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)
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

WEEK 47 Polperro, Cornwall to Stoke Fleming, Devon

90 miles walked

(total 2,790 miles walked)

I finally left Cornwall this week after more than 5 weeks walking around its diverse coastline. It was a bitter-sweet moment. 

the beautifully clear Cornish sea, near Portlooe
The weather has not been conducive to packing up and starting walking early each day as it has generally been poor in the morning, before brightening up significantly later on. Mostly this hasn’t mattered too much as lots of ferries have been required and they don’t seem to run before 10 am anyway. 

amazing slate cliffs at Bigbury-on-Sea
I have struggled to find decent campsites by the coast so far in South Devon. Indeed the combination of poor facilities, mizzle in the morning and indifferent service from people, did not endear me to South Devon. And I haven’t mentioned the non-existent phone signal in this county, nor the large number of horsefly bites that cover my body. 

I found some of the week hard going, and then of course there was the terrain; in some places it was as steep as the North coast of Devon and Cornwall. In fact it was steeper than the amount of ankle flexion I have. I enjoyed the challenge. 

As ever, the views were stunning and I saw a reasonable amount of wildlife. Kestrels were in abundance and I did see the odd seal, fulmars and even a gannet over Plymouth Sound. I also saw another adder this week; it was skinny but quite long and curled up on the path. I startled it and went to step over it before I checked myself, stepped back and watched it slither off. 

stunning Start Bay

Day 333 Start Point and Start Bay

Sunday 3 July 2016

East Prawle to Stoke Fleming

14 miles

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. 

the view across Lannacombe Bay (Start Point not yet visible)
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. 

looking back at Prawle Point, some strange rock formations caused by erosion
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. 

Start Point, the lighthouse just visible
The sun was coming out and the sky turning blue, just in time for me to get some spectacular views right around Start Bay. 

what a view all around Start Bay to Froward Point
Hallsands and Beesands
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. 

Hallsands’ lost village
erosion has taken its toll on this road at Hallsands
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

net drying line and lobster pots on the shore at Beesands
Beesands around to Start Point
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!

Slapton Sands, just a beach and a road separating the sea from the Ley
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!

the Torcross Sherman Tank
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. 

the US Army Memorial to the people of South Hams
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. 

looking back around Start Bay
Blackpool Beach looked lovely, and  not a donkey in sight!

Blackpool Sands
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. 

a beautiful cove before Blackpool Sands, the entrance to the Dart Estuary and Froward Point in the distance
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. 

A lovely view of Hallsands and Start Point

Day 332 Sea Cliffs around Salcombe and Prawle Point

Saturday 2 July 2016

Bigbury-on-Sea to East Prawle

19 miles

Camping in Mr Tripp’s field

Burgh Island
I survived a very windy night (which I later found out from the Prawle Point Lookout Station was a ‘nearly gale’). The sun was shining as I packed away so I washed a couple of bits and hung them off my rucksack. I was hungry so decided to walk the long, steep road to the beach to get some breakfast when the cafe opened at 9am. I had to wait until 10am for the ferry across the River Avon anyway. This one passed without incident.

the Avon Estuary
on the ferry to Bantham
There were lots of cars arriving at Bantham Beach as the Outdoor Swimming Society were hosting a swim down the river to the sea. The beach looked nice but I carried on over the cliffs and around to Thurlestone Beach. I stopped to watch a kestrel hovering just beside me and got a great view of him diving to catch a small mammal and then eating his prey on the cliff. 

Burgh Island from across the Avon Estuary

The beaches here were nice, although I noticed there were lots of menacing-looking rocks underwater that restricted entering the water. It was really windy again and there were plenty of kite surfers taking advantage. 

kite surfers off Thurlestone Beach, Bolt Tail in the distance
I passed through Outer- and Inner- Hope, skirting behind their shared beach, Hope Cove. Both had some lovely cottages. 

Hope Cove
Hope Cove and Bolt Tail
Bolt Tail signified the end of Bigbury Bay, and claimed to offer views back to Dodman Point on a clear day. I could see a huge black cloud over Rame Head and it was coming my way. 

looking back on Hope Cove
The cliffs between Bolt Tail and Bolt Head were very rugged, reminding me of North Cornwall and also a bit of the Quairing on Skye. The views inland were almost as good as the views of the sea. 

walking from Bolt Tail to Bolt Head
beautiful scenery around Soar Mill Cove
The monsoon-like rain caught me just before I reached Bolt Head. It was horizontal thanks to the strong wind so I was soaked to the skin at the back and dry-ish at the front. I didn’t walk all the way out to Bolt Head but cut off the end and clambered around Sharp Tor just as the rain eased. I could see up the entrance to the Kingsbridge Estuary to Salcombe. 

the jagged rocks of Sharp Tor through the heavy rain
Salcombe, along the Kingsbridge Estuary
I think there were more boats around Salcombe than I saw in either Falmouth or Plymouth. They were crammed in. This place had serious money as there were enormous houses dotted all over the cliffs. 

lots of boats and posh houses around Salcombe
approaching South Sands Beach
There were several little beaches, on both sides of the estuary. The water looked a lovely bottle-green, and with the palm trees that were dotted around (and the glorious sunshine that was now overhead) I felt like I might be in the Caribbean. 

beachy coves across the Kingsbridge Estuary
Mill Bay, Salcombe across the estuary
Salcombe is not designed for walking; narrow lanes spell disaster, particularly when filled with rich youths in big cars driving too fast. I had one lucky escape and thought I should have got the ferry from South Sands to the town centre. 

the view down the estuary from Salcombe
The town centre was packed. I managed to buy a lovely sandwich from a deli and sit on the waterfront watching people heading to and from boats. I avoided all the posh shops. 

beautiful green colour of the water around Mill Bay
After an hour’s break I caught the ferry across the estuary and walked past all the posh houses tucked around Mill Bay. 

walking to Prawle Point, the sea crashing against the cliffs
stunning scenery and tough walking
The walk to Prawle Point was wonderful. The terrain was rugged and the sea was pounding the cliffs in a white froth, making the sea look minty fresh. Yet more up and down; very tiring at the end of a long walk. 

rough seas on a windy day
Gammon Head from Prawle Point
I had reached the Southernmost point in Devon.

steep cliffs, no room for error!
I popped into the Lookout Station at Prawle Point and discovered an old man had just fallen off the cliff ahead of me. Fortunately he was only walking wounded. The coastguard has been very busy until 2 minutes before I arrived. 

