Sunday, 30 September 2012

Exmouth (Starcross) to Teignmouth (SW Coast Path 26)

Exmouth from Starcross

The third day of our latest SWCP trip. We finished up last night at the ferry in Exmouth, so today we drove round to the other side, Starcross, and set off from there. The first two miles just follow the road (the A379 from Starcross to Cockwood and then a minor road) down to Dawlish Warren. As we approached this well-known holiday area, we were staggered by the number of holiday parks on either side of the road.

We wondered about going to see the nature reserve, but decided to press on, joining the path along the sea wall just by Dawlish Warren station. Signs warned that the sea wall route could be dangerous at high tide, but mercifully it was close to low water.

Quite soon, you see Cowhole Rock. I have scrupulously framed the photo to avoid the Red Rock cafe, the busy path and the railway, all of which are off to the right.

Once past the rock, you walk between the sea on the left and Brunel's extraordinary railway line, with red sandstone cliffs to its right.

It was interesting to see from close up how almost liquid the sandstone looks and how eroded it is.

Gradually the path comes nearer to sea level and you pass a series of groynes. Hole Head stands at the end of the bay.

After four miles of hard path we took a break for refreshments in Dawlish. As we left the town and climbed up to Lea Hill, we were surprised to see quite a lot of people positioned on the railway bridge and higher up, many with cameras, tripods, the works. We found out that they were all in place to see a steam train pass by which was expected in 30 minutes or so.  A quick Google search reveals that this service, run by Steam Dreams, is pulled not by the usual restored old steam locomotive, but by a new replica called the Tornado built by a group of enthusiasts .

We carried on and instead took a nice picture of the curve of Dawlish Beach leading up to the Langstone Rock. The wave patterns made an interesting sight.

After Lea Hill, there was a section of road, then we turned left to see - what joy! - a normal section of coast. I include the photo only to remember the sense of relief we felt. 

As we were descending towards the right, we heard the whistle of the steam engine, which is, it must be said, a wonderful nostalgic sound. I was quite pleased with this impromptu shot, taken by pointing vaguely in the right direction and focusing by guesswork. No doubt the people in Dawlish did much better.

After a steep climb with further views over Dawlish and another brief section along the road, we reached the sea wall by Shag Rock and followed it along, above the beach, to Teignmouth.

The seafront at Teignmouth presents a mainly 19th century face to the world. The symmetrical and harmonious blocks of hotels date from the 1820s (although some had to be rebuilt after damage during the war), while the pier dates from 1865.

The nearby lighthouse dates from 1845 and at 6m is probably one of the smallest you are likely to see, but its static red light still performs a useful function guiding boats through the mouth of the Teign to the harbour beyond.

The curious wheels attached to the lighthouse are a contribution to the 2012 Sculpture Trail: Spinning Flowers by Imel Sierra Cabrera.

The walk ended, as it had begun, with a view across a river estuary from a ferry point, this time in Teignmouth Harbour looking across to Shaldon. All that remained was to get a taxi back to Starcross.

Conditions: cooler than of late and very cloudy.

Distance: 8 miles. Distance now covered 124 miles.

Map: Explorer 115 (Exmouth and Sidmouth).

Rating: three stars. We felt that this was the least enjoyable leg so far, as it was almost entirely on made up paths. There were many interesting aspects however.

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