandymouth the National Trust café and toilets are open from the Easter holidays to the end of the summer season, and you can relax on the beach.
3 For the inland return journey, take the narrow road uphill from Sandymouth beach, watching out for vehicles. Pass the National Trust marked public bridleway, unless you prefer to take a short cut left via Stowe Barton, a farm built from the remains of the once magnificent Stowe house, historic residence of the Grenville family.
4 Pass the Sandymouth Holiday Park entrance and Houndapitt Farm, then at the T junction, carefully cross the road and take the right hand turn signposted Kilkhampton 2¼’. Walk along the verge for about 100 metres until you reach a public footpath next to a private lane. Take the footpath and climb over a stile leading to a pleasant wildflower meadow. Here you can stroll along a mown path, with thatched and slate-roofed dwellings to your right. At the end of the meadow, go through a gap in the hedge. Take the waymarked lane overhung by small trees, which starts with a gentle slope, followed by steep steps to a wooden bridge over a stream in woodland. The scene is damp and verdant and the narrow stream has carved a deep channel through mud and shale.
Take the left fork by two conjoined trees, rather than the uphill path. You will come to a sign saying Stibb Wood’ at a crossroads. Go left through the wood-fence pedestrian gateway and take the wide track to your left past a small pool and onwards down to the riverside.
5 You are now in Stowe Woods. You will come to a junction of gravel paths. Turn right down a gentle slope on the wider path and over a stone bridge. At the wooden signpost, take the route marked Public footpath canal and coast walk Coombe and Duckpool 1m’. This is a pleasant, easy walk through Lee Wood with the relaxing sound of water flowing under trees behind lush vegetation to your left. Dragonflies swoop across the path, while bumblebees and butterflies such as the peacock, painted lady and various fritillaries feed on a colourful array of flowers.
6 A little wooden gate leads to the last leg of your journey through the hamlet of Coombe, owned by the Landmark Trust and known for its pretty thatched cottages. Cross the ford on a quaint, wooden pedestrian bridge. Coombe Mill and its barns are important as a breeding and hibernation site for some of Britain’s rarest protected bat species, including lesser and greater horseshoe bats. Emerging onto the road turn left, then right, following signs back down the narrow lane to Duckpool beach, admiring flowers such as honeysuckle and toadflax in the hedgebanks, but watching out for cars as you go.
Back at Duckpool, you can watch the sea after the exertion of your walk. You might notice rock pipits with streaked plumage fluttering and hopping among the wave-worn pebbles where the stream meets the beach. Just out of reach of the incoming tide, plants such as thrift and sea mayweed form natural rock gardens.
GOOD TO KNOW
Park at Duckpool (National Trust car park: pay if not a member). EX23 9JN; grid ref: SS202117, or take the Western Greyhound 530 from Bude; call (01637) 871871 for details. [double check before printing, in case an update is needed]
Distance: roughly 8km (five miles)
Difficulty: Strenuous then moderate. Wear walking boots. Suitable for older, accompanied children and dogs under close control.
Terrain: Clifftop path and footpaths through meadow and woodland. Short sections of road. Steps and stiles, some mud in the woodland.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
• Views of Cleave Camp satellite tracking station.
• Views of rocky headlands, rocky shoreline and beaches.
• Clifftop grassland with abundant flowers and butterflies in summer.
• Wildlife-rich woodlands.
• Attractive hamlet with built and natural heritage at Coombe village.
Refreshments and toilets:
There is a beach café at Sandymouth, open from the Easter holidays to the end of the summer season, 10am to 5pm. There are toilets at Duckpool and Sandymouth.