Sunday 3 July 2016
East Prawle to Stoke Fleming
Dartmouth Camping and Caravan Club Site
It rained all night and I awoke to thick mist as well. I lay nursing my hangover for a while until it stopped raining sometime around 9am. Camping in long grass full of cow pats when it’s wet is not advisable. I don’t know how I managed to pack away without too much incident. Everything was wet though: towel, smelly socks, underwear. I felt in desperate need of a decent campsite with short grass and a washing machine.
I found Mark, Mark and Churchie from the pub last night and hung around with them, where I was treated to tea and a sausage and bacon roll. Just what I needed. They were nice fellas, and locals so good for a few tips on what to look out for. We watched the sea slowly appearing at the end of the field as the mist lifted. I finally packed my tent away at 10.30 and set off. Somehow I had avoided the lady who comes around the field collecting payment so I camped for free. To be honest, the campsite wasn’t worth the £6 anyway for me, but great if you come with your own facilities, like BBQs, and toilet paper, or to crash after a night at The Pig’s Nose.
The walk around Lannacombe Bay and out to Start Point was lovely; much like yesterday with big cliffs and rocks. Start Point is impressive; it is an exposed peninsula running almost a mile into the sea. It is covered in jagged rocks and has a strong tidal race around the tip (it reminded me of Morte Point near Woolacombe in North Devon). Start Point is an evolution of the Anglo Saxon Steort, meaning tail. This was where I stopped walking in an Easterly direction and turned North.
The sun was coming out and the sky turning blue, just in time for me to get some spectacular views right around Start Bay.
The village nearest to Start Point is Hallsands, at least what is left of it. The lower part of the village was lost to the sea in a storm in 1917. Only one house remained intact but fortunately all the villagers managed to escape. The ruined houses are still visible below the cliff and the sad tale of how “The beach went to devonport and the cottages went to the sea” is recounted on an information board. In essence, Hallsands was lost as a direct result of shingle being removed from Start Bay in order to enlarge Plymouth docks before WW1. The subsequent inquiry read like Hillsborough, and the villagers were never properly compensated.
At Beesands I stopped at an excellent cafe/fishmonger/shop/restaurant. I was still feeling a little fragile but fish and chips on the seafront sorted me out. The owner of Britannia@thebeach operates his own fishing boat. Apparently the stretch from Plymouth to Brixham is known as Britain’s seafood coast.
Torcross was the start of the long walk sandwiched in between Slapton Sands (a thin shingle beach) and Slapton Ley, a lovely lake. It was hot!
I took some time to look at the Torcross Sherman Tank that was recovered from the sea at Slapton Sands and now stands as a memorial to the 748 American troops who died here practising for the D-Day landings at Utah Beach (more than died in the actual assault!). The commanders clearly needed the practice!
Slapton Sands was deemed similar to the Normandy beach codenamed Utah so in December 1943 the whole area (3,000 people) was forcibly evacuated to make way for the US Army. Locals had to leave their farms and livelihoods behind. In recognition of this the US Army presented the people of South Hams with a memorial.
Immediately after Slapton Sands I had to tackle a couple of sharp hills, up to Strete, down to Blackpool (the other one!) and up again to Stoke Fleming.
Blackpool Beach looked lovely, and not a donkey in sight!
I was very relieved to be camping at a proper campsite, and it had a washing machine.The smell from my wet clothes was leaking out of a plastic bag in my rucksack. This was too much to bear.
Naturally the campsite was on the uphill edge of the town so I had to walk back down the hill to The Green Dragon pub. It was worth it as their fish pie and beer were both excellent.