Prawle Point Lookout Station
looking at Langerstone Point from Prawle Point
I walked up the hill to East Prawle (all the campsites seem to be at the top of a hill). There were 2 campsites and I chose the better one. This one was a cow field; the cows had been removed but it was full of cow pats. The grass was knee high and there was a toilet block that I didn’t find (it was a dirty old shed and you needed to provide your own loo roll). I didn’t find a water tap either (I stole into a caravan site and used theirs). And this was the better site! I spent a while picking grass and covering the fresher cow pats so at least I wouldn’t be rolling in one overnight. Then I headed to the pub, The Pig’s Nose Inn, for a shower. They have a shower room in the cellar with 4 shower heads in it. Very weird, but I was desperate. 

inside The Pig’s Nose Inn, East Prawle
The Pig’s Nose had been recommended to me as a quirky pub and it was definitely that. It was owned by an ex-roadie who still gets his mates to play in the hall next door. They were playing tonight and the pub was full. I managed to walk in without paying for a ticket, which was fortunate because I left after one song. I returned to the bar and the raucous music that was being played. I was being led astray by Mark, Mark and Churchie, who were camping for the weekend to come to this pub. I didn’t leave until well after midnight. 

knitting art, Salcombe

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

Day 330 Around Plymouth Sound

Thursday 30 June 2016

Plymouth to Wembury

8 miles

Pilgrims’ Rest Campsite

I woke up regretting the large glass of Bertha’s gin that I finished last night with. Kerry dropped me off at The Barbican Wharves on her way to work and I headed straight for the Jacka Bakery to enjoy another of their amazing pain-au-chocolats. 

looking across from Mount Batten to The Citadel
I took my time enjoying the atmosphere of The Barbican before heading around to The Citadel. This was where the local ferries ran from and I waited for the small ferry that covers the shortest journey, across the Cattewater to Mount Batten. It was preferable to walking inland, through the industrial area, to the Laira Bridge. 

Mount Batten extending into Cattewater
Mount Batten was the site of an RAF station from 1928-86, and before that there were flying boats stationed here since 1913. This was the home of air defence to protect the Naval vessels in the Western approaches to Southern England. 

Drake’s Island and Mount Edgcumbe Country Park on the left
Before aircraft the entrance to Cattewater and Sutton Harbour was protected by the Mount Batten Tower. It was built c1650, probably in response to the threat of war with the Dutch. Today it was shrouded in scaffolding and was undergoing repairs. 

Mount Batten Tower
The sky became blue and the sun came out, just to give me excellent views across the Plymouth Sound so I could properly appreciate the majesty of Plymouth. 
the view across The Sound to Rame Head
The path wound over Jenny Cliff and Staddon Heights, and out to Fort Bovisand. 

clouds bowling over Jenny Cliff
I read that in the 1860s twenty-four forts, constituting “a ring of fire”, had been built encircling Plymouth. They were arranged in 2 rings to protect from seaward and landward attacks, that were expected from the French. 

Bovisand Fort, The Breakwater and Picklecombe Fort on the far side of The Sound
The 3 forts covering the seaward approaches to The Sound were Picklecombe (western side), Breakwater Fort (central) and Fort Bovisand (eastern side). Staddon Fort, which was just above me, had been the principal land fort. 

Fort Bovisand and Picklecombe Fort
There were lots of boats in The Sound, although it is so big that it didn’t seem crowded. I noticed that a high proportion of the vessels resembled old-fashioned sailing boats, and then there were plenty of tiny dinghies with kids learning to sail, all mixing it with Royal Navy warships. 

the view to Wembury Point
The Plymouth Breakwater protects ships in The Sound from rough seas. It is almost 1 mile long, was designed by Sir John Rennie and building began in 1812 but wasn’t completed until 1844. It must be a masterpiece though because Napoleon thought so. 

Wembury Point and Great Mew Stone
Eventually I left The Sound behind and headed into Wembury Bay, facing Great Mew Stone. I was now in South Hams District. 

Wembury Bay, the River Yealm hidden by the cliffs
The beach at Wembury was small and had grey sand. The sea was choppy as it was windy so not as clear as I had been used to. It’s not supposed to be as clear as in Cornwall anyway because this is a marine conservation area so it’s full of nutrients that make the water appear cloudier. 

The Old Mill right on Wembury Beach
The town of Wembury extends up a big hill and the small, very basic campsite is helpfully located at the top. No sooner had I pitched my tent than I could see a sea must rolling in and spots of light rain began falling. I had been lucky today.

Devon’s Coast-to-Coast, Wembury to Lynmouth
I would have liked to have covered a few more miles but this was the only campsite until Bigbury-on-Sea and I had to fit in a lot of ferry crossings over the next few days. 

only 175 miles to go on the SW Coast Path…
…3 miles further on and I’ve now got 206 miles to go?!