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.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Buddleigh Salterton to Exmouth (SW Coast Path 25)

The west end of Buddleigh Salterton beach

Refreshed after an excellent dinner at Tobias restaurant and a good night's sleep, we awoke to a lovely sunny day and set out reasonably early to walk to Exmouth.

We didn't, sadly, get to see East Buddleigh, where Sir Walter Raleigh was born and where Millais travelled to paint The Boyhood of Raleigh.

The west end of the beach, with yet more red sandstone cliffs looked lovely in the morning light. The red cliff along this section of coast are variously described as being 200 or 250 million years old. The beach at Buddleigh is interesting, being formed of smooth flattened oval pebbles, some quite large.

We chatted to a man who had just bought fresh plaice and brill from a fisherman on the beach, and seemed appropriately happy about it. As we followed the path upwards, a fine view of the whole beach looking eastwards became visible.

The path crossed a level grassy area and then began to climb through heathland. Helpfully positioned benches offered ever more wonderful views back to the east.

At Littleham Cove we encountered the first of two closely located holiday parks, but the views back along the coast were exquisite.

We crossed the headland behind Straight Point (is that a bit of a contradiction in terms?), forced inland by the existence of an MOD firing range, to skirt another, even more massive holiday park behind the very reasonably named Sandy Bay.

This was interesting for its depth and shallowness - and for its yellow sand. We watched people taking a brisk stroll along the beach and round the corner to Orcombe Point, then back along the Coast path.

At Orcombe Point, which marks the end of the Jurassic Coast we saw the impressive Geoneedle, with Exmouth in the background.

This area is also the oldest part of the Jurassic Coast. The Geoneedle contains nine different stones found along this coast embedded into a frame of Portland Stone and was unveiled in 2002. It was commissioned from the artist Michael Fairfax to mark the recognition of the Jurassic Coast as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

We soon descended from the cliff top to reach sea level and then followed a promenade for the best part of two miles into Exmouth. The white facades of its hotels stood proudly by the wide mouth of the river Exe.

As we approached the centre we came on the modest Jubilee Clock of 1887.

We thought it similar to the one back up the coast in Seaton.

Finally, we reached the ferry across the Exe and the nearby marina, where we were really taken by the varied and brightly coloured apartments.

Conditions: sunny, war.

Distance: 6 miles. Distance now covered 116 miles.

Map: Explorer 115 (Exmouth and Sidmouth).

Rating: four stars. Some great photographic opportunities.


One odd and rather annoying feature of this walk was that although it was very well signposted, the distances on the signposts were wildly inconsistent. At the outset we saw a sign saying Exmouth 4m. This surprised us because the SWCP guide describes this section as 6 miles. After a while we began to see signs pointing in each direction: Buddleigh 2 / Exmouth 2. But then all of a sudden, half a mile later Buddleigh 2 1/2 / Exmouth 2 1/2. We even found a combination adding up to 5 1/4. Then later it was back to 4m. From the time taken and my pedometer reading we are pretty sure that it was in fact 6 miles to the Starcross Ferry.

Having said that, I must say that in general East Devon council are doing a grand job of signposting. There is always one when you need it and most, if not all, have the grid reference on a white label: invaluable if you know where you are going, but are not sure where you are.

Flower of the day

What is this ubiquitous yellow flower?

Butterfly of the day

We saw lots of seemingly freshly-minted Red Admirals. This one offered the rare opportunity of a photo of the underwings from below as it basked on an ivy flower.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Sidmouth to Buddleigh Salterton (SW Coast Path 24)

The east end of Sidmouth beach

The start of another three-day assault on the Coast Path and we pick up the route at the east end of Sidmouth beach, in front of the terrace of early Victorian hotels. We walked along the promenade and
followed the Millenium walkway around the headland.

On the other side was another fine beach with characteristic red sandstone cliffs.

We began the long climb to Peak Hill and looked back to see the curious structure known as Jacobs Ladder which leads up to the Connaught Gardens, dating back to 1820.

Further up the steep grassy slope, there was a fine view back over Sidmouth and the coast to the east.

Once we reached Peak Hill, after a reasonably steep climb, the path levelled out and ahead lay the sea stacks known as Big Picket Rock and - yes!- Little Picket Rock.

Inland there were lovely views across open country.

Soon there was an even more impressive view back to Sidmouth.

The sea stacks at Ladram Bay reminded us of Old Harry rocks as we approached.

And after we had skirted the seemingly inevitable holiday park, there were even more wonderful sights, which I found very difficult to satisfactorily photograph. This was the best I could manage.

The route the cliff tops until we began the descent beside and then across fields into Buddleigh Salterton. A fine stand of pine trees marked the end of forward progress along the coast.

We now followed the River Otter inland for about a kilometre, crossed a little bridge and followed the other bank through the Otter Estuary Nature Reserve. It was beginning to get dark and our energy was fading too, but we did spot a couple of Little Egrets in the wide river mouth.

We walked along the promenade and into Buddleigh to the Feathers pub where we were staying. On the way we passed the Fairlynch Museum, housed in a lovely thatched house of 1811.

It is apparently one of the few thatched museums in the country.

Conditions: cloudy with a threat of rain.

Distance: 7 miles. Distance now covered 110 miles.

Map: Explorer 115 (Exmouth and Sidmouth).

Rating: four stars. Mainly for Ladram Bay.

Flower of the day

We spotted this lovely flower alone by the side of the Otter. Again, what is it?

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Corfe Castle to Swanage

Looking back towards Corfe Castle

We can see Corfe Castle and the Purbeck ridge from our window in Poole and it has been a keen desire of mine to do this walk from Corfe along the ridge to Swanage - and come back on the steam train. The visit of our friends John and Anne provided an ideal opportunity.

We parked in the National Trust car park at Corfe and walked along the road towards the village, then took a left to pass under the railway line and walk along a lane until a path led ahead gradually ascending the side of Challow Hill. The views back towards Corfe were lovely.

Once we reached the ridge, it was straight ahead with views of Poole harbour to the left and looking back to the right you could see the continuation of the ridge through Knowle Hill. I think the hill on the extreme left may be Swyre Head, one of the highest points near the coast at 203m, which we have climbed several times.

As we walked along Allwood Down we began to catch glimpses of the sea in the distance on the right. I made various, not especially successful efforts to capture the view back along the valley between the Purbeck Ridge and the coastal ridge. This was the best of them.

At the end of Kingswood Down the path swings to the right to pass under Godlingstone Hill and Swanage comes more clearly into view. Anne developed a special interested in Ulwell, in the foreground.

The path descends to cross the Studland to Swanage road and we then took a steep path on the left to climb back up to the ridge and pass the Obelisk. I photographed it under better conditions when we first did the Studland to Old Harry walk in October 2010. This time I spotted a plaque that revealed it commemorated the arrival of fresh water to Swanage.

As we walked further along Ballard Down, the dark clouds which had been chasing us for a while finally caught up and it began to rain. Luckily for us, it was heading for Swanage and veered away to the south. We could still see the Isle of Wight ahead bright in the sunshine.

There were fine views over Poole Harbour, the wide sweep of Studland Bay being especially evident.

I had some thoughts of going all the way to Ballard Point, but it was clearly more sensible to head off to Swanage for lunch, so we turned right at the Stone Seat and walked down into Swanage to eat and catch the train back. The rain journey gave us an excellent sense of how far we had walked as the ridge was visible on the right for much of the way.

At Corfe, as we walked back from Norden station to the car park, I took yet another photo of the castle in the fading light.

Distance: 7 miles

Conditions: cloudy, threat of rain but only one shower

Map: Explorer OL15 Purbeck and South Dorset

Rating: four stars.  A really enjoyable walk, but it was interesting that that Ballard Down - with sea on all sides  - was still the best bit, and must be one of the finest paths in Dorset.

Flower of the day

John identified this pretty yellow flower as a type of Rock Rose.

Butterfly of the day

We saw lots of Red Admirals, many looking absolutely pristine, as if just emerged. This Comma just paused briefly for a photo

Monday, 17 September 2012

Stavely to Kendal

Stavely Village Hall

We wanted to profit from our stay in Kendal by seeing something of the countryside. We toyed with heading further into the Lake District, but decided instead to simply take a taxi to Stavely and walk back to Kendal along the Dales Way. We were very interested to see Stavely - which we hadn't realised is so near to Kendal until I looked at the map last night - because a friend (who is a follower of this blog) has a holiday cottage there.

We were dropped off in the centre and we decided to make the parish church our official start. So we headed toward the north edge of the village past the Village Hall, with hills behind, to find the small Victorian church of St James. From here we walked through the charming village and past the remains of St Margaret's chapel. A helpful plaque explains that it dates from 1338 and the tower had been added 1589. The windows were added when the nave of the church was demolished and the new church was built on higher ground. The clock was added to commemorate Queen Victoria's Jubilee.

As we left the village, I was taken by this one-time bank branch. It looks as though it had previously been a pub. Martins was taken over by Barclays in 1969, so the survival of the sign is a bit of mystery.

A bit further on, the Dales Way joined the road from the right (west) and by the time it turned off to the left we were in lovely open country.

Quite soon, the Dales Way led down to the side of the River Kent, here fast, shallow and clear.

Further on, it runs in more of a ravine and is narrower, faster and more turbulent.

Soon we passed a wonderful barn, with an intriguing Norman arch at one end. It looked an ideal candidate for a restoration project.

Then quite suddenly came to Cowan Head, where there is a classic mill pool and where an 18th century paper mill, which closed only in 1977, has been redeveloped, rather nicely we thought, as luxury flats. It was quite a shock in the otherwise rural landscape.

The route continued along a road and then a track, withe the river just out of sight on the left. At Bowston we crossed to the other bank and continued through fields, with pleasing views to the north-east.

At Burneside, we detoured around the massive paper mill and then parted company with the Dales Way. The remaining two miles or so back to Kendal were less interesting. It was mainly - inevitably I suppose - on the road, with one detour to follow the river around an enormous meander. Unfortunately, the landward side was occupied by a golf course.

Eventually we made our way into the centre of Kendal and began to overlap with yesterday's town walk. We decided to deem the Market Place to be the end of the walk.

Map: Explorer OL 7 (The English Lakes).

Conditions: cloudy, constant threat of rain, but actually almost dry; wet and muddy underfoot.

Distance: about 6 miles in all.

Rating: three and half stars.

Flower of the day

As so often, I can't identify this pretty yellow flower growing by the side of a small stream.