Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Torcross to East Prawle (South West Coast Path 33)

Torcross and Slapton Ley

We set out from Torcross, walking along the seafront promenade and then beginning the inevitable climb at the end. This offered the interesting view over the rooftops above.

Soon we were climbing a narrow hedged tracked when I spotted an orchid just coming into full flower. It is an Early-purple Orchid. Since our recent experiences in Crete, we have become more sensitised to these splashes of colour and more appreciative of them.

When we emerged from this track we were greeted by a fine view over Beesands with Widdicombe Ley behind it, a small brother to Slapton.

We walked down to sea level and into Beesands, with the tiny chapel of St Andrew just behind the beach.

At the end of the sea front, past the Cricket Arms, where according to the Wikipedia entry on Beesands, Keith Richards and Mick Jagger's first public performance took place, we began the climb to Tinsey Head. Right at the start, there was fine view back over Beesands, with Slapton Sands further up the coast and the coastline we walked yesterday beyond.

The next descent was to Hallsands, with the Start Point lighthouse visible on the left.

Hallsands is best known as a lost village and a bit further up the coast there is a viewing platform where you can see some of the ruined houses which remain.

An exceptionally informative set of information panels explains that although the village was destroyed by a storm in 1917, when the village collapsed into the sea, the underlying cause was dredging for gravel that had taken place in the area some years before. There was added controversy because the dredging had been done under a contract awarded by the Admiralty and the report of a subsequent enquiry, which unequivocally concluded that the dredging was to blame, was suppressed. Although no-one was killed, the villagers were displaced and were never properly compensated for their loss. The existence of the enquiry report was only confirmed in 2002.

We now advanced on Start Point and were delighted to see this rather random signpost confirming  just how far we have come since we started the SWCP in Poole. There is still a way to go of course!

We decided not to go right down the Point, but having turned the corner we were soon offered a splendid view of the lighthouse and the attendant rocks. The lighthouse was established in 1836 and is still in operation, although now controlled remotely from Trinity House HQ in Harwich.

The next section involved a pleasant reasonably level path part-way up the hillside which soon brought us to the wonderful beach at Great Mattiscombe Sand. This is the view looking back from the west end.

It is a genuinely sandy beach and the massive rocks provide shade and privacy. There is a direct path from the Start Point car park. A hidden gem.

A little further on we were struck by these two stone cones. The result of erosion?

Now we were approaching Lannicombe where we knew the path was closed as the result of a cliff fall: we assume it was the grass-free area in this picture.

We got rather a shock before we reached Lannicombe: we almost trod on an adder that was sunning itself on the grassy path. This was the first time that either of us had seen one. By the time the shock had worn off and I had moved slightly away and reached for my camera, it had slithered off into the longer grass by the cliff edge.

We knew that a 2.5 mile diversion was required and had decided that we would follow most of the diversion and then carry on to East Prawle and end our walk there.

We followed a lane inland and then a path parallel to the coast. This was our first experience of inland walking in Devon and we wanted to enjoy it. However, being Devon we were soon confronted with a massive climb up past the broom in this photo (taken from the top of the hill). Start Bay can be glimpsed above the top of the far hill.

The next section was mercifully on the flat and offered views over Lannacombe Bay.

The final section into East Prawle was along hedged lanes and we were delighted by the number of Red Admirals we saw - butterflies having been fairly thin on the ground on the coast lately.

We reached the pub in East Prawle just in time for a drink before it shut and sat outside in the sunshine experiencing a feeling of euphoria at the end of four days wonderful walking along this ever-changing coastline.

Conditions: clear and warm again, maybe 18 degrees.

Distance: 8.5 miles in all, of which 6 were on the official coast path. Distance now covered 170.6 miles.

Map: OL 20 South Devon.

Rating: Four stars.

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