Sunday, 17 July 2016

South West Coast Path Section 41 Hope Cove to Salcombe

Malborough Church
I couldn't very well let a week in Devon pass without having a go at doing some more coast path, but in truth I was only ever going to be able to complete a short section as it was hot weather and although my wife is a good sport she doesn't really enjoy coastal walking.  As my companion for this section I didn't want to push my luck and she was on a promise of a decent lunch at the end.  Transport is also a real issue in this part of Devon and I wanted therefore to make life as easy as possible.  We parked in the village of Malborough high up above the coast roughly half way between start and finish of our walk.  In total this walk is about 9 miles.
Red Path

Malborough is a very agreeable small village, especially away from the main road.  It also benefits from having an hourly bus service from Salcombe to Kingsbridge as well as free parking.  It therefore makes an excellent staging post where there are few other options in the area.  Parking in Salcombe is an expensive option so be warned!

Hope Cove Chapel
In order to start our walk we had to first get down to the seaside at Hope Cove.  Fortunately there is a fairly direct path down from the village.  We walked through the churchyard initially admiring the old gravestones as we did so.  We also ran into an old lady who passed the time of day with us.  She wanted to show us around the church but we declined as we were anxious to get going before it got too hot.  The church did look interesting though and the tower was particularly tall - maybe a daymark?

Lifeboat Station
The first section out of the village was easily the worst part.  I calculated that walking the quarter of a mile or so along a country lane wouldn't be so bad and we may even not meet any cars at all.  How wrong I was!  The lane was a bit of a race track with lots of surfer traffic heading down to Hope Cove.  We also met a couple of very large tractors with scary looking attachments and we certainly gave them a wide berth!

Hope Cove
As soon as we left the road the walking got instantly better.  Firstly the most obvious thing that caught our eye was the red soil that pervades in this area - it gives the countryside such a wonderful hue.  For my wife it is a piece of nostalgia as it was one of the first things she remembers about coming to this country.  The views across the coast also opened up and we soon realised that we could see way beyond Plymouth into Cornwall.  I had brought my binoculars and a quick look through those revealed that Cawsand was on the horizon with Rame Head just behind.  That is the stretch of coast that we know best of all for that was the one where we started walking along the coast path.

Red Cliffs
Soon enough we came to Hope Cove.  This little place looked to be justifiably popular.  It was possibly one of the first proper summer days we had had and the temperatures had brought out lots of holidaymakers eager to make the most of it.  We dropped down to the coast via some very steep steps alongside a small church.  I imagine the whole village would once have fitted in there at one point - fat chance today!  Hope Cove has two halves - Inner Cove and Outer Cove.  We walked down to Inner Hope and past a very old looking RNLI station.  I imagine the crew here are kept quite busy looking after hapless tourists.  It has been here since 1877 and was originally presented by the Freemasons.

The climbing started as soon as we passed by the Lifeboat Station.  We were climbing up to Bolt Tail although to be fair it wasn't anything like as challenging as some of the other climbs we have done elsewhere.  The headland at Bolt Tail has an ancient fort and we crossed the earthworks to reach the headland.  The view from this point was quite astonishing along the South Hams coast towards Plymouth and beyond.  I could have stayed here for a very long time trying to pick out all the detail.

Red Campion
The walk from Bolt Tail was steadily uphill for some time.  The cliffs below us started to get quite fearsome looking and offshore we could see several ships on the horizon heading who knows where?  They were mostly the slab looking ships that carry huge amounts of cargo in containers.  Romantic they aren't!  The strange thing about the walk initially was that we seemed to make very little progress as the path curved around Bolt Tail and gave us the impression that we hadn't walked anywhere as the settlement lay below us seemingly no further away.  

Beach Henge
This stretch of coast is pretty exposed - there are almost no trees to provide shade.  I imagine that during the winter months there are some pretty strong storms and this might explain why trees don't much like it.  The sun was pretty relentless as a result and a good hat and plenty of sun cream were required.  Keeping the hat one sometimes was a bit of a challenge though as the breeze was pretty strong at times.

