Day 349 Abbotsbury and Chesil Beach (Part 1)

Tuesday 19 July 2016

Eype Mouth to West Fleet

18 miles

West Fleet Camping Park

The wind got up during the night and woke me up. Just before 6am the sun hit my tent and so I got up. Everything was dry and it was forecast to be a scorcher so I packed up and was away before 7. I felt bad that, after my issue with the Seatown campsite, I didn’t pay for night at Eype House – the reception didn’t open until 9 o’clock and I couldn’t wait that long. 

looking back on Eype campsite
There was no one around so all I could hear was the wind as I climbed up and down West, East and Burton Cliffs; all small but incredibly steep. It was so beautiful, and already very hot. 

a sad little welcome to West Bay
I passed through West Bay, which had a distinctly 1960s look about it. This seaside extension of Bridport was not the prettiest place, lots of concrete. The harbour and piers were built in the 1860s and were blamed for the gradual loss of the shingle beach. However, current thinking is that the beach is disappearing because there’s no replacement shingle; apparently we need another Ice Age and then the subsequent thaw for that to happen. 

intrepid raft builders
I saw a team of people building a raft and so went over to inspect it. They were undertaking a test run in preparation for the raft race up the River Brit in just over a week. Had I been staying in the area they wanted to recruit me as they were short of crew. 

looking back on West Bay
I arrived at Southover, the Burton Bradstock beach, before 9am. There looked to be a nice cafe here; however, it didn’t open until 10 so I walked a mile detour to the nearby petrol station to buy something for breakfast. All this beautiful scenery and I breakfasted on a corned beef baguette and Jaffa cakes sat on a garage forecourt. Oh well, at least I was in the shade. 

Southover Beach
One last cliff before I reached the flat of Cogden Beach, which at some point turned into Chesil Beach. To begin with the path skirted the shingle bank and I could have been in Suffolk as I admired the sea kale and other plants growing on the shingle. 

Cogden Beach, all shingle but flat

beautiful plants growing on the shingle
There were a couple of reed-filled meres on my left but I think they had dried up as I came across a pile of dead fish. Apparently there hasn’t been much rain here this year. I was told that the micro-climate around Chesil Beach means it is particularly warm, so I chose the worst day to walk it: the hottest day of the year!

dead fish in the dried-up mere
Too many times the path ended up on the shingle and that made the walking very tough. I think I prefer hills!

Chesil Beach – a favoured spot for fishermen
Finally the path turned inland to Abbotsbury and I got a great view of St Catherine’s Chapel atop the hill before the town. 

St Catherine’s Chapel
In spite of the wind, the sunshine and heat was brutal and I was wilting. I was pleased with how I managed my day though because I started early and arrived at Abbotsbury at midday, pub opening time. I went straight into the Ilchester Arms and had 2.5 hours off. I drank 3 pints (of water and OJ and lemonade), ate a big lunch with salty fries, and cooled down enough to re-slather myself in suncream. 

the pretty town of Abbotsbury
Abbotsbury is a picture postcard town that reminded me of the Cotswolds; all stone and thatch. Chatting to the pub manager I learned that 90% of the town is owned by one lady (apparently her family sold 10% to avoid having to pay for upkeep of the roads). She is a descendent of Mr Strangway, who “got rid of” the monks during the dissolution and thus was rewarded with all their land by King Henry VIII. 

looking down on The Fleet and Chesil Bank
Orcus, a steward of King Canute, founded a Benedictine Monastery in Abbotsbury in 1044. St Catherine’s Chapel was built in the 14th Century. The Abbey did not escape the dissolution, but the Chapel did because of its situation on the hill, being a landmark and a seamark as well as a great lookout.

St Catherine’s Chapel on the hill
King Henry VIII liked to eat swans and they were provided by the Abbotsbury Swannery. The swannery is a great tourist attraction and still has about 1000 swans (an eighth of what it used to have). I did not pay to go in. 

