Day 331 Bigbury Bay and Burgh Island

Friday 1 July 2016

Wembury to Bigbury-on-Sea

17 miles

Mount Folly Farm Campsite

the River Yealm estuary
It was a cloudy non-descript kind of day and very windy. It hadn’t been windy like this for a good couple of months. I packed away, ate the snacks I’d bought from the Spar shop yesterday, and headed for the ferry across the River Yealm. 

a harbour for small boats between Warren Point, Newton Ferrers and Noss Mayo
The ferry doesn’t run until 10am and I was there in plenty of time to be the first customer. The ferry is located at a kind of 3-way junction on the River Yealm and runs between Warren Point (the Wembury side), Newton Ferrers and Noss Mayo. The Yealm Estuary is a drowned valley (Ria) and its high sides provide a sheltered harbour. There were lots of yachts moored up. This is also oyster country as they have been farmed here since at least Norman times. 

waiting for the ferry
The ferryman arrived (late) and I got onboard with £5 note in hand to cover my £3 fare. The conversation went like this:

Ferryman (routing around in jeans pocket): “I’ve only got 50p, have you got any change?”

Me: “I’ve only got £2”

Ferryman: “So that’s a problem. Either you give me £1.50 extra or I’m £1 out of pocket. How about we toss for it?”

Me: “No!”

Ferryman: “This is my livelihood and I’m not going to get many customers today”

Me: “why didn’t you come to work with any change then?”

Ferryman: “Well I’ll have to go around the boats and see if anyone has any change. That’ll take a while”

Me: shoulder shrug

He found some customers wanting a lift from their boat to the shore so he managed to extract some change from them (after I’d warned them they needed to have some change) and obviously we had to drop them off first before he would take me to Noss Mayo. What a cheek. I was fuming at his attitude. There was no way I was giving this joker any extra money. 

looking back across Plymouth Sound, Great Mew Stone and Rame Head
the view around Bigbury Bay all the way to Bolt Tail
The walk to Revelstoke Park was mostly along a track and easy going. I had views back across Plymouth Sound before I rounded Stoke Point and headed into trees. Hidden near the shoreline was the 13th Century Church of St Peter the Poor Fisherman. It looked intact apart from not having a roof, although this seemed to be part of the design. 

the church of St Peter the Poor Fisherman
Revelstoke and Stoke Point
There were a couple of very steep hills on the way to the River Erme, and a few coves. 

beautiful cliffs on the way to the River Erme
Bigbury Bay; Burgh Island and Bolt Tail visible
The River Erme does not have a ferry and can only be crossed an hour either side of low tide, by wading. I arrived at mid-tide and there was no way I could cross. All the signs said I had to get a taxi (there are no buses and to walk around would require an extra 9 miles all along busy minor roads). I walked up the hill to Mothecombe Old Schoolhouse cafe and had a cup of tea while I waited for a taxi. 

Mothecombe Beach
The taxi cost £30 and took half an hour to drive all the way around. This river needs a ferry! The taxi driver was very nice and was disgusted by the behaviour of the ferryman. There was no love lost there!
the Erme Estuary at mid-tide; definitely not wade-able!
I was dropped off at Wonwell Beach and watched a man swim across the river to Mothecombe Beach, where I’d been an hour earlier. 
rounding Beacon Point, Burgh Island clearly in view
The next section had several very steep ups and downs. The Rock was different here, it looked like great slabs of sharp slate. The beaches were grey and in inviting in the gale that was blowing (although it wasn’t cold). 

slate cliffs
Eventually I arrived at Challaborough, an enormous static caravan park right next to Bigbury-on-Sea. 

the beach at Challaborough
The tide was in and so Burgh Island was cut off. I could see the ruined chapel on top, the Pilchard Inn and the large, Art Deco hotel. I watched the sea-tractor (a sort of 4×4 vehicle on stilts) ferry some people across to the mainland. 

Burgh Island and the sea-tractor
It was a long slog uphill to my campsite. The wind was very strong and there were lots of kite- and wind- surfers out in the Avon Estuary. 

kite surfers in the mouth of the Avon Estuary at high tide…
…the tide receding…
…low tide
There wasn’t much shelter on the campsite so I pitched my tent in trepidation of a sleepless (and possibly a tentless one). The view was nice, right across Bigbury Bay, but the campsite facilities were not the best. 

Burgh Island
It was a long walk downhill, and then back uphill, to the holiday park clubhouse at Challaborough. This was the only food within a reasonable distance. I ate quickly, charged my phone and thought I’d walk back via Burgh Island (the tide was not out). What an unfriendly place! The hotel gates were shut – you need a booking, you can only walk on the footpaths and heaven forbid you should take a picnic, and the pub was only open to hotel guests. I walked to the top of the hill, by the ruined chapel, for a view of the mainland as the sun set and then left. 

the sea-tractor parked outside The Pilchard Inn
looking back at Bigbury-on-Sea from the top of Burgh Island

5 thoughts on “Day 331 Bigbury Bay and Burgh Island

  1. jomunday99 July 6, 2016 / 6:02 pm

    After all the positive experiences you’ve had, a day full of negatives! The views look good anyway!


  2. Chris F July 6, 2016 / 7:33 pm

    Poor you Juice…not a good advert for West Country hospitality! The ferryman, the taxi driver (£30 for ten miles…did you not tell him you were a pensioner and veteran) and then Burgh Island…snooty watsits……sadly I think it’s indicative of that part of UK……quick get out of there…..on on !!!


  3. Val K July 6, 2016 / 7:47 pm

    I so admire your attitude with the ferryman, I bet that wasn’t the first time he had tried that on
    with customers. He didn’t know who he was dealing with, well done. Val x


  4. nessa July 6, 2016 / 9:20 pm

    I’m surprised u didn’t just swim across the river Erme??!! Ha ha!


    • Lucy July 27, 2016 / 5:48 pm

      Not with my rucksack! Tempting though when I watched someone else do it


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