Thursday, 14 May 2015
Walk 131 Torcross to East Portlemouth (Devon)
(Second leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs to Lands End)
Map: L/R 202
Distance: 14 miles or 24km approx
Difficulty: moderately strenuous – cliff path
Terrain: coastal cliff path
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Difficult. Getting to Torcross is possible by bus. The best way is to start early and get a ferry across to Salcombe where there are transport links.
Starting at Torcross follow the coastal path to Beesands. This was once a very busy fishing village which now concentrates on lobster and crab; the local pub uses this local produce in its food. Follow the sea wall along – this was built in 1979 after a severe storm caused damage.
About a mile and a half further is Hallsands. This was a thriving fishing community until its evacuation in 1917 during a severe winter storm. It is believed that the settlement was made more vulnerable when foreshore shingle was taken away for building at Plymouth dockyards. From here the path winds its way round to Start Point.
The low headland here gets its name from the Anglo Saxon 'steart' meaning tail. As a result of many shipwrecks Start Point lighthouse was built in 1836. It is accessible from the coastal path and is worth a look because of its battlemented parapet which reflects the Gothic architecture at the time it was built. It is now automated.
Continue the walk around Lannacombe Bay to Lannacombe Beach. This is advertised as having good sand for building castles in the unlikely event you have time for this. Look out for the exposed rock formations.
The next major landmark is Prawle Point, the most southerly point of Devon. Look out for the prime beef cattle near here which have replaced the cauliflowers (renowned in their time). The 'look out' at the top of the point served as a Lloyds signal station and a Royal Navy signal station until the coastguard took it over in 1902. It was closed in 1982 until taken over by the National Coastguard Institution in 1998. This is a voluntary organisation concerned about the loss of life that could result from the closure of coastguard stations.
The craggy walk around to East Portlemouth includes quaintly named features such as Gammon Head, Ham Stone, Pigs Nose, Shag Rock and The Bull.
Continue round to Mill Bay, the ferry and East Portlemouth. It was this stretch of water over to Salcombe on the opposite bank that Tennyson was inspired to write 'Crossing the Bar'. (The bar referring to the bar of sand at the entrance to the harbour).
Photos show: Start Point and lighthouse; Prawle Point; Salcombe from Mill Bay.