The Swannery (complete with mazes) on the edge of The Fleet
I really liked Abbotsbury, with all its history and the amazing views from St Catherine’s Chapel. I could see Chesil Beach stretching for 8 miles to Portland, forming a barrier between the brackish water of The Fleet and the salty sea. 

a great view along Chesil Bank to Portland
I had a couple of hours still to walk, a bit further inland of The Fleet, to reach my campsite. It was hot going and I arrived just after 5pm. The campsite had a clubhouse so I ate there and relaxed over another pint of water (chased down with a beer). It had been a wonderful day. 

looking down through the crop fields at The Fleet

Day 348 Into Dorset: Lyme Regis and Golden Cap

Monday 18 July 2016

Axmouth, Devon to Eype, Dorset

16 miles

Eype House Caravan and Camping Park

This morning was misty and wet. I took my time getting up as I knew the mist would burn off and the pub didn’t start serving breakfast until 9am. Sure enough, by 8.30 the mist had cleared and the sun was out so I packed away dry. 

the view back to the white cliffs of Beer Head
A hot and sunny day was forecast so I had a good breakfast, accompanied by lots of water, in order to set me up, slathered myself in sun cream and wore my hat. At the top of the hill out of Axmouth there were warning signs that the 7 mile route to Lyme Regis was a hard 3.5-4 hour walk and there was no escape from the cliff path once on it. I pressed on. 

a woody walk through the Undercliffs
What a great day for a walk through trees. I couldn’t have planned it better. The walk wasn’t really hard, no severe climbs, just undulating through the Axmouth-Lyme Regis Undercliffs National Nature Reserve. There were no real views as I was shrouded by trees (lots of maple and ash) but it was nice in the shade and to think that I was walking through an area (the Undercliffs) created by many landslips. 

walking the sea-side past a chasm (full of trees) created by landslip
One such landslip was the Great Landslip of Christmas Eve 1839. Rainwater had soaked into the permeable Cretaceous rocks and they came away from the slippery clay underneath them and slipped into the sea. A great chasm opened up behind the landslip block, creating Goat Island. This whole area had been farmed so, the following year, the villagers ceremonially harvested the turnips and wheat on Goat Island. The landslip became very famous; it was visited by Queen Victoria and had a piece of music composed to celebrate it. I walked through what is now wild grassland in wonder. 

when I did see the sea the water looked beautiful
approaching Lyme Regis, the view to Golden Cap
After only just over 2 hours of walking I reached Dorset and the town of Lyme Regis. I emerged from the trees by The Cobb, the harbour area made famous by Du Maurier’s The French Lieutenant’s Woman. It was baking hot on the promenade and the beach was full. I was suspicious that one end of the beach was sand and the rest (as well as all the other beaches around here) was pebbles. I suspected the sand had been imported. 

spying The Cobb through the trees
I stopped at a nice looking sandwich shop to get some lunch and ate it quickly as there was no shade anywhere. 

Lyme Regis beach – look at the cliffs ahead!
I took the Church Cliff walk, essentially a concrete flood defence, around from the beach. At the end of it the coast path climbs up the cliff but I decided the tide was out far enough for me to get to Charmouth along the beach/rocks at the base of the cliff. 

Church Cliff Walk out of Lyme Regis
It was easier going than I expected and I passed several fossil hunters, getting stuck into the grey mud left behind by recent landslips. 

the cliffs between Lyme Regis and Charmouth; the clay is great for fossil hunting
I passed through Charmouth, stopping only to buy a 2nd bottle of isotonic drink from the cafe. It was very hot. This is a fossil hunter’s Mecca, with a museum and regular guided walks. 

Charmouth Beach, Stonebarrow cliff and Golden Cap beyond
I was confused; my 2016 map indicated I could climb straight up the cliff in front of me but the signs suggested a diversion. It wasn’t clear and I knew this area had recently had major landslips so I sought advice and decided to take the diversion. Unfortunately this wasn’t clear either so I asked a local. I admit to being slightly distracted when the man I asked moved his bag and revealed a very small pair of running shorts that didn’t cover very much. I don’t think it was deliberate, just a terrible choice of clothing. He was taking so long to process my question that another man decided to answer instead and he eventually walked away. The 2nd man proceeded to tell me I couldn’t walk in the direction I wanted because the sea was behind him (it blatantly wasn’t). He made no sense and so I just thanked him and walked on. Bring back Devon and its belligerent ferrymen!

the view from Stonebarrow Hill to Golden Cap
I found my own way out of Charmouth, fairly quickly. It was a long slog up Stonebarrow Hill, down to St Gabriel’s Mouth and then up 191m to the top of Golden Cap. The views were stunning. 

looking back to Lyme Regis and beyond from Golden Cap…
…the view the other way around Lyme Bay
I descended a mile into Seatown, where I was hoping to camp. I had been trying to call the campsite all day but no luck. Unfortunately it was one of those big holiday parks staffed by people who are banned from thinking for themselves or using common sense. The lady at reception could only do what the computer said. The computer said I could camp if I paid her £34. I declined. (The going rate for a hiker is £7-10.) I was informed I could come back next week and camp in the enormous, empty field but I didn’t wait to hear the price for that. 

