Plymouth to Torquay
Aug 15 to 21 2013
Day 1 to Worswell Barton, Noss Mayo PL8 1HB
There was rain as I ate my breakfast but it had cleared by the time I left, and held off for the rest of day. It was a pleasant, not too taxing walk. I bought a new pole at Wembury beach, plus a sandwich which I ate in the churchyard. The church is on a headland away from the village, and has an interesting history. Then it was on to the ferry, and round the peninsular before cutting back to Worswell Barton. I was well looked after by Mrs Rogers, but it was quite a long walk back into Noss Mayo for a meal.
Day 2 to Beams, Thurlestone TQ7 3LX
Once again there was rain during breakfast, but it cleared as soon as I left the house. There were two challenges for the day. The first was to get to Mothersand ahead of the taxi that I had booked. The river Erme estuary is only fordable at low tide, whereas I would arrive pretty well on high tide. So the ten mile taxi ride is the only alternative. Secondly I then had to get to the River Avon before the 4pm ferry which is the last of the day, or else face another taxi ride. The first section of path is fairly flat, but it got tougher after Stoke Bay. I thought I was going to be late but what I thought was a bay before the Erme estuary turned out to be the Erme itself, so I ended up 10 minutes early. About an hour into the walk I had received a text to say I had a voicemail, but then I was unable to get a signal. I was worried that it was Mrs Rogers to say I had left something behind, but it turned out to be the taxi I had called the previous night who had not answered, returning my call. After the taxi ride, the next section was quite easy. Bigbury came into sight and looked quite close, but the next part had two very steep up and down bits. I could see Burgh Island as the tide went out and the causeway became visible at which point the sea tractor set off across. I started hurrying after Bigbury and made it to the ferry with ten minutes to spare. Instead of there being a recognised ferry point, there is a notice to wave to the ferryman. I waved generally out into the river, and someone waved back pointing to a part of beach where he was to land. The final part of the day's walking was quite easy to Thurlestone golf course where I turned off before a one mile walk through Thurlestone to Beams. There was a superb view from my bedroom window of several miles of coast.
Day 3 to Motherhill Farm, Salcombe TQ8 8NB
This day my luck ran out. At breakfast it was overcast but not raining. I headed back to the golf course and on towards Hope Cove. However a diversion due to a cliff fall sent us inland adding about an extra mile. I bought a sandwich at Hope Cove, but shortly after that the rain began to fall quite heavily just as I was reaching a long exposed section. At Bolt Tail there are remains of an Iron Age settlement which I might have explored more in better conditions. The rain stopped but then quickly returned. After that there was a longer bright spell, but as I was about to eat my sandwich I realised it was about to return which it did with a vengeance for well over an hour. This is quite a dramatic bit of coastline and the wind and rain added to the drama. There were plenty of quite steep ups and downs, but to my relief very few slippery rocks. At Bolt Head the wind was particularly strong, and my mind turned to Usain of that name, about to run the 200 metres final in the athletics World Championships. It wasn't till the cliffs were passed and I had reached North Sands that the rain relented and I was able to eat my sandwich. It was dry for most of rest of way into Salcombe. Then it was another mile out again to Motherhill Farm. The Weymouths are a retired couple who looked after me well, but it was quite basic - no television or mobile signal. After drying out I had to go back into Salcombe to get a meal, and only got slightly damp this time.
