Friday, 7 March 2014

Day 10 - March 5th 2014 - Salcombe to Bantham

It was clear and frosty when I woke this morning. The weather forecast was promising a dry day, exactly what I'd been hoping to hear. Lea drove me to Salcombe where the passenger ferry arrives from East Portlemouth on the opposite side of the estuary. It meant I skipped the crossing, but it made no difference to the distance walked and saved many unnecessary miles driving down narrow country lanes.

Much like yesterday I found myself on narrow roads heading out of a quaint seaside town for the first mile or so. I saw storm damage again at South Sands. The road was closed here and it appeared the old lifeboat house, which houses a water sports business these days, was badly damaged internally. After passing up through Overbeck Gardens I emerged on a rugged rocky stretch of path heading towards and around Sharp Tor. Unlike yesterday there were handrails and low walls between me and the sea on the most dangerous parts of the path, I read later this section of the coast path was constructed in the 19th century.

In this area the path felt very much like Dartmoor by the sea. There were rugged rocky outcrops, the going was hilly, there were even a few ponies grazing close by. It really felt like spring today, wild daffodils were growing, many sheep were accompanied by their lambs and the sun was shining. Perfect.

After Bolt Head the path was fairly easy going, occasional muddy patches the only nuisance as I passed along gently rolling cliff-tops enjoying superb views. After briefly drifting north of the official path in an area where all the signs had been blown away near Ham Stone I made the steep descent down to Soar Mill Cove, a spectacular isolated spot which I had all to myself today. After a short break admiring the cove I made my way up the other side of the valley, this steep section being easily the most energy-sapping climb of the day.

More easy cliff-top walking followed. At Bolberry Down I caught my first views of Burgh Island and many miles of coast in the distance. Visibility wasn't perfect, but I was fairly sure that through the haze I could make out Cornwall for the first time on this journey. After admiring the magnificent view at Bolt Tail I dropped down to Inner Hope, the tide was still a little too high to let me cross the beach so I stuck to the road here.

If it weren't for recent storms the path from Outer Hope to Thurlestone would have been an easy stroll of just a mile or so. Unfortunately the cliffs had crumbled here and two diversions made it much harder work. The first was a relatively minor irritation, passing inland and back through the streets of Outer Hope for a about half a mile to bypass a section no more than 100 yards long.

The second diversion ended up costing me a quite lot of time. Strangely the only signs I saw showing the alternative route were placed well after I'd already passed the diversion. I wondered if signs further back had blown away or been removed by vandals. As a result I came to a dead-end next to a large house at Great Ledge with no option other than to double back a fair distance. As I retraced my steps I was able to warn a couple and their dog who were about to go the same way as me. This diversion was no fun at all. It added quite a lot of distance, the first half of which required walking up a seemingly never-ending farm track that was a quagmire all the way, completely underwater in places. This was by far the boggiest place I'd had to tackle at any stage of this walk so far.

At Thurlestone Sands I was pleased to rejoin the path, my boots absolutely caked in mud. The first thing I saw there was another road lost to the waves. Then I crossed over South Milton Ley on the footbridge. The southern end of this huge reed bed wasn't in the best of shape, it had clearly been under attack from the sea and was covered in debris.

Relatively easy walking took me alongside the golf course at Thurlestone. From the cliff tops I looked down on rocky beaches that appeared to be inaccessible from the land. As I approached the mouth of the River Avon there were great views across to Burgh Island and Bigbury-on-Sea where I knew Lea was waiting. As planned I arrived at low tide in the hope of wading across the Avon. Next to the lifeguards look-out I dropped down onto the sands and went over to take a look at the river. It was immediately clear and no surprise that it was far too deep and fast flowing to consider wading. So near yet so far, I was just yards away from Bigbury. I washed the mud off my boots in the river before turning back

There wasn't enough time left in the day to consider making the 9 mile diversion inland that would allow me to cross the estuary on foot. Had I arrived earlier I might have done it, but I didnt want to risk finishing in the dark. Instead I clambered up onto Bantham Ham and walked on to Bantham Quay where I stopped for the day. The seasonal passenger ferry that crosses the river here doesn't start running until late April. Fortunately we both had mobile signal, a rarity in this area, so I was able to call Lea and tell her where to come and find me.

It had been another thoroughly enjoyable day, again I'd seen wonderful places and fantastic scenery. By the time I'd stopped I was already laughing off the annoying diversions. I'd have preferred to get a few more miles covered if possible, however considering the time of year, the extent of storm damage and muddy conditions underfoot I'm very pleased with the progress I've made over the last two days.

That's it for now. I'll return to the path later this year when I'll continue on from Bantham Quay. Thanks for reading.

Distance Walked Today 14.69 miles (23.64 km)

Walking Time; 4 hours 29 minutes

Average Walking Speed 3.3 mph

Cumulative Distance Walked 216.85 miles (348.99 km)

GPS Track;

Leaving pretty Salcombe on a fine Spring morning
Looking back at Sharp Tor
 Near Bolt Head, the path felt like 'Dartmoor by the Sea' here
Looking down over Soar Mill Cove before making a very steep descent
View from Bolberry Down, I caught my first glimpse of Cornwall in the distance here
Oh no, I come to the dead-end at Great Ledge

The unpleasant diversion route, this muddy farm track seemed to go on forever

Thurlestone Sands, one of several roads lost to the sea in recent storms

Looking across the impassable Avon Estuary to Burgh Island and Bigbury-on-Sea

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