Walk - Duckpool & Woodford
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.
- From the car park at Duckpool pick up the South West Coast Path on your right as you face the sea, climbing Steeple Point above the tiny rocky cove at Wren Beach and ascending steeply again to Harscott High Cliff.
Steeple Point is a riot of colour in the summer with the bright yellows of bird's-foot trefoil and dandelions, and the pristine white of daisies and speckled sea campions, with purple kidney vetch twining among them and clumps of the pink globes of thrift waving in the sea air.
Birds of prey such as peregrines and kestrels hunt here, and ravens and jackdaws croak overhead. The cliff ledges are home to nesting seabirds such as fulmar and gulls, while grey wagtails strut beside the stream and songbirds such as linnets warble in the bushes.
Like the rest of the coastline between Tintagel and Hartland, Duckpool to Furzey Cove has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for its rocks. Known as the Bude Formation, they are among the youngest rocks of the Upper Carboniferous period, around 280 million years ago. They are of particular interest for the patterns sculpted in them by sand volcanoes and stormy waves in shallow water when they were being formed.
They are also of note for the fossils they contain of marine animals, include fish, crustaceans and ammonoids, which are especially useful for helping geologists date the rocks they where they are found.
- Stay on the Coast Path as it skirts the radar station and hugs the high cliffs, descending steeply to Stanbury Mouth.
The radar station on the hillside above Duckpool is a striking landmark for many miles in every direction. Part of the British signals intelligence service (GCHQ), the station is sited on the former RAF Cleave, a World War Two airfield. The 21 satellite antennae range in size up to a diameter of 30 metres, and together they receive all the main frequency bands.
Operated jointly by the UK and the USA, the station draws its staff from both countries, and its brief is to intercept and analyse signals for the Echelon signals intelligence network. Sometimes known as "Five Eyes", the joint security arrangement operates on behalf of the five signatory states of the 1946 UK-USA Security Agreement, which formalised the intelligence-sharing element of the Atlantic Charter. Signed in 1941, this charter defined the Allied goals for the post-war world. The five signatories of the 1946 agreement include Australia, New Zealand and Canada in addition to the UK and the USA.
- At Stanbury Mouth leave the Coast Path, turning right onto the small path that heads inland alongside the stream. Carry on past the track up the hillside on your left, bearing slightly left above the woodland to follow the path through the heathland ahead, bearing slightly left to go into the field. Once more bear slightly left as you head across the field, to take the path alongside the right-hand hedge in the top field ahead.
- Coming out on the road at Eastaway Manor, carry on along the footpath signed opposite, following it along the right-hand hedge above the manor. Descending gently through the next two fields, cross the stream at the bottom of the first to carry on ahead, and then follow the right-hand hedge in the third field to the lane heading south before you come to the houses at Woodford.
- Turn right on this lane, carrying on ahead to come out on the road by Shears Farm. Turn right on the road and follow it around to the right to take the public footpath signed along the second lane on your right. At the end of the lane continue along the right-hand hedge, going through the hedge at the far end to carry on along the left-hand hedge. Fork right moment later, heading into the trees at Parishpark Wood. Ignore the path on your right a hundred yards beyond and carry on downhill to the stream.
- Fork right to cross the stream and walk to the T-junction just a few yards ahead. Turn right here and follow the path along the right-hand boundary in the trees, bearing sharply left with it as it turns with the stream to follow it roughly south through the woods and on along the lane ahead to the road by the mill.
- On the road turn right, bearing left ahead past the houses and then left again at the junction with the road. At the next junction turn right to walk along the road through Duckpool and back to the beach car park.
When the tide drops, a sandy shore is revealed, and a legion of rock pools which are home to a variety of marine life. Conditions at Duckpool provide a good habitat for insects, including grasshoppers and the common soldier beetles often found in pairs on sea carrot flowers. There are large numbers of the more common moths and butterflies, such as the Meadow Brown, Common Blue, Large White and Small Tortoiseshell, and there are occasional glimpses of migratory species such as the Painted Lady, Clouded Yellow and Red Admiral. Dozens of red-and-black Burnet Moths can be seen on the grassy south-facing slopes in the summer, and one or two Hummingbird Hawk-moths. Duckpool is also known for its glow worms. Look out for them in the hedges on warm summer evenings.