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Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Walk 127 Teignmouth to Torquay (Devon)

Walk 127 Teignmouth to Torquay (Devon)

(Second leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs to Lands End)

Map: L/R 192/202
Distance: 14 miles or 20 km approx
Difficulty: moderate, challenging in parts – allow all day to complete.
Terrain: mainly cliff coastal path
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Rail links at Torquay and Teignmouth. Check the Shaldon Ferry is running.

Start in Teignmouth and walk to take the Shaldon Ferry. This small ferry runs all year, subject to weather conditions, and is reckoned to be the oldest working ferry in the country. 

On arrival on the beach at Shaldon look back for a good view of Teignmouth and upstream to the Shaldon road bridge. Follow the road, then the footpath, to The Ness which is a wooded headland planted to celebrate Queen Victoria’s silver jubilee in 1863. On this walk there are a number of old World War 2 defences. At the top of The Ness are panoramic views back up the coast and inland.

The path from here to Oddicombe (passing Maidencombe and Watcombe Head) is a bit of an upper and downer and I found it rather tiring. Quite a bit of the walk is away from views of the coast which is a bit disappointing.

Look out for Oddicombe Beach with its red cliff face and the funicular railway that runs from beach to cliff top. This was built in 1926 and is one of 16 funicular railways still operating in the UK. They are cable operated with the descending and ascending vehicles counterbalancing each other.

The next feature is Babbacombe Harbour, a picturesque spot which has a well known model village set back from the cliff top. Look out for the waterfall which flows down to beach level.

A short walk further along and just on the north of Torquay is Anstey’s Cove. It has a sheltered beach with blue water (on the day I went this was quite distinctive). It is celebrated in verse within the poem ‘Beautiful Torquay’. Unfortunately, it was written by William McGonagall reckoned by many to be the worst poet in the English language.

Soon, past Anstey’s Cove, is Black Head; to the south Hope’s Nose is visible across the bay. The rocky limestone landscape here was created by volcanic activity millions of years ago – the formations and layers can be clearly seen. Geological evidence shows that this area used to be 10 degrees south of the equator. The mind boggles.

After walking round Hopes Nose, Thatcher’s Rock becomes visible. It has a raised beach 8 metres above today’s sea level. It was formed in the ice age.

About a mile further along is Meadfoot Beach. This is known as the ‘local’s’ beach as it is away from the busy main beaches of Torquay. Overlooking the shingle beach and 6 acres of landscaped grounds is The Osborne Hotel which takes up the centre part of the Regency Crescent. It was completed in 1848 and has 32 luxury bedrooms.

Soon after Daddyhole Cove is the start of the Rock End Walk leading into Torquay. It follows a limestone wall towards a castellated summer house. This is all that remains of the estate of Rock End, a large Victorian House.

Torquay is second only to Blackpool as the country’s leading holiday destination. It’s growth stems from the Napoleonic Wars when the richer classes were forced to look closer to home for their relaxation. Follow the path, then road, to the Marina which is not far from Torquay Station.

Photos show: Shaldon Ferry; Shaldon Beach; The Ness at Shaldon; Oddicombe Beach; Waterfall at Babbacombe beach; Anstey's Cove 


Sunday, 4 January 2015

Walk 126 Starcross to Teignmouth (Devon)

Walk 126 Starcross to Teignnouth (Devon)

(Second leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs to Lands End)

Map: L/R 192
Distance: 10 miles or 15 km approx
Difficulty: fairly easy
Terrain: road and coastal/river path
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Regular trains from Exeter St Davids in both directions

A very, enjoyable walk on a fine day – at other times, as it is very exposed, it could be unpleasant which would be a shame.

From Starcross, follow the path, then the road southwards, to Cockwood. This is a picturesque tidal harbour. The path is actually pavement all the way to Dawlish Warren – it is also alongside the main south west railway line from Paddington.

Dawlish Warren, seemed to me, to be a rather odd mixture of caravans, holiday parks, amusements and a nature reserve. The beach and reserve are attractive enough, although, despite being a warm September day, both were deserted. There were plenty of people around the other attractions.

The town of Dawlish is a mile or so further south. The path runs alongside the seaward side of the railway before crossing into the town. It passes the distinctive red cliffs and it is not hard to imagine how vulnerable the line is to the sea during rough weather conditions. It was wrecked during the storms and high winds of 2014. Originally, the line was going to run further away from the cliffs but this would have meant cutting across corners. Isambard Kingdom Brunel was busy blasting five tunnels in nearby rocks and some of these tunnels can be seen on the walk. A local author reckoned that Dawlish is probably the only town in England that has its railway station on the seafront and town centre at the same time. In 1765 Dawlish appeared on maps as a fishing village, then sea bathing became very fashionable after George 111 used it for improving his health leading to its development as a resort.

The path continues to Coryton’s Cove which is only a short distance from Dawlish. The red sandstone here was formed 250 million years ago when the area was a vast arid desert surrounded by older mountains. The red iron oxide cements the sand grains together. This cove has one of the most sheltered beaches on this stretch of coast as it is exposed to only easterly winds. At the time when bathing was segregated it was reserved for gentlemen’s bathing. Above the cove is Lea Mount with good views back to Dawlish.

Continue to Holcombe where, after a diversion inland, the coast is rejoined at the point where the railway line appears out of one of Brunel’s famous tunnels. Take time to look back at the red cliffs and Shag Rock poking out of the sea.

The final destination on this walk is Teignmouth (pronounced ‘tinmouth’, I learnt to my embarrassment) - another pleasant place to rest and admire the sea views. The town has suffered in wars and was burnt down in 1690 during a French raid. The poet Keats must have appreciated the place as he brought his ailing brother Tom to the town. The father of computing Charles Babbage (1791-1871) was  a resident here.The pier was built in 1865 and was originally 700 feet long with provision for concerts and dances; it still has arcades, rides and children’s entertainment. From the harbour, granite was shipped to build the old London Bridge. The town originally developed around the old Saxon church of St Michael. Fishermen’s cottages and salterns (seawater pools) and salt huts for processing salt were once here. Various trading activities date back to the 13th century and the port still handles clay, timber and grain. A lot of ship building has also taken place in the area. During the Napoleonic Wars 68 vessels were built and in World War 2 around 100 were built for The Admiralty.

Walk to the estuary of the River Teign. The river runs about 60 miles from its source in the peaty bogs of Dartmoor. From the harbour, the small lighthouse can be seen. It was built in 1846 to guide ships into the harbour entrance. On the stroll around this area look out for some of the modern sculptures which adorn the front. Inland, the road bridge can be seen but this is a very along walk around. Fortunately, The Shaldon Ferry is available to take you to the other side for the start of the next walk.

Photos show: Coryton's Cove; rail tunnels and walk alongside rail line near Holcombe; Teignmouth front and pier; River Teign looking inland to road bridge.