Monday 4 July 2016
Stoke Fleming to Brixham
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
Wow. I could see right along Start Bay to Start Point and the sea looked amazing.
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.
It was a brutal walk up and down the cliffs, in the hot sun, to Sharkham Point, just before Brixham.
I passed a couple of lovely beaches, quite deserted other than a lone wakeboarder who was charging undisturbed around the bay.
When I reached the carving of St Mary, overlooking the bay named after her, I turned into the suburbs of Brixham.
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.
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.
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.
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.