Tag Archives: South West Coastal Path

Padstow to Clovelly (Part 1) – Walking the South West Coastal Path

Imagine being at the Base Camp below Mount Everest. Setting off and arriving 10 days later at the summit of the highest point on the planet – then returning to base.  What an achievement that would be – well over 15,000 feet of ascent.

Imagine setting off from a place called Rock in Cornwall and walking the coastal path for approximately 74 miles into North Devon.  By doing that you would gain the same feet of ascent, albeit with a little less snow & ice and a little bit more oxygen!  All the same, you’d be pretty pleased with yourself.

During September we amazed ourselves by completing this, said to be the toughest section of this national trail, in some blustery, stormy and at times unseasonal weather.

In this post I’ll try my best to describe just one walk…..

Thursday 14th September 2017 : Clovelly to Hartland (10.8 miles of South West Coastal Path SWCP, 2.5 miles of road)

We began our walk today from the village of Clovelly.  Part of an estate, owned by the same family, it is quite unique.  So unique infact that visitors are charged to enter it.  From a large car park visitors enter via a visitors centre then out to a single street of cobbles that leads steeply down past white cottages to the harbour.

However, our actual starting point was in the village of Hartland, just over 2 miles inland from the sea. Why?  Well apart from the linear walk itself the logistics – parking, bus routes and lack of taxis was tricky.  So, we parked for free in Hartland and took the bus to the visitors centre at Clovelly.  This would leave us with 2.5 miles of road walking at the end of the day but we would deal with that when we had to.

At the bus stop at Hartland Tim chatted to the bus driver who we had met the previous day, on another journey!  It’s easy to make friends when you’re on holiday!

Chatting to the bus driver at Hartland bus stop

Our bus arrived on time and after a journey of about 25 minutes we jumped off at Clovelly.  We had no time to explore today with over 12 miles of walking ahead of us.  But we did manage to explore on another day and here are a couple of photos to give you a taste of the place.

Approaching Clovelly village. Cobbles all the way.

The top of Clovelly village. Taken early in the morning before the masses arrived!

The harbour at Clovelly with pub on the left hand side.

We set off through the wooded boundaries of the estate, hugging the coastline, passing two structures built by Sir James Hamlyn Williams – estate owner 1884 – 1936.  The first was a roofed shelter, the second structure is called Angels Wings.  I took a second to sit down and try it out!

We continued, across an area called Gallantry Bower – an open headland with ditches and bumps dating back to Bronze Age life.

Back into wood to a promontory called The Wilderness. The track with glimpses of the sea through trees continued to be wonderful but we suddenly found we were on a dead end and had actually missed a left turn.  Annoyed with ourselves we had added an extra bit of walking onto our long day (just what we didn’t need!).

Gorgeous woods near The Wilderness!

Back on track we dropped down to Mouthmill Cove.  No time to check out the stoney beach and Black Church Rock.  We were immediately back into the trees on the opposite side and going steeply up a narrow path.

The woodland paths were quite muddy in places and we had to be careful – particularly going down.  Even though many paths have ‘stepped’ wooden boards to make the going easier we had had some torrential downpours during the night making these shady places very sticky!

Very sticky, muddy paths in amongst the trees.

Out of the trees we followed the next headland on grassy paths, then very soon we were descending again – this time we could see where the next uphill section was!

Once we reached the trees (visible in the above photo) we looked back and had a great view of Black Church Rock – the rock we had missed at Mouthmill Cove.  With the tide in we wouldn’t have been able to get close to it anyway.

Black Church Rock at Mouthmill Cove – shaped with ‘windows’ carved by the sea

With the sun warming us up with stopped to take off our fleeces and check the map.  Tim was a bit concerned as we hadn’t progressed quite as well as he’d thought we should.  Heads down we marched on around easy, level, pastoral fields pausing briefly to look at a memorial to a World War ll Welington Bomber and crew that had crashed into the cliffs near this point.

On again and now we had a view of a tower which was the Radar Station at Hartland Point.  It seemed so small and far away.  We decided, no more stops for photographs until we got to it, though we couldn’t resist a few blackberries along the way.

At last we circled the Radar Station and made our way down to a car park and the delightful cafe/kiosk at Hartland Point called ‘The Point’.

We said it was a shame we had sandwiches with us as everything looked well presented and so tempting – still we were grateful for hot drinks.  I would thoroughly recommend this small cafe.  They very kindly let us use one of their picnic benches for our packed lunch.  We like to think we returned the favour by tempting in other visitors…!

Two hot drinks please

Me – really loving that cup of tea.

After lunch we immediately passed the entrance gateway to Trinity House Lighthouse.  Not visible from the gate, with big signs to say that it wasn’t open to the public.  Since getting home I googled the lighthouse for information and found that it was sold as a residential dwelling in 2015.

We had turned a corner and were now heading in a southerly direction.  I turned to look for the lighthouse and spotted it amongst the rocks way below the path.  Also clearly in view on the horizon is Lundy Island – a nature reserve that can be accessed via helicopter trips.

Just moments before taking the lighthouse photograph a helicopter flew low and slow over our heads but not out to sea.  Maybe on another trip?  It had the word Electricity on the side so it seemed unlikely.

Trinity House Lighthouse with Lundy Island on the horizon

Looking at us looking at them

A little way on from this I saw another memorial.  A hospital ship, the Glenart Castle, torpedoed in the middle of the night in 1918 – how terribly sad.

