Sunday, 28 April 2013

Brixham to Pudcombe Bay/Coleton Fishacre (South West Coast Path 30)

Brixham harbour

Today we embark on a four day assault on the Coast Path, starting at the breakwater in Brixham and walking up the hill towards Berry Head. Once we were in woodland, we were surrounded by a fabulous display of wild Cyclamen.

We soon became aware of the extensive presence of another plant, this one unfamiliar to us.

It is called Alexanders and is a member of the carrot family. It can be widespread and dense by the coast - as our experience was to testify - but is scarcely seen inland. One byproduct of our recent Cretan flower holiday is that we are trying harder to identify the wildflowers we see on our English walks.

A bit further on you emerge into a grassy area, behind Berry Head itself, where there are two forts built over 200 years ago to defend against attack by Napoleon.

Soon there is a fine view of St Mary's Bay with Sharkham Point on the left.

After passing a holiday village, there is a lovely wooden mermaid overlooking the cliff top. Was she from the prow of a real ship or just a copy? There is something very charming about stumbling on a piece of public art like this.

We wandered around Sharkham Point, bemused by the signposting which had suddenly gone missing, but eventually finding our way. Once at the tip, there is a good view back to Berry Head, with primroses in the foreground.

Looking in the other direction, the next section of coast is laid out before us. The bay with green hills beyond is Man Sands.

The path now winds up to the top of Southdown Cliff, with primroses in profusion along both sides. We walked along the cliff-top (120m), a pleasant break from ups and downs, but soon had to begin the long descent to Man Sands. The isolated Coastguard Cottages are very striking and can been seen from far away.

We had a break for lunch sitting on some comfortable rocks at the back of this spacious beach and climbed back up to the cliff top, now above Long Sands. This is the view back, with Crabrock Point in the foreground and Man Sands partly hidden beyond it.

After a while we descended again, this time to Scabbacombe Sands.

Then it was back up and round Scabbacombe Head, where the coastline began to change. There were no longer higher cliffs which you walked above, but rather a more inclined coastline, where the path was at mid-slope.

The other momentous change which begins somewhere around here is that when you look back you can see only open sea. Previously, you have been able to see the coast of South Devon and Dorset and often as far as Portland.

After quite a few more ups and downs we reached our target for today: Pudcombe Cove (viewed from on high).

We now sneaked through the back gate of the National Trust property, Coleton Fishacre - which we will visit properly tomorrow - and walked up to the road where we met a taxi. Almost inevitably when we went to phone for it there was no mobile signal, but we prevailed on a very kind householder to lend us her landline, which she did very graciously.

Conditions: bright, but cool, maybe 9 degrees.

Distance: 7.5 miles. Distance now covered 150.9 miles.

Map: OL 20 South Devon.

Rating: Four stars. A very flowery walk. Apart from the Cyclamen, Alexanders and Primroses, there were large numbers of Violets, Greater Stitchwort, White Campion and Bluebells, and large areas of Broom.

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