Seatown
Fortunately it was only 3 miles to Eype (pronounced eep). Unfortunately it involved another big climb and descent of Thorncombe Beacon. 

up, up Thorncombe Beacon
looking down to Eype
I arrived at the campsite just before 6pm. I found a pitch overlooking the sea and then walked down for that dip I’d been longing for all day. Absolute bliss. 

a Royal Navy flypast
I still managed to wash my clothes through and walk up the hill into the village to the Smuggler’s Bar in the local hotel, where I had a nice dinner. (No budgies in this smuggler!) Who needs Seatown anyway?

a lovely pitch overlooking the sea
a beautiful sunset watched from my tent

Day 347 East Devon: Cretaceous Cliffs from Branscombe to Beer

Sunday 17 July 2016

Sidmouth to Seaton

10 miles

Axmouth Caravan and Camping Site

For the first time in a while my tent (and the ground) was bone dry. This made for easy packing up and I was able to eat my leftover sandwiches and cake for breakfast and set off well before 9am. 

looking back towards the Exe, Straight Point sticking out
Weston Combe was my first serious descent and ascent. I stopped here to look at the Weston Plats, a small plateau of land tucked into the cliffs, created where Upper Greenstone rocks meet Mercia Mudstone. This sheltered, sunny patch of land had been cultivated into profitable market gardens up until the 1960s; Dunscombe potatoes were highly sought after. This cottage industry declined from the 1930s when cheap imports became available. The cliff is totally overgrown now but there are still relics of machinery and the odd linhay (a shed for storing tools and harvested crops) visible. 

Weston Plats; cliffs above and below
a linhay
It was very hot as I climbed the 162m up the other side of Weston Combe. There was no wind, even at the top, to ease the closeness and the sweating. There were a few shacks embedded in the cliff side in places, looking like linhays that had been converted into simple holiday homes. 

shingle beaches and big cliffs
The view across Lyme Bay was lovely as I made my way along Coxe’s Cliff to Berry Camp Fort, an Iron Age settlement, and then down to Branscombe Mouth. 

a great view of the beach at Weston Combe and back around the bay
Branscombe village looked nice, tucked in a valley surrounded by woods. Branscombe Mouth was quite busy with holidaymakers. There were lots of people on little pebble beach and in the (thatched cottage) cafe. I crossed the stream and carried on up the cliff the other side. 
the anchor from the MSC Napoli that beached off Branscombe in 2007
Branscombe
The Hooken Landslide of 1790 left a great chasm (Under Hooken) between the main cliff and a smaller one made up of a few rock pinnacles. The chalk and sandstone rocks now visible are from the Cretaceous Period (45-100 million years old). The chasm is filled with greenery and the path follows the edge, so you walk under the great, white, chalky cliffs (not red). It really is quite spectacular. 

walking Under Hooken
I could hear a peregrine falcon calling loudly on the cliffs above me. I kept looking and eventually I saw one swoop past a couple of times quite slowly. It must have been the parent encouraging its offspring because then I saw another one appear from the cliffs somewhere and the calling stopped. 

looking back at the Hooken landslide and chasm filled with greenery
From Beer Head I had commanding views all around Lyme Bay, from Berry Head near Brixham to Portland Bill. Stunning. 

from Beer Head the contrast between the white and the red cliffs was stark (Beer beach tucked in and Seaton amidst the red cliff)
I had wanted an ice cream in Beer as my childhood memory of the place was of the biggest whippy ice cream I have ever eaten (it recall it was as big as my head!). There wasn’t an ice cream shack anymore, instead there were 3 cafes on the beach, as well as boats, tractors, beach huts and lots of people. I settled on a bacon and egg sandwich and a cup of tea to keep me going. 

the beach at Beer, looking back to Beer Head
Beer seemed really well-kept and vibrant. There was live music outside the pub, a small heritage centre, lots of flowers everywhere. A charming, and busy, place tucked into the cliff where you can’t see it. 

