Friday, 22 April 2011

South West Coast Path Section 44 Torquay - Teignmouth

Torquay Balloon
After my hugely enjoyable evening walk from Teignmouth I decided to stay in Devon for a bit longer and walk the previous section ofthe route from Torquay before heading off for my final destination in Cornwall. Unusually this section of the route can also be completed using the train as the public transport part of the equation, courtesy of the onward rail route from Teignmouth.
Torquay Gardens
The station at Torquay is a shadow of its former self, when it would once no doubt have been thronged with holidaymakers all heading for this quintessential Devon holiday resort. Although fairly early on a Saturday morning, I was one of only five passengers to alight at the station. I was pleased at how convenient the station was for the seafront, which was only a matter of a couple of hundred metres away! Before continuing on my walk I took time to linger at the fairly impressive (if somewhat elderly) leisure facilities behind the promenade where the local rugby and bowls teams seem to be well catered for.
Torquay Harbour
Back to the seafront and it seemed like quite a trek around to the harbour along the sea wall. It was a slightly grey start to the day, although the prediction was that today would probably be one of the warmest days of the year so far. Although well after 9.30am it seemed as if life hadn’t really got going on the seafront, which was still surprisingly deserted. A few things caught my eye before reaching the harbour – the first was a large tethered balloon, an attraction which seems to have been replicated in other towns I have visited.No doubt on a clear day this facility would provide unrivalled views of the English Riviera, probably as far away as Brixham, some 10 miles to the south. A little further on and I was surprised to see some seriously fire-damaged buildings on the seafront, possibly as a result of arson but now hoarded off and presenting a rather sad sight for this prime location. On a happier note I was very pleased to see the fine flower displays on the approach to the harbour – a fitting decoration for such a prime spot.
Torquay's Most Famous Daughter
At the harbour the kiosk selling boat tour tickets appeared to be doing fairly brisk business. No doubt the early risers had twigged that today would be a good one for making that coastal boat trip down to Brixham and Dartmouth. There was surprisingly little other activity in the harbour though, with most of the pleasure craft still berthed.
Heading to Hope's Nose
I headed up out of the harbour and past a memorial to Agatha Christie, who was born in the town and set some of her famous stories in this part of the world. The memorial marked the beginning (or end) of the ‘Agatha Christie mile’. However, I was never to find out where the other end was, since my path deviated from the road and followed a course along the cliff top towards Hope’s Nose. This very attractive section was originally part of the Rock End Estate, which centred on a grand house. It proved to be an early workout, for the path adopted a rollercoaster pattern for the short stretch to the wonderfully named Daddyhole Plain. I passed by a Coastwatch station, the first of many that I would be seeing this week before dropping down past a large hotel above Meadfoot Beach. Here I saw a very large gathering of ramblers in the car park and my heart sank. I rushed on to make sure I put some distance between them and me so I wouldn’t get swallowed up by such a huge group.
Meadfoot Beach
As I descended on to Meadfoot Beach, I passed by the very impressive Hesketh Crescent, which was apparently built in the 1840s and now serves as timeshare properties and luxury hotel. Must remember that – looks like an exquisite place to stay. The path followed the road around the small bay, which allowed me the luxury of some quickened pace. At the other end of the bay was the hideous tower block known as Kilmorie. The residents must have an excellent view from their windows, but it is a blot on the landscape for the rest of us!I’d like to think that such a building wouldn’t be allowed to be built nowadays, which might bode well for when the building’s life finally expires!
Thatcher Rock
After a short stretch of road walking I headed out towards Thatcher Point. This was coastal walking at its finest – through woodland of Holm Oaks and with vertigo inducing steep cliffs below me! Thatcher Point is embellished with its own little island known as – you guessed it – Thatcher Rock. This little island didn’t look like it was much more than a sea bird colony, yet it really added some additional character to the coast. High above me the houses immediately behind looked like some seriously sought after properties (rarely sold I’ll bet!). My way forward was a windy path around the various gardens and the air was filled with the sounds of lawnmowers and hedge trimmers grooming the sumptuous looking gardens.
Greater Stitchwort
I returned to the road just shy of Hope’s Nose, where I decided against the option of walking to the end of the headland (principally because it was downhill and I didn’t think that it would offer that great of a view). The view from the road to the north was fantastic and I had a glimpse of the coast all the way to my final destination of Teignmouth, having changed direction completely at Hope’s Nose. The next couple of miles past Hope Cove and Brandy Cove was absolutely delightful, a green lane with smells of blossom and wild flowers filling the air and the verges of the path were a riot of colour. This eventually gave way to woodland with glimpses of a rocky beach below and the prominent headland of Long Quarry Point.
Quarrying Country
Eventually I reached Babbacombe Beach after descending steeply from the cliff tops. There was plenty of activity at the southern end of the beach, with one brave soul actually wandering around in the sea (looking a bit lost it has to be said). I was pleased to see a café ahead of me and took the opportunity to top up with refreshment before continuing.
Babbacombe Beach
