20090408_South West Coast Path_Babbacombe-Shaldon – Linear Walk
When : 8th April 2009
Who : Just Me
Where : Babbacombe to Shaldon via Maidencombe, Devon
Start Point : 924,660
End Point : 935,722 (Shaldon Ferry) and then on to 915,722 (Holiday Park)
Approx Distance : *6.4 miles (10.3 km) Babbacombe to Shaldon Ferry (*according to the official SWCP online guide) + about 1.5 miles (2.5 km) Shaldon Ferry to holiday park.
Heights : Difficult to say, several ups and downs on a classic coast path, quite strenuous.
Parking/Public Transport : There’s a car park at Babbacombe by the Model Village + there’s a car park at The Ness in Shaldon. A bus service runs along the coast road, so you can park at one end, catch the bus to the other and walk back.
Summary : Linear Walk along the coast path including Babbacome (From the Model Village) ; Petit Tor Point ; pass near by Watcombe ; Maidencombe + The Thatched Tavern ; Bundle Head, The Ness ; Shaldon Water Front ; River Teign ; Devon Valley Holiday Park.
Whilst on a family holiday, I try to fit in a half decent walk for myself, and this holiday was no exception. So, after first spending the morning (and some of the afternoon) with my family I set off to re-do this section of The South West Coast Path. I say re-do, because I’ve done this section twice before, once with the Coventry CHA Rambling Club, a long-long time ago (August-1984 … wow, that’s some 25 years ago!). The most recent other time was with my lovely wife Justine (August-1995) not long after we were married … and that’s over 14 years ago now (I’m writing this in Sept 2009) … double wow, seems just like yesterday. Both previous times were done during really hot conditions, so I kind of knew what I was letting myself in for, as the afternoon was quite warm – a really nice spring day in England. I suppose at this rate of repeat it’ll be some time after 2020 before I do this section of coast path again.
The morning had been spent at The Prickly Ball Farm, a rescue centre/hospital for Hedgehogs, near East Ogwell, in the Newton Abbott area. This is a super place for a family outing especially for young kids … it’s got more than just hedgehogs; with hands on feeding of lambs (in the spring), pot bellied pigs and piglets to see, ponies to groom and last but far from least ferrets to walk …. And no Katie, you can’t have one!
We then went to “The Thatched Tavern” for lunch in Maidencombe, little more than a hamlet really, down a very steep hill. In fact one of the roads down from the A397 is called “Steep Hill” : so steep they’ve made it one-way (down only) and named it “Steep Hill” [imaginative eh?]. Well, we had an excellent and quite large meal and I had a couple of pints of excellent Badger Ale (it might even have been three!) … lovely, but not a great way to prepare for a strenuous coastal walk.
By now, time was getting on and it was turned 3:30pm, before I was being dropped-off outside the model village in Babbacombe. Now, I’ve got to admit to getting it wrong to start with, a combination of using an old 1:50,000 scale map (I prefer 1:25,000), a very ambiguous finger post, and having previously imbibed a little ale! … Anyway, suffice to say I ended up making a bit of a detour whilst I tried to find the path north on the coast path. I was never lost!, but it did waste a considerable amount of time!, not to mention distance and height climbed all of which combined to add a degree of time pressure to the rest of the walk.
Anyway, just for the purposes of this post, ignoring my detour, if you start in Babbacombe by the model village, DO NOT follow the prominent finger-post saying coast path, pointing downhill on a wide track skirting the model village boundary … Instead, head up onto St. Mary Church Road, head north for a short distance to reach and then turn right into Petitor Road.
This road brings you out into open country above Petit Tor Point where the cost path becomes quite obvious. It’s at this point that a sign warned that the paths down to Little Oddicombe Beach were closed because of unstable cliffs … and I now firmly believe this is why I couldn’t find the route I wanted at the start of the walk; I don’t think the path I was trying to find exists anymore (well that’s my story/reason/excuse and I’m sticking to it!)
The first little climb affords some super views back to Babbacombe and Torquay. From here, essentially, the path follows the coast line northwards, but it’s surprising just how little of the shore you get to see, especially on the stretch up to Maidencombe.
The path is somewhat set back, often in woods [especially as you pass below Watcombe] or overhung with blackthorn hedges and tall gorse bushes.
At times you get a choice of high or low level routes, but because of the self-inflicted time pressures and not knowing the state of the cliffs closer to the sea; I choose to stay high and made really quite good time.
The path-side was at times enhanced by a great number of wild and semi-wild spring flowers, some of which had obviously escaped from local gardens and naturalised themselves quite happily in the verges. This was especially apparent as I picked up a minor road as I dropped into Maidencombe. I was sorely tempted to re-enter The Thatched Tavern where I’d lunch earlier in the afternoon … The Badger Ale almost shouting, “come on in, you know you want another one” … Well, being a person of strong will, but mainly because time was still pressing, I resisted the call and walked on by to find the path heading back up onto the cliffs to resume the journey north.
From here there is basically nothing but countryside, all settlements being left behind for some miles until the outskirts of Shaldon are reached. The path has a somewhat more open aspect with some lovely extensive views both north and south along the coast. However, the path can’t decide what height it wants to be, so falls and rises in a number of strenuous switchbacks, almost like a huge drawn out rollercoaster ride along the coast. I have to admit to finding it rather taxing, the good meal and ale heavy in my legs, not to mention my general lack of fitness (I must do more walks!) but I pressed on, my next major goal, Ness Point, coming into view ever closer as each rise was attained.
It had been a lovely day weather-wise, quite warm during the afternoon, but rapidly coming in above and behind me was a mackerel sky, a portent of a change to come, the first sign of a weather front approaching. The broken clouds made a fantastic mottled affect against the late afternoon sky as the sun dropped behind the hillside above. A couple of seagulls wheeled around, playing on the increasing breeze. I wondered if I would finish my walk in the dry.
Nearing the outskirts of Shaldon the path rises up to meet the coast road, the speed and noise of the traffic a bit of a culture shock after the quiet of the coast path. But the path only stays with the road briefly, soon branching right to drop towards a golf course with The Ness behind.
In a field hollow just before the golf course, I met a small and very pleasant group of lads (from Teignmouth) setting up camp, pitching a couple of tents and arranging a circle of large stones for a traditional shaped camp fire. They said they were taking advantage of the fine weather and this was the first time doing such a thing. I wished them luck (with reference to the mackerel sky) and I moved on. I hope they were alright, as we got very heavy persistent rain for much of the night. I did feel for them.
After skirting the golf course, I then emerged onto the car park by The Ness, and I decided to make the last rise of the day through the woods to the top point of the promontory. Just as I entered the trees, really quite dark and gloomy as evening drew in, I nearly jumped out of my skin as an incredibly noisy set of screams assailed the air. It took me quite aback and set my heart racing … the thought “what on earth was that !?” flashed through my mind, until I remembered that Shaldon zoo backs onto the woods; I think the sounds were probably howler monkeys or similar, perhaps they were being fed or maybe the sound of my foot-fall had disturbed them?
At the top of The Ness there are a set of railings, with extensive views northwards to Teignmouth across The Teign Estuary and beyond. However, this lovely spot is tinged with a degree of poignancy as there were several bouquets of flowers tied to the rails, I believe in remembrance of those who’d used the cliffs and the rocks below to end their lives… so sad in such a lovely place.
Anyway, moving on, I descended (westwards) with the drop on my right, to reach the small beach in Shaldon ; the evening light quite spectacular on the sea and river below and I spent a little time watching teams of rowers taking their boats out, training for the local races held here.
I didn’t notice at the time, but looking back at my photo’s from ’95, it seems the sea wall on the Teignmouth side of the estuary has been extended quite a long way along the sand spit, now hiding all but 3 or 4 of the beach huts bordering The Salty, where once before a good 20 or more were visible.
Pushing on, heading inland along the southern side of the River Teign, pointed me inland (heading almost due west away from the sea). The setting sun was shrouded by heavy, stormy looking clouds over the heights of Dartmoor and I finished the walk, in quite dark conditions after following the road from Shaldon and Ringmore back to the holiday park to be reunited with my family again.
I really enjoyed the walk, despite my ongoing lack of fitness, but I’d got to reacquaint myself with some lovely coastal sights … and I managed to stay dry as the anticipated rain hadn’t actually arrived – YET – But boy that did change during the night.
I hope you enjoyed my scribblings ….
Next walks = 20090417-19_Some Weekend Walking in the Peak District