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Friday, 31 July 2015

Walk 137 Plymouth to Millbrook (Cornwall)

Walk 137 Plymouth to Millbrook (Cornwall)

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

Map: L/R 201
Distance: 13 miles or 20km approx
Difficulty: moderate
Terrain: coastal path
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Buses run to and from the Cremyll Ferry, leaving from the Royal Parade in Plymouth. Bus 32 runs once and hour until mid-evening from Millbrook to the Royal Parade in Plymouth.

Get the Cremyll passenger ferry from near Stonehouse in Plymouth. On the way across there is a good view of the impressive naval buildings. The ferry has run for many years and was particularly busy with dockyard traffic in the 18th century.

On arrival at Cremyll is The Edgecumbe Arms, a pub with inviting outdoor seats giving excellent views across the water. Cremyll was an important place for boat building in the 18th century. The yard is still active building small boats and restoring historical craft. In World War 2 American soldiers were in this area preparing for the D Day landings.

The coastal path passes through Mount Edgcumbe Country Park although it is not always clearly marked by signs. The house and grounds here were to have been given to the Duke of Medina Sidonia from Spain if the Spanish Armada had been victorious in 1588. The house was built in the 1500s and was the former home of the Earls of Mount Edgcumbe. The house (in the summer) and 865 acre garden are open to the public.

Follow the path around Cawsand Bay and on to the twin attractive villages of Kingsand and Cawsand. The bay's most famous visitor was Napoleon whose ship anchored here after Waterloo. Evidently, hundreds of sightseers rowed out from the two villages to catch a glimpse of him. The local people also foiled an attempt to prevent Napoleon being exiled to St Helena. His friends had arranged for him to be presented with a writ requiring his attendance at London law courts. On hearing of this the locals towed Napoleons ship out to sea, leaving the lawyer behind.

Kingsand and Cawsand were originally split by the Devon/Cornwall border. Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton were said to be regulars at The Ship Inn.

Continue the walk around Penlee Point and on to Rame Head. Walk up to the 14th century mariners chapel at the highest point of the head. The chapel is dedicated to St Michael and is thought to have been on the site of a Celtic hermitage. Take care coming down the steps. A lady walker slipped here when I was going up and the coastguard and ambulance took her away with a suspected broken collar bone. Waters off the headland are renowned for shark fishing. This is a good spot for bird-spotters with a great variety of species including the very rare Dartford Warbler.

The path passes Queener Point then goes alongside Whitsand Bay which has been notoriously dangerous for ships caught in south westerly winds as they tried to enter Plymouth.

At Tregonhawke follow the road into Millbrook. This village is at the head of a tidal creek which has been dammed to prevent floods. The resulting pool is a very pleasant place to sit and rest and is popular with bird watchers. The Flower Boat Festival takes place here on May Bank holiday each year. It dates back to the 14th century and is thought to be pagan in origin. The parade passes through Kingsand and Cawsand stopping at inns and houses on the way. A boat is carried decorated with flowers. In the evening it is put on the water with fireworks.

Photos show: naval buildings, Plymouth from the Cremyll ferry; Kingsand/Cawsand; Rame Head and chapel.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Walk 136 Plymouth (Devon) to Saltash (Cornwall)

Walk 136 Plymouth (Devon) to Saltash (Cornwall)

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

Map: L/R 201
Distance: 10 miles or 15 km approx
Difficulty: easy
Terrain: mainly roads
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Trains between Saltash and Plymouth. Plenty of buses as well.

This walk involves some self-navigation on back streets and some walking along main roads which can be a bit tedious at times.

Start from Plymouth Aquarium. The walk from here can be via the footbridge at Sutton Harbour or along the road and past Lockyers Quay. Walk round the harbour and look out for the poles with fish sculptures at the top. These are near The Mayflowers Steps – many famous voyages left from here including The Pilgrim fathers to the USA in 1620 and in 1583 Sir Humphrey Gilbert sailed to claim Newfoundland for Queen Elizabeth 1st.

Alongside the quayside, near The Mayflower Steps, look out for two restored ships' cannons. These are from 19th century ships and are classified by the weight of the cannon balls they fired, in this case 24 pounders.

