Sunday, 4 January 2015

South-West Coastal Path: an "away day" from Dartmoor

Jim looking to the end
Jim looking to the end
My mate Jim arrived last night at the bunkhouse and made a radical suggestion; a walk on the South-West Coast Path, and not Dartmoor! The very idea would delay my attempt to reach 200 by the end of this particular trip, but I figured I had plenty of opportunity to pass that landmark, with 5 days still to go. Besides, with my aches and pains persisting, the mention of a few pubs en route made it sound like a bit of a rest day; how very very wrong I was!

We arrived at Bigbury-on-Sea about 10.40 am, parked in the car park on the sea front, overlooking Burgh Island. Immediately, we were pulling ourselves up out of the town away from the coast for the first half of the walk.

Bigbury-on-Sea and Burgh Island
Bigbury-on-Sea and Burgh Island

As is usual with all circular walks involving coastal paths, a lot of it is away from the main attraction, and we thought it would be easier going, but we soon found that it was still a route of either ascent or descent. Still, no matter, with a couple of pubs offering some sustenance, we would be fine.

Rollercoaster Route to Ringmore
Roller coaster route to Ringmore
The first village, Ringmore, was reached way too early for lunch. Being no more than an hour after we started, we carried on through, passed the Journeys End Inn

Ringmore
Ringmore
Graveyard, Ringmore
Graveyard, Ringmore
Passing the church and its picturesque graveyard, we headed through a field before descending to the derelict Noddenmill. We followed the stream that fed the mill for a while, before another straight ascent up a muddy footpath, to a point where we could see the next village, Kingston.

A tough climb
A tough climb 
This was more like it, a reasonable bit of flat taking us to the edges of the village, and it would be about half past midday, so a good time to be thinking about lunch. Looking at the map, we entered the outskirts of Kingston and turned left, avoiding the descent into the village proper, instead expecting to find the pub in the road on the next right turn. We found ourselves walking out of the village, not having seen any sign of a pub where the Ordnance Survey map had placed it, and convinced that it had gone the way of too many nowadays. 

I can now assure you that there is a pub in Kingston; it is called The Dolphin Inn and all that was required was the knowledge that turning right then left, instead of the opposite, would have made the second half of the walk much more enjoyable!

Resigned to a ten mile walk with just one Pink Lady apple as our total provisions, we went on, through more thawed fields, and then a drop down to the River Erme.

The River Erme
The River Erme
The river only served to remind me of my draw to Dartmoor. From its remote source at Erme Head, itself a forest boundary point on the 1240 Perambulation, I have followed it through the secluded Erme Pits Tin Mine, visited the 3.3 km stone row and a well known bronze age pound that have both taken its name. I have walked high above it, on the Two Moors Way, crossing paths with it again at Ivybridge, where it leaves Dartmoor. To see the river meet its end at the coast struck a chord with me, but I will always find its course on the moor much more interesting.

Wonwell Beach
Wonwell Beach
We moved on from the Erme estuary, where South-West Coastal Path walkers must wait until low tide to wade across, or suffer an eight mile diversion to cross by bridge. Once across small Wonwell Beach, we were up onto the coast proper, and a walk of over four miles back.

The task ahead laid out before us
The task ahead laid out before us!
Clearly, our lack of food was starting to tell on our energy levels and we were both struggling on the ascents. The Seven Sisters, in Sussex is a favourite of ours, but we were soon realising this little roller coaster of hills was a lot tougher. I have nothing but respect for SWCP end to enders!

Looking back along the coast
Looking back along the coast
It got to a point when it was time to break out the apple! I cut it in half and we both feasted on what was the best we had both ever tasted! If only to encourage us to stop for a break, I can't say it had us racing over the remaining hills, though.

Despite being knackered, there is no denying it is a beautiful part of England, the walk is worth it, and the views were what kept us going. The last major pull up to Toby's Point told on the calf muscles for its duration but the whole route had begun to flare up my recent pains, and I have not, for a long time, been this relieved to finish a walk as I was this day.

We dropped down to Challaborough Holiday Village, an eyesore of chalets and various garish entertainment buildings. It looked even sadder given it was closed for the winter. Jim declined the offer of me organising a weekend here in the summer.

Approaching Bigbury-on-Sea
Approaching Bigbury-on-Sea
We eventually arrived back at the car. We enjoyed a quick cup of hot chocolate at the sea front cafe, then returned "home" to Dartmoor. Absolutely knackered, and looking forward to a couple of days to rest my back before Matthew King (@hillplodder) would be joining me for some tor bagging in the new year!

The Route: