Friday 1 July 2016
Wembury to Bigbury-on-Sea
Mount Folly Farm Campsite
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.
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.
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?”
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.
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.
There were a couple of very steep hills on the way to the River Erme, and a few coves.
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.
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!
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.
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).
Eventually I arrived at Challaborough, an enormous static caravan park right next to Bigbury-on-Sea.
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.
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.
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.
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.