Wednesday 18 May 2016
Croyde Beach to Appledore
15 miles walked
Marshford Camping Site
Today’s walk was going to take me up the River Taw to Barnstaple and back down the other side. Most of the walking would be along the Tarka Trail, a Tarmac cycle path following the disused railway line. In order to get the most out of the day (and because it was raining when I left) I decided to get the bus along the North side of the River; that way I could fit in walking from Croyde to Braunton and also reach a campsite.
It took 2 buses to get to Croyde, into- and out of- Braunton. I started where I had left off on Sunday, on Croyde Beach. The rain had stopped and the sun was coming out. I walked around the small headland and came face to face with the big expanse of Saunton Sands, backed by Braunton Burrows.
From the cliff, above the Saunton Sands Hotel, I could see down to the mouth of the River Taw estuary and just how enormous Braunton Burrows is; 1300 hectares of sand dunes at the heart of the North Devon biosphere reserve. Naturally the burrows are a SSSI and are home to more plant species than any other parish in England. They are also a playground for the Royal Marines who are based next door at RMB Chivenor (another ex-RAF base I never got to!).
There were a few surfers in the sea and the waves were pretty big but I dropped down from the cliff into the burrows. I didn’t walk right to Crow Point at the end because I had too far to walk today, but instead walked halfway along American Road, an old track at the back of the burrows that was once used by the American military. In 1942, this section of coastline became an Assault Training Centre to prepare 10,000 US troops for the D-Day landings. Today it was very peaceful in the unexpected sunshine and I only saw dog walkers.
I cut back across Braunton Great Field into the town of Braunton and stopped at the small museum to check out the WW2 history. I could also have gone to the British Surfing Museum.
I had time for a nice coffee while I waited for a bus to Barnstaple. I was able to relax and enjoy a good view of the River Taw from the top deck.
The bus station in Barnstaple is right by the Long Bridge over the River Taw, although, confusingly, there is now a much longer bridge for the road bypass.
I followed the Tarka Trail along the South shore of the River Taw. In the mid-1800s, Fremington Quay was the most important between Bristol and Land’s End. Now it just has a cafe with lovely homemade cakes. I realised I hadn’t been eating enough cream teas so here was the perfect opportunity. In the interests of science I tried one scone the Devon way (jam on cream) and one the Cornish way (cream on jam). I can safely say that both were equally delicious.
The Rivers Taw and Torridge meet at Appledore, opposite Braunton Burrows. At Instow, for £1.50, I could catch a ferry across the Torridge (only around high tide). I had timed it perfectly.
First though I had to walk past the 2 RM beach landing craft parked on Instow Sands.
Instow and Appledore both seemed like Nice towns, prettily painted and well kept. I had to walk up the hill out of Appledore to my campsite but, fortunately, I was able to use my bus ticket to get back into town for dinner at the pub. It was quiz and curry night at The Beaver.