The hospital ship memorial

Whether it was because I was thinking about all those lost souls and the many ship wrecks along this piece of coast I drifted off a bit while we were walking. Sometimes walking does that to you.

The next thing I can remember is coming across a small group of children having an abseiling lesson.  About 10 or 11 years old I would guess.  We chatted to their teacher, an outward bound teacher I suppose, of about 19 or 20 years old and wished we were 10 or 11.  Saying our goodbyes one youngster gave us a warning ‘be careful, you are very close to the edge’.  We laughed as we thanked him but actually we hadn’t realised quite how close to the edge we were.  It stopped us in our tracks as we looked at the sheer drop below.

A little while later and around the rocky I looked back and could see one of adventure seekers ‘going over the edge’. Wow, it looked impressive.  They are very small in the photo (if you can zoom in it helps) but they are middle of the shot near the top of the flat rock (with the sheer drop below them!).

A youngster abseiling – ‘be careful as you go over the edge’!

Getting close to Hartland Quay now we only had a couple more ups and downs to go.

More steps down before more steps up. Stoke church tower (1 mile inland) just visible.

Our last stretch of the coastal path today took us across grass and past a mysterious structure which is only named as ‘ruin’ on the Ordnance Survey map.  It looks like it could have been an archway of a chapel.  A scattering of sheep were making the most of the sunshine and ignored us as we passed.

A mysterious arch stands alone (except for visiting walkers and sheep)

At 4:00 pm we reached a narrow road.  It’s the approach road that immediately drops down to Hartland Quay.

We had visited the quay two days earlier because it was really stormy and too dangerous to walk along cliff edges, etc.  Of all the places we have passed along the SWCP this one made me say “wow” the most often.  Maybe it was the weather, maybe it was the fact that there was a hotel way down at sea level, maybe it was the hairpin road down to it, I can’t say.  It was, for me, wonderfully wild.

So here we were at the road.  All we had to do was 2.5 miles of road walking inland back to Hartland village and our car.  Tim had a plan.  How about we thumb a lift?  Lots of visitors down below had no option but to use this road and they would be travelling back to Hartland.  We dusted ourselves down and with grins on our faces prepared for the passing of cars.  As I said the road fell away very steeply down the the hotel so we couldn’t actually see them coming so we listened out for car engines under stress!

Within a minute one approached.  ‘Quick, thumbs out’  but the car driver smiled and pointed back at her dogs in the car, mouthed “sorry” and drove on.  Ah well.  Just as I was about to photograph Tim standing there another car came along.  This one slowed then stopped.  OMG.

A couple of about our age, window down, said “where are you going”, Tim explained that we were walking the SWCP and had walked 10 miles from Clovelly and would appreciate a lift to Hartland.  They said “of course, get in”.

As we pulled our doors closed I was suddenly transported back through time, to a time when I was 8 years old. DON’T GO WITH STRANGERS was the message given to us at school and home.  A good lesson.  However, I thought (with fingers crossed), when you get into your 50’s its time to take a chance.

So, we survived.  We didn’t get mugged or abducted or left for dead on the side of the road.  Our ‘friends’ were lovely people also on holiday and so very interested in our walking quest.  In no time at all they dropped us off and we thanked them gratefully.   Once they disappeared out of sight we both fell into hysterical laughter….relief maybe?  Did that actually happen!?

Back in Hartland village. With all our spare time what is a person to do?

So, we decided, why not go back to Hartland Quay (by car!) and have a celebratory drink?  We did exactly that.

A long and tiring day but we survived to tell the tale.

Wreckers Bar, Hartland Quay. Just the job!

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Plymouth to Exmouth (Part3) – Walking the South West Coastal Path

‘THERE YOU ARE, DON’T SAY I NEVER GIVE YOU ANYTHING ‘ the farmer shouted

With that his arm extended out of an old truck and In his hand he held a clump of weeds.  The back seat seemed to be full of the same weeds. We looked at each other…

‘WELL COME ON, TAKE THEM, I HAVEN’T GOT ALL DAY!’ he shouted (again).

Our walking friend stepped forward and took them, reluctantly.  The farmer drove off.

‘I’ll throw them in the hedge when he’s out of sight’ our walking friend whispered.

Tim looked down and said, ‘hang on, they’re peas’.

14th July 2017 – Kingston to Bigbury on Sea (8 miles)

This was the strangest start of any walking day.

We had been joined by another walker, who had also parked his car in the field (used as a car park), opposite Mount Folly Farm and we were waiting for the 9:30 bus.  Parking here, at £3 all day, is a good deal cheaper than the beach car park.

Our walker friend turned out to be a fellow South West Coastal Path follower  – having done the whole thing from Minehead in Somerset to Plymouth.  He was about to do a couple of days walking from Plymouth back to the car…

Discussing routes, ferries, parking, etc with a fellow South West Costal Path walker at the bus stop

The Farmer, whose land we had parked on, was an eccentric old boy who we first met (heard!) shortly after parking the car.  ‘THE BUS IS AT 9:30’ he had told us just before leaving us in peace.  Obviously, he was off to the fields to collect some vegetables (peas) and thought we might like some on his return.  He just liked to share and just liked to shout!

The bus arrived (at 9:30!) and off we went to Kingston, a small village near the River Erme estuary.  We picked up a crowd of people on the way and we were quite pleased to get off, leaving our friend to continue his journey to Plymouth in the unusually full bus.  We waved and wished each other well.

