I have had a serious re-think of my use of ferries to cross rivers and estauries on my walking route around the coast of Great Britain. When I was walking the South West Coast Path, the official path route advised on the use of ferries to cross over rivers and estauries. At the time I had no intention to walk around the whole of the coastline of Great Britain and thus made use of these ferries. Now that I have set myself the challenge of walking the entire coastline, I have had serious concerns about the ethos of using these ferries in my challenge. To this end I have decided that the sections of coastline in Dorset, Devon, Cornwall, Merseyside and Lancashire where I have taken ferries will become VOID. I will therefore walk around all rivers and estauries to their nearest bridging point to ensure I have walked a complete and full section of my walking record.
This will involve some additional 300+ additional miles which I will do as one-day walks over the next 12 month period.
The Ferries in question relate to :
Dorset: Sandbanks (Poole) to South Haven Point (26 miles COMPLETED)
Devon: Starcross – Exmouth (15 miles COMPLETED)
Devon: Teignmouth – Shaldon Beach (2 miles COMPLETED)
Devon: Kingswear to Dartmouth (24 miles COMPLETED)
Devon: East Portlemouth – Salcombe (13 miles COMPLETED)
Devon: Bantham – Bigbury-on-Sea (9 miles COMPLETED)
Devon: Wembury to Noss Mayo (11 miles COMPLETED)
Cornwall: Plymouth – Cremyll (24 miles COMPLETED)
Cornwall: Fowey – Polruan (16 miles COMPLETED)
Cornwall: St. Anthony – St. Mawrs – Falmouth (55 miles approx)
Cornwall: Helford Passage – Helford Village (8 miles approx)
Cornwall: Rock- Padstow (15 miles COMPLETED)
Merseyside: Birkenhead – Liverpool (48 miles COMPLETED)
Lancashire: Fleetwood to Knott End (15 miles COMPLETED)
After completing the Salcombe to East Portlemouth walk earlier in the day I decided I would complete the last of my Devon “Use of Ferries” walks and certainly my shortest!
From Kingsbridge I drove around to Teignmouth and parked close to the beach. I remember when I first walked through here before and just jumped onto an available ferry for the very short distance across the mouth of the River Teign, today I did the same. I spoke to the ferry man and recognised him from 5 years ago. The return walk from Shaldon back to Teignmouth was simply to follow the road a short distance to the bridge over the River Teign and follow a footpath that kept close to the river and through the streets of Teignmouth back to the car. After only 30 minutes of walking the walk was complete.
Distance today = 2 miles
Total distance = 4,686 miles
After a comfortable night in my AirBnB I decided to make an early start. Fortunately, todays walk was not going to be as tough as yesterday’s was, both in distance and amount of ascent. After clearing the overnight frost off my car I set out on the 12 miles to Kingsbridge, at the end of the Kingsbridge Estuary. I parked in the long stay car park, which only cost £2 for the whole day.
The first three miles were along quiet lanes and I did not meet a single car on my walk into Salcombe. It was very cold though and it took some time for me to warm up. An immediate descent and ascent from the car park, reminded of yesterdays walk. I was aiming for the first ferry of the day, which was at 08:00; unfortunately I arrived at the ferry quay at 08:05. However, I could see that there had been no 08:00 ferry with the boat tied up and covered in condensation and thin ice. The official time for the next boat was 08:30. The sun was now burning off some of the freezing fog. A fellow passenger appeared at the jetty and shortly afterwards the ferryman. With two people on board we set off across the Estuary for the short journey to East Portlemouth.
I set off along the small lane running alongside the estuary and heading for the hamlet of Goodshelter. Here I used stepping-stones to cross over Waterhead Creek and then begin the long steep climb up a unmetalled road over an 84m unnamed hill towards South Pool . The small village of South Pool boasted a number of signs indicating when and how many times it had been awarded Best Kept Village in the district. It was certainly very well-kept. I stayed on the road for a few more miles and had to deal with the occasional traffic on the really tight width lanes. I reached Frogmore and the A379, here I had a decision to make. I could stay on the main road for the remaining 3 miles into Kingsbridge or I could follow a unmetalled road also into Kingsbridge taking a slightly longer, but quieter route. The decision really was made for me, as there were no pavements even in the village and the road was quite busy. I opted for the higher and slightly longer route. The unmetalled road rose to a height of 104m and provided an excellent viewpoint south to Salcombe and the early morning walk. In no time I was descending to a small river flowing into the estaury, however, it also meant a very steep climb back up to 70m and a final descent down into Kingsbridge.
Quit an enjoyable walk particularly the latter stages and even though there was over 900m of ascent I was still pretty fresh when I had finished.
Distance today = 13 miles
Total distance = 4,684 miles
It had been a while since I had completed one of my “Use of Ferries” walks. Just as a reminder, these are walks to fill in the gaps created where I had previously used ferries on my coastal walk. So in order to do a complete walk around the coast of Great Britain I needed to walk around the estuaries (to the first bridging point) where I had taken the ferry.
