Walk - Whalesborough Farm- The Kingfisher Walk
Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2020. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
Keep an eye open for the occasional blue kingfisher waymarks on this walk.
- From the cafe and wildlife centre at The Weir walk down the lane towards the A39 road. Just beyond the fishing lake turn left through the parking area and along the path to reach the Bude Canal.
The canal was opened in 1823. It was primarily constructed to carry sea sand from Bude to help fertilise the acidic soils inland. It also served to bring in coal and timber and take out agricultural goods. It ceased operating as a means of transport in 1900, its trade largely destroyed by the railway. However, it retains a number of important historic features and is regarded as being of considerable heritage importance. Look out for the plaque next to the canal which commemorates the improvement works carried out here in 2008 under the auspices of the Bude Canal Partnership, a group of local bodies and councils, with EU financial help.
The waterway on the right is the River Neet, while the canal itself, supplemented here by another river, the Strat, comes under the road bridge. The two rivers helped provide the canal's water supply.
- Continue along the towpath ahead.
The path passes a piece of public art, depicting giant chain links. The inscription “Skathow Kibel” means “tub boats” in the Celtic Cornish language. Tub boats, small vessels shaped a little like a bath tub, were the means of transporting goods on the canal.
A little further on the path passes a weir which marks the exit of the River Neet from the canal. Note the fish pass alongside the weir.
Keep on along the towpath.
This is ideal kingfisher territory. If you are lucky, you may see one sitting on a branch, intent on the water below. From here it will dart into the canal, a flash of blue and gold, to pluck a fish from the water. It then returns to its branch, often stunning the fish by beating it on the branch before swallowing it.
A little further on, the towpath reaches Whalesborough Lock.
The lock was renovated in 2008. It raised and lowered the water level by 5'6” (1.6m). It is one of the few locks on the canal, the boats mostly being raised and lowered on inclined planes.
- Walk a short way beyond the lock then, just before the next piece of canal-side public art, leave the towpath and follow the path on the left through reeds and rushes.
The inscription on the artwork reads “Gwydhyel”, Cornish for “wooded”, descriptive of the local scene.
A boardwalk crosses a marshy area of reeds and rushes and then on to a path along the bottom of a shallow valley alongside relatively recently planted trees.
The combination of wetland and woodland makes a good wildlife habitat and is the home of a variety of birds, including warblers and barn owls, as well as butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies. The trees were planted as part of a large-scale habitat improvement scheme by the Whalesborough landowners in 2001.
- Keep to the valley bottom until the path meets a hedge running into the valley next to a tributary stream. Follow the hedge left for a short distance then quickly turn right through a gap and across the tributary stream. On the far side bear left then right, to continue parallel to the main valley.
This quiet and remote valley flows into the valley of the River Neet to the east. Evidence of otters has been recorded here. Otters were close to extinction in England comparatively recently, though they never completely left areas such as North Cornwall. Quiet locations such as this are ideal for these shy creatures.
After descending back to the valley bottom the path climbs again then turns right through a gap in the hedge and on to arrive at the coast road (Marine Drive) next to a house. Cross the road to arrive at the South West Coast Path.
The house just behind is called Trevose View and if it is very clear it may be possible to see Trevose Head and its lighthouse many miles away to the south-west. More likely to be visible is the distinctive triangular shape of Cambeak, a headland near Crackington Haven, and beyond that the flat-topped Tintagel Island, home of its famous castle.
- Turn left along the Coast Path. It crosses a little valley then, with Widemouth Bay now visible ahead, reaches the top of a descent.
Widemouth Bay (pronounced “widmouth”) is very popular with surfers. It has a range of facilities including a shop, pub and seasonal toilets and refreshments.
- Do not descend towards Widemouth Bay but leave the Coast Path here, turning left to reach the coast road. Cross the road and walk along the track opposite.
This is a superb length of easy walking with extensive views stretching from Widemouth Bay to the village of Marhamchurch ahead, its church tower acting as a historic landmark for sailors.
Follow the track as it swings left then right then continues ahead, finally descending towards Whalesborough Farm.
- Approaching the farm, bear right along a gravel path. Follow this around the outside of the farm complex, descending to its main access track.
The farmhouse of Whalesborough can be seen to the left. Most of the outbuildings have been converted to high quality holiday accommodation. This is an ancient location, being mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 as “Walesbrau”. It may well date from times when this area was a border between Saxon England and Celtic Cornwall, as the name seems to be Old English for “foreign (ie Cornish) hill”.
- Turn right along the main access track to return to The Weir.