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

 

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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