pretty Beer, the stream by the road
Beer is a proud community, with stories of its heritage plastered on boards about the place. I liked the fact that in the last 40 years, 25 people from Beer have sailed or rowed in small boats across the Atlantic Ocean. That must be a record number from such a small community. 

a beer garden in Beer, and rows of well-kept houses
I discovered that Beer luggers, a type of old fishing boat, are still raced in the bay and that Honiton Lace originated in Beer. Undeed, a lady from Beer made the lace for Queen Victoria’s wedding dress and lace-making was taught to girls in Beer primary school until the 1970s. 

a caravan park embedded in the cliff between Branscombe and Beer
Eventually I left Beer and climbed over the cliff to Seaton. Due to a landslide the cliff path was closed; however, the tide was out enough for me to walk along the beach from Seaton Hole. 

approaching Seaton
At the Seaton Hole geological fault line, the white, chalky, Cretaceous cliffs visibly met with red, sandstone, Triassic cliffs. It was quite a sight. 

the contrast between the chalk and the sandstone, the meeting point at Seaton Hole
Seaton looked a bit old and tired as I walked along its promenade. I had decided not to carry on any further as the next stop was Lyme Regis, over 7 miles away. That was too far in the heat. At the far end of Seaton I crossed the River Axe and then walked along it to Axmouth. The campsite was right next to the river, and a pub with good wifi. Unbelievably, I also had 3G phone reception; I can only conclude that I must be nearing Dorset. 

the mouth of the River Axe
I went to sleep listening to the oyster catchers in the estuary. Bliss. 

sweaty work climbing up Weston Combe in the hot, still air

WEEK 49 Camping Holiday in Cornwall

Friday 8th to Saturday 16th July 2016

Rest week

Treloan Coastal Holidays 

I’m not sure how I was persuaded to spent a week camping in Cornwall, but I was. I admit I wasn’t thrilled at the thought of camping, but Cornwall had gotten under my skin and I was struggling to tear myself away. Anyway, I’m now the expert on choosing where to visit. 

It was nice to have a week off walking, and blog writing (no wifi and little phone reception were the cause). I was also secretly pleased that I seemed to have taken the rainy week as a holiday – the only time I’ll be pleased about that. 

I caught up on sleep, swam in the sea, visited friends, ate BBQs and relaxed. Bliss. 

you can’t beat a good ferry – the King Harry Ferry across the Fal River

WEEK 48 Stoke Fleming to Sidmouth

52 miles walked

(total 2,842 miles walked)

A short week that took me about halfway around the enormous Lyme Bay. 

red sand and cliffs at Paignton
It was quite incredible how the cliffs and the sea changed so much, almost coinciding with leaving Start Bay and entering Lyme Bay. The sea was no longer crystal clear but seemed to have been turned opaque by the deep red sandstone cliffs. 

Rhizocretions – fossilized root remains embedded in the rock (Budleigh Salterton)
The cliffs at Tor Bay are even older than the Triassic cliffs that begin at Exmouth. It seems that Lyme Bay is one long geological history lesson. 

Otter Sandstone cliffs

Day 337 The River Exe and The Triassic Coast

Thursday 7 July 2016

Teignmouth to Sidmouth

13 miles walked (+ train)

Holly’s house

Holly dropped me back in Teignmouth early and I wandered around the town centre before getting on a train to Starcross. There wasn’t much to Teignmouth first thing in the morning and I had a pretty average coffee. 

Starcross, right on the River Exe
I had decided to get the train along the coast through Dawlish and Dawlish Warren as it looked more exciting than walking. 

the train line from Teignmouth
The train went through a couple of tunnels bored through the cliff. I enjoyed a lovely view of the red cliffs, and then of the town of Dawlish and the entertainment centre that seemed to be Dawlish Warren. 

looking back at Dawlish Warren sand spit across the River Exe
I arrived at Starcross in time to catch the first ferry across the River Exe to Exmouth. I’m not sure what it is with ferrymen in South Devon but this pair waited until we were supposed to leave before departing the vessel (leaving the engine running) to make themselves a cup of tea in the ferry hut. Clearly arriving at work 10 minutes earlier (when the start time was 10 am) was too much. 

well-manicured Exmouth, a shelter to watch the sea
I walked along Exmouth’s sea front promenade, past the beach full of schoolchildren enjoying various water sports, and headed up onto the cliff at Orcombe. 

lots of kids in the sea below Orcombe Point
The Geoneedle at Orcombe Point signifies the Western gateway to the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. To call the 95 miles of coast between Exmouth and Studland Bay the Jurassic Coast is a misnomer as the rocks tell the story of the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. The oldest rocks, a mere 250 million years old, are the ones at Orcombe Point; the story unfolds from West to East so I am heading in the right direction. 

