Devon & North Cornwall
Extremities don't come more edgy than Hartland Point. It is the place where
the soft shires of England seem to finally give way to the ravages of the
Atlantic. Where the Anglo Saxon gives way to the Celtic. Where the
Westcountry musters and hunches its massive shoulder to the wilderness of
Basic Hike: when the foot and mouth restrictions are over take
route from Hartland Point to Blackpool Mill and back via inland paths. For
now though, an excellent walk can be enjoyed heading east to East Fattacott
Farm and back via the Coast Path.
Recommended Map: Ordnance Survey Explorer 126.
Hartland Point is one of the region's great corners. A single glimpse at a
map of the Westcountry will reveal it in a trice, for it is the northern
apex of the peninsula's vast triangle.
You approach the charming little town of Hartland thinking you must be close
to the famous Point, when a sign tells you that there are still five more
long miles to go.
Note that all maps on this site are only indicative.
You should never set out without the correct OS map.
And so you drive on, forever westward, until you see the breathtaking view
from the car park at Hartland Point. Well worth the entry price compared
with some of the region's other parking spots. From which other car park
will you see seals frolicking and doing whatever seals do, from the comfort
of your vehicle?
You can at Hartland, although a good pair of binoculars are advisable as the
seals are a long, long way below.
An interpretation board greets the walker heading off towards the Point, and
the first thing you learn is that the narrow road down to the lighthouse is
out of bounds to the public. You also learn that Hartland Point is further
away from a railway station than any other place in Devon, and that it marks
the beginning - or end - of the Bristol Channel.
Basically this walk follows the Coast Path south along Blagdon and then
Upright Cliff, before crossing the deep valley to cut inland of the strange
spur called Smoothlands. Then proceed around Blegberry to Blackpool Mill
where a footpath climbs inland above Berryhill Wood to the lane at Markadon.
Here a track sets off across the fields north to the farm at Blegberry where
another lane leads east and then north down into the deep coombe so that it
can join the bridleway that eventually climbs back up to Blagdon Farm, which
is more-or-less where you began.
Sounds complicated but a glance at Ordnance Survey's Explorer Map 126 will
clarify the route and show you just how simple it is.
We walked out to the Point and, rather dangerously - so we cannot recommend
it to readers - scrambled out onto the high rocks above the lighthouse. Do
not even think about this detour if you suffer the slightest twinge of
You'll see one of the biggest shipwrecks in the region, lying on its side
just to the west of the Point. The entire stern section of the cargo ship
Joanna is just underneath the cliffs and you can gaze down at the massive
superstructure and wonder at the power of the waves that hurled this mighty
thing to its destruction.
A quarter of a mile along the shore you will see the bow section, with a
single mast pointing like a forlorn and accusative finger at the sea that
did for it. The Joanna foundered here on 31st December 1982 within hailing
distance of the lighthouse. As a New Year treat her crew got a helicopter
ride on a chopper from Chivenor. The three officers were later taken off by
the Clovelly lifeboat.
She was carrying wheat to Barry in South Wales when she came to grief, so
you'd think they might call this Wheat Bay. I say that because the great
sweeping bight east of Hartland Point is for some reason called Barley Bay.
It was around this that we then walked to National Trust owned land at East
Titchberry. Here there's another impressive indentation in the cliff-lined
coast, called Shipload Bay. Exactly which ship and which load, no one has
been unable to establish: you can take your choice from hundreds of vessels
wrecked in these parts.
After all, Hartland Point was, for centuries, known as "The Sailors' Grave".
The first documented wreck around here occurred in 1321 and since then the
razor rocks, have been piling them high with regular monotony. Man himself
was responsible for a good many of the sinkings: in the First World War this
was a favourite hunting ground for German U-boats and between 1914 and 18 no
fewer than 268 vessels were sunk by the Wolf Pack in the Bristol Channel -
the majority in the vicinity of Hartland Point.
After walking the basic route described we headed back north wondering
what the giant 150-foot mushroom is doing perched on top of North Cliff. The
folk flying large aeroplanes many thousands of feet above know more about
this than walkers - it is part of the country's air-traffic-control network
guiding the airliners in from the Atlantic.
The mushroom, and the old lighthouse hundreds of feet below, somehow
underline the impression that you are very much on the edge of things out
here on the very edges of Devon.
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Devon & North Cornwall