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A Wild Flower Fiesta at Bude

A pleasant stroll through coastal heathland where the cliff edges provide a refuge for masses of wild flowers.

Distance 5 miles (8km)

Minimum time 2hrs 30min

Ascent/gradient 262ft (80m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Excellent throughout. The National Trust is carrying out regeneration of some eroded sections; please heed notices

Landscape Coastal cliffs. Keep well back from the cliff edges

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 111 Bude, Boscastle & Tintagel and 126 Clovelly & Hartland

Start/finish SS 204071

Dog friendliness Dogs on lead through grazed areas

Parking Crooklets Beach Car Park. Follow signs for Crooklets. Large pay-and-display car park, can be very busy in summer

Public toilets Crooklets Beach and Sandy Mouth

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1 Go towards the beach, cross a bridge and head for some steps. Pass in front of beach huts, then turn left along a stony track between walls. Go up some steps and onto the coast path, signposted 'Maer Cliff'.

2 Go through a gate and along a track behind a white building, called the Bungalow. Bear off to the left, by a signpost, down a path to the sea at Northcott Mouth beach. From here, bear right along a track that will take you back inland, past a group of houses on the left, and continue uphill to pass some more houses.

3 Where the track bends round to the right, leave it and keep straight ahead to a gate. Keep outside the left edge of the overgrown bridle path ahead.

4 Reach a field gate and follow a track through fields. Keep left at a junction with another track, then continue to a T-junction with a public road. Turn left and walk down the road, with care, to Sandy Mouth.

5 Pass the National Trust information kiosk and descend towards the beach, then go left and uphill and follow the coast path back to Northcott Mouth beach, and a red lifeguard hut passed earlier.

6 Follow the roadside path just past the lifeguard hut and retrace your steps to the white Bungalow passed earlier. Go along the track behind the building and then keep ahead along a broad track with a field hedge on your left.

7 At a field corner by a footpath sign go through the gate ahead then turn left and follow the field edge into a hedged-in path. Continue between trees to a lane by a house at Rosemerrin. Continue to a road.

8 Turn right along the road, with Maer Lake Nature Reserve down to your left. Cross at a junction with Maer Down Road, go left, then right, and return to the car park.

The windswept coastal grasslands of North Cornwall seem unlikely havens for plant life, but, around the seaside resort of Bude, the cliff edges especially, provide a unique refuge for fascinating wild flowers. This walk follows the flat cliff land north of Bude with an inland section on the return. Along the way you'll find numerous wild flowers that turn the cliff top into a riot of colour in spring and early summer.

The walk starts from the northern outskirts of Bude at Crooklets Beach and within minutes takes you out onto the cropped grasslands of the National Trust's Maer Cliff and Maer Down. In spring the dominant flower here is the spring squill, whose distinctive powder-blue flowers are dotted across the grass. Other early plants which flourish here are the lilac-coloured early scurvy grass, the pink thrift and white sea-campion. At Northcott Mouth the cliffs give way to a wide stony beach. Here the route of the walk turns inland and climbs steadily uphill to eventually follow the line of an old bridleway, often choked with a tangle of grass and brambles, but with typical hedgrow plants such as foxglove and red valerian poking through.

Soon you reach the road to Sandy Mouth Beach and the cliff path back to Crooklets. Once more there are many wild flowers here. The grass is laced with the yellow and orange flowers of kidney vetch and the yellow heads of hawkweed and, by July, is scattered with the pink and white florets of the aromatic wild carrot. From Crooklets the walk angles inland to a final stroll through an area of typically dense woodland, a dramatic contrast in habitat to the open cliff top. Here primroses and daffodils appear, brightening up the early spring. A mixture of trees such as sycamore, beech, alder, cypress, Scots pine and Corsican pine create a sheltered and moist environment within which plants like the tall yellow flag iris and the lilac-coloured water mint thrive. The last section of the walk leads you past the Maer Lake Nature Reserve, a large area of wetland, that is flooded in winter and is in the care of the Cornwall Wildlife Trust and the Cornwall Birdwatching and Preservation Society. There is no public access to the area from the roadside but you can get an excellent view of the many birds through binoculars.

Where to eat and drink

There is a National Trust seasonal café in an attractive building above Sandy Mouth Beach at the halfway point of the walk. Snacks, teas and ice creams are available. There are a number of beachside cafés at Crooklets Beach. Just across the road from the car park entrance at the start of the walk, the Inn On The Green does good pub lunches.

What to look for

Butterflies that are likely to be seen along the cliffs in summer include the meadow brown, probably Britain's commonest butterfly, its name a perfect description of its dusky colour. Look also for the common blue, a small butterfly with an almost lilac tinge, and for the glamorous painted lady with its tawny-orange wings and black and white markings. The painted lady's main habitat is Southern Spain and North Africa from where large swarms often migrate north in April and May, finding no difficulty in crossings of the English Channel.

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