Between the café and the beach at the other end of the bay was a welcome engineered footpath to negotiate around the cliff face down to the sea. Elsewhere I feel certain that the footpath would have climbed back over the top of the cliff. At the other end of the bay I could hear the unmistakable rumble of an electric train and sure enough one of the cars of the Babbacombe Cliff Railway headed down the side of the cliff to reach the base station. In hindsight I should have taken this to the top – it would have been a far more interesting and less frustrating way of reaching the top of the hill. This proved necessary as the path ahead has been diverted following a cliff fall. The diversion was unwelcome and cost me quite a bit of time and by the time I got to the top I was feeling very hot and bothered.
Babbacombe Cliff Railway
I was completely unprepared for the way ahead. The map suggested that it would be a clifftop walk but it was anything but. The first couple of miles to Maidencombe were largely in woodland, which was a bit frustrating as it was difficult to get a feeling for how far I had travelled or get any views apart from a few glimpses. By now the day was beginning to heat up and it was unseasonably hot for early April. It also made the next few miles to Teignmouth a bit of a struggle. The village of Maidencombe was delightful –one of those little out-of-the-way places so beloved of holidaymakers when the sun shines (not so sure it would be so nice in driving rain!).
Maidencombe
From Maidencombe the path took on the character of the proverbial rollercoaster with several steep ascents and descents, playing havoc on the knees! This was rather an unwelcome outcome at the end of the walk and I couldn’t help wonder how walkers would feel if they had walked from Brixham as the guidebook suggests (an additional 8 miles before I had started in Torquay). At least this section was more open, with extensive views across to both Teignmouth and Hope’s Nose now receding behind me. There was also a welcome breeze every so often, which helped with the heat. The breeze had also attracted a couple of paragliders trying to take off, but they really struggled to get off the ground and only just cleared the trees a couple of times. I couldn’t help thinking that they would be in a lot of trouble if they caught any of the upper branches.
Launching Off
Eventually at Labrador Bay I briefly joined the main road and this signalled the last climb before Teignmouth, which was very welcome. The route alongside the road didn’t last long luckily and I descended down a small path alongside. Sadly I was greeted with the sight of a dead cat that had obviously been hit by a car. My thoughts were with the owners, who may still be blissfully unaware of the fate of their beloved pet L.
Red Coast
As the path finally freed itself from the road above I was greeted with a very welcome view of Teignmouth far below me. The seaside was obviously very busy on this sunny Saturday and the golf course that I had to pass around was also thronged with golfers. I’m not a golfer myself but it certainly looked like a very picturesque place to have a round. I had nearly a mile still to negotiate and after the initial flurry of excitement at seeing my destination, I had the small matter of descending down to the river and hoping that the ferry was running today. A foot ferry runs across the Teign from Shaldon – the alternative is a lengthy trudge along to the road bridge, a prospect I didn’t fancy at all.
Teignmouth
The path down to Shaldon village seemed to do its best not to go on the most direct route. Although initially annoying it soon became clear why when I found a peephole through the trees to the most magnificent view across the Teign estuary and the town of Teignmouth beyond and the cliffs as far as Dawlish. It was a truly memorable view and I thank those responsible for sending the path this way and making me expend that last bit of effort!
Shaldon Ferry
I descended to the village of Shaldon and found that all the eateries and pubs were full to bursting with visitors, many of which were probably on their first day of holiday like me. I was particularly relieved to see the ferry waiting on the beach and I made a superhuman effort to make sure it didn’t go without me! Having run across the beach I was then told by the ferryman that I needn’t have worried as his daughter wasn’t there and he couldn’t go without her!
End of the Journey
It felt good to have the breeze on my face as we crossed the short stretch of water to Teignmouth. By the time I reached the other side I was desperate for an ice cream on such a warm day & found a welcome kiosk along the seafront to relax before continuing my onward journey to Cornwall and a very different kind of coast! This is a surprisingly testing section of the Coast Path, with many ascents and descents and I underestimated how long it would take (I exceeded my planned time by about an hour and a half). Although it seems like a very developed coast there are also few refreshment opportunities en route and none beyond Babbacombe until you reach Teignmouth. It would be a good idea to make sure that you have plenty on board after you leave Babbacombe. This onward section is probably the toughest, with some stiff climbs in places and can be quite energy sapping. That said, on a warm spring day such as I chose, it is a delightful walk with many flowers, birds and butterflies to keep you company!

4 comments:

  1. How interesting to read your post. I did the same walk, backwards, from Dawlish, to Teignmouth, through Maidencombe and to the north edge of Torquay. It was 9 miles and took me nearly 7 hours (although this includes a lunch break) and was much more strenous than I had anticipated! Just posted it up on my site:
    http://ruthl.wordpress.com/
    Yours, Ruth

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  2. Yes - this was surprisingly testing! I was pleased to have all day for it. Sadly it is looking unlikely that I will make it to the South West this year. Maybe a big assault next year?

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  3. Very nice. It's surely nice to spend holidays with your family at Torquay family attractions. The place is lovely and perfect for everybody.

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