Southgate to Port Eynon 16.11.14

A whole month has passed and I haven’t had a chance to sit down and write – so my memory of this walk will be sketchy – life happens…….

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So, after a complicated taxi arrangement, we are deposited at Fox Hole, which looks nothing like the ones in our embankment, and set off westwards, heading for the pinnacle guarding the entrance to Threecliff Bay. It’s a dull day with promising patches of blue sky – “enough to make a sailor suit” – as my mother used to say.IMG_1945We soon find ourselves tramping through the dunes of Pennard Burrows, all roads lead to Rome so they say – and there are many steep trails of soft sand to be conquered. IMG_1946I go one way, Damian goes another so I stop to catch my breath and take a moment in this lovely little cove. IMG_1948Emerging from the dunes we meander down to Pennard Pil, walking up the river to a set of substantial stepping stones – I do love a stepping stone.IMG_1949On the other side we turn left and follow the path up through heathland to the tops of the cliffs – from here we are faced with the wonderful sweep of Oxwich Bay. IMG_1953…….and yet more sand dunes down to the wooden bridge that crosses the inlet – a photo opportunity.IMG_1959

IMG_1958After crossing the bridge we head for the beach. Here, the firm, slightly damp sand is easy to walk on, a relief after the panting and puffing through the dunes. We quickly get into the rhythm of walking, I take great lungfuls of salty air, peