29. Plymouth to Wembury

My last walking day in South Devon and a walk I was looking forward to as this would be my time I had ever visited Plymouth. It was a another beautiful and hot summer day, with not a cloud in the sky.

I parked in Wembury and caught the bus into Plymouth. Although the journey was not long the bus was packed with school children on their way to school in Plymouth. I go off the bus in the centre of Plymouth and made for the Cremyll Ferry terminal in Stonehouse. It is 10 miles to walk through Plymouth around Plymouth Sound, which is not surprising as the path follows many inlets along its way. I head for the old Royal William Yard, a collection of navy Buildings, now opened up to accommodation and shops. The path skirts the buildings with good views across the Narrows to Cremyll and Cornwall.

The Cremyll ferry pier
Looking towards mount Edgecumbe from Royal William Yard
Plymouth Hoe
Looking to Mount Edgcumbe with Drake Island on the left
Some SWCP signpost!
Royal Navy Border patrol vessel
Looking across to Plymouth Hoe from Mount Batten
Looking back to Plymouth
German Navy Frigate No. F216 Schleswig-Holstein

I follow the well signposted SWCP markers to Plymouth Hoe with its beautiful vista across The Sound. Drakes Island in the middle of the Sound catches the eye. There is an amazing amount of history involved in and around Plymouth, far more than be described here! I pass the wharf where the Pilgrim fathers set sail from in 1620. I passed on through the marina and then on through the industrial part of the city to Cattedown. from here I headed for and crossed over the River Plym at the Laira Bridge. I was now heading south for a while passing through the suburb of Oreston and circling around Hooe Lake. I eventually arrived at Mount Batten point and walked around the large fort. From the fort I head south-east again and began to move out of the suburbs and into open country.

I lost my way for a very short time at Staddon Heights around the golf course, but found my way onwards to Fort Bovisand. The next few miles on to Wembury was along low cliffs and very easy walking. Soon Wembury church came into view and I knew my walk would end there. A lovely days walk through a lovely city and shoreline.

Approaching Wembury

Distance today = 13.5 miles
Total distance =   459.5 miles

 

 

 

28. Wembury to Bigbury-on-Sea

Today would turn out to be a very complicated day. My original plan was to drive to Bigbury-on-Sea in my Fiat Doblo, which was also carrying my 50cc moped. I would dump my moped there and then drive around to Wembury. This I did without any hiccups; that is until after a mile from setting off from Wembury I had to cross the River Yealm by means of a ferry. Unfortunately, I could see no sign of the boat or ferryman on the far side. I hung around for about 30 minutes but no joy.

Looking for the ferry across The Yealm

To complicate matters my moped was safely parked up at the end of the walk and to make matters worse about two-thirds along the walk I had to cross the River Erme. Fortunately, the River Erme is fordable at low tide, but I had a time-window to consider now!

Looking across the River Erme at Mothecombe
Crossing the River Erme
Looking back across The Erme at Mothecombe
Above Westcombe Beach
Burgh Island near Bigbury-on-Sea

Ok, my cunning plan was to walk back to the car and drive to a car park at Mothecombe, which sits very close to the River Erme. I would then walk across the Erme and onto Bigbury-on-Sea. I took my boots off to cross the river, which only came just above my ankles in one or two spots. The walk onto to Bigbury was only about 4 miles and quite a pleasant walk in the sunshine. At Bigbury I was able to jump on my moped and then drive it to Noss Mayo, a small hamlet on the River Yealm and about a mile from the ferry landing stage.

So, I parked the moped in Noss Mayo and walked about 8 miles to Mothecombe. The walking was along a well defined and engineered track called the Revelstoke Drive, built by Lord Revelstoke to impress his guests and providing an excellent viewpoint. At Beacon Hill, the Drive turns inland and the SWCP returns to being a footpath, with a few steep up and downs! It is late in the afternoon and when I arrive back at Mothecombe and the River Erme estuary is now at high tide and full of water.

Looking back to the Wembury side of The Yealm, where I had looked for the ferry this morning
On Revelstoke Drive
Back at Mothecombe on the side of the River Erme, now at full tide

It has been quite a challenging day and I am quite pleased how things have turned out. However, at the car I must now change my clothes and head back to Noss Mayo to pick my moped up.

 

Distance today = 15.5 miles
Total distance =   446 miles

 

 

27. East Prawle to Bantham

I drove to the village of Bantham and  left my moped in the car park, £2 for the whole day was not too bad. I then drove in the Doblo around to the village of East Prawle and parked for free around the village green. East Prawle is a lovely village, situated very close to the coast and having a unique and charming pub – The Pigs Nose! Its full of curios and is very interesting.

I set off down the lanes out of East Prawle on what would be a very hot and sunny day. I made my way down to the coast path and turned east. I headed for Prawle Point, the most southerly headland in South Devon. I rounded the point past the Signal Houses, whose purpose is unknown. The path dropped down to the shoreline and snaked between rock formations, up to and past Gammon Head. I kept an eye out for the Cirl Bunting, a small bird unique to this area. I passed tufts of beautiful Sea Pink or Thrift as I rounded Limebury Point and now heading into Salcombe Harbour.

Heading for Prawle Point
Heading to Gammon Head
Approaching Salcombe

This estuary is well served by an all year round ferry between Salcombe and East Portlemouth, the journey is short and costs just £1.50. I head up steep steps, past the Ferry Inn into Salcombe and continue walking along a road south. I walked  around South Sands, where I saw a large sea-tractor which carries passengers out to a boat and which then ferries them into Salcombe. The walk out to and around Bolt Head was wonderful, with steep slopes and rock formations making the walk very interesting.

Crossing over to Salcombe
Steep steps down to the ferry
Tractor ferrying passengers to the ferry
Rounding Bolt Head

The path flattens out onto a very relaxing stretch over Bolberry Down, where I met numerous other walkers. I round Bolt Tail and look down onto the villages of Hope and in the distance Thurlestone. Hope is split into two villages, Inner Hope and Outer Hope. The village is very busy, with people enjoying the hot sunshine on the beach and drinks in the local pub – the Hope and Anchor. The path makes a detour, which is annoying because it seems to send me well out of my way. As I approach Thurlestone I encounter another path diversion. The diversion goes some distance inland. I ignore the signs and climb a few fences past some private houses – big mistake!! I encounter a dead-end, with no way down to the beach and people’s gardens on my right side. I also attract the attention of the occupants, who give me an earful about I should not have come this far! Not my finest hour and embarrassing! They let me through their garden and onto the road beyond. I scuttle off suitably chastised!

Bolberry Down
Looking down to Hope and Thurlestone
Outer Hope
Path to nowhere!!

After passing the golf course, Burgh Island and Bigbury-on-Sea come into view. I walk along easy grassy slopes into Bantham. A fantastic walk, only spoilt by my stupidity in the latter stages!

Distance today = 17.5 miles
Total distance =   430.5 miles

 

 

26. East Prawle to Dartmouth

It was forecast to be a hot and sunny day, as I dropped my moped off in the car park in Dartmouth. Like most public car parks in Devon its free to park mopeds/motorbikes/scooters – as long as you use the designated parking bays. I then drove around to East Prawle where I parked on the rough car park around the village green.

Todays walk would be quite long and with the temperatures forecasted to be quite high I ensured I had enough fluids to see me through. I walked out of the village and descended down to the coastal path. I headed below The Torrs (cliffs that mark the early Pleistocene cliff-line). I walked past Woodcombe Point and into Lannacombe Bay. There were not many people out on the beach yet, as I continued on along The Narrows and out towards the Lighthouse at Start Point. I followed the minor road that leads away from the lighthouse. After a short distance the path left the road and descended down a slope along a hillside covered in yellow primroses. I arrived at the old ruined settlement of Hallsands, mostly reclaimed by the sea at the start of the last century. After reading the story of how this settlement was lost, I continued walking due north.

At Lannacombe Bay
Walking along The Narrows towards Start Point
Looking back towards the Lighthouse at Start point
Descending down through a field of primroses to Hallsands
Ruins at Hallsands

I descended to the beach and walked along Bee Sands. As I approached Torcross I was forced to go inland slightly as some difficult rocks blocked my way. At Torcross, the main road, the A379 runs down to the sea and follows the line of 2 – 3 mile sand bar, quite similar to Chesil Beach. This is Slapton Sands and a number of memorials are located here including a salvaged American Sherman tank. It was here in 1944, during Exercise Tiger  (training for the D-Day landings) that a combination of friendly fire and enemy action resulted in the deaths of some 749 American servicemen. I continued on through the village of Strete and passed above a very busy Blackpool Sands. I pass around the village of Stoke Fleming and continued onto Blackstone point. I now headed into the Dart Estuary and could now see Kingswear on the opposite banks of the River Dart. I passed through Warfleet and into Dartmouth itself, which was very busy. I saw the steam paddle-ship Waverley just departing for a run along the coast with passengers.

At Torcross looking north along Slapton Sands
Sherman tank memorial at Torcross
Looking down on a busy Blackpool Sands
Looking towards Dartmouth and Kingswear with the Waverley just leaving port
Although never a railway station, Dartmouth railway station just sold tickets

 

Distance today = 18.5 miles
Total distance =   413 miles

 

25. Torquay to Kingswear

This was  quite along days walk and a tough one especially in the latter stages which had  numerous ups and downs. I left my car parked in the Grand Hotel’s car park. I had stayed at the hotel the night before at an amazing price of £30!

It was still, warm and overcast as I set off from the hotel down the A379 towards Paignton. The pavements where wide and empty of tourists as I make good time along the promenade. Council workers were out in force above Preston Sands removing sand washed up off the beach in recent storms. I round Roundham Head and pass above Goodringham Sands. I am now walking alongside the railway line which is still closed after the tumultuous storms seen earlier in the year and led to the closure of the line at Dawlish.

I soon left the houses of Paignton behind and within a few miles entered the fishing town of Brixham. This is a busy little town particularly around the landing of fish. The harbour has a replica of The Golden Hind, a tourist attraction and restaurant. As I pass through Brixham I notice a beautifully painted mural on a house in the town. There are two harbours with a beautiful backdrop of differently coloured houses seen on many jigsaw puzzles and biscuit tins!

The Grand Hotel Torquay
Paignton
Looking back at Goodrington Sands
Brixham harbour
Golden Hind replica
Brixham mural
Brixham

I pass around Berry Head and head south-west along flat grassy paths. the walking is easy and I am soon at St Marys Bay, Brixham’s south-facing side. I have a short diversion inland to bypass a collapsed section of the path and walk out to Sharkham Point. The next three miles is where the tougher walking begins. There is more pronounced cliff line and the path bizarrely makes a number of unnecessary diversions down the steep slope and back up again. This is very tiring work and rather annoying and frustrating when the path could have easily been maintained at a more constant level. These up and down’s detract from the walk and is  poorly planned. After passing around Inner Forward Point I enter a wooded section which would continue all the way to Kingswear, where the walk ended.

Tough walking along the cliffs
Looking across the River Dart to Dartmouth
Dartmouth Stem Railway Kingswear
Brittannia Royal Naval College – Dartmouth

Distance today = 19.5 miles
Total distance =   394.5 miles

 

24. Exmouth to Torquay

It had been 4 months since I had last walked along the SWCP, primary due to the stormy weather battering the South West over the Winter months. I had not been idle though and continued walking along the Icknield Way through Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire.

Today was going to be a tough days walk, with a hot sun and terrain that rose and fell over almost 20 miles. I had parked in Torquay and then caught a National Express coach to Starcross, on the banks of the River Exe, opposite Exmouth. The Exe Valley Way ends where the SWCP continues at the Starcross Ferry jetty. I continue down the A379 for a short distance before turning off at a much quieter road at the village of Cockwood. The minor road runs along the main South West railway line. However, no trains have run along this section for months following the devastating effect of recent storms. I pass through Dawlish Warren and there I could have normally walked along the top of the breakwater, however, because of the construction work  the Path stays on the road and away from the railway line right to the other side of Dawlish.

As I enter Dawlish I can see an extraordinary amount of construction activity  repairing the railway line. I can see that the work is not far completion and is quite amazing the progress that has been made since the devastation seen in the news footage which showed part of the line washed away. I walked under cliffs of Permian red sandstone and Breccia and onwards to Teignmouth. Looking back long the Devon coast I can see an extraordinary distance back towards Budleigh Salteron and Sidmouth.

At Starcross looking towards the mouth of The Exe
Looking towards Dawlish and the reconstruction of the railway line
Work extends to the main road
A more peaceful part of Dawlish
Red sandstone at Dawlish
Looking back at Dawlish

I enter Teignmouth and use a short ferry service across the River Teign. I land at Shaldon Beach and follow the path around to The Ness. The next 3.5 miles is along a demanding switch back section of the path, hugging the steep cliff edge into Babbacombe Bay. At St Marychurch, the path cuts inland a short distance before returning to the cliff edge. I have now entered into the outskirts of Torquay. At Oddicombe I pass under the cliff railway, which is doing a brisk trade as passengers are whisked up and down to the beach. Soon after I ascend the steep hill above the Cary Arms. I lose the path as from this point into the centre of Torquay the signage becomes almost non-existent and I am frustrated by many ‘blind-alleyways’ that result in numerous back tracking. It’s the last thing I need after such a strenuous walk. Eventually I emerge into Torbay and can now see Brixham across the Bay. Torquay on this bright sunny spring day is very busy and I continue across the marina bridge and along the sea front to my hotel.