The Geoneedle (behind it Exmouth on the right and Dawlish on the left)
The Triassic cliffs are deep red and the shingle beaches are covered in quartzite, round pebbles, marking the course of a huge river that once flowed through a vast desert. The river originated in Brittany and longshore drift causes the pebbles to continue to move East, from Budleigh Salterton to Chesil Beach and even as far as the Isle of Wight. 

the amazing red cliffs on the way to Budleigh Salterton (“bleeding” into the sea)
I passed the enormous holiday park full of static caravans above Sandy Bay and next to the rifle range at Straight Point. 

looking back at Straight Point
The colour of the cliffs was incredible and made the sea look muddy at their base. The path curved up and down like a wave. Many of the cliff top paths seem to be given names and The Floors took me to Budleigh Salterton. I passed straight by the town along the sea front. 

approaching Budleigh Salterton
To cross the River Otter the path took me a kilometre inland to the first bridge and then back out again and over Otterhead. 

the River Otter
looking back on Budleigh Salterton across the River Otter
It was a long, curvy walk up and down to Sidmouth. The standout sections were Ladram Bay and Peak Hill. 

Ladram Bay, High Peak and Sidmouth
Ladram Bay had some amazing rock formations that had been created by erosion. 

Ladram Bay rock formations
It was hot work climbing up Peak Hill (fortunately the path did not go to the top of High Peak just before it) but the view was incredible. I could see all the way back around Lyme Bay to Berry Head at Brixham. 

looking back on High Peak and all the way back to Berry Head, from Peak Hill
I had really picked the pace up as I climbed Peak Hill and descended into Sidmouth so that I made the 3pm bus. I had to get a bus to Exeter and then the train to Teignmouth, where Holly collected me for my final night in a bed for a while. 

approaching Sidmouth
The Regency Town of Sidmouth looked like a great place to retire and I saw plenty of oldies playing croquet on the town’s court. 

deckchairs on Sidmouth promenade
Holly and I went out for a really nice pub dinner at The Elizabethan Inn in Luton, Devon. It had been my last day of walking for 9 days as I was heading back to Cornwall for a week off. 

pebble pictures on the beach at Budleigh Salterton

Day 336 A Wooded Walk to Teignmouth

Wednesday 6 July 2016

Torquay to Teignmouth

11 miles

Holly’s house

Holly very kindly drove me back to Kilmorie, Torquay, so I could continue from where I finished yesterday. 

Holly dropping me off at Kilmorie
First was an easy walk along the very quiet road that curves around the headland. The light was fairly flat so views across Tor Bay were not as good as yesterday. 

looking along Babbacombe Bay
Presently I entered woodland that covered the cliff side, reminding me of North Devon. It was a very hot day, which got sunnier, so it was a relief to be in the shade at times. 

Anstey’s Cove, surrounded by trees
much of the day spent in the woods, hiding from the hot sun
The beaches around Babbacombe Bay were all tucked into the base of steep cliffs and most required a long walk downhill to reach them. Oddicombe Beach did have a cliff railway, but I walked underneath it, traversing up through the woods. 

fantastic sandstone cliffs towering over Oddicombe Beach
Oddicombe Beach and cliff railway
It was a very hilly walk today, again reminding me of the North Coast of Devon and Cornwall. In the still air it was very sticky but worth it for the views. 

a view though the trees to Hope’s Nose
At Maidencombe I walked down the steep hill to the small beach and sat at the Beach Box Cafe for some lunch. The proprietor was busy making beef burgers for an evening BBQ that he will be doing throughout the summer (this concept of beach cafes opening for evening meals seems to be gaining traction all over the South West). 

sat outside the Beach Box Cafe at Maidencombe Beach
After lunch I was more exposed as the trees disappeared. Fortunately it wasn’t too far to Shaldon and the River Teign but a hat and plenty of suntan lotion was definitely required. 

walking the cliffs to Teignmouth
Shaldon was quite pretty, facing Teignmouth across the river. Ness Beach is accessible through a, very long, smugglers’ tunnel. 