Soar Mill Cove
Eventually we got to the top of the slope and this heralded a lengthy section of level walking which was a bit of a relief.  We passed a car park and that brought a flurry of other walkers.  The cafe suggested in the guide book no longer exists though - in fact the building that once hosted it had half the roof missing.  Perhaps that was the reason why it no longer prospered!  The path was increasingly passing through carpets of wild flowers and foxgloves in particular seemed to be thriving on this section.
Soar Mill Cove

Soon we were dropping down alarmingly and that could only mean one thing -  a massive climb ahead!  This was down to Soar Mill Cove, a beautiful spot that a few hardy souls had made their way down to from the car park.  It was so delightful that we felt we had to pause awhile to get our breath back a bit.  We decided not to dip our feet in the sea though - the sand on the beach was the really coarse kind that we would have had in our boots for hours afterwards.  We did take the opportunity to hide out in a sheltered and shaded part of the beach.  The time out of the relentless sun was quite welcome.

Splasho Of Blue
After steeling ourselves for the next section we finally felt ready.  We slowly climbed up and away from the cove, taking the lower of the two paths that leads away.  This has the advantage of a lesser climb although it is more undulating .  The path sort of clings to the edge of the cliff for a while but eventually reaches the top at The Warren.  This was our last opportunity for a view westward as just beyond here the path took a course around Bolt Head and the Starehole Bay.  For me the best part of the whole walk - the coast was quite astonishing with its rocky cliffs and path clinging to the side of the precipitous slopes.

Little Guy
As we rounded Bolt Head the view changed in a flash - gone was the westward view behind us to be replaced by one eastwards across Salcombe Bay and towards Prawle Point where I had been last year.  In fact from Bolt Head it was possible to see pretty much the entire first two thirds of that walk completed in August last year.  The boat traffic down below on the sea had also increased courtesy of the port at Salcombe.  One boat far below us was tugging some youngsters on a rubber tube and it was possible to hear the shrieks of delight above the sound of the engine!

Bolt Head
The path continued around the bay and managed to negotiate a particularly rocky part with a handrail and fenced in section.  Not one for the faint hearted!  I thought it quite exhilarating but I think I might have been alone in that one.  Once round that headland (Sharp Tor) the going got a little easier as the path continued towards Salcombe.  Soon the scrubby hillside gave way to woodland and some welcome shade.  Distances were deceptive here though - we thought that we would soon reach Overbeck's, a National Trust place that we had identified as our lunch stop.  In fact it was getting a bit frustrating as we were both pretty hungry by now.  Eventually we came upon the access road but had a bit of an unpleasant shock as it became clear that we would have to climb quite a lot to reach the entrance.
Keeping You Safe

We headed straight for the cafe when we got there and even after all these years of marriage I managed to surprise my wife by ordering a crab salad.  I don't usually go for seafood but perhaps it was the smell of sea air that tempted me into ordering it.  I have to say it was absolutely delicious and was an excellent choice.  Feeling fortified we headed around the house, which was once owned by a man called Otto Overbeck, who made his fortune as an inventor using something called a Rejuvenator, which used electrotherapy to improve people's health.  He was also something of a collector and the house was stuffed full of some rather strange items, including several model ships and dolls house things.  The Youth Hostel that once operated here sadly closed in 2014, removing another accommodation possibility for walkers.
Overbeck's Entrance

Having looked around the house and fascinating tropical gardens we found that we had finally lost the sun.  The wispy cloud which had been overhead all day had now enveloped the sky and we had a rather overcast walk into Salcombe along the road.  This got quite hairy at times as it is wide enough only for one vehicle at a time.  Often there were traffic jams created as queues of cars had to wait in turn to pass by and this meant even less room for us walkers.  

At South Sands we considered using the rather unusual tractor looking ferry that takes passengers into the town of Salcombe.  Although it would undoubtedly have been fun the queue was quite long and we thought it would be a lot quicker to walk.  The walk wasn't uninteresting although I would have preferred an off road route.  The houses were superb - I cannot imagine any go for much less than a million pounds.  Offshore was the shell of Salcombe Castle, rather like the ones in the Dartmouth Estuary but in considerably worse shape.  Eventually we found ourselves in the town and had a bit of time to look in the shop windows and have an ice cream before finding the bus back to Malborough.

It felt good to be back on the coast path and although the distance was quite modest we felt like we had had a good work out.  The trip to Overbecks was definitely worth the extra time and the crab salad was excellent.  All in all a great day out!
Bringing In The Catch