Saturday, 12 October 2013

Day 8 - October 11th 2013 - Torquay to Kingswear

By necessity my walk today commenced after I'd finished my regular daily milkround in Exeter, just as it had on days 6 and 7. That's an 8 hour shift spent mainly on my feet after a 1-30am alarm call. If you're questioning my sanity at this point I wouldn't be surprised. But don't worry; I can handle it. I try to avoid walking too much over 20 miles after a working day. On a non-working day my range is 30+ miles.

When I arrived in Torquay I was delighted with the weather; it was bright and sunny with a strong, cool northerly wind. Absolutely perfect when you're about to start walking south. The first couple of miles going into Paignton weren't that much fun, going along a footpath next to a busy main road. At least there were pleasant views across Torbay to enjoy. From Paignton onwards the main road diverts inland and the seafront becomes more peaceful. The tide was high and waves were coming over the sea wall in places. It wasn't too bad but the road along the front was closed to traffic as a precaution.

At the north end of Goodrington Sands a short section of the official path was closed by an unstable cliff. The diversion here was the first I'd seen since Charmouth. Broadsands seemed a lovely spot, though the name wasn't very apt today; the high tide and rough sea meant the beach was completely covered by big waves, I couldn't really see much sand at all. As I walked along the promenade I found myself being blasted continuously by spray. I didn't mind, that sort of thing just adds to the fun as far as I'm concerned.

From Churston Point onwards the nature of the path changed noticeably. The seaside resorts were behind me now and the going started to become quite rural and moderately hilly. From here through to Brixham was a surprisingly pleasant section. Sandy beaches were replaced by more rugged coastline, the path passed through some wooded sections and across a couple of small coves. Brixham itself is a pretty fishing town, totally in contrast to the modern touristy areas I'd passed through earlier. I stopped here briefly for my lunch (a Cornish pasty again). It was consumed while I sat on a bench next to the statue of William of Orange. He landed an army of 20,000 men near here in 1688.

After leaving Brixham I made my way up to Berry Head. There was much to see including the impressive Napoleonic era fortifications. In front of the lighthouse there's one of those direction and distance signs that points out what you can see on a clear day. I could easily make out Exmouth, 18 miles distant, and several other places I'd passed through along the Jurrasic Coast. That included Golden Cap in Dorset, I wondered if there were people up there at that very moment looking back across Lyme Bay towards me. On such a fine day for walking I concluded there probably were. It was a little too hazy to make out the island of Portland from where I was, I expect those at Golden Cap could see it. Portland Bill was 42 miles away in a straight line according to the sign. I can tell you from very recent personal experience it's actually 120 miles away if you do the journey on foot without using any ferries!

Soon after leaving Berry Head the path enters a spectacular section that continues all the way around to Kingswear. You leave civilisation behind and don't see any roads or buildings for several miles. There are spectacular coves and cliffs, occasional small beaches that you can only access on foot or by boat. The path gets rocky and rugged and becomes a switchback of steep hills, it's tough going and not for the faint-hearted. In my opinion areas like this are exactly what the path is all about, representing the coast of Great Britain at its very finest and I enjoy them immensely. In one spot I found my way blocked by three grazing Dartmoor ponies who didn't want to budge, there was a cliff top close to my left and dense scrub to the right. It was a magical moment. After a brief stand-off I eventually sweet-talked my way through! I thoroughly enjoyed these last eight miles or so of today's walk, they were undoubtedly right up there with the very best I've seen on this journey so far. I was getting tired by the end, stopping for regular breathers on the last few killer hills, including the steep one that climbs through the fascinating WWII defences at Brownstone Battery. Despite that I was left in absolutely no doubt it had been more than worth the effort to see such wonderful places.

When I got into Kingswear I made my way down to the ferry terminal where the official South Coast Path crosses over to Dartmouth. My arrival was well-timed to catch the 5-00pm tourist steam train back to Paignton. It was a little more expensive than the bus, though a far more pleasant mode of transport. The steam train was hassle-free, relaxing and on time. To the contrary when I got alighted at Paignton I found my connecting train to Torquay on the National Network had been cancelled, so I ended up on a bus after all. I'm making good progress on this walk, I'm not sure if the same can be said for public transport.

Distance Walked Today 19.78 miles (31.83 km)

Walking Time; 5 hours 51 minutes

Average Walking Speed 3.4 mph

Cumulative Distance Walked 178.67 miles (287.54 km)

GPS Track;

Paignton Pier in superb walking weather
Sands? What sands? Stormy seas at Broadsands
A replica of the Golden Hind in Brixham Harbour
Naopleonic era defences at Berry Head
A deserted beach at Long Sands
This is the stuff! A spectacular section of the South West
Coast Path somewhere near Scabbacombe Head
One of the Dartmoor ponies that blocked my way to The River Dart
Looking across to Dartmouth upon my arrival in Kingswear
This Iron Horse took me away from the River Dart

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