At Kingston Fire Station we got off and waved farewell to our walking friend

Time to check the map – it’s always a bit disorienting when you get off a bus in a strange place.  From here we walked past an old pub, down a lane, across a couple of fields and through wood to reach the start of the coastal path near the slipway at Wonwell Beach.

At this point, and in case you want to read the, here are links to my two previous posts linked to this trip

Plymouth to Exmouth (Part 1)

Plymouth to Exmouth (Part 2)

 

On the opposite bank of the River Erme, at the slipway near Wonwell Beach

So now we were back on the path.  We initially followed a small sandy track round the headland, slowly going uphill, in amongst high hedges and shrubs so our view was restricted a bit.

Once we were past the shrubs the shiny rocky coast looked quite dramatic and made us squint a bit in the sunshine.

The coastline all lit up in the morning sunshine

For several miles we followed the path stopping every now and then to admire the views. There were several small coves along the way, almost all of them were only accessible from the sea.

As we got closer to lunchtime we decided to try the peas.  Nervously we had a few each – straight out of the pods.  Not bad but apparently not as nice as they sometimes can be according to Tim.

Admiring the view

Living life on the edge, we ignored all the danger signs and found a perfect spot for lunch, just off the path.

‘Here’s a nice spot’

The great thing about carrying your lunch with you every day is that you can just about sit anywhere, whenever you choose.  This time we could see all the way down the coast ahead of us from a high spot.

Just in front was Ayrmer Cove with the grand total of 3 poeple on the beach.  As we finished our sandwich we spotted a drone flying up and down the beach, out to the rocks then over to us.  It was being flown by one of the beach party.  We picked up our packs and raced down the path to chat to the pilot.

Ayrmer Cove. The three people are just tiny dots just below the green mound of grass on the left.

Some people may have found this situation a bit annoying – out for the day, enjoying the peace and quiet.  However we love gadgets and photography in all forms so we were keen to to see whether we had been filmed and, if so, whether we could see the film.  As it turned out the drone was being used by a young lad who hadn’t figured out how to film yet, which was a shame.  His flying skills were impressive though.  We chatted away to him and his mum and sister for several enjoyable minutes.

 

The drone

Back up onto the headland, on towards Challaborough.  Is this a village or just a giant static caravan park?  No need to stop here, the cafe was doing a roaring trade to those wanting chips, beer and wine.  Large families, not all of them looking 1. Happy or 2. Healthy.

Not much further along we had a view of Bigbury on sea.  What a gorgeous view it was too.  There’s a island which is linked to the mainland by sand at low tide.  Burgh Island.  An Art Deco hotel stands proudly out there and people pay extraordinary amounts of money to stay.  Check it out if you dare!

Burgh Island Hotel

We had no time to go across to visit the island, hotel or the Pilchard Inn we had a bit more walking to do.

On the outskirts of Bigbury on sea. Burgh Island in view.

Usually at this point or time of the afternoon Tim starts promising ice creams at the next available opportunity.  I’m a bit of an ice cream fan and at the slightest mention of it I can think of nothing else!

Ice cream, Ice cream, Ice cream

Hurrah we made to the car park in front of the beach and lots of people were walking around with ice creams but could we find the cafe, no we couldn’t.  We circled round and round like tearful lost children looking for their parents.  Least that’s how it felt to me!  If you ever visit remember that this car park has two levels and the cafe is on the lower level, completely out of sight from the road!

So, we found it and we were absolutely delighted.  I can’t remember what flavour my ice cream was but it was one of the best.  I have to recommend the Venus cafe, the staff were cheerful and courteous.

And, by the way, the toilets next door were pretty good too!

The Venus Cafe at Bigbury on Sea. One of the best.

All we had to do now was get ourselves to the car (up Folly Hill Road) then nip down to the Avon estuary and return to the car.  That all sounds easy peasy doesn’t it.

Getting to the car was ok, up hill, but ok.  We tip toed through the farm on the opposite side of the road – the ‘pea’ farmers farm.  Then followed the path steeply down hill.  It was a wonderful afternoon.  Down and down it went until we reached the banks of the estuary to an area called Cockleridge.

It was low tide and everything was quite still.

Almost at the river.

The Cockleridge to Bantham Ferry runs on demand – so the sign says.  Between 10:00 and 11:00 then 03:00 and 04:00.  We sat and stared across the waterway.  As with all the other walks I’ve described so far, we didn’t need the ferry, we were just following the path.

And we made it back to the car too.

Who could complain with the sort of day we’d had.

The Avon – on the way back up to the car.

Plymouth to Exmouth (Part 2) – Walking the South West Coastal Path

This follows on from Plymouth to Exmouth (Part 1)

13th July 2017 – Noss Mayo to Mothecombe (11 miles)

Today we had some tricky logistics to deal with.  We needed a bus to get us to Noss Mayo (a tiny place on the River Yealm estuary) from Mothercombe, which is an even smaller place, on the River Erme estuary.

If you’ve read my previous blog the second walk finished with us at the River Yealm estuary – looking across the water towards Noss Mayo.  These estuaries do run small ferry services for walkers but as mentioned previously we don’t like the pressure of getting to these by a set time.

After quite a bit of online investigation we found an estate called ‘Flete’ which had a car park for visitors at Mothecombe.  The only problem was

1. They didn’t officially open until 9:00

2. The bus stop was a mile away from the car park

3. The bus we needed was due at 9:21.

Buses in some parts are so infrequent it was important to get this one – infact it was the only bus of the day!

We got up ultra early to make sure we could park (somewhere) and get to the stop on time.  Thankfully the Flete Estate had their gates open at 8:30 which gave us enough time to make our way to the bus stop.

The only thing that passed us was this tiny buggy vehicle.

Watch the traffic!

After hanging around in a tiny hamlet of Battisborough Cross ‘our bus’ arrived. I say our bus as we were the only passengers and it was ‘ours’ all the way to Noss Mayo.  It really made me wonder how long bus services will continue with so few passengers in this part of the world.

Off we went, stopping no where and picking up no one.  After about 20 minutes or so we arrived at Noss Mayo.  Now on foot we made our way through this very picturesque village on the River Yealm estuary.  Very typical of villages in such places – the houses are staggered steeply up either side of the estuaries.

Actually this is Noss Creek to be precise.

Noss Mayo – 2 minutes from the bus stop

Looking down onto the estuary.

Close to where the ferry crosses. This is looking across to Newton Ferrers

We eventually found the ferry slipway and as this is the continuation of the coastal path we knew we were on our way again.

There’s an old Ferrymans Cottage right where the tarmac finishes and woodland track starts.  It must have seen some comings and goings over the years.  The toll sign on the wall of the Toll Cottage really gives you a picture of how it used to be.

The price of transporting goods

Ferrymans Cottage

Into the woodland we went, gradually climbing uphill. It was a beautiful morning and we enjoyed the cool of the trees with occasional glimpses of boats on the blue/green water.

Lovely wood, crystal clear water.

Once out of the wood we stopped to admire the views at the entrance of the estuary and turned left along a very good, broad high level track.  The rocky coast, including many coves, looked quite spectacular and we were able to admire them as we made our way along the track.

The temperature was starting to rise but we had a breeze over our shoulders which was lovely.  Around the headland we passed through a small wood which lead to the entrance of a static caravan park.

We thought we could, perhaps, pop into a shop on the site for extra drinks but a lady at the gate said (in a very posh voice) ‘no sorry, there’s a pub up the road though’.  On an 11 mile walk the last thing you really want to do is add on an extra mile so we continued on our way….slightly disbelieving this slightly snooty lady.  I have, since returning from holiday, checked out Revelstoke Park caravan park and Church Cove and there are no facilities so this lady was actually telling the truth.  Remember to take your own if you’re ever exploring this area!

It actually was a very quiet, remote spot – we paused a couple of times to look down onto the cove and the caravan park we had passed.

High above Stoke Beach and the caravan park

Now we needed to stop for lunch and just around the corner was a very convenient stone (could have been marble) bench at Beacon Hill.  These benches often have inscriptions on ‘In memory of …. who loved this spot’ or similar.  This one, rather sadly, had the name of a young man who was only 19 when he died.

Onward after lunch we descended over grass then ascended on a track to another path which lead around to fields with crops.  Always a pleasure to walk through ‘fields of gold’.

Fields of gold

There followed several more miles and several more edges of fields.

Thoroughly enjoying myself

We reached a very impressive rocky cove called Bugle.  After this the headland took us around so that we could see the estuary of the river Erme.  Nearly back then?  Not quite.

Down onto Mothecombe Beach we went.

Mothecombe Beach

In today’s sunshine it was an idyllic spot and hardly another person in sight.

Then we had to climb up another path through trees then down and onto the sands of Coastguards Beach and the slipway to the end of the path.  From here, at low tide, other South West Coastal Walkers can wade across to the otherside.  Not us, we took a few minutes to admire the view then made our way back to the car park and our car – 15 minutes uphill!

It cost £4 to park the car which we paid on exiting the car park.

It is possible to wade across the Erme estuary at low tide.

 

Plymouth to Exmouth (Part 1) – Walking the South West Coastal Path

Two weeks holiday has come to an end.  It’s always a sad time but we are not down hearted as we have completed another big chunk of our South West Coastal Path challenge.

From Plymouth to Exmouth we have walked 80 miles (of the coastal path) and probably another 10 or so ‘extras’.  These ‘extras’ being links to and from car parks or bus stops or where we might have taken the wrong track, etc.

The weather has been warm, sunny and just perfect for walking in shorts and t-shirts.  My dilemma now is how to split the two weeks into blog posts that are (hopefully) enjoyable to read.  Well, here goes, I’ll just start at the beginning and see how it goes.  Written by day, from west to east – day 1 just happens to be the most westerly point!

Sunday 9th July, Around Plymouth (10 miles)

We parked, for free, in an area called Mount Batten. It’s a peninsula and from here a ferry runs back and forth across the River Plym to Plymouth.  We joined about three other people on the early morning ferry and enjoyed 15 minute trip across docking at an area called The Barbican.

Jetty onto the ferry

Just here, at this very spot, in 1620, the Pilgrim Fathers departed in their boat The Mayflower, for the New World.  A photo near the Mayflower Steps was a must. Their journey was a little more symbolic than ours.  There’s a bit more history to check out in this area but you have to look past the coffee stalls and souvenir shops.

Historic hot spot

We headed west, around The Hoe – famous for Sir Francis Drake.  Firstly for sailing in to aboard The Golden Hind in 1580 having circumnavigated the world.  Secondly for continuing his game of bowls when the Spanish Armada was spotted in the English Channel in 1588.  Apparently he wasn’t concerned as the tides were wrong, only setting sail when they had turned.  What a cool guy!

