Sunday, 1 September 2013

The South West Coast Path - South Devon: A review

Lyme Bay


It has taken us almost exactly a year to compete the South Devon section of the South West Coast: we started in August 2012 and finished in August 2013. From Lyme Regis to the River Tamar in Plymouth is, it turns out, 133 miles. We are now 219 miles in all along the Coast Path. Only 411 to go!

Because we were now farther from home we adopted a new model of making three and four day trips, in place of the previous single day outings, and this sense of increased momentum was also reflected in our efforts to walk a bit further each day, several times over 10 miles.


Perhaps the biggest difference we noticed between Devon and Dorset is the number of river estuaries: notably the Sid, the Exe, the Teign, the Dart, the Avon, the Erme, the Yealm - and the Kingsbridge estuary (although this is strictly a ria - a drowned river valley that remains open to the sea). The Dorset section effectively has none. Planning the logistics of ferry crossings was a new challenge. Many of the estuaries were very pretty. The Erme is often especially praised, but my personal favourite was the Avon.

Secondly, although there is much isolated and unspoilt coast in Devon, there seemed to be many more towns actually on the coast than there were in Dorset - and, linked to this, a much more evident holiday industry. So there was more urbanised walking, for example around Torbay and in Plymouth. We thought Brixham (below) and Dartmouth were perhaps the prettiest. However, Torquay had some surprises: Torre Abbey and the fantastic 1912 Pavilion; while the Hoe in Plymouth is a fantastic urban open space.

But there were of course some spectacular sections of coastline. We very much liked the red sandstone cliffs around Buddleigh Salterton and Sidmouth. This is the view from Littleham Cove.

And, further west, dramatic rocky areas like Soar Mill Cove ...

... and Aymer Cove

Lyme Bay is a dominant feature of much Dorset walking and in Devon Tor Bay, Start Bay and Bigbury Bay (with Burgh Island) all loomed large. One of the great things about bays is that as you approach the final headland, you can look back at a wide sweep of coast and say that you have walked along all of it.  

One last impression is of the amount of relics of past wars, even more so than in Dorset. There are castles dating back to the fear of a Spanish invasion in the 1540s, towers built against the threat of the Dutch a century later, massive 19th century defences against the French around Plymouth and lots of traces of the Second World War, gun emplacements and the like, and also memorials like the Sherman Tank at the end of Slapton Sands at Torcross.

All in all, a wonderful section of coast!


21 Lyme Regis to Seaton

22 Seaton to Branscombe

23 Branscombe to Sidmouth

24 Sidmouth to Buddleigh Salterton

25 Buddleigh Salterton to Exmouth

26 Starcross to Teignmouth

27 Shaldon to Babbacombe

28 Babbacombe to Paignton

29 Paignton to Brixham

30 Brixham to Coleton Fishacre

31 Coleton Fishacre to Dartmouth

32 Dartmouth to Torcross

33 Torcross to East Prawle

34 East Prawle to Salcombe

35 Salcombe to Hope Cove

36 Hope Cove to River Erme

37 River Erme to Noss Mayo

38 Warren Point to Mount Batten

39 Mount Batten to Cremyll Ferry

No comments: