Just 3 days after returning from our last walk on the SWCP, we returned as a family (me, my son Scott, his partner Pauline and their 16 year old son, Andre) for a week in Devon (during which Scott and I were hoping to to add to the mileage we have done on the path so far). It was half term week so the drive down was long, hot and slow. We had booked a place in Dittisham. It was called Swilly Barn and is a converted barn with the owners living in the house next door. It is literally in the middle of nowhere, meaning lots of one track roads to get there but our first impression was that it was very peaceful and had wonderful views. There were sheep in a field nearby and in a field directly next to Swilly Barn was a field of alpacas. (One of the highlights of the week was seeing the shearers come in to shear the alpacas! It was quite a brutal ritual and the poor things looked so dejected afterwards..and incredibly skinny!)
We were met by the owner whose initial friendly welcome turned to horror when she realised we had a 16 year old with us! Supposedly they don’t take children but this was not shown on the website we booked through and at 16, I would hardly call my grandson a child. (Rather than rushing round in a childish manner, we are lucky if we can tempt him off the sofa and away from his technology!) As we had already paid for the accommodation and weren’t about to leave we managed to convince everyone that Andre would not be ruining the house and we were finally able to unpack and settle in. (It did mean that it was a very unpleasant start to our week however).
SOUTH MILTON SANDS – SOUTH SANDS 8 MILES
We decided to spend our first full day back in Devon doing some more walking so we all drove to South Milton Sands where we finished the previous week. Being half term the beautiful beach we had encountered before was now heaving and we were lucky to get a parking space before they closed the car park. Andre and Pauline decided to walk with us for a while and so we headed off towards Hope Cove which was a lovely little cove with restaurants and thatched cottages. We had lunch here in The Cove Cafe and even though they were extremely busy, the staff were lovely and friendly and the food was excellent. The weather was good and we sat outside enjoying the sunshine. Afterwards we all walked on up to the rocky headland of Bolt Tail. The views from here were stunning. This section of the SWCP is part of the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and with the sun shining we could see why it is considered so. At the tip of Bolt Tail, Pauline and Andre left us to return to the car and Scott and I carried on. The Path from then on was just how I like it, it runs along the side of the cliff and there are great views. There were a few up and down bits but nothing too strenuous. We passed Redrote Cove and Ramillies then we went up a fenced off cliff path towards Graystone. The Path then rose to Bolberry Down (there was a part of the path here that had been made wheelchair friendly which seems like a good thing, why should disabled people not be able to enjoy such wonderful views?) We saw sheep and ponies along this stretch and the rock here is mica schist. It is of a type that fractures into flat or longitudinal pieces. You can see some of these slabs raised on edge and made into primitive field boundaries. The Path then drops down to Soar Mill Cove. From here you can see The Ham Stone. These coves are popular with people who want to avoid the crowds but you should be careful about swimming too far out in this area. We climbed up to the knobbly point of Bolt Head and then headed 90 degrees eastward to pass round the spiky crags of Sharp Tor. (A bit of scrambling over rocks was involved here!) We then passed Overbecks (an early 20th century House and 6 acres owned by the National Trust). We didn’t visit but supposedly the mild climate here makes for an unusual collection of plants. We met Pauline and Andre with the car in South Sands. This is a nice little bay where a ferry runs from there to Salcombe and a sea tractor takes people out to the ferry when the tide is out. Another 8 miles done and along a beautiful route.
The next few days we had a break from walking and on the Monday went into Dittisham village and got the boat over to Greenways (Agatha Christie’s holiday home). If you are interested in that I have done a separate review. On the Tuesday we did a bit of a tour round. We went to Rosemoor RHS Garden (separate review also done), Castle Drogo (and yes, I have done a review for that as well) and then made a detour to Dartmoor as it is one of my favourite places and is also where one of my friends ashes are scattered
so I always like to pop over there and say hallo!
SOUTH SANDS – PRAWLE POINT 5.5 MILES
Today we did a fairly short walk. Pauline drove us to South Sands and then she took the car into Salcombe and parked. Scott and I walked into Salcombe (only about a mile) and then we all met up again and took the ferry to East Portlemouth and all four of us walked for a while. Salcombe itself is a nice little place(it is famous for being a ship building town and it has a castle but it is a relatively young town, it only came about in the early 19th century). It has lots of interesting shops and pubs but it was so crowded we didn’t want to stay there too long. As we walked we passed beautiful views and lots of sandy and rocky coves such as Mill Bay. ( It seems all these bays disappear at high tide except Mill Bay.) We walked mainly on the lower path in a wooded area which, even though you are in the trees you still get great views. We then came to Portlemouth Down. There were many birds here and we noticed a lot of “dodder” (a parasitic plant displaying tiny flowers and a mass of red capillary tendrils that covers the gorse like a hairnet!) We passed Gora Rock and Rickham Sands. Along this route are a lot of places with “pig” names. Gammon Head, Pig’s Nose, Ham Stone (not the one we had seen previously) and supposedly there is a pub in East Prawle called The Pig’s Nose which is decorated with pig postcards!). We continued around the back of Elender Cve and scrambled up to Signalhouse Point and on to Prawle Point. (Prawle Point means “lookout hill” and there is a National Coast Watch House there where you can get help, information and even buy water if necessary).
Pauline and Andre had left us some time ago to go back to the car and so we all met up again at Prawle Point.
The next day we visited Bigbury-on-Sea to wade across to Burgh Island and have some time on the beach. A bit of a restful day in the sun.
PRAWLE POINT – TORCROSS 8 MILES
We started off from Prawle Point and the views were spectacular. Lots of little coves with crystal clear water (some of them reminded us of Portugal with the clear water and rocky outcrops). The first part of the walk was fairly low level. The Guide Books tell you that you could spot the Cirl Bunting bird here and I was thrilled that I did actually see one. We passed a lot of fields with crops and we were walking on the seaward side of these. For nearly two miles the Torrs (the early Pleistocene cliff line) reared up to our left. We passed the very impressive Maelcombe House but unfortunately no amount of googling has given me any more information on this! Pauline and Andre left us shortly after this but Scott and I carried on to Woodcombe Point. (I would like to add here that another thing that is sadly missing on the SWCP is toilets! On this particular stretch I had to walk 7 miles before I found one! You can imagine how hard it is to walk with your legs crossed!) Anyway, we passed beautiful coves and beaches again, Lannacombe, Great Mattiscombe Sand just two of them. Then we arrived at Start Point (not OUR start point I’m afraid as we had started in Minehead!) It was very windy here between the frost sculpted rock faces on one side and the sea on the other. There is an 1836 lighthouse here (not open when we visited) but we did a small detour to look at it. Very impressive. The Path was then very easy walking into Hallsands. There is a poignant story here. In 1897 developers from Devon Point Dockyard began to take shingle from here and the result was that the whole village collapsed into the sea. there is a viewpoint where you can see the remains of some of the houses and a display telling stories about the villagers. It is quite a moving place. The beaches from here onwards are shingle beaches. One of them Greenstraight was lovely (but seemed to have no public toilets!!) We continued north over Tinsey Head and into Beesands and oh, my joy of finally find a pub with a ladies in it!
Feeling a lot more sprightly now we continued through Widdecombe Ley. This name is derived from it’s use as a provider of “withies” which are a tough, flexible branch used for basketry. The road then wound upwards for the first serious climb today. If the tide had been low we could have walked around the beach but unfortunately we had to tackle the climb instead! The Path then zigzagged down to Torcross where we met up with Pauline and Andre. We had an ice cream and had a look around Torcross as this is a very interesting place. It was used for training for the D Day landings by the American forces. In Exercise Tiger, 9 German torpedo boats intercepted a 3 mile long convoy heading to Slapton Sands and they were sunk and hundreds of American soldiers died. There was also a Sherman Amphibian Tank as a memorial (it had been salvaged from the sea by Ken Small, who campaigned for years to recover it and build a memorial.) There is also a memorial to the villagers who were evacuated (and some never returned) so that the Americans could use their houses.
So more miles done! We have now walked about 468 miles and have about 162 to go!