Anyway, that’s enough ancient history – Tim gets mighty bored with all that old stuff but is patient with my ‘oh look, that’s where he must have been playing bowls’ comments….Still it brings in the tourists and there were plenty about.

After a while we circled around Royal William Yard. The Royal Navy opened up this strategic site in 1992 and it has been redeveloped to provide a historic and iconic setting for contemporary restaurants, galleries and apartments.  We circled round and soon reached the Cremyll Ferry crossing and stared across over the River Tamar to Cornwall.  We stood at Cremyll in September last year and looked across to where we were standing now. We would go on to do lots more staring across estuaries over the next two weeks.

Royal William Yard

Looking across to Cornwall from a the ferry crossing

Zigzagging through the streets we made our way back to The Barbican for a coffee.  Wow it was busy busy.  Sitting down at Cap’n Jaspers we shared a table with an elderly gent who told us all about his holiday travels with Ramblers International.  In 32 years he had visited 31 countries – some distant and remote and far far away from sunny Devon.  He was very interesting but used the words “It was magic it was” all the time which turned out to be our holiday catchphrase.

Our coffee stopping point – just over there…

Coffee finished we then headed away from the popular tourist areas and into the industrial part of town – honestly we wouldn’t be doing this at all if it wasn’t part of the official route.  It wasn’t very nice, not to worry, it was a quiet Sunday afternoon which helped.   We marched on and crossed the river into an area where we could enjoy our lunch then on again we passed Radford Castle which is actually a folly (not a castle!).  There were also several remains of boats that had seen better days.

 

The folly just ahead and old boat which had seen better days…

The rest of the walk was very pleasant – now we were looking back across the water to the city and passing a marina and eventually back to Mount Batten – named after RAF Mount Batten and the Seaplane station here.

Looking back across to Plymouth

Wednesday 12th July –  Plymouth to Wembury

Parking the car at Wembury Church we put some cash into the honesty box and walked uphill to the bus stop.  From here we could get ourselves to Plymouth and walk back.

All bus stops/routes and car parks had been researched as best we could via the Internet.  Locals also give us advice and this morning we met another retired gent cycling his bike around the church car park.  He confirmed our bus and stop.  He had a great sense of humour and said that his wife sent him out everyday on his bike and told him not to return home until he was exhausted!

Wembury from the bus stop – and our car

We were early but happy to wait for the bus at this stop with a view.

A small snail was taking a chance by crossing the footpath.  This is how slow life can get on holiday!

Back in Plymouth we enjoyed a second breakfast at Cap’n Jaspers before getting the ferry across to the start of the walk.

It’s fair to say that we thoroughly enjoyed this walk.  After an initial climb up and away from the Plymouth area we followed the path with ease.  The Brittany Ferry was pulling in and a naval boat was pulling out of the harbour.

After a few hours we stopped at a lovely bench close to this spot and had lunch.

Time for lunch

Further on we knew we were getting close to Wembury as the Great Mew Stone appeared.

The Great Mew

A little further ahead we approached Wembury beach.  Busy now with people enjoying themselves.  It’s looked after by the national trust and looks good because of that.

Approaching Wembury – well done National Trust

After an enjoyable ice cream we continued up the estuary to the ferry crossing point.  We have been avoiding crossing rivers by ferry as the tides mean you have to time things just right – we’d rather just go down to the crossing points as it’s less stressful.  This does mean extra walking but we think it’s worth it.

The River Yealm estuary

Coming back up from the crossing point at the River Yealm

Its especially worth it when you come across little dogs like this one who was doing her best to carry a large stick across the path and trip everyone up!  Loved her enthusiasm.

Little legs, big stick. She was so excited.

 

 

 

The Jurrasic Coast (Part 3) – Walking the South West Coastal Path

This is the third post which details the 40 miles we walked (following the South West Coastal Path) 16th to 22nd March 2017.

Seaton to Lyme Regis (A walk like no other)

Easter Sunday and the buses were running a ‘Sunday’ service.  For that we were thankful.

We drove to Lyme Regis and parked in a huge car park on the outskirts of town.  This long stay car park cost £2.00 for the day – it’s the cheapest all day car park ticket we have paid for in years!  I must remember to write and congratulate whoever made that decision….

The bus stop was right at the car park entrance/exit.  Tim made friends with a tree.  He was looked suspiciously relaxed as we waited.  Perhaps he was preparing himself for something I hadn’t quite considered?

The bus came along then dropped us off at the start of our walk at the sea side town of Seaton.  This was our first sight of Seaton. Though I have talked about Seaton in my previous post this was infact our first visit of the week – as I mentioned in Part 1 these posts are describing the walking routes from the furthest west to the furthest east, not the order we did them in!

Initially crossing a bridge away from the town, over the River Axe, we took a steep tarmac lane to Axe Cliff Golf Club and then the course beyond that.  Passing through a golf course can be an exciting thing especially if you can hear voices of players but can’t actually see them!

Along a sheltered lane we came to a junction with a cautionary note.

‘Please note that it takes approximately 3 1/2 to 4 hours walk to Lyme Regis’. Fair enough I thought.

‘The terrain can be difficult and arduous.  There is no permissive access to the sea or inland along this stretch of the path’.