Ness Beach and Teignmouth, across the river hidden from view
the Smugglers’ Tunnel from Shaldon, through the cliff, to Ness Beach
I caught the small ferry across the River Teign and wandered along Teignmouth promenade to meet Holly. 

the ferry to Teignmouth
Despite being sweaty, I was cooling down as clouds started rolling in and I can’t say the sea looked too inviting, so I didn’t go in. I did like the look of Teignmouth Lido though. 

the view back around Babbacombe Bay

Day 335 Around Tor Bay, The heart of The English Riviera

Tuesday 5 July 2016

Brixham to Torquay

15 miles

Holly’s house, nr Teignmouth

the view from Berry Head, all the way back to Start Point
For the first time in at least a week I woke up and my tent was dry. Typical then that I should prepare to set off early and, just as I came out of the toilet block, it rained. It was only a short shower, but enough to delay me 45 minutes while I dried my tent. 

walking out to Berry Head
It was nice to walk around Berry Head, the Southern end of Tor Bay, with good visibility. This headland is now a country park, complete with ruins of a Napoleonic Fort. The iron ore and ochre found in these limestone cliffs was used to develop the first rust-resistant paint, another string to Brixham’s bow. 

the view across Tor Bay from Berry Head
Rounding Berry Head I got an incredible view all around Tor Bay. The red sandstone cliffs really stand out, amongst the amorphous mass of buildings. The English Riviera really is quite crowded. 

Paignton and suburbs
I passed through Brixham Harbour, Elberry Cove, and on to Broadsands, the first of the main beaches (Goodrington Sands, Paignton and Torquay being the others). 

Brixton Lido
processing seafood at Brixton Harbour
I liked that Brixham had lots of small gardens that were being tended by volunteers who worked under the strap line “Pride in Brixham”. The town also keeps a “heritage fleet” of old fishing sail ships running for groups and young people to experience sailing. 

one of Brixham’s lovely gardens around the harbour
Brixham’s Heritage Fleet
Approaching Broadsands I could hear a steam train, and then I saw it, the Paignton and Dartmouth Steam Railway. In the sunshine, walking along The English Riviera, which has a certain style and air, I felt like I’d been transported back to a 1930s Agatha Christie novel. I’m pretty sure I saw Poiriot in the train window – he must have been heading to the Burgh Island Hotel to investigate a murder!

Elberry Cove
the steam train on the line above Broadsands
After all the beautiful, golden, sandy beaches I’ve passed, it was strange to see the ochre-red colour of these beaches. The sea also looked different, no longer clear, but opaque. The setting was stunning. On this hot day there were plenty of people enjoying the beach and the sea. 

a beautiful view of Broadsands
I assumed that because Tor Bay is a very deep bay it is therefore sheltered and the sea generally calm. I came to this conclusion because none of the beaches had lifeguards, instead they had “beach managers”. 

Goodrington Sands (next to the railway line)
beach huts on Goodrington Sands, below Roundham Head
Tor Bay really is a holiday Mecca. There was a huge water park and plenty of amusements and shops. Paignton had all the fun of Blackpool, but with more consistent sunshine and warmth. When I reached Paignton I veered off the wide, grassy promenade and walked up the main tourist street into town, heading for the Victorian Times tea shop. 

looking back at Berry Head
Paignton’s painted houses on the sea front
Gary and Deb, friends who own the tea shop, were expecting me for lunch. I was delighted to be treated to proper tea, in a teapot, and some delicious homemade food. I had a 2-hour break and could have stayed longer. 

a proper pot of tea at Victorian Times
It was still hot and sunny when I left Gary and Deb (with another cake for later) and headed around to Torquay. 

approaching Torquay
The marina had several expensive-looking boats in it and the old town behind it reeked of faded gentility. The Pavilion was boarded up and crumbling, a bit like some of the enormous old houses on the cliff. Newer additions to the town looked to be a big wheel (smaller than the London Eye but same concept) and a place called Living Coasts, which is a zoo of sorts and covered by huge netting. 

