Hooray, we are back walking the South West Coast Path. In our attempt to walk the whole Path, we had completed approximately 418.5 miles when we had to stop again due to COVID restrictions. In May 2021 my son and I decided we wanted to get on with this and, keeping our fingers crossed that Boris wouldn’t decide to do another U turn, we booked our accommodation and set off! Our last foray saw us end up in Plymouth so this was our start point for this excursion. We drove down (just my son, Scott and me) and we stayed in a Travelodge just outside Plymouth.
PLYMOUTH – WEMBURY 10.5 MILES
The next morning we drove the car to Wembury and then caught the No. 48 bus back to Plymouth. It was a 33 minute journey and we picked up the South West Coast Path near the Aquarium by crossing the swing bridge. The route is very easy to follow here because there is a silver fish trail (literally little metal fish embedded in the path!) The first part of the Path was quite urban but also quite interesting as we passed a number of obscure sayings set into the Path and even a rhino statue (for some unfathomable reason!). Supposedly you need The National Telegraph Code Book to help decipher the sayings but not having this, they are still a mystery to us! We left Plymouth behind as we climbed Jennycliff . We had passed good views of Drake’s Island and we passed the shrine to St Christopher near Cattewater. We passed the Mountbatten Centre and ascended the cliff beside a white stone that commemorates the flying boats that used to take off from there. (Having walked the SWCP for hundreds of miles now, one thing often lacking is benches to rest on. Now I know why! On Jennycliff there are so many benches that I suspect someone might have stolen them from other parts of the Path! I can only think that the whole population of Plymouth likes to come and sit on Jennycliff when the weather is nice!) We crossed a deep ravine and then it was fairly easy rambling along low cliffs almost at sea level. It was a windy, blustery day and we had bursts of rain to contend with as well. We passed through Turnchapel which is extremely picturesque and then had more low cliff walking until we reached Wembury where we had parked the car. Just off shore from here is the Great Mew Stone (Mew being an old name for a gull). In 1744 a man was sentenced to live on the rock for 7 years as a punishment for petty crime!
Having walked 10.5 miles and being extremely muddy I was pleased to reach the car and we made our way to tonight’s accommodation. This was The Lake House in Hooe. (The name conjures up a room with a view but actually The Lake House is at the back of a barbers shop with no view at all! However it had very comfortable and clean rooms and was quite central for food that evening.)
WEMBURY – MOTHECOMBE PARK 10.5 MILES
Today we drove to Mothecombe Park and left the car there. We had arranged a taxi to pick us up and drive us back to Wembury (a £25 charge but the only way to do it as no buses run that route). The first part of the walk was through lovely woodland for 1.5 miles then we had to get a water taxi across the Yealm River (we had researched this earlier and arranged for the guy to meet us as he only works at certain times). The water taxi was like a punt and only took a few minutes and the the Path continued through Noss Mayo where we walked amongst the ancient oaks of the Brakehill Plantation and along the sweeping track known as Lord Revelstone’s Drive (built in the 1880’s to provide an impressive carriage way for his visitors). At this point the weather changed from being fine to pouring down, ALL DAY! We passed Mouthstone Point and Gara Point. It was good walking with level and well surfaced paths so it would have been ideal were it not for the rain. (Difficult to appreciate natural beauty when water is dripping into your eyes!) We were walking through The Warren now (in the 19th century it was managed for the propagation of rabbits!) We passed Stoke Point and there were lots of blue bells and other wild flowers (most of them very droopy in the rain!). We didn’t bother to detour to the Church of St Peter the Poor Fisherman as it was a steep muddy climb. We came to a really steep grass covered hill which was very slippery. Trying to go slowly, I suddenly slipped and careered down at some speed. Scott tried to stop me but in doing so he fell and slid down the hill covering himself completely in mud! I think this may be the only time my son had questioned why he was doing this walk and why he had chosen his old, slow mum to accompany him! As the rain pelted down, he had to stand and wait for me on numerous occasions. With mud caked to him and water dripping off his hat he did look the most miserable I had ever seen him! We reached Bugle Hole then had to zigzag upwards quite steeply. we were almost at the end of our walk but as we came down to Mothecombe Beach I noticed a missing element needed to finish our walk! The tide was in and there was no access to the beach which we had to cross to get to the car park! There was a sheer drop that bypassed the beach or some boulders to climb over. We opted for the boulders and Scott climbed down then I threw him my bag and walking pole and slid down on my bum as far as I could before launching myself off for him to catch me! As ridiculous as it was, it made us laugh and cheered us up a bit. As we walked up the path to the car park the rain had formed a stream and we had to wade through this but at this point we couldn’t have got any wetter!
We were so glad to get to our next accommodation, The Ring O’Bells in West Alvington in Kingsbridge. A really nice pub with rooms at the back. Hot showers and a pub meal was exactly what we needed that evening!
MOTHECOMBE PARK – SOUTH MILTON 8 MILES
After a great pub breakfast we drove to South Milton Car Park. This is set by a really beautiful beach with a lovely café and (for some reason) a field of Aberdeen Angus cows grazing nearby. We had arranged another taxi to take us back to yesterdays finish point (another £25). Once there we had to wade across the Erme Estuary (not deep and an easy wade, just remember to pack a towel to dry your feet before slipping back into your walking boots). The weather couldn’t have been more different from the previous day, hot and sunny all day. ( As we started walking I realised I had forgotten my walking pole so poor old Scott had to be leant on every time I was going up or down a hill! ) The Erme Estuary is very picturesque and peaceful and there were even people riding horses along it whilst the tide was out. We headed off into Wrinkle Wood and south along the side of the estuary and past Womwell Beach. All the beaches along this stretch are stunning. We passed through Ringmore Village (where R C Sherriff wrote “Journey’s End”, there is even a pub named after it). We walked through the holiday village of Challaborough and then Bigbury on Sea. Both are gorgeous beaches and off Bigbury is Burgh Island ( a bit like St Michael’s Mount but with no castle just one Hotel). You can walk across the sand to the Island when the tide is out and when it is in, there is a sea tractor you can use. We then headed upwards past Mount Folly Farm with it’s many sheep and down to Cockleridge, an open dune area. ( With the weather being so brilliant today we were both back into enthusiastic walking moods!). Another water taxi (summoned by ringing a bell) took us over to Bantham. This is such an idyllic place, swans on the water, an old thatched house with ship figureheads adorning it, quite the chocolate box picture. We headed up from the quay on a makeshift scaffolding (due to recent cliff erosion) and then we walked through a golf course with another beautiful beach below us. The bays along here are Broadsands, Yarner Sound, Leasfoot Sand and Thurlston Sands (also called South Milton Sands). We passed over a 73 metre footbridge at South Milton Ley and this is the largest reed bed in Devon and is a great place for bird watching.
We were now back at the car and todays walk, in contrast to yesterdays was a real joy. Such a lovely stretch! So, back in a happy frame of mind we headed home to London, knowing our next trip wasn’t too far away. 447.5 miles done…182.5 still to go!