Day 4 to Tilly Cottage, Stokenham TQ7, 2SF
This time the sun shone all day. The guide book describes this sectiona as 12.9 miles strenuous, and I had at least a mile extra start and end. The church bells were ringing as I walked into Salcombe, but unfortunately I didn't have time to attend. I caught the ferry across the river and bought a sandwich and some sun tan lotion. The first part was generally not too bad, though the view ahead was limited as headlands were always sticking out. There are a few quite steep bits and several required clambering. After Prawle Point there is a long easy flat section on the "raised beach". Then a mile or so from Lannacombe Beach there was another landslip and diversion, this time a biggy - 2.5 miles with a long steep climb to start it. This probably added an hour to the journey time. A lot of the time the sea was well out of sight, which didn't help. Once back on the proper path it wasn't too bad, though for the last bit towards Start Point I was glad it wasn't raining as the rocks would have been slippery. Though the route missed out the lighthouse I thought I would visit it anyway. By now it was 3.45. The map tends to suggest that this is the half way point. In fact it is pretty wiggly till that point, but from then on it is quite straight and there is a great panorama of the whole coast as far almost as the Dart. It was quite easy from then on, with a steady descent to Hallsands, the village that was overcome by the sea. At Beesands they were serving drinks and cake in the church (they had raised £26,000 in six years). Then it was up and down to Torcross. However for me it was another mile (at least) to Stokenham, but luckily there is a footpath until you get into the village. Tilly Cottage was the only place in this section not from the guide book, and while they were very friendly and helpful, they were not used to walkers, as my directions were as if I was in a car. After braving a quarter of a mile of main road with no footpath I ended up turning back on myself, the place being just above the start of the village with a convenient footpath leading to it.
Day 5 to Hill View House, Dartmouth TQ6 9DZ
This was another sunny day. I made my way back to Torcross only to discover about a mile further on that I had left my pole at Tilly Cottage. I didn't need it to start with, but missed it later on. The first mile is alongside Slapton Ley. Then after a mile or so of footpaths there is the dreaded A379, half a mile along a main road with no footpath. Eventually after going through the middle of Strete there is a path to the right which takes you into a field with a deep valley running through it. It was not clear what the correct route was, and I ended up going down a very steep bit much lower than I needed to be, with an equally steep way back up. It ended up crossing back over the main road and taking a route through fields eventually reaching Blackpool Sands. Then it was on to Stoke Fleming. The route was a bit unusual. Having crossed the main road, it is signed up a side road to the left, which I thought at first was wrong, but it ended up at the top end of the village. I assumed when reaching a cross roads that I would turn right but the directions were straight on, and round the top of the village. I stopped and had my lunch by the sports field alongside the village hall. I was then directed across the road onto a minor road which went on for over a mile. Again I thought it was wrong as we were some way from the sea, but this time I checked the map and realised it was correct. Eventually it reached a car park and there was a sign towards the sea, and the route was straightforward into Dartmouth. I found Hill View after enquiring at the information office, and after a shower and a change went back into Dartmouth and ate fish and chips on the waterfront.
Day 6 to Westbury Guesthouse, Brixham TQ5 8NL
Again it was sunny all day. I got a new walking pole in Dartmouth then caught the ferry to Kingswear. I found the path OK, but before too long there was yet another diversion due to landslip but this time no walker directions. However there were people around to show the way. Then it is a long way along a narrow road before descending to the path proper. Before too long it gets to Froward Point, site of a WWII gun battery. Here is a last chance to see the very attractive views of the Dart estuary; after this all that is visible is distant promontories (if the weather is clear). Before too long it gets really challenging, some pretty steep climbs and descents sometimes right down to beach level. There were quite a few walkers around today. Eventually I reached Berry Head with its Napoleonic forts, and a cafe selling ice creams, at last. Then it's straightforward into Brixham which was pretty crowded. My directions were to find the walking street and it was easy to get to Westbury guest house after that.
Day 7 to Garway Lodge Guesthouse, Torquay TQ2 5LL
Another sunny day. The route is mainly urban, and there were plenty of other people around. Generally it was easy going, and a particularly enjoyable section went right alongside the Dart Valley Railway. I was lucky enough to see a steam train go right past me. I was in Paignton by 12:45, so the obvious thing to do was take the train. It was a very enjoyable trip. I took the chance at Kingswear to check the first part of the previous day's walk where there had been a diversion, and I was able to confirm that I had not missed any signs. On my return, I continued to Torquay, quite routine. However I realised I had the wrong map with me, so it took longer than it should have done to reach Garway Lodge. In the evening I walked into the town and found a nice restaurant by the harbour, where I could sit outside. Unfortunately, just as I had ordered my meal it started to rain, but there were enough tables with umbrellas for us hardy souls prepared to brave the elements.