Just before getting to the Hoe is the Royal Citadel with its cannons poking over its 70 foot high walls. It was developed in the time of Charles 11 to counteract the threat of a Dutch invasion in the 1660s. It is still occupied by the military and if you are lucky you might be there on the day of a conducted tour.
Continue around to Plymouth Hoe and its iconic lighthouse. A park extends around the hoe and dates back to the medieval period when the first settlements occurred nearby – long before Francis Drake was supposed to have played bowls here waiting for the Spanish Armada in 1588. The Victorians created the park as it is today and they created a pleasant place to enjoy the panoramic view. If you have time you can go up Smeaton's Tower. He designed this lighthouse which was erected on the Eddystone Rock between 1756 and 1759. It was relocated to the Hoe in 1882 and on a clear day you can see its replacement out at sea.

The next stop is Western King Point near to Devils Point. Here there is a good view back to The Hoe. One of the grimmest parts of Plymouth's history is the trade from the 16th century involving Sir William Harvey. Manufactured goods were exchanged for African slaves who were then transported to the colonies.

Navigate around to The Great Western Docks where a waterfront walkway has been reclaimed. Look out for the plaques from past local machines, cranes and rail bridges on the roadside walls. In this area is The Royal William Yard with its impressive gateway and clock tower established by William 111 in 1691. Sorry for the imprecise directions but I wandered around the area to look for these landmarks.

Most of the walk from here to The Tamar Bridge is along the main road because there is no access to the naval dockyards and barracks. Just south of the Tamar Bridge is an area called Riverside. The memorial park here marks the point where members of the US Army left for the beaches of Normandy Hill on D Day in 1944.

Walk up on to the Tamar Bridge to cross to Saltash. This was opened in 1961 and when it opened it was the longest suspension bridge in the UK. It was the first bridge in the world to be widened using cantilevers - from 3 to 5 traffic lanes. About 40,000 vehicles use the bridge every day. Alongside the road bridge is Brunel's rail bridge which was opened in 1859 and considered to be one of his great achievements.

There are several things to look out for in Saltash. In the High Street is H. Elliott's old shop. It has been there since the start of the 20th century. The original owner's son, Frank, disagreed strongly with decimalisation and business rates in the early 1970s and stopped trading. He asked for the shop to be preserved in its original state and kept as a museum. It can still be visited but times of opening need to be checked.

A little way down the hill between Saltash and its waterside is Mary Newman's cottage. Francis Drake married her in 1569 – he was 24 and she was 17. They became Mayor and Mayoress of Plymouth after Drake was knighted in 1580. Sadly, she died from smallpox in 1583. The Grade 2 listed building is opened at certain times in the summer.

Continue down to Waterside. Look out for the artwork, especially the mural designed by a local artist which pictures significant events in Saltash. You will not miss the Union Pub with the huge Union Jack painted on its front. The street here used to be known as Pickle Cock Alley because of the shellfish that were sold from open windows. For 70 years from 1858 a ferry operated from the Waterside.

Before you leave Saltash look for the life sized sculpture of Isambard Kingdom Brunel. A photo opportunity!

Photos: Saltash Waterside -The Tamar Rail Bridge with the sculpture of Brunel in the foreground; H Elliott's preserved shop in Saltash; the gatehouse at Royal William Yard, Plymouth; some of the plaques on the wall at Great Western Dock. 

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Walk 135 Wembury to Plymouth (Devon)

Walk 135 Wembury to Plymouth (Devon)

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

Map: L/R 201
Distance: 13 miles or 22 km approx
Difficulty: moderate
Terrain: coastal path and roads
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Buses run from Wembury to Plymouth. This walk finishes at the aquarium – there are plenty of buses around the Plymouth city area.

Walk down to the coastal path from Wembury. Look out for The Marine Centre where you can learn about the local rock pools and what can be done to preserve them. Walk around Wembury Point to Heybrook Bay.

In 1956 Heybrook Bay was the site of the Royal Navy's chief gunnery school, HMS Cambridge, which had firing ranges near the village. It was closed in 2006 and the National Trust has worked hard to reinstate a natural landscape including demolishing the buildings. Much of the area along this coast is a European Special Area of Conservation because of the huge variety of marine plants, animals fish and birds.

Follow the path around to the picturesque Bovisand Bay. Opposite here, out in Plymouth Sound, is Plymouth Breakwater. This structure is 1560 metres long and 65 metres high and 4 million rocks were used in its construction in 1812. It was built to provide safe anchorage for the British fleet in the Napoleonic Wars. The lighthouse at the end was built in 1841. Near to the breakwater is a round fort built in 1865. It was armed with cannons but was disarmed well before World War 1. Since then it has been used as a signal station and a military training school.

