By Pauline Stirling
I walked from Combe Martin to Lynton, from Lynton to Porlock Weir and from Porlock Weir to Minehead, mostly along the South West Coast Path, last summer as an Assessor for a Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) Silver group. Views from the coastal path were amazing so I knew that I had to go back (without the groups of young people!) to walk some more!
The South West Coast Path is, in fact, England’s longest waymarked long-distance footpath and is also a National Trail. It stretches for 630 miles, from Minehead in Somerset, along the coasts of Devon and Cornwall, and then on to Poole Harbour in Dorset.
In April, I set off to Devon: to walk another stretch of the South West Coast Path on the north Devon coast; to revisit Dartmoor (I know it well from DofE Gold expeditions!); and to explore some of the South West Coast Path on the English Riviera in south Devon.
My north Devon coastal path experience started in Combe Martin again, as last year, but this time I headed west and finished in Woolacombe. Despite it being a bit wet, I had good views of Lundy and the Welsh coast. The jagged, rocky coastline is spectacular and it is easy to see how Breakneck Point, Damage Cliffs and Morte Point got their names. This was not an easy walk. I often seemed to be walking up, just to go down again, and then back up…and it was so so windy.
But then it was April. On the drive from the Devon’s north coast to the south coast, I passed by the west edge of Dartmoor. I could see that there was plenty of snow up on the moor! I took a detour off the main road to visit Princetown. Princetown has often been a base for our DofE Gold expeditions and so, whilst passing through the national park, I wanted to do a short circular walk from Princetown, taking in South Hessary Tor. I am usually on Dartmoor at Easter with my groups and so I expected it to be cold and wet. And it was.
I walked two shorter stretches of the South West Coast Path on the south Devon coast. Both started in the bustling seaside resort of Torquay, nicknamed the English Riviera. One walk took me up the hill away from the harbour, with the sea on my right. I climbed up over Daddyhole Plain before descending again to Meadfoot beach, and then back up again, to the spectacular viewpoint over Thatcher Rock. Once round Hopes Nose, the path continues round Anstey’s Cove and Redgate Beach over Babbacombe downs and into Babbacombe. Babbacombe beach is popular with tourists.
The other coastal walk led me in the opposite direction, this time with the sea on my left: taking in seaside promenades and esplanades, pretty little sandy coves, woodland trails and even a walk alongside the Dartmouth steam railway. It passed through the busy seaside town of Paignton with its pier and finished in the harbour town of Brixham. Not as rugged (and perhaps not as hilly) as the north coast, and not as bleak (although I do love it) as Dartmoor, this path was possibly a bit easier.
I am not actively looking for DofE groups that need an Assessor in Devon to give me an excuse to go back and walk some more!