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Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Walk 136 Plymouth (Devon) to Saltash (Cornwall)

Walk 136 Plymouth (Devon) to Saltash (Cornwall)

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

Map: L/R 201
Distance: 10 miles or 15 km approx
Difficulty: easy
Terrain: mainly roads
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Trains between Saltash and Plymouth. Plenty of buses as well.

This walk involves some self-navigation on back streets and some walking along main roads which can be a bit tedious at times.

Start from Plymouth Aquarium. The walk from here can be via the footbridge at Sutton Harbour or along the road and past Lockyers Quay. Walk round the harbour and look out for the poles with fish sculptures at the top. These are near The Mayflowers Steps – many famous voyages left from here including The Pilgrim fathers to the USA in 1620 and in 1583 Sir Humphrey Gilbert sailed to claim Newfoundland for Queen Elizabeth 1st.

Alongside the quayside, near The Mayflower Steps, look out for two restored ships' cannons. These are from 19th century ships and are classified by the weight of the cannon balls they fired, in this case 24 pounders.

Just before getting to the Hoe is the Royal Citadel with its cannons poking over its 70 foot high walls. It was developed in the time of Charles 11 to counteract the threat of a Dutch invasion in the 1660s. It is still occupied by the military and if you are lucky you might be there on the day of a conducted tour.
Continue around to Plymouth Hoe and its iconic lighthouse. A park extends around the hoe and dates back to the medieval period when the first settlements occurred nearby – long before Francis Drake was supposed to have played bowls here waiting for the Spanish Armada in 1588. The Victorians created the park as it is today and they created a pleasant place to enjoy the panoramic view. If you have time you can go up Smeaton's Tower. He designed this lighthouse which was erected on the Eddystone Rock between 1756 and 1759. It was relocated to the Hoe in 1882 and on a clear day you can see its replacement out at sea.

The next stop is Western King Point near to Devils Point. Here there is a good view back to The Hoe. One of the grimmest parts of Plymouth's history is the trade from the 16th century involving Sir William Harvey. Manufactured goods were exchanged for African slaves who were then transported to the colonies.

Navigate around to The Great Western Docks where a waterfront walkway has been reclaimed. Look out for the plaques from past local machines, cranes and rail bridges on the roadside walls. In this area is The Royal William Yard with its impressive gateway and clock tower established by William 111 in 1691. Sorry for the imprecise directions but I wandered around the area to look for these landmarks.

Most of the walk from here to The Tamar Bridge is along the main road because there is no access to the naval dockyards and barracks. Just south of the Tamar Bridge is an area called Riverside. The memorial park here marks the point where members of the US Army left for the beaches of Normandy Hill on D Day in 1944.

Walk up on to the Tamar Bridge to cross to Saltash. This was opened in 1961 and when it opened it was the longest suspension bridge in the UK. It was the first bridge in the world to be widened using cantilevers - from 3 to 5 traffic lanes. About 40,000 vehicles use the bridge every day. Alongside the road bridge is Brunel's rail bridge which was opened in 1859 and considered to be one of his great achievements.

There are several things to look out for in Saltash. In the High Street is H. Elliott's old shop. It has been there since the start of the 20th century. The original owner's son, Frank, disagreed strongly with decimalisation and business rates in the early 1970s and stopped trading. He asked for the shop to be preserved in its original state and kept as a museum. It can still be visited but times of opening need to be checked.

A little way down the hill between Saltash and its waterside is Mary Newman's cottage. Francis Drake married her in 1569 – he was 24 and she was 17. They became Mayor and Mayoress of Plymouth after Drake was knighted in 1580. Sadly, she died from smallpox in 1583. The Grade 2 listed building is opened at certain times in the summer.

Continue down to Waterside. Look out for the artwork, especially the mural designed by a local artist which pictures significant events in Saltash. You will not miss the Union Pub with the huge Union Jack painted on its front. The street here used to be known as Pickle Cock Alley because of the shellfish that were sold from open windows. For 70 years from 1858 a ferry operated from the Waterside.

Before you leave Saltash look for the life sized sculpture of Isambard Kingdom Brunel. A photo opportunity!

Photos: Saltash Waterside -The Tamar Rail Bridge with the sculpture of Brunel in the foreground; H Elliott's preserved shop in Saltash; the gatehouse at Royal William Yard, Plymouth; some of the plaques on the wall at Great Western Dock. 

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