Er, OK.  ‘So, that’s for people who aren’t used to walking’  I said to Tim.  He nodded solemnly.

Needless to say we continued along our way, skirting fields at the top of the cliff.  The bright yellow crop of Oil Seed Rape (rapeseed) seems to be covering great swathes the countryside these days.

Then we turned left and started to descend, at first to an area called Goat Island.  Landslips have and continue to affect this bit of coast and Goat Island used to be attached to the cliff top. I couldn’t see why it’s called island though….or infact Goat.  Maybe some poor goat fell to its death in the landslip?!

Orchids – these are called Pyramid Orchids I think.  We got all excited seeing one on its own and then, just round the corner, there were several….

Shortly after this the path dropped again into the trees.  I had no idea that the open view, looking back at the open landscape now, would be the last I would have for the next 3 hours.  Look how innocent I am.  This is Axmouth Undercliff (Nature Reserve).

So, we were now in a densely covered enclosed area – one way in and one way out.

We enjoyed it too (at first) with the narrow path twisting up and turning down then twisting and turning some more.  ‘Thought it was supposed to be cloudy’ I said then  ‘Where are we?’ (meaning – ‘how far had we gone?’).  ‘Lunch at the next bench’ Tim said.

After almost 2 hours we found a solitary bench and stopped for lunch.  The sun shone (through the gaps in the trees) and it was warm but we had found a breeze.  At this point three people passed us – looking as pleased to see us as we were to see them.  We were not alone.

For the entire time we were ‘in the trees’ there was no view. There were a few magical moments when the dense woodland opened up a bit and there were wild flowers growing on either side of the path.  That was lovely and kept us going.

Then we got a glimpse of white cliff.  Wow.  This whole area – these miles of trees and plants exist here because of landslides.  It has formed a sanctuary and some, often rare, species have thrived.

Walkers coming from Lyme Regis began to pass us.  Some simply carrying a bottle of water and sauntering along.  Hope they knew what they were doing.  Felt like saying ‘you’ve got three hours of walking, you do realise that do you?’

On and on we went, trying to guess how much further we had before Lyme Regis.  There were no info boards or finger posts with mileage indicators but thankfully the ground was bone dry.  This was a little bit unusual apparently as it can be quite a muddy walk (according to a lady we met on our morning bus journey).  We were lucky.

Finally, finally the path opened up. Big grins on our faces.  Somewhere back there we had crossed the border into Dorset and we were pretty pleased.

To really get a sense of freedom we took a steep stepped path down to the sea and joined the masses on the harbour wall at Lyme Regis.  We gulped down the rest of our squash and breathed in that salty air.

Seatown to Lyme Regis

For this walk (the last one of the week) we walked east to west.

The dry clear weather meant that we should do Gold Cap.  Gold Cap is a sea cliff/hill and the highest point of the whole South West Coastal Path at 627 feet (191 metres). It’s distinctive golden top can be seen from miles away.

Once again we took a bus out to the start of our walk. Unfortunately (for us) we had a ‘walk in’ meaning the bus stop wasn’t quite where we needed it to stop and had to walk down to the coastal path from a main road.  Along the way we chatted to some thatchers busy replacing a roof of a pretty cottage.  Nice guys doing a decent trade.

So, up we went to Gold Cap from Seatown.  To be honest we found it a doddle – easy peasy.  All our mountain walking paid off.  We strolled over the top and admired the views, albeit a little bit misty this morning.

Down we went following the path through lovely countryside facing views along the coastline to everything we had covered over the previous few days.

With the sun now shining and with a carefree pace we thought it wouldn’t be long before we would decend to Charmouth Beach for lunch. Then we came across another unexpected diversion sign.  Surely not.

Obeying the sign we diverted – quite a long way as it turned out.

By the time we eventually reached Charmouth we were feeling a bit miffed as we had missed the coastal stroll we had been enjoying.  Tim posed at a sign we wouldn’t have seen if we hadn’t been diverted.

At the beach we had our lunch right next to the busy Cafe and Fossil Museum.  People were waiting for the tide to turn before setting off on fossil hunting expeditions.  We didn’t need to wait for a tide – we had a couple more miles to complete.

We walked out of Charmouth, up the road leading into the village, through a small wood, across a golf course (quickly!) and into the outskirts of Lyme Regis.  We then turned into the most incredible bluebell wood we had ever seen.  Tim, with camera in hand, set about trying to capture the scene. I strolled about thinking this was a very fine end to the week.

Then I spotted a home made tree swing and decided to give it a try – I am such a big kid.

So, we really ended our week on a high, as we strolled down to the town.  Great views, fine paths, interesting journeys, dry weather.  We bought an ice cream and quietly sat an admired the view.  Who could ask for more?

Postscript

I have written three posts forming a trilogy to describe our journey on foot along the South West Coastal Path from East Devon into Dorset.  On our day off we went back to Lyme Regis to photograph the harbour.  We thoroughly enjoyed exploring this historic place.

 

Then, we went in search for fossils on Charmouth Beach.  I felt sure we would be tripping over them but, unfortunately, after several hours of head down and scouring the beach, we came away empty handed.

I was so disappointed (and the above sign didn’t help one bit) that Tim took me into The Old Forge Fossil Shop in Lyme Regis and bought me a small Ammonite.  In my eyes fossils should be considered as treasures and although mine is ‘shop bought’ it is very precious.  I love it.

Questions for fellow bloggers :

Have you found a fossil?  What and where?  Be great to hear about your finds.

 

 

The Jurassic Coast (Part 2) – Walking the South West Coastal Path

This is the second posting (of a trilogy) about our recent week away in East Devon.  If you missed the first and would like to ‘catch up’ you can by clicking on this link.

The Jurassic Coast (Part 1)

Sidmouth to Seaton – 10 miles

We started our day by parking the car in a large car park at Seaton.  Seaton is a small seaside town to the west of the River Axe.  The car park was right next to the new Seaton Jurassic – a place for families to go and find out about fossils and dinosaurs. I hope it does well.

At this time of the morning (Easter Monday) the car park was empty.  At this time of the morning the town was also empty, or so it seemed.  It was at least very, very quiet.

We walked to the bus stop which was right on the sea front and waited.  It was a calm, sunny morning.  A man walked across the road with a yoga mat under his arm and started going through his routine on the promenade.   He pretty much set the tone of the place.

Tim waiting at the bus stop at Seaton.

I crossed the road and photographed the serene sea – looking west. The cliffs here are white – this would be the last section of our walk today.

The bus came along and we took front row seats.  We then had a little wait before the departure time which was 8:57am. Our cheerful driver took out his camera and called across to a nearby cafe owner to come and take a look at his family photos. They obviously knew each other well and it was great to (almost) be part of this social meeting of locals.

We set off and picked up other locals and  friendly conversations continued between driver and passengers.

At Sidmouth we got off and walked through empty streets and shops that hadn’t opened yet.  “What we need is a coffee” said Tim and almost instantly, just around the corner, there appeared a small bakery with a sign ‘we sell hot drinks’.  We eagerly stepped inside. The Upper Crust bakery – a tiny place but full of yummy things to eat.  As well as two coffees we grabbed a couple of puff pastries filled with egg, bacon, sausage and beans – total cost £6.00.  With second breakfasts in hand we sat on a bench at the sea front and enjoyed ourselves immensely!

Finally at 9:45, we thought we better get going. We had some walking to do and this was going to be a tough one with three big climbs.  As you can see from the photo, the path rises fairly steeply out of the town.

We crossed a metal bridge over the River Sid and immediately started uphill.  However, it didn’t seem to take too long before we entered a wood full of bluebells at the very top.

Ferns were uncurling and leaves in the trees just making an appearance.  Beautiful.

Once over the hill it was down then up again over grass, which is always just that bit harder somehow.  Puffing and panting it’s time to look back and see where you’ve just come from.  Sidmouth is just peeping around the corner on this shot.

The going got a bit easier for a while and we headed slightly inland passing grazing ponies then grazing cows.

Sometimes, on long walks, we see only a few other walkers, this time we saw several.  I suppose it was because it was the Easter weekend.  Three walkers with much bigger packs than ours passed us with a quiet ‘hello’.  We always try and guess where they are from and what their relationship is with each other – two brothers, one married?  Two old friends, one with a girlfriend?  It never matters but we always do this.

I liked the look of this cow!

We entered the trees again near Branscombe – the village was way down on our left.  The smell of wild garlic was really strong here – at least I think it’s wild garlic.  The plants covered a huge area that steeply dropped away on our left, small star shaped flowers spiked from large glossy leaves.  It’s probably one of those smells you either love or hate.

Further along were wild flowers. Wild flowers at this time of the year are exquisite.

It was just after this that a spaniel, who had been at our heels for the last mile or so, jumped into a cattle trough for a drink and cool down.  He obviously knew what he was doing but it was a funny sight.  It’s ok – his owner hauled him out.

Branscombe Mouth, a stoney beach, was busy with visitors.  Almost on the beach sat a really big thatched cafe/restaurant, the Sea Shanty, doing a roaring trade.  We sat on a bank and watched people sitting, laughing, strolling while and had our packed lunch …it was all nice & relaxed.

Time to get going again – we climbed the grassy bank away from Branscombe and took a last look back.

Next was Hooken Cliff – this is an area that was formed by a landslide in 1790.  Big white cliffs reared up – a cave can be seen about half way down on the left.

Our route followed a narrow track between the trees.

Climbing ever so gradually we reached the top – were now on the cliff that circled round to a placed called Beer.  Beer is a historic fishing village and draws the crowds, especially on Easter weekends!

We strode down the hill, took a quick look at the visitors enjoying a beer at the pub at the bottom of the hill, thought about it for a moment or two, then strode out.  We still had a couple of miles to go.  I’m sure we will return to Beer, for a beer another day (who can resist with a name like that) – apparently it’s quite a picturesque village.

Just before we lost the view of the very sheltered harbour at Beer, as we climbed the path, we looked back and took another photo.  You can clearly see how popular this place is by the number of people still on the beach enjoying the late afternoon sunshine.

Shortly afterwards I took this shot looking towards Seaton. Seaton still looks quite a long way away but was within touching distance now.  It was infact the last photo of the day.

We both imagined we would be walking along the path near the beach – the beach I photographed at the start of the day (scroll back to the second photo of this post – taken from near the bus stop), but the path has been diverted inland due to a more recent landslip on the edge of town.  We could have taken the beach back but those pebbles are a killer on the feet, knees, legs and especially tiring after 10 miles.

So, diversion path it was.

