Sunday, 21 September 2014

Day 12 - September 15th 2014 - Hooe Lake, Plymouth to Seaton (Cornwall)

It was a warm sunny morning in Plymouth and the weathermen were promising more to come, hooray! I got the unpleasantness out of the way early, unknowingly I'd stopped yesterday just before I was about to pass by a water treatment works on a grubby footpath. An upmarket marina followed soon after, this being the first place where I've ever seen leisure craft stacked up on top of each other on shelves in a 'dry marina', presumably due to pressure of space.

As I rounded the far end of Hooe Lake I noticed the rotting skeletons of several derelict boats in the water. I wondered how these presumably once proud vessels ended up being abandoned and forgotten? What work they once did? Who sailed in them? Maybe this is knowledge that goes with the sailors to their graves.

Plymouth is clearly proud to have the South West Coast Path passing through. The usual wooden signposts would be no good here, however they're more than adequately replaced by all manner of signs mounted on walls, in pavements, and on various other immovable objects. To my surprise I didn't make a wrong turn once as I passed through the city.

After crossing Laira Bridge the path goes through an area of heavy industry, hardly your usual coast path fare, but interesting nonetheless. After emerging next to The National Marine Aquarium the flavour changes completely again. You find yourself passing by many of Plymouth's famous historical attractions, including The Mayflower Steps, The Citadel and Smeaton's Tower. They made for a fine walk in the sunshine. I thought the newly opened (at the time of writing) section of the path where it goes through Royal William Yard was very enjoyable and well worth the short extra distance. These Grade I listed naval buildings have been wonderfully converted and have a very stylish feel.

I must have seen thousands of small leisure craft berthed as I passed through Plymouth, yet only a tiny number were showing any sign of activity in the fine weather. I couldn't help wondering how often these things actually get used. Are they the modern equivalent of the Hooe Lake ghost boats?

For ten miles or so of walking Cornwall had seemed so close I could almost touch it. When I reached the Cremyll Ferry it was finally time to cross the county border and say farewell to South Devon. After enjoying fine views of Plymouth during the crossing I found myself in the well tended gardens of the Mount Edgcumbe County Park. Immediately it became clear why the Creymll Ferry does such good business, city folk must be delighted to have such easy access to this peaceful county retreat. A relatively bland walk through woodland followed, with the trees still in full leaf views of Plymouth Sound were infrequent. I met with Lea for lunch at Kingsand. For the first time on this journey I acquainted myself with the typical narrow steep lanes found in Cornish coastal towns.

From Kingsand I made my way to Rame Head, my favourite place of the day. It was well worth the small detour up a rugged path to visit the medieval chapel at the summit. The sea air was somewhat hazy, but I could see enough to tell that the views of Plymouth Sound, South Devon and Whitsand Bay to the west were magnificent. I was surprised to see the remains of wartime gun emplacements behind the chapel, they had been invisible on approach. I suppose their presence was inevitable considering the location. I say well done to those who resisted any temptation to destroy the chapel while constructing these vital air-defences under the stress of war.

With the afternoon sun getting very warm I made my way along Whitsand Bay. After a long straight gradual uphill section the path then zig-zags all over the place among the chalets peppered along on the cliff. I wondered if people live here permanently, or are they just used as holiday homes? Access is very awkward via steep narrow footpaths. Do they get post like everybody else? What about other deliveries? I certainly wouldn't want to be the milkman here.

A stretch of road walking followed before I reached The Tregantle Fort Firing Range. My feet let it be known that after tackling Plymouth earlier in the day they weren't in the mood for yet more tarmac. Fortunately the firing ranges weren't in use and I could pass through. Unfortunately the signs directing walkers were unclear, or non-existent, I found myself down by the beach. I correctly deduced there was no exit from the sands further west so made a steep climb up through the ranges to get back on track. While here I saw the largest wasps nest I've ever seen embedded in a bank by the path, it must have been at least twenty feet long and five feet tall.

After leaving the ranges the going was fairly easy, I passed through a lovely looking golf course where nobody was playing golf. I met Lea again at Portwrinkle and took on extra fluids during a short break to keep myself well hydrated in the increasing heat and humidity. Having made good progress so far I decided there was enough time left in the day to press on to Seaton. After being relatively flat most of the day the path had a sting in it's tale, the hilly downland section between Portwrinkle and Downderry becoming easily the steepest I'd encountered.

At Downderry I couldn't find a link down to the beach so made my way along the annoyingly narrow and busy road on to nearby Seaton where Lea was waiting in a parking area overlooking the small beach. I reflected on a mixed yet fascinating day of walking. I'd thoroughly enjoyed it all, including the fascinating urban journey along the waterfronts of Plymouth.

Distance Walked Today 24.18 miles (38.91km)

Walking Time; 7 hours 23 minutes

Average Walking Speed 3.3 mph

Cumulative Distance Walked 266.05 miles (428.17km)

GPS Track;

One of the rotting ghost boats in Hooe Lake

Everything in the industrial part of Plymouth is very different, including the coast path signs

Tinside Lido at Plymouth Hoe. Drakes Island and Cornwall to the right, a Royal Navy ship on tthe horizon.

Smeatons Tower, a fine sight in the September sunshine

Approaching the medieval chapel on Rame Head

Looking back over Portwrinkle and Whitsand Bay, Rame Head in the far distance

Arriving at Seaton Beach in the late afternoon sun

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