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Thursday, 25 June 2015

Walk 133 Thurlestone to Bigbury-on-Sea and beyond (Devon)

Walk 133 Thurlestone to Bigbury-on-sea and beyond (Devon)

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

Map: L/R 202
Distance: 10 miles or 18 km but this depends on how far you walk round and the extent to which Burgh Island is explored.
Difficulty: moderate to challenging – cliff path, some steep climbs
Terrain: coastal cliff path
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: As far as I can see this is not possible. Taxis one way back to a car seems the only option. A ferry is required to cross the River Avon during this walk.

Walk from Thurlestone to the coastal path – the path passes across a golf course or you can go along the road. There are some attractive sandy coves on the walk to Bantham.

Look out for the impressive boat house at Bantham which looks out on to the River Avon – pronounced locally as 'Awn'. To get to the other side you will need to use the ferry (one friendly man in a small boat with an outboard motor). It runs for an hour in the morning 10-11 and 3-4 in the afternoon except for Sundays. It is also seasonal, operating between April and September. As there is no alternative way of getting across it would be sensible to check before starting the walk: 01548856347 or 07811385725.

Once over the other side follow the path around to Bigbury-on-Sea with its large sandy beach. At the start of the twentieth century it was just a few fisherman's cottages but is now a popular destination particularly for those interested in water sports or for visiting Burgh Island opposite.

Opposite to Bigbury is Burgh Island which can be walked to via a causeway or, when the tide make this too difficult, by sea tractor. The island has strong associations with Agatha Christie. The prominent art-deco hotel provided a background to several of her novels including the Poirot story 'Evil under the sun'. Famous visitors to the hotel have included Churchill, Noel Coward, The Beatles
and The Duke of Windsor with Mrs Simpson. The island was completely cut off in World War 2 because there was a the Germans would use the causeway to attack the mainland. The ruin on top of the hill, which can be walked up to, was once a chapel and later became a hewer's hut. A man was employed to raise a hue and cry to alert local fishermen when a shoal of fish was spotted. In the 1880s it was said that 12 million fish could be caught in a day but they suddenly stopped coming. Who can blame them? If you fancy a drink try The Pilchard Inn which dates from 1336 and is said to be haunted by a smuggler shot dead on the island.

Back on the main land continue the walk to Challaborough - its attractive beach is very popular with surfers because of the sea's powerful waves.

Photos: The boats house at Bantham; the sea tractor to Burgh Island

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Walk 132 Salcombe to Thurlestone (Devon)

Walk 132 Salcombe to Thurlestone (Devon)

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

Map: L/R 202
Distance: 12 miles or 20 km.
Difficulty: moderate to challenging – cliff path some steep climbs to coves - allow plenty of time.
Terrain: coastal cliff path
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Difficult. Possible to get from Thurlestone to Salcombe with a change of buses but only 3 times a day. To get to Salcombe you may need to use the foot ferry which runs all year, every half hour or so.

Start near the lifeboat station at Salcombe. Across this stretch of water in 1889 and anchored off the sand bar, Tennyson was inspired to write the poem “Crossing the Bar”. In the 1860s Salcombe 'fruities' were often seen on the water. These were a type of schooner that traded in citrus fruits from the Azores. The estuary is still popular with yachts and other small craft.

Salcombe has a number of quaint streets and it is worth a short time looking round these. Shipbuilding was associated with the town for many years, especially in the 19th century. The introduction of steam driven steel hulled craft caused shipbuilding to move away to more industrial areas.

Walk south out of Salcombe near to the remains of Salcombe Castle. This fort was the last one in England to hold out for the Royalists. It was built by Henry 8th but renamed Fort Charles in the Civil War. Continue along through North and South Sands and to the ragged rocks at Bolt Head. At Starehole Bay the last working tall ship was wrecked in 1936 – it took two months before she broke up and her rotting cargo of corn could evidently be smelt for miles around.

A couple of miles or so further along is Soar Mill Cove. This is renowned for its ship wrecks. In 1887 a tea clipper was wrecked here and a wall of tea 3 metres high was washed on the beach. Look out for the Ham Stone off the shoreline, especially if you like a variety of seabird life.

The path continues along to Bolberry Down. Near here the discovery of flint tools indicates a significant prehistoric settlement. This part of the walk is challenging and a different route is available for those who prefer an easier route.

Bolt Tail provides a panoramic view to the west across Hope Cove to Inner and Outer Hope. In 1760, HMS Ramilles was dashed on the rocks below and about 800 sailors died.

Quaint thatched buildings feature at Hope Cove. The area had a reputation for smuggling and the plundering of wrecked ships. In 1588 the San Pedro el Mayar, the hospital ship for the Spanish Armada, got wrecked on nearby rocks. Forty to fifty of the survivors were initially sentenced to death but were castrated instead and returned to Spain. Wreckage from this ship apparently still gets washed ashore – occasionally gold and silver appear.

The walk ends along a path inland to Thurlestone. Look out for the 'Stonehenge like' Thurlestone Rock on the shore as you approach Thurlestone.

Thurlestone rock and nearby beach.