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Joan and Mike Long on the coast path
Blowing away the cobwebs at Mortehoe
By Jo Bishop
As part of BBC Radio Devon's 25th anniversary celebrations, listeners Joan and Mike Long take us on their favourite walk at Mortehoe, in north Devon.
Listening to the radio en route to Mortehoe, I had a sinking feeling. It wasn't simply that the forecast wasn't very good, there were warnings about severe weather, storm force gales and heavy rain.
All along the North Devon link road the elements gave of their worst and I seriously thought our walk would have to be called off.
Looking back to Mortehoe on a stormy day
But approaching the coast, Mortehoe seemed to be in a little weather window all of its own. Although it was undoubtedly very windy, the rain had stopped and the mist had lifted.
I met up with Mike and Joan in the village car park - they're members of the Ramblers Association and Joan is chairman of the North Devon group, so walking is a favourite pastime for both - whatever the weather.
It was on with the windcheaters, hoods up and we were away.
Short or long – you decide
Mike, who was nursing a sprained ankle, set off to get a head start, so it was down to Joan to outline the walk and why they had selected it.
"Well it's quite close to home, and it's an exhilarating section of the South West Coast Path, which is the world's best," she said.
"I've always lived in north Devon. And it's somewhere that we can come whether it's a short evening walk, or whether it's part of a longer day walk.
Pretty St Marys Church
"A lot of it is on National Trust land, so there are several paths. You can tailor the walk to the time you've got available and to the weather."
We turned left out of the car park, past the Smuggler's Rest, and on towards the church of St Marys, stopping to admire its pretty lychgate, roofed with local slate.
The route to the coast is uphill passing the church on the left, along an attractive walled lane, again made using local slate.
This shortly levels out towards the cemetery and then proceeds through some impressive looking gates, which were given, along with the land, by the Chichester family of nearby Arlington.
The most prominent point
Soon we were rewarded with views towards Morte Point and along the coastline. And having caught up with Mike, he was keen to show off the fantastic scenery opening up before us.
"It's a brilliant view from out there because it's the only point on this coast that you can actually see beyond it to all the other points," he said.
The stunning coastline near Bull Point
"It sticks out the furthest, so you can see back to Baggy and Hartland one way, and Ilfracombe the other. And on a clear day, if you know where to look, you can see right across to County Wexford. It's an absolutely brilliant view."
It certainly was, and so too was the stunning gorse, about which Joan had a saying: "When the gorse is out kissing is in, so they say. I believe there's more than one type of gorse, so there is gorse out all the year. So kissing is in all the year, isn't it!"
Joan also had some interesting information about lighthouses, telling me that each one has a unique lighting sequence: "So you know exactly where you are in the UK if you have learnt them all by the sequence of the time span and the number of flashes," she explained.
Consulting the local guide book, we discovered that nearby Bull Point flashes three times every 10 seconds, Lundy North flashes twice every 20 seconds, Lundy South once every five seconds, and Hartland six times every 15 seconds.
Just a few more to research then!
Wild white horses
As the wind gathered pace and the white horses out to sea become ever wilder, Mike's ankle convinced him it was time to turn back.
There are many routes to the point and the paths are easy to see and follow. With Joan leading the way, we managed to stay out of the worst of the wind until rounding the headland, when it was difficult to remain standing upright.
Clinging on to the rock face and then sheltering the microphone under my jacket, Joan and I just managed a recording discussing the dangers of this jagged coastline, where in one winter alone in the 1850s five ships were lost.
"I think now we're really getting to appreciate how exhilarating it can be in this sort of weather," said Joan above the gales, as the spray from the surf blew in swirls of white around us!
Yes it was a walk that certainly blew the cobwebs away.
last updated: 16/04/2008 at 11:32
Joan and Mike's Mortehoe walk
Start/finish grid reference: SS 458 451
How to get to the start: Mortehoe is off the B3343, between Ilfracombe and Woolacombe.
Distance: 2.5 miles if walking to out Morte Point and back, or can be extended towards Bull Point.
Duration: 1 hour+
Terrain: Tarmac lane and coast path with uneven ground.
Additional information: There are toilets, public houses and shops in the village.
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