The walk through Staddon Heights and towards Mount Batten provides good views of the Sound and the various vessels making their way in and out of Plymouth.

Nearer to Mount Batten there is a good view of Drake's Island. Originally this was called St Nicholas Island after the chapel there. It has only consistently been called Drake's Island in the last 100 years or so. Drake sailed from here in 1577 and in 1583 was made its governor. From 1549 it was fortified against the French and the Spanish with barracks on the island for 300 men. In 1963 Plymouth Council opened a youth training centre there.

After Jennycliff Bay there is a short climb to some seats at the top of Dunstone Point providing a panoramic view of Plymouth and the sea. After resting here continue to Mountbatten Headland where Mountbatten Tower is prominent.

This tower was thought to have been built between 1646 and 1652 probably in response to a threat of war from the Dutch. It was named after William Batten who had command of the Parliamentary Navy during the Civil War. It is built of local limestone with walls about a metre thick. Its last known use was as a coastguard observation post during the 19th century.

Near here was an RAF station for seaplanes in the Second World War based on an earlier base in the First World War. Look out for the memorial to RAF Mountbatten personnel killed between 1917 and 1992.

The route continues through the bustling Mountbatten Centre which is a major provider for outdoor adventurous activities. The stretch of water here is known as the Cattawater and is where the River Plym merges with Plymouth Sound. A water taxi can usually be seen going between this point and Mayflower Steps in the main part of Plymouth.

Further round is Turnchapel a rather unexpectedly quaint old fishing village. If you fancy a pint of real ale The Clovelly Inn may well be your stopping/resting point. Continue around the path and inlet to Turnchapel Hard. You may spot the memorial here dedicated to the embarkation of the US army to spearhead the Normandy Landings on D Day. The road was reinforced to carry the US tanks and personnel.

The path passes through Hooe Lake where a notice states that this is the hub of cross country paths and trails. Continue around to Laira Bridge where there are good views of the River Plym.

From here the path, called The Coxside Trail, winds its way round to Plymouth aquarium. A lot of this area was in the process of regeneration from a former industrial base when I walked it. In an area called Stonehouse there is a plaque which explains that in 1776 a cave was found which contained prehistoric bones. Further remains were found in the 19th and 20th centuries including humans, rhinoceros, lions and hyenas.

Continue on to The National Marine Aquarium which is the UK's largest and contains over 70 species of shark.

Photos show: a view of Heybrook Bay; a view from near Dunstone Point across to Plymouth; redevelopment alongside the Coxside Trail.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Walk 134 Mothecombe near Erme Mouth to Wembury (Devon)

Walk 134 Mothecombe near Erme Mouth to Wembury (Devon)

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

Map: L/R 202 and 201
Distance: 12 miles or 20 km approx
Difficulty: quite strenuous
Terrain: coastal path
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Buses run from Wembury to Plymouth. Occasional buses run from Battisborough Cross near to Mothecombe. Check with Traveline. The water taxi is required between Noss Mayo and Warren Point is seasonal so check on South West Coastal Path website for details.

Walk down the hill from Mothecombe on to the coastal path which runs alongside the estuary of the River Erme. There are a number of rocky coves and isolated beaches on this walk.

After a couple of miles is the very distinctive St Anchorite's Rock. This is a well known point for climbers. As far as I can find out there is no St Anchorite but an anchorite is a religious hermit so maybe one lived here.

Soon there is a good view of Stoke Beach and Stoke Point. On the way to Stoke Point are some strange fortifications and a separate path leads to the church of St Peter the Poor. Fisherman built this in 1226 and it is now a ruin.

Continue round to the estuary of the River Yealm. The Noss Mayo ferry/water taxi runs three or four times a day – out of season and in bad weather it may not run. Check first.

After leaving the ferry the walk continues to Wembury. The triangular shaped uninhabited island called The Great Mewstone can be seen clearly on this walk.

Wembury is well known for its surfing and rock pools. It is mentioned in The Forsyte Saga by Galsworthy and reflects the author's interest in his own origins and descent through a long line of Wembury farmers. The parish church sits prominently on the cliff side overlooking the sea, it is dedicated to St Werburgh who was a nun in the 7th century.

Photos show: St Anchorite's Rock; the ferry taxi at Noss Mayo/River Yealm