Thursday, 28 June 2018

South West Coast Path Section 40 Bigbury on Sea to Hope Cove

Hope Cove
This annoying little section has bugged me for a while and I had intended to polish it off during my February visit to Devon but was stymied by the weather.  I had far from ideal conditions on this day either but it was a walk rather borne of necessity after I had driven the 200 miles from Worthing to Morwenstow through beautiful sunshine to find that coast bathed in fog, so much so that I could barely see the church.  I had no confidence that any of the North Coast of Cornwall would be free of fog and it showed no signs of relenting and on that basis I reluctantly got back in my car and drove down to Hope Cove just so I could finish this part of the walk off.  As with the section from Erme Mouth to Bigbury I had to complete this as an out and back walk in the absence of any public transport.

Lone Poppy

I drove south across the moors and the sun soon made an appearance again.  Even Dartmoor was bathed in sunshine!  I was feeling quite good about my decision until I took the road down to Hope Cove and with only a mile to go the fog descended once again.  The air inside the car turned a little blue I can tell you!  Fortunately it wasn't as thick here and I could at least something of the view along the shore. 
Help me!
Despite the murky conditions there were plenty of people on the shore, probably because it was still half term.  The cloud had relented a bit and although it wasn't possible to see the headlands either side of the Cove the beach was fully in sight.  My first task was to climb up and out of the cove.  Luckily although the climb was steep it wasn't actually very long.  I was soon atop the thrift covered clifftops and feeling good after being cooped up in a car for longer than I should have been.  In a way this short stretch was just the right sort of walk to get me going for the weekend.
My clifftop walk did not last long.  At the first sign of houses a little further on the path deviated inland briefly to dogleg around their gardens.  Despite the poor visibility there were plenty of walkers around and when I passed by the National Trust at South Milton Sands they optimistically predicted further sunny spells to come.  I suspected that the other walkers were showing the same faith as me.  The café here was also a clue - I imagine the stroll is possibly the precursor to tea and cake...
I pushed on past the café - I didn't think I had done nearly enough to justify tea and cake myself.  In among the green field of wheat I passed was a solitary poppy.  Despite the fact that it was the only one it really did stand out; probably because of the lack of sunshine which heightened its vibrant colour.  The path rounded the field and I had to cross a bridge over South Milton Ley.  Apparently this is the second largest reed bed in Devon (after the much larger Slapton Ley I imagine).  As I looked down from the bridge I got quite a shock as for all the world I thought I caught sight of a hand beckoning me into the water below.  Upon second viewing I realised it was a discarded rubber glove and laughed to myself for being so startled!
Avon Estuary
I climbed up an over another small headland on the edge of Thurlestone and headed down a road that had succumbed to cliff erosion, now acting only as a private driveway to the last house.  The missing stretch looked rather forlorn and probably has been this way for at least the last 20 years judging from the infill of the stub by the surrounding sand dunes.  By now the mist was relenting nicely and views across the next bay were opening up revealing an extensive sandy beach.  The golf course to my right was rather empty - presumably players need to see the ball when they play!  As I wandered along this section I was followed by a stonechat who almost seemed to be willing me to take a picture of it.  I duly obliged :)
At the other end of the bay the coast got distinctly wilder.  I climbed a much bigger headland and soon the familiar shape of Burgh Island came into view.  Just as it was earlier in the year when I came the causeway across to the island was exposed and people were going backwards and forwards across the sand to see this curious place.  I was pleased that the mist had really cleared a lot by this point exposing the fantastic view across the River Avon estuary before me.  The walk across the headland was a good little workout to get me warmed up for tougher tests in the next couple of days.  I wandered down to the mouth of the Avon and looked out across this obstacle, feeling rather pleased that I never had to actually test out the wading across.
Once I had completed the three mile walk across here from Hope Cove there was nothing for it but to retrace my steps back.  I got the best conditions at the Avon mouth - the return leg of the walk saw a return of much of the mist.  It was notable though for an encounter I had with a kestrel.  The number of times I have seen a kestrel hovering and waiting to pounce I have never actually see one make a kill.  This time I got lucky as the kestrel managed to catch the hapless mouse it had been stalking.  I watched it for some time eating and it kept looking up at me in case I wanted to steal its mouse entrails.  Finally it decided I was too much of a threat and away it went carrying the remains away for a quieter place to eat.

Lost Road
That was the last excitement on the return leg - unusually I thought the outward walk (in the wrong direction compared to usual) was more interesting than the return.  Sadly the fog did detract from the enjoyment of the walk once again but when the view opened up across the Avon estuary it was worth seeing and the remnants of cloud added some atmosphere.  I think if I were to come back to this area I would probably try to include this section in the next part along to Salcombe.


  1. What a frustrating trip with all that fog. Hate it when you get most and fog only at the coast whilst the rest of the country is basking in sunshine. Still it sounds like you made the best of it. How much of the SWCP do you have left to walk?

  2. Hello Jon - thanks for your comment. I didn't see this earlier as it was in my moderation queue. I'm all done with this walk now - finished at the end of July 2018