We have booked to walk from Penzance to Falmouth (60mls) in September, with luggage transfers etc, but in the meantime we will be able to do most of the sections between Brixham and the finishing line at Poole in day trips from Bristol as each starting point is only about 1.5hrs drive from home.
This was the first of those day trips and so we arrived at 9:30 at the long stay car park by the bus and train station at Exmouth. Probably too much detail, but I had forgotten to cut my toenails the night before, and after 100m was concerned that this was causing his walking boots to be very tight and after another 100m I said I would have to stop to see if the spare pair of socks were any thinner. Having taken my boots off I realised that I was having a senior moment as I was wearing Fiona’s boots!! (our boots are the same make and style with only a slight difference in the fabric colour). Fiona was just as culpable though as she hadn’t noticed that she was wearing boots which were 2 sizes too big! Having sorted that out we set off again for the start point at the marina.
This is where, if we had been doing the SWCP all in one go, we would have arrived on a ferry from the other side of the River Exe estuary at Starcross. After the last walk from Barnstaple I didn’t dare pass an opportunity for Fiona’s morning coffee so after walking along the Exmouth Esplanade we stopped at the Foxhole Cafe …
Continuing to walk along the last of the Exmouth beach front we eventually climbed up on to the headland and the walk proper started – after a mile or so we arrived at Orcombe Point.
This had been officially opened some years ago by Prince Charles and in the immediate area there are lots of interesting and beautifully crafted information stoneworks explaining the geological changes that have taken place over millions of years – the bright red sandstone cliffs in the far distance were once part of a boiling hot desert!
Continuing along the cliffs with fine views back to Exmouth the landscape is suddenly blighted by the Devon Cliffs Holiday Park, the largest static caravan site in Devon. We guessed that there must be at least 1000 vans there with as you can see even a huge crane on site to manoeuvre the vans into position plus loud music blaring out from the cafe near the cliff.
The picture shows only a fraction of the caravan site but to the left is a fenced off Commando firing range – it must be very tempting for them to start firing in the opposite direction!!
Up to this point on the walk from Exmouth there had been a variety of people walking the esplanade and cliff paths from an old chap whizzing along the esplanade on roller skates, to dog walker after dog walker, to families loaded up with buckets and spades and fishing nets. From now on though it was mainly serious walkers (such as us? HaHa!).
Climbing up to West Down Beacon the path has obviously been moved over the years as the soft sandstone cliffs have been eroded – it was a bit disturbing here to see deep cracks in the cliff top footpath and we were ever ready to make a dash for higher ground!
On the way down, the far end of Budleigh Salterton came into view …
… and after passing the golf course we arrived at the outskirts of Budleigh Salterton …
It was here that we met a guy who we assumed by his backpack was doing the whole SWCP in one go, like the chap who inspired us to set ourselves this objective. His name was Andrew, a surveyor from Essex …
Like us though he was doing it in bits although in a more rugged fashion than we could cope with in that he was camping along the way – he had started from Brixham and was walking to Seaton where he expected his girlfriend would collect him. He said he had a solar powered shower which he said was very effective – standing close to him we weren’t so convinced though or maybe the sun hadn’t been shining very much for the last few days! He was obviously a very experienced outdoor chap in terms of walking, climbing, potholing, bungyjumping etc and stressed that he was a Single Pitch Award (SPA – climbing) and Mountain Leader (ML) qualified. He reckoned it would take him another 45years to finish the SWCP as he had too many other challenges to tackle.
We wished him well, dropped down to the beach for a wonderful Marshfields ice cream and then set off to the bus stop in the town to catch a bus back to Exmouth. Fortunately, Stagecoach #158 was waiting, loaded with at least 50 young teenagers – it sounded as if they were having a party upstairs. If it hadn’t been for the fact that it was August we would have thought we had got on a school bus by mistake! Anyway, the bus turned out to be an express service which didn’t stop on the 15min journey back to Exmouth bus station. (Jonn will be pleased as he gave us a lot of stick about my description of all the people who got on and off the bus between Saunton Sands and Barnstable on our last walk – “That’s what happens Dad – it’s called a bus” – kids of today eh!).
Back at the car we made good time back to Stoneleigh and arrived back at 15:30 – only 6.2 miles knocked off the challenge but a very enjoyable and satisfying days walking.