Wednesday, 16 July 2014

South West Coast Path Section 45 Brixham - Torquay

Brixham Harbour
After a lengthy and hot day on my first day in the south west I was rather pleased that I had planned to be less ambitious on my second day.  It enabled me to have a slightly later start as I only had a fairly modest eight mile section to Torquay to complete.  One of the reasons why I had planned such a short section was partly to do with the vagaries of public transport but also to enable enough time for me to visit the Dartmouth Steam Railway.

Brixham Coast
Getting the bus over to Brixham for the start of the walk was pretty easy although I would have preferred to go by train.  Sadly for me the last train ran to Brixham more than 50 years ago so I was a little late for that!  I did however enjoy my ride at the front of the top deck of the bus – that is always a treat!  I got to Brixham in mid morning and provisioned myself up before heading north along the coast.
Brixham Wall Art

It was a slightly different day today with more cloud around, more breeze and yet a more intense sun.  Before leaving Brixham I decided to hang around the harbour for a short while to watch the morning’s activities.  Some of the please boats were gearing up to go including the ferry that heads all the way into Torquay.  I cursed myself as that probably would have been a more memorable way to do the return journey than the bus.  After watching the departure of some rather empty looking pleasure cruisers I headed on my way towards Goodrington.

Brixham Battery
To the north of Brixham Harbour were a good number of former World War II defences and I imagine that back in those days the structures left behind would have stationed some pretty powerful guns to ward off enemy ships.  Now all was peaceful and it made for a very attractive park full of families rather than watchful soldiers.  The path climbed up to a higher level away from the path and passed alongside a golf course through some woods briefly.  I came out to an area by a small museum dedicated to World War II and a new development site that looked as if some old houses were being bulldozed for a holiday park.  Lucky holidaymakers – the view from here looked lovely.  The signage was a little confusing here but I soon figured out that I was actually supposed to drop down to sea level and happened upon the most glorious cove complete with sandy beach. I was surprised at how few people were using the beach given the proximity to the local population centres of Churston and Brixham.  A couple of people had pitched their tent at the back of the beach and looked to have found an idyllic spot to camp.

Churston Cove
I started climbing up the rocky side of the cove on the other side of the beach and waited my turn half way up for a couple of people to come down.  I almost wished I hadn’t made this gesture as what I thought were a couple of people turned out to be a steady stream and I stood there like a lemon for some time before finally plunging into more woods on the other side along a surprisingly straight section of path.  This was a quiet section and was probably the only time in the whole day that I had the path completely to myself.  It was something of a relief to be walking through the woods as although I didn’t get much of a view I did at least enjoy some cooler temperatures in the shade.

Churston Point
The next beach was rather larger and as before I wound my way back down to sea level in order to cross the back of it.  This time there a lot more people enjoying the beach as I suppose it was a lot more accessible.  As I crossed I could see a young Council worker who had possibly the most enviable cleansing job of all as he pottered along litter picking the beach wearing his council issue shorts, t-shirt and baseball cap.

Broadsands Clouds
The character of my walk changed from this point too – gone were the woods and the next stretch of path between coves was through a clover filled meadow with views of Goodrington ahead of me.  This was pleasant strolling territory and the rugged coastline of yesterday (and the next day if my memory serves me correctly) seemed a distant memory.  There were lots of families out enjoying the sunshine, although ahead I could see some fairly menacing clouds beginning to develop.  As I rounded the headland the beach called Broadsands came into view and this was perhaps one of the most scenic beaches I have ever seen.  I paused on a bench to enjoy the view and take on some water and as I did so I was lucky enough to see one of the steam trains from the Dartmouth Railway puff past on its way to Paignton.

Lively Getaway
Feeling fortified I headed along the crescent shaped beach front enjoying the people at play as I passed by and admiring the cheerful looking beach huts.  As I passed I realised how different the path looks in high summer, for this is the first time I have done any of the path during the main summer season.  I have to confess that I really enjoyed it and vowed that I would do some more of the path in the summer.
Goodrington Sands

I walked almost the length of the beach before climbing up and away from the cove along a path at the back of the beach.  I ended up crossing underneath the railway as it soared overhead on a huge stone viaduct.  On the other side I then climbed to the top of a long flight of steps that took me above the level of the railway line.  It was pretty hot work and I had to make another drinks stop at the top.  It was at this point that I was passed by a female hiker who probably wondered what she encountered when she saw my red sweaty self.
Roundham Head

For awhile now the path followed alongside the railway.  Realising that a train had not long before passed me I was anxious to try and ensure I had a close encounter.  Evetually I reached a good vantage point and when I heard the whistle of the train as it left Paignton I stayed put for a short period of time so that I could watch its approach.  It soon came into view and slowed and stopped at Goodrington Sands station.  It was when it pulled away from the station that I got the best show though.  The line climbs slightly out of the station and the engine really blasted its way up the slope belching out huge plumes of smoke as it did so.  It was a quite magnificent sight as it worked its way up the hill and I was glad that I had paused to watch it.

Paignton Pier
At Goodrington Sands I met the proper holiday crowds as the beach was packed with people all making the most of the good weather.  I felt quite out of place with my hiking gear on walking along the promenade.  I imagine that the beach gets only busier during the school holidays and with good reason – it is one of the nicest I have seen for quite a while and with plenty of facilities on hand for young families.  There was a big water park and restaurants/ pubs all catering for the holiday traffic and perhaps Weymouth aside this was the first time that I had really seen facilities on this scale along the SWCP.  Yet, in its way it was every bit as enjoyable as the lighthouses and rugged sections of coast.
Paignton Harbour

At the far end of Goodrington Sands I climbed up the cliff and into Roundham Gardens.  This section reminded me rather of Bournemouth in the way it was laid out.  At the top of the cliff I was surprised to see that some of the facilities, including the pitch and putt course were closed and I am guessing that these would not be open for the season.  It was also obvious that the beautiful weather I had had up to now would not likely last for the remaining part of the day.  At the far side of Roundham Head I entered Paignton.  At first this didn’t seem like a big deal as the path took me through some residential streets but then I came upon the harbour, which was a little gem.

Candy Coloured Hotels in Paignton
I passed by the harbour and saw a house that the emergency services were trying to break into. I am not sure what the back story was here but I do hope the occupant was alright.  Just beyond that and the sweep of the beach at Paignton was quite superb.  There was a funny little pier about half way along the beach – not as grand as others that I am used to but it was good to see one anyway. It rather reminded me of the one further along the coast at Teignmouth.  When I reached it I took the opportunity to have an ice cream and paused to try and gauge what was going on at Paignton Green, the park just behind the beach. Evidently there was a large open air concert planned for later in the day and the stars of the show would be UB40.  Things were obviously some way from being completed but I imagine that anyone who wasn’t lucky enough to be a ticket holder could still hang out on the beach and enjoy the music.

Paignton Beach
At the far end of the beach I had to briefly walk along the road to get around a folly like hotel before regaining the promenade.  The beach had become less intensely busy by this time and surprisingly few of the long line of beach huts were actually in use.  Perhaps the thing that caught my eye most of all along this stretch though was the tidal pool at the far end of the beach, which I took to be some kind of paddling pool.

Looking Back to Paignton
In truth most of the remaining part of the walk into Torquay was most disappointing.  Apart from crossing a rather forlorn and neglected park most of the remaining walk was along the very busy seafront road connecting Paignton and Torquay.  The clouds that had threatened to cover the sky did so too, so even the views out towards Torquay Harbour were rather more ordinary than they could have been.  I crossed the road just before Torquay station to take advantage of the one viewpoint there was but in truth I was disappointed with the lighting for my picture.  Shortly after I caught the bus back to Paignton and from there had my ride on the steam train, which was fabulous!

Arrival at Torquay
Originally I had intended to walk these two days as a single day but in truth I am glad I split them as the first day was rather harder than I thought and I don’t think I would have got anything like the enjoyment from this section as I did.  True, it isn’t very challenging but it is far from being the easiest section I have completed for the weather was hot and there were a few steep if modest climbs.  Overall I was very pleased with my couple of days away and hope that I can sneak another of these short trips again before the end of the year.


  1. These places bring back happy memories of visits many years ago. Brixham Harbour, Goodrington Sands, Paignton and Torquay. It must have been around 1963, when with two pals, we camped in the area for two weeks.

    The weather was glorious and it was one of the best holidays I ever had. Once again your photographs are first class and I look forward to renewing my acquaintance with these places when I walk the SWCP in 2016. Thanks for the memories Paul.


  2. Thanks Bill,
    Are you intending to walk the route in one go? I would love to do that but too many other things in the way and I have had to satisfy myself doing the walk in this bits and pieces way. I am hoping that I will be finished by 2016 - a tall order perhaps but perfectly doable.


  3. The intention is to walk the trail over 10 solid weeks with a day off once per week. The reality will probably be 5 x 2 week sessions each month in the summer. I know you have completed a lot of the route over a period of time but it really doesn't matter how long it takes you as long as you do it.


  4. I warn you Bill - it is highly addictive! You might want to do it that way but I guarantee it'll get under your skin and you'll want to keep going back. It's like a good novel that you can't put down...