Section 2 - Jamaica Inn to Boscastle.
Distance: 16 miles Grade - Strenuous Walking on open moorland for 8 miles with two severe climbs - thereafter moderate and mainly downhill to the coast - what these grades mean
Five dramatic tors stand between you and the northern end of the moor this morning. Starting with a brisk climb over Tolborough Tor, the route gets more and more remote as all signs of habitation disappear and Brown Willy, Cornwall’s highest point, looms above you. Caves in this area were once used by smugglers to hide their contraband in amongst the bronze age settlements and dramatic rocky outcrops.
You pass to the left of the source of River Fowey before a final climb for the rocky Tor above. The ascent, on The Smugglers Way, is steep and short, through heather and boulders. The reward - fantastic views from the summit over Cornwall. You can also spot the deep valley you need to cross before a second ascent this time to Rough Tor (pronounced Row, like Cow.)
To reach this slightly lower Tor, pick your way through an amazing array of stone pillars and rock sculptures - a surreal and unearthly landscape that feels as old as the planet itself. Unbelievably this was the site of a medieval chapel to St Michael, what remains of it now holds a memorial to the 43rd Wessex Division of the British Army, though one wonders how many people make it here to read the inscription.
From the top you drop through more holed and twisted rock piles crossing Little Rough Tor and then to the impressive stack at Showery Tor, site of an ancient chieftain’s burial mound. Views right over the entire north Cornwall coastline to the South West Coast Path route are superb and, if you love Cornwall, this is the place to be to feel at the very point that this ancient land, stretching out below you in its full glory, meets the heavens!
An open moorland section skirting forestry on the lower slopes leads to the bizarre Lanlavery Rock formation, a sudden escarpment which is only revealed as you are about to tumble over it. This lonely spot was at one time a popular outing for local church groups and schools.
For those looking for real adventure keep your eyes open here as it’s in this area that many of the 60 or so reported sightings of a big cat on Bodmin Moor have been made. Mutilated bodies of sheep are regularly found on the moor here and we must add that there were a least 4 when we last walked through.
The moor is suddenly interrupted by the huge expanse of Davidstow Airport.
Built by the Americans as a WW2 bomber airbase, after the war it was used to hold 3 Formula One races in the 1950’s. Cross the bunkers and underground bomb dump bays before arriving at the ever-extending potholed runway. It’s a strange bit of walking as you stroll alone along over a mile of weed covered tarmac in the middle of nowhere. At the northern end, old buildings remain desolate and abandoned - we had lunch within the second floor of the Control Tower with 20 sheep for company who have gratefully taken up residence here. Ultimately it is a desolate location and sweeping fog finished both flying and racing, but if the mists do lift you may well still see take offs from the glider club which still uses the site. Exiting this unusual site beside some of the hangers now used by the farmer for hay you meet the road and pass the Davidstow Airport Museum, well worth a visit for those who want to know more about this unusual spot.
The Coast to Coast route now starts its rapid descent to the North Cornwall Coast, firstly on road, before crossing rough pasture and patches of ancient woodland that held plenty of wild and surprised deer on our last walk here. A tranquil river section follows before you climb to pass right through the hidden Norman churchyard at Lesneweth with its ancient Celtic Cross - one of those true remote Cornish Villages that only the residents and those walking this route will ever discover.
The final stage of The Smugglers Way joins the beautiful, wooded Valency Valley, leading you through a heavenly run of waterfalls and deep pools framed by ancient woods on route to the sea. This powerful watercourse was responsible for the dramatic flash flooding that decimated lower Boscastle in 2004. For literary fans, just off the route is St Juliot's Church, where Thomas Hardy spent many months overseeing the Church restoration in 1872 and met his wife Emma Gifford, the rector’s sister-in-law. His novel ‘A Pair of Blue Eyes’ covers much of this area and as you follow his “leaf covered aisle” down to Boscastle, look out for a flat slab of rock in the centre of the river just after the Minster Footbridge, this is where Thomas and Emma were picnicking as they courted and dropped a tumbler in the water recounted in the poem 'Under The Waterfall.'
Emerging in Boscastle, it’s a short amble through the town to the stunning natural harbour here, a fjord like cleft in the cliffs. The village is a fantastic place to explore and has excellent facilities. Make the most of them for this is the crossroads for those heading off onto the rugged South West Coast Path further west towards Tintagel, Padstow or north east towards Bude and the border with Devon near Morwenstow.