Arriving at Shaldon Beach after crossing the River Teign
The switchback route ahead
Cliff railway at Oddicombe
Major rockfall above Oddicombe Beach
Looking towards Thatcher Point from Meadfoot Beach Torquay
Unusual route for SWCP
Crossing the marina bridge in Torquay

Distance today = 19 miles
Total distance =   375 miles

 

23. Sidmouth to Exmouth

My last walk of 2013 as I fitted in this short walk between Christmas and New Years Day. It also meant completing the first book (Exmouth to Poole) of the 4 volume National Trail Book series for the South West Coastal Path. Because of the constraints around transport I opted to park at Sowton Park and Ride on the outskirts of Exeter. From there I caught the Stagecoach bus to Sidmouth, quite expensive at £6.20!

It was a beautiful, warm, sunny Winters day as I set off from Sidmouth. Quite a contrast from the last time I was here some two weeks ago, when I battled through pouring rain and gales. I headed for the red cliffs of High Peak and Ladram in the distance. The sea wall contained a path that hugged the red sandstone cliff face at Jacobs ladder from there it climbed slowly out of the town. The view back along the coast towards Lyme Regis was beautiful. I passed along the slopes of the Iron Age fort at High Peak and was rewarded with magnificent views across Devon. The path hugged the cliff top for most of the way. I dropped down to a holiday park at Ladram Bay, which contained a number of isolated sea stacks composed of red Otter Sandstone from the Triassic period. The next couple of miles along the cliff tops was quite easy-going as there was little rise and fall in the Path as I headed out to the ominously named Danger Point.

Looking towards High Peak from Sidmouth
Sea wall at Sidmouth
Looking back towards Sidmouth
Looking towards high Peak from Ladram Bay

As I approached the small seaside resort of Budleigh Salterton I was forced inland slightly to cross the River Otter at White Bridge. I passed by a few fields the market garden crops of cabbage and kale. As I walked through the car park at Budleigh Salterton it suddenly became very busy with dog-walkers and others out for an afternoon stroll. I made quick progress along the trail and was soon approaching Orcombe Cliffs. The path descended a series of steep steps down to an esplanade which is very busy, with people enjoying the late Sunday afternoon Winter sunshine. I continued along the sea front as it merged slowly into the coastal town of Exmouth. I turned inland slightly along the River Exe towards the train station where I caught the train back to Sowton.

Approaching Budleigh Salterton
Recent cliff-fall near Orcombe High Land
Did not manage to spot one of the little ‘critters’
On the esplanade at Orcombe leading into Exmouth

Distance today = 12.5 miles
Total distance =   356 miles

 

 

22. West Bay to Lyme Regis

This was another thoroughly wet walking day with gales, wind and rough seas. I opted to get the bus from Sidmouth to West Bay for this particular section. I arrived at West Bay in the dark and it was a case of getting my head torch out for the first half hour of walking.

I followed the path up and down for a few miles before I dropped down to the small village of Seatown. I passed the Anchor pub in the village and remember reading how the landlords of the pub had made quite a few ascents on nearby Golden Cap for charity in the past.

I climbed slowly up the slopes of Golden Cap knowing the top was shrouded in mist. It was still raining as I descended towards Charmouth. One of the problems with walking in miserable and rough weather is that you tend to withdraw into yourself and not pay much attention to what is around you. After passing through Charmouth I was diverted inland due to a recent cliff on the SWCP. I took the Axminster road as far as the hotel near Fern Hill. The path then cut across the golf course bringing me out on the A3052. The road dropped down a steep hill and continued on through the narrow streets of Lyme Regis to finish at the Cob.

A throughly wet and miserable day.

Setting out in the dark looking back at West Bay
Looking back at Doghouse Hill
Looking down on Seatown with Golden Cap shrouded in mist in the distance
The summit of Golden Cap
Looking back at Golden Cap beginning to clear now
Looking ahead to Charmouth and in the mist and distance Lyme Regis
Looking back east from Lyme Regis

Distance today = 10 miles
Total distance =   343.5 miles

 

21. Lyme Regis to Sidmouth

The start of a thoroughly miserable two days of walking along the SWCP, which would see me leaving Dorset and entering Devon. Cannot believe why I did not check the forecast, or if I did why I should want to walk through heavy rain, strong winds and clag!

I parked my car at Sidmouth and drove my moped through the rain to Lyme Regis. I paid to park my moped, even though in retrospect I did not need to pay (or it was not clear whether I had to or not).

