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Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Walk 135 Wembury to Plymouth (Devon)

Walk 135 Wembury to Plymouth (Devon)

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

Map: L/R 201
Distance: 13 miles or 22 km approx
Difficulty: moderate
Terrain: coastal path and roads
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Buses run from Wembury to Plymouth. This walk finishes at the aquarium – there are plenty of buses around the Plymouth city area.

Walk down to the coastal path from Wembury. Look out for The Marine Centre where you can learn about the local rock pools and what can be done to preserve them. Walk around Wembury Point to Heybrook Bay.

In 1956 Heybrook Bay was the site of the Royal Navy's chief gunnery school, HMS Cambridge, which had firing ranges near the village. It was closed in 2006 and the National Trust has worked hard to reinstate a natural landscape including demolishing the buildings. Much of the area along this coast is a European Special Area of Conservation because of the huge variety of marine plants, animals fish and birds.

Follow the path around to the picturesque Bovisand Bay. Opposite here, out in Plymouth Sound, is Plymouth Breakwater. This structure is 1560 metres long and 65 metres high and 4 million rocks were used in its construction in 1812. It was built to provide safe anchorage for the British fleet in the Napoleonic Wars. The lighthouse at the end was built in 1841. Near to the breakwater is a round fort built in 1865. It was armed with cannons but was disarmed well before World War 1. Since then it has been used as a signal station and a military training school.

The walk through Staddon Heights and towards Mount Batten provides good views of the Sound and the various vessels making their way in and out of Plymouth.

Nearer to Mount Batten there is a good view of Drake's Island. Originally this was called St Nicholas Island after the chapel there. It has only consistently been called Drake's Island in the last 100 years or so. Drake sailed from here in 1577 and in 1583 was made its governor. From 1549 it was fortified against the French and the Spanish with barracks on the island for 300 men. In 1963 Plymouth Council opened a youth training centre there.

After Jennycliff Bay there is a short climb to some seats at the top of Dunstone Point providing a panoramic view of Plymouth and the sea. After resting here continue to Mountbatten Headland where Mountbatten Tower is prominent.

This tower was thought to have been built between 1646 and 1652 probably in response to a threat of war from the Dutch. It was named after William Batten who had command of the Parliamentary Navy during the Civil War. It is built of local limestone with walls about a metre thick. Its last known use was as a coastguard observation post during the 19th century.

Near here was an RAF station for seaplanes in the Second World War based on an earlier base in the First World War. Look out for the memorial to RAF Mountbatten personnel killed between 1917 and 1992.

The route continues through the bustling Mountbatten Centre which is a major provider for outdoor adventurous activities. The stretch of water here is known as the Cattawater and is where the River Plym merges with Plymouth Sound. A water taxi can usually be seen going between this point and Mayflower Steps in the main part of Plymouth.

Further round is Turnchapel a rather unexpectedly quaint old fishing village. If you fancy a pint of real ale The Clovelly Inn may well be your stopping/resting point. Continue around the path and inlet to Turnchapel Hard. You may spot the memorial here dedicated to the embarkation of the US army to spearhead the Normandy Landings on D Day. The road was reinforced to carry the US tanks and personnel.

The path passes through Hooe Lake where a notice states that this is the hub of cross country paths and trails. Continue around to Laira Bridge where there are good views of the River Plym.

From here the path, called The Coxside Trail, winds its way round to Plymouth aquarium. A lot of this area was in the process of regeneration from a former industrial base when I walked it. In an area called Stonehouse there is a plaque which explains that in 1776 a cave was found which contained prehistoric bones. Further remains were found in the 19th and 20th centuries including humans, rhinoceros, lions and hyenas.

Continue on to The National Marine Aquarium which is the UK's largest and contains over 70 species of shark.

Photos show: a view of Heybrook Bay; a view from near Dunstone Point across to Plymouth; redevelopment alongside the Coxside Trail.

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