I decided on an overnight stay in Totnes in order to get two full walking days in. A very early start from Shropshire saw me arriving in Dartmouth at 6:30 in the morning. As this was still the “Low Season” I was able to park for free on the North Embankment of the River Dart.
I walked along the quay towards the Lower Ferry. Dartmouth was very quiet at this time of the morning as I headed for the first ferry of the day. The ferry had an unusual arrangement, it consisted of a large pontoon with a deck for passengers and cars also an engine within the pontoon. A small tug was attached to the pontoon which guided/steered the pontoon.
I set off on a footpath sandwiched between the River Dart and the railway track, this was the Dart Trail which I would be on and off for most of the day around to Totnes and back to Dartmouth. I soon arrived at the Higher Ferry which had a much bigger vessel operating and was much busier. I transferred onto the road and had to negotiate some disembarking early morning ferry traffic, before climbing very steeply up Hoodown Hill. The Trail crossed over the ferry road and dropped down to a rough pathway around the contours of Oakhem Hill. At this point I left the Dart Trail and cut across country to the boatyard quay near Galmpton.
After taking a footpath which climbed up through a grassy field, I joined a road, which had occasional traffic. I passed through the small hamlet of Waddeton, which had some lovely examples of thatched Devon cottages painted in the popular light pink shade. I continued onto the small village of Stoke Gabriel, where I could see a lot of new building work going on. I headed out of the village making for the small settlement of Aish, along what are termed “Unmetalled Roads”, basically just farm tracks. I would be using a number of these tracks over the rest of the day and which have the added benefit of having no traffic on them – although two off-road motor bikes did pass me on one section. Soon after leaving Aish I continued down another Unmetalled road which would take me all the way to Totnes, the first bridging point over the River Dart.
After popping into a local Spar shop for some food and drink I crossed over the bridge over The Dart and continued along the Dart Trail. At various points the Trail path made descents down towards the river before re-joining the cycleway. Although only about 200m away, I decided to stay on the cycle path as it maintained a level height and offered more expansive views down the Dart Estuary. It had become increasingly hot with the midday sun, which was quite amazing for late March. The cycle path passed onto the Sharpham Estate and descended into the charming village of Ashprington, with its striking church and quaint village pub.
The road out of Ashprington dropped down to Perchwood Creek, one of the arms of the Dart Estuary. I was able to take a short-cut across the Harborne River by means of stepping-stones that still had their tops above the water level. I passed through the village of Tuckenhay and decided to divert, again, away from the Dart Trail and take a very steep unmetalled road on a direct route to the village of Cornworthy.
After leaving Cornworthy, the drive, the heat, the distance and the amount of ascent and descent were beginning to take their toll. I now decided to look for a much more direct way back to Dartmouth, which was easier said than done! I continued on through typical Devon lanes which had vertical embankments and no verges, so nowhere to go should you meet a car other than to lean back into the bank! Which I had to do on a few occasions!
I decided to give the village of Dittisham a miss and took a slightly different route, opting to go through the hamlets of Kingston, Downton and Old Creek before joining up with the Dart Trail again and climbing up yet another steep road into Townstal on the outskirts of Dartmouth. I was relieved to join the main road down into Dartmouth and my car. I had seriously under-estimated the amount of ascent/descent the walk would involve. [On my return home I plotted my route out and was amazed to find that the total ascent of the route was 6110 feet (1905m)!! Thats two good-sized Munro’s!]
I headed back into Totnes, where my AirBnB was located.
Distance today = 24 miles
Total distance = 4,671 miles
One of the things I have learned in walking the coast, is to not be governed by doing the maximum walking distance in a single day. Sometimes it is sensible to walk between sections that have reasonable transport links,even if that means walking a much shorter distance; and so this was to be such a day. Of course the opposite can also be required, that is, walking a much longer section to bridge any public transport gaps.
Leaving my hotel at 5:15 in the morning I dumped my bags in the car, which I would leave in Great Yarmouth, and head for the bus station to catch the 06:02 #1 bus to Lowestoft. Surprisingly, the bus was quite busy, with most people off to work in Lowestoft. I left the bus station in Lowestoft and headed down the High Street towards the bridge over the Inner Harbour. Here I turned left and headed alongside the Waveney Dock, the Hamilton Dock and on through a run down industrial area. I emerged near a single wind turbine at Ness Point, the most easterly point of the UK.
I carried on along a sea wall until Gunton Downs where the sea wall stopped and I continued over short grassy dunes towards another sea wall. With the tide in I could see there may be issues with continuing along the beach. I spoke to a local who said I could get around the headland that I was approaching, but further along the coast I would need to climb up the cliff face by means of a set of steep metal steps into Corton. This I did and emerged on a road running through the village. As I left the village I attempted to get back to the cliff top footpath, however, a warning sign, advised that the footpath had no through route because of cliff falls. I continued along the road and took another footpath heading towards Corton Cliffs. Again I met warning signs of no through route, but chose to ignore them, following a well trodden path on the fringe of a holiday camp. I could see recent cliff falls and the erection of new fencing. It seems that many others were still using the cliff-top path. When I came to an old firing range I thought I would struggle to find a way through, but I could see that other walkers I had simply walked around the perimeter. Indeed I soon meet a dog walker who said I would have no problem getting onto Hopton, my next destination.
I was soon descending into Hopton-On-Sea with Great Yarmouth visible in the distance. With the tide still in I opted to walk along the cliff-top, but soon had a choice to make; continue along a narrow strip of sand that was very soft or follow an alternative footpath alongside the adjacent golf course. I chose the landward footpath, which emerged at the south end of Gorleston-on-Sea. Here I transferred back to the sea wall, which continued onto the mouth of the River Yare. Stopping only for cup of coffee on the sea wall I was soon walking the quays of the River Yare on the opposite side to Great Yarmouth. The remainder of the walk was along busy roads heading towards the Haven Bridge and the end of the walk.
Distance today = 12 miles
Total distance = 4,647 miles
No walks in March so far, so I needed to get out again even if it meant doing a short two-dayer to Norfolk. The weather was looking good, so after sorting out my accommodation out, I was ready to go.
I made an early start from Shropshire to get a full days walking in and to beat the early morning commuter traffic. A large part of my journey is now along the A14 and unfortunately there is about a 10 mile set of road works around Cambridge which will mean future delays into 2020…. oh joy!
I still had a slight issue with public transport for the start of the walk, but I used my bicycle to get around this. I drove to and parked in the small market town of Stalham. I then used my bicycle to cycle the four miles along empty roads to the start of my walk at Sea Palling. The last time I was at Sea Palling it was very frosty and foggy and today could not have been more different with the sun still rising and excellent visibility.
I could see that the tide was well in as I set off down the coast. Fortunately, the first half mile was along the steps of the sea wall. At the end of the sea wall and with some beach now available, I tried walking along the beach, but the sand was too soft and hard going. I reverted to the footpath through the dunes which also gave me good views inland as well as out to sea.
Near Horsey Gap I noticed a single seal watching me about 40m away in the water. I took a few photos and continued on. However, when I got over the next dune I could not believe my eyes! I spotted hundreds of grey seals lying on the beach taking in the early morning sun. They were all different colours, shapes and sizes. It was an absolutely amazing sight. I soon came across another larger colony numbering about 500. I thought that was it, but I came across multiple colonies over the next two miles. There were probably about 1500 to 2000 seals stretched out over the beach. I had never seen so many seals before in a single place! I kept my distance, staying on the footpath through the dunes, not wishing to disturb them. I did ‘spook’ a couple of groups who made for the water, but most just kept a careful eye on me. I think I had the privilege of witnessing this, because no one else was around. I did not linger and by the time I reached the Nature Reserve at Winterton Dunes there were no more seals.
I transferred down onto the beach and spent the next 6 miles walking along the shoreline, having found a ‘sweet-spot’ just by the water’s edge that was firm, level and dry. I passed-by the coastal settlements of Winterton, Hemsby, Scratby, California and Caister-on-Sea without seeing any of them, which often happens when you stay on the beach. After the lifeboat station at Caister I started walking along the top of the sea defences and into the northern area of Great Yarmouth. The sea wall gave way to tarmac and I continued along the promenade. I last visited the town in 1978 for a job interview and had once flown out by helicopter to a drilling rig offshore from Great Yarmouth.
I continued down the promenade, passing a couple of piers and the usual seaside paraphernalia. I soon left that behind and walked into the more industrialised part of the town, given over to offshore oil and gas work. Set right in amidst this industrial area was Nelson’s Monument – a high column with Britannia perched on the top and built between 1817 – 19 to commemorate Norfolk’s favourite son. I continued down to South Denes and came to a manned security barrier which prohibited me from walking around the tip of the peninsula. I turned down a side road which brought me out on a road now leading north and following the River Yare. It was difficult to get close to the river as heavy security fencing blocked off access to the river and the numerous berths. I then caught sight of something you don’t often now see, a Gasometer – basically a gas storage tank that rises and falls with the amount gas pumped into it. What made this Gasometer so special was the intricate metal finials on the support framework, very impressive. I headed along a road towards the Haven bridge which crossed over the River Yare and here I ended my walk today.
However, this was not the end of my day as I still had to catch a #6 bus back to Stalham and pick my car up and then drive the short distance to Sea Palling to pick up my bicycle. It was then a case of driving into Great Yarmouth and checking into my hotel for the night.
Distance today = 21 miles
Total distance = 4,635 miles