It was on this diversion that we met and walked with a chap of about our age from the West Midlands and his two teenage children back into town.  They had only been on a short walk that afternoon.  It made for a strange end to a long day (as we slowed our pace and they picked up theirs) but we enjoyed the humour and company and, I think, they may even have been inspired to give this section of the Coatal Path a go themselves.

 

The Jurassic Coast (Part 1) – Walking the South West Coastal Path

Just back from a week away – walking the coast of East Devon into Dorset. This stretch of the coast is also known as the Jurassic Coast – famous for fossil finds of past and present. Oh my goodness was I looking forward to finding, or, at the very least, seeing something amongst the rocks.  A large bone would be unlikely but maybe a small tooth or shell – surely I would have every chance in this fossil hotspot?

I would have to wait a couple of days into our trip (for a rest day) as we had some miles to cover initially.  I’ll come back to this in Part 2 or Part 3.

So, this is the first of three blog posts describing the 40 miles we trekked over 5 days, not in the order we did them, but from west to east in direction.  This is how we did it and what we saw along the way.

Exmouth (Gateway to the Jurassic Coast) to Budleigh Salterton

We parked on the side of the road at Budleigh Salterton for free.  Always a bonus. Then strode briskly through the town to the bus stop to catch the 9:29 to Exmouth.  We have taken to doing linear walks along the South West Coastal Path  – parking first, then taking a bus to the start and walking back.  It was a beautiful morning and I ran along behind Tim taking photos where I could.

I liked the look of Budleigh Salterton and wouldn’t mind returning again for another visit.

Thankfully (for us) the bus (due at 9:27) was late as we arrived at the stop at 9:30.  If this were Switzerland we would have missed it.  The bus arrived at 9:34.

At Exmouth we made for the Marina.  Looks like the architects have been inspired by continental styled colours in the new apartments at the Marina

The beach at Exmouth is wide and long.  The promenade lined by some impressive Georgian terraced properties.  As for the VW (below), well it’s a classic too…

At the very eastern end is an area called Orcombe Rocks.  These red rocks are, according to all the information boards, from the Triassic Period – about 250 million years old.  That sort of fact just blows my mind.  I was eagerly expecting this as I have a very knowledgeable colleague (Rebecca) who loves geology and fossils and gives me lots of interesting information at work.  We both wish we had more time for studying this old stuff.

Its not everyday that you get to touch such old material so I did just that – a bit like a ‘tree hugger’.  Tim looked on from a bench on the promenade. Sometimes he must think “she’s really lost it”.

On we went to a headland where a ‘Geoneedle’ (sculpture) has been placed for more geology interest.

Quick mirror selfie.

Onward.

At Sandy Bay it’s not a surprise to find…. a sandy bay.  With that was the biggest static caravan park we’ve come across.  Enormous.  We stopped for coffee at a new and large restaurant/cafe called South Beach Cafe and sat in the sun facing out to sea.  We left when we crowds started arriving for lunch – we fancied somewhere quieter.

As Tim predicted we eventually found the ‘perfect’ bench with the ‘perfect’ view to Budleigh.  Heavenly.  The coconut smell of the gorse a slight breeze, warm sun and nothing but bird song.

Downhill all the way now to Budleigh Salterton.  It didn’t seem to take long before we reached the promenade and the pebble beach.  Beach huts and pebbles had to be photographed.

I couldn’t help but walk along these smooth pebbles – they made an interesting clatter.  We lingered then sauntered round to the Otter Estuary and enjoyed the late afternoon before walking  back to the car.

Budleigh Salterton to Sidmouth

Again, we managed to park the car, at Sidmouth this time, for free – yippee.  Sidmouth is a large town and we were staying in a holiday cottage in nearby Sidbury, just beyond Sidford.  All these placenames in existence due to the River Sid.

Having a second breakfast is a holiday treat that we enjoy. Here I am finishing off a hot sausage roll at the bus stop.  It was a cool morning and that was a good enough excuse for me.  It was deliciously naughty.

Along came the bus and we joined a short queue to get on. An elderly lady (the only passenger) got off with her walking frame.  The driver then hopped off to use the Gents.  He returned and we all started to get on board – including the walking frame lady.  Unbelievably this lady had to get off while the driver answered the call of nature.  Why couldn’t he have left her in her seat?  What is the world coming too?  Tim, ever the gentleman, helped her on then off at her stop.  She was a lovely lady who was very grateful.

Off the bus at Budleigh we set off up the estuary and alongside a small nature reserve.  Soon after this we were walking along the cliff tops – a gentle high level walk….once we passed a place on the map called ‘Danger Point’.  No more dangerous than any other unfenced cliff I thought.  At Ladram Bay sea stacks were standing in quiet waters and I took many, many photos.  A couple of the stacks have names on the Ordnance Survey map – Little Picket Rock and Big Picket Rock.

Just by the way (and incase you are passing this way) the public toilets on the edge of the caravan park here were the cleanest we visited all week.  Well done Ladram Bay caravan park – makes a nice change!  I resisted the urge to photograph them…!!

The sun started to make an appearance as we left the bay and headed uphill (again) .

In the shelter of a bit of woodland we found another glorious bench – lunch with a view again.  We sat here for a good long time – an hour maybe.

With temperatures rising we set off over Peak Hill and then down towards Sidmouth.  It was a very enjoyable walk back to the town.

We skirted the infamous ‘Jacobs Ladder’ and made straight for the Promenade.

A helicopter flew directly towards us and over our heads in a sort of ‘Welcome back to Sidmouth’ flight.