20090405_Afternoon Walk onto Berry Head
When : 5th April 2009
Who : Me and my family
Where : Brixham, Devon, England
Map Used : OS 1:25,000 Pathfinder Series sheet SX85/95 (quite old now)
Start + End Point : 927,563
Approx Distance : around about 3 miles (5 km) or so.
Heights : Approx 200 ft (about 65 metres).
Parking : We were parked at our guest house (The Melville) ; There is parking in Brixham and a car park above Shoalstone Point off Berry Head Road, not far from The Berry Head Hotel which has it’s own car park ; Also, I’ve read there’s parking in the country park of Berry Head Common with a visitor centre (but we didn’t go there).
Summary : Really a bit of a stroll rather than a proper walk … including: Brixham Harbour, Lifeboat Station, Breakwater Beach, Berry Head Hotel (and a cream tea), through the woods to Berry Head Fort, Return the same way.
Following our relaxing morning in Brixham (see earlier diary post) doing pretty much nothing, we decided to take a walk up onto Berry Head. This promontory is a national nature reserve, has a couple of Napoleonic Forts, and marks the southern boundary of Torbay, giving super views out over the sea.
The walk was quite straight forward really, starting off by skirting around the harbour. Where Katie and I bought a couple of tubs of prawns to eat on our way, a particularly traditional thing to do by the seaside, with a little vinegar and a sprinkling of black pepper, eaten with a cocktail stick – scrummy.
We then passed by a new, modern looking, development of apartments, past the lifeboat and marina, and the start of the breakwater wall to reach the very small Breakwater Beach.
The beach was extremely busy : kids skimming stones, dogs splashing at the waters edge, but mainly and most unexpectedly scuba divers … well I think it was predominantly people learning to scuba, and we had to smile at the various shapes and sizes waddling about the beach in their wet-suits and flippers, lumping the obviously heavy breathing tanks about. Now, there are some people that look good in wet-suits (Halle-Berry or Angelina Jolie maybe come to mind or perhaps Pierce Brosnan for the ladies?) but there are others that, errrm … well … errrm … don’t look quite so good. I’m being unkind, I’m sure it’s great fun. I found a web-site detailing the diving, so if you’re interested :- http://www.divemagazine.co.uk/news/article.asp?uan=5126
After some skimming of stones (away from the wet suited swimmers) and an explore of the rocks at the far end of the beach, we climbed the steep steps away from the shore to reach Berry Head Road, where we turned left heading away from the town.
The road eventually started to climb the headland, but not long after we turned off left to visit The Berry Head Hotel, (http://www.berryheadhotel.com/ ) where we found a table on the terrace overlooking the bay. A pint of excellent ale went down a treat, as did the cream teas we ordered for a late lunch. The view out over the sea reminded us of the time (a on a previous holiday), where we sat on a terrace in the sun, overlooking Lake Balaton from Tihany in Hungary.
There was much hilarity as the hotel manager tried to teach a lady staff member how to first fix and then raise The Union Flag (or Union Jack if you prefer) on their flag pole on the terrace. It took him ages and during this time Justine and I joked that 50% of the time our national flag gets flown upside down. Well, you’ve guessed it … he’d got it wrong and no sooner had he stood back to admire the flag as it unfurled, then there was a chorus of disapproval from us and other guests on the terrace. Well it must have been ½ an hour later, with the manager, several members of the public, the lady staff member [and at one point the hotel chef], the flag was finally raised again, this time the right way up!, to warm but slightly ironic applause and a gentle cheer. Sometimes a walk is defined by the non-walking bits, and this was one such moment.
Eventually, we reluctantly dragged ourselves to our feet to move on. I could have quite easily bought another pint and stayed there all afternoon, but that wouldn’t have gotten us up onto Berry Head …. We rejoined the road to climb quite steeply for a short while, before branching off left to follow an obvious path through the woods, still climbing. Craig spotted some lovely clumps of wild cyclamen in flower just off the path peeping out from behind some trees. He paused briefly for a look and then was gone, running up the hill once again, as both he and Katie tried to find a suitable tree to climb (unsuccessfully as it happens).
The path eventually levelled out and led us to the entrance of a large Napoleonic fort with commanding and extensive views out to sea and along the coast.
One remarkable aspect of the view were about a dozen large tankers anchored out in the bay, all unmoving as if in a giant parking-lot for ocean going ships … They were there all week, and they made national news as it was reported they were full of oil being “held back” from the refineries so as to keep supply scarce and prices at the petrol pumps high! … How much truth there is to that I don’t know, but the cynical streak in me can well believe it!http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/devon/7989760.stm
An explore of the fort saw the girls going off in one direction and us lads off in another, eventually meeting again near the fort’s entrance, the ramparts here looking back to Brixham over a large disused limestone quarry. Craig especially liked the replica canon’, pointing outwards through the massive stone walls in mock defence of the monument.
The route back was identical to the outward journey, except for a slightly different descent through the woods, and we didn’t reprise the visit to the hotel. It was all downhill to revisit Breakwater Beach. Justine and I sat on the pebbles whilst the kids collected shells; tried valiantly to skim stones and generally busied themselves as kids do next-the-sea.
One word of advice though, as both Justine and I found to our cost – The beach has spots of naturally occurring tar which has a habit of unerringly sticking to clothes – normally on the seat of the trousers. If you sit on the beach here, use the low concrete wall and not the pebbles themselves. Oh and another thing, (despite beach-info websites saying dogs are not allowed) the beach IS used by dogs and there were, to be polite, several calling cards left for the unwary to find …. Most unpleasant! …. Dog owners PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE clear up after your animals have fouled public places!!! To be less than polite, dog shit stinks and my family (especially my kids) should not have to walk around eyes glued to the ground to avoid the mess. Having said that, on a more positive note, the water here looked crystal clear and we all liked the patterns of light dancing about in the shallow waters.
After a quite short time, hastened by the doggy-do and tar on our clothes, we headed back to the harbour area where we admired the statue of William of Orange (with the obligatory sea-gull perched on his head).
The Statue marks his landing here in Brixham, with an army, to eventually take the crown of England – He became William III. http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/william_iii.shtml
To end the day, we bought a selection of bread rolls, salad leaves, sausage rolls, salami, etc., from the local co-op store and sat on the harbour side benches (near our earlier crabbing spot) for an impromptu healthy looking picnic as the sun dropped and early evening drew in. Eating our salad I‘m not sure if we felt superior-to or envious-of our fellow holiday-makers sitting near us, turning up as they were with packets of fish and chips. We did a bit of people watching as we ate, as the last of the Torbay shuttle ferry boats came and went.
The local sea-gulls, opportunistic as they are, were raiding the rubbish bin twenty feet or so away, desperately searching for fish and chip left-overs, where people’s wrappers were being discarded …. And that was the first full day of our holidays gone.
I hope you enjoyed my scribblings ….
Next walk = 20090406_Morning Walk into Shaldon