Torquay Harbour (the Living Coasts netting clearly visible)
Torquay
Holly kindly came and picked me up from Kilmorie, almost at the far end of Tor Bay. 

approaching Kilmorie, the North end of Tor Bay
It had been a beautiful, slightly surreal, and very hot walk around the whole of the bay, the heart of The English Riviera. 
looking across the entirety of Tor Bay, from the North to Berry Head

Day 334 Dartmouth and Brixham

Monday 4 July 2016

Stoke Fleming to Brixham

13 miles

Upton Manor Farm Campsite

It was very wet this morning and there was a thick fog. There was no way my tent was going to dry out so I packed it away wet and set off. I followed the road and a track out of Stoke Flemming, rather than the cliff path, as I would have just got soaked by the undergrowth and seen nothing anyway. There was no point climbing up to Gallant’s Bower Civil War Fort for the views across the Dart Estuary. 

thick mist covering the Dart Estuary
I reached the River Dart at Dartmouth Castle, which sits facing Kingswear Castle, both guarding the narrow entrance to the estuary. Like the Yealm Estuary, the Dart Estuary is actually a Ria, and very pretty, its steep sides covered in trees. 

Dartmouth Castle, protecting the mouth of the estuary
It was raining when I walked past all the big houses set into the hillside and into Dartmouth town; another town with a harbour full of pleasure craft. This one looked like it could be as rich as Salcombe if the people with money arrive and do up the grand houses. The town is dominated by Dartmouth Naval College, which stands proudly on the hill. 

Dartmouth on the left, the Naval College dominating
I passed the aptly named Warfleet Creek, where the Royalist troops attacked Dartmouth in 1643, only for the Parliamentarians to win the town back in 1646. 

Warfleet Creek
I took shelter from the rain in Alf Rescoes cafe, which I can thoroughly recommend for an excellent breakfast. Unfortunately, it didn’t stop raining. 
lookig across the River Dart at Kingswear
I caught the vehicle ferry (actually just a platform pushed across the river by a tug boat) across the River Dart to Kingswear. This town is older than Dartmouth and was a popular landing site for pilgrims travelling to Kent to pay homage to the murdered Thomas à Beckett. I set off through the trees to Froward Point. 

the River Dart vehicle ferry; foot passengers stand amongst the vehicles
Unbelievably, as I exited the trees at Froward Point, right next to the Lookout Station, the mist cleared, the sun came out and I was able to see for miles. Things like that remind me that I am a lucky person. 

the whole of Start Bay came into view as the mist cleared
Wow. I could see right along Start Bay to Start Point and the sea looked amazing. 

the view from the Lookout Station at Froward Point
After a quick chat with the old fellow in the Lookout Station I set off again. The path initially took me down the cliff to the Brownstone Battery, built in 1940 to protect the Dart Estuary. 

the shell track down to Brownstone Battery
a good, protective view of the entrance to the Dart Estuary
It was a brutal walk up and down the cliffs, in the hot sun, to Sharkham Point, just before Brixham. 

looking along to Sharkham Point
looking back at Froward Point and the Mew Stone
how steep? The path near Scabbacombe Sands
I passed a couple of lovely beaches, quite deserted other than a lone wakeboarder who was charging undisturbed around the bay. 

Long Sands and Scabbacombe Head
a wakeboarder enjoying an empty bay at Man Sands
When I reached the carving of St Mary, overlooking the bay named after her, I turned into the suburbs of Brixham. 

St Mary overlooking her Bay
beautifully coloured cliffs at St Mary’s Bay
My campsite was right at the back of Brixham and had reasonable facilities so I was happy. I was less happy with my 3-mile round trip down to Brixham Harbour for some dinner, but I found a nice (and expensive) restaurant overlooking the smelly fishing fleet so it was worth it. I ate a lovely fish supper on the Rockfish restaurant balcony and watched a lone seal in the harbour that almost looked like it was begging for scraps from us diners. 

do seals beg for scraps? (Brixton Harbour)
My walk through Brixham convinced me that this was not an affluent town, nor was it focused on the tourist industry, like most towns I’ve passed through. 

A replica of The Golden Hind in Brixham Harbour
Brixham is a major fishing port with an interesting history. William of Orange landed here in 1688 on his way to claim the throne from King James II. However, it was in the late 1800s that Brixham came to prominence as Britain’s largest fishery because this was where trawling was introduced. 

lots of fishing trawlers in Brixham Harbour
Brixham’s colourfully painted houses
Brixham claims to be responsible for the rise of the East coast fishing ports, such as Hull and Grimsby, which ultimately overtook Brixham, although it regained its crown as England’s largest fishing port in 2000. There were certainly a lot of trawlers in the harbour and a big fish processing factory. 

a beautiful view back to Scabbacombe Head