The next 4 miles would be spent walking along a series of cliffs which had slumped and slid overtime and were  now covered in dense vegetation, woodland  and scrub. The path turned and twisted, rose and fall for virtually the whole of the section. Occasional glimpses out towards the sea revealed little as the mist, clag and rain enabled only the white horse wave rollers to be seen and heard. I passed through Ware Cliffs first seeing the ruins of an old water pumping station as I approached Pinhay Cliffs. The path morphed from one cliff to the next, as I moved onto Whitlands Cliff and Dowlands Cliff. Only the presence of information boards told me what cliff I was  now walking through. The final set of cliffs were Bindown Cliffs, which saw a huge landslide in 1839. I was glad to see the back of the scrub woodland, which had offered some protection from the elements, but sorry to now face the full force of rain and wind.

Pumping house ruins at Pinhay Cliff
Scrub and woodland at Bindown Cliff

I dropped steeply down to a bridge which crossed the River Axe and entered the seaside resort of Seaton. I popped into a Tesco’s to buy a sandwich and get some relief from the rain. I still had some distance to go so I could not afford to linger and did not fancy finishing my walk in the dark.  A mile further on  I entered the brilliantly named  village of Beer. I vaguely remember coming here in 1973 on a University field trip. After passing Beer Head, the path meandered through another set of Cliffs before unleashing the final sting in the tail of a three-mile section of switchback, which rose and fell quite steeply. It was just getting dark when I dropped down the final descent into Sidmouth. It had a been an exhausting 7 hours of walking, made especially tough by the weather and the terrain.

Looking back at a deserted Seaton
Approaching the village of Beer
The anchor from the wreck of the container ship MSC Napoli, beached at Branscombe in 2007. Later broken up.
Descending down to Western Combe
Rough seas at Sidmouth with early evening approaching

Distance today = 17.5 miles
Total distance =   333.5 miles

 

20. Weymouth to West Bay

An overcast dry day with occasional sunny spells. I parked at West Bay, just south of Bridport and caught the #53 bus to Weymouth. The bus was packed full of children travelling to school in Weymouth. I then needed to catch the #1 bus to get out to Ferrybridge on the outskirts of the town, this bus was also packed full of school kids, quite a busy morning!

I set off from the Ferrybridge Hotel and soon picked up the SWCP. My eye was continually drawn to Chesil Beach, the offshore bar running for some 18 miles from Portland to west of Abbotsbury; composed of pebbles, cobbles and shingle it forms a natural lagoon between the sea and the ‘mainland’.  It is possible to walk the length of the Beach, but there are restrictions re: the firing range that also affects the main SWCP path and also access is not allowed during the bird nesting season. I  don’t think I could have hacked walking 16+ miles over shingle and pebbles!

The walking was flat and I made quick progress rounding the Royal Engineers Bridging camp and later skirting the Littlesea Holiday camp. My first real obstacle of the day was the small firing range at Tidmoor Point, a red flag was flying and I had to make a small diversion around the Chickerell range before rejoining the SWCP, which was no real problem. I soon passed Fleet House, now renamed Moonfleet  Hotel, the setting for John Meade Falkner’s swashbuckling novel “Moonfleet”. At Rodden Hive the SWCP turned inland all the way until Abbotsbury, probably due to no permitted access to the shoreline.

Looking back at Portland from Ferrybridge
Royal Engineers Bridging Camp with Chesil Beach left

I passed the Swannery at Abbotsbury and climbed around Chapel Hill from where I had a wonderful view down to the sea. I picked up a rough track called Burton Road. The road continues on and past the small coastal hamlet of West Bexington, where I walked along the northern part of Chesil Beach, it was tough going so I rejoined the track.

I soon approached the small village of Burton Bradstock, I skirted the village and dropped down to the beach again at Burton Freshwater. Here I needed to divert inland slightly to cross a small stream. I re entered the beach again and could see a lot of heavy plant had been moving the gravel and shingle back up the beach, it resembled a large gravel quarry! As I neared the end of my walk I passed underneath the iconic East Cliff, made famous in the opening credits of the TV series  Broadchurch. I got a great view of the Jurassic Cliffs with their distinctive orange gold limestone banded layers from the firm sandy beach. I soon arrived back at West Bay.

Easy walking near West Fleet
Looking down on Chesil Beach from near Abbotsbury
Looking SE down Chesil Beach near West Bexington
Burton Beach
Landscaped beach at Burton Freshwater
East Cliff at West Bay

Distance today = 20 miles
Total distance =   316 miles