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Sunday, 4 January 2015

Walk 126 Starcross to Teignmouth (Devon)

Walk 126 Starcross to Teignnouth (Devon)

(Second leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs to Lands End)

Map: L/R 192
Distance: 10 miles or 15 km approx
Difficulty: fairly easy
Terrain: road and coastal/river path
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Regular trains from Exeter St Davids in both directions

A very, enjoyable walk on a fine day – at other times, as it is very exposed, it could be unpleasant which would be a shame.

From Starcross, follow the path, then the road southwards, to Cockwood. This is a picturesque tidal harbour. The path is actually pavement all the way to Dawlish Warren – it is also alongside the main south west railway line from Paddington.

Dawlish Warren, seemed to me, to be a rather odd mixture of caravans, holiday parks, amusements and a nature reserve. The beach and reserve are attractive enough, although, despite being a warm September day, both were deserted. There were plenty of people around the other attractions.

The town of Dawlish is a mile or so further south. The path runs alongside the seaward side of the railway before crossing into the town. It passes the distinctive red cliffs and it is not hard to imagine how vulnerable the line is to the sea during rough weather conditions. It was wrecked during the storms and high winds of 2014. Originally, the line was going to run further away from the cliffs but this would have meant cutting across corners. Isambard Kingdom Brunel was busy blasting five tunnels in nearby rocks and some of these tunnels can be seen on the walk. A local author reckoned that Dawlish is probably the only town in England that has its railway station on the seafront and town centre at the same time. In 1765 Dawlish appeared on maps as a fishing village, then sea bathing became very fashionable after George 111 used it for improving his health leading to its development as a resort.

The path continues to Coryton’s Cove which is only a short distance from Dawlish. The red sandstone here was formed 250 million years ago when the area was a vast arid desert surrounded by older mountains. The red iron oxide cements the sand grains together. This cove has one of the most sheltered beaches on this stretch of coast as it is exposed to only easterly winds. At the time when bathing was segregated it was reserved for gentlemen’s bathing. Above the cove is Lea Mount with good views back to Dawlish.

Continue to Holcombe where, after a diversion inland, the coast is rejoined at the point where the railway line appears out of one of Brunel’s famous tunnels. Take time to look back at the red cliffs and Shag Rock poking out of the sea.

The final destination on this walk is Teignmouth (pronounced ‘tinmouth’, I learnt to my embarrassment) - another pleasant place to rest and admire the sea views. The town has suffered in wars and was burnt down in 1690 during a French raid. The poet Keats must have appreciated the place as he brought his ailing brother Tom to the town. The father of computing Charles Babbage (1791-1871) was  a resident here.The pier was built in 1865 and was originally 700 feet long with provision for concerts and dances; it still has arcades, rides and children’s entertainment. From the harbour, granite was shipped to build the old London Bridge. The town originally developed around the old Saxon church of St Michael. Fishermen’s cottages and salterns (seawater pools) and salt huts for processing salt were once here. Various trading activities date back to the 13th century and the port still handles clay, timber and grain. A lot of ship building has also taken place in the area. During the Napoleonic Wars 68 vessels were built and in World War 2 around 100 were built for The Admiralty.

Walk to the estuary of the River Teign. The river runs about 60 miles from its source in the peaty bogs of Dartmoor. From the harbour, the small lighthouse can be seen. It was built in 1846 to guide ships into the harbour entrance. On the stroll around this area look out for some of the modern sculptures which adorn the front. Inland, the road bridge can be seen but this is a very along walk around. Fortunately, The Shaldon Ferry is available to take you to the other side for the start of the next walk.

Photos show: Coryton's Cove; rail tunnels and walk alongside rail line near Holcombe; Teignmouth front and pier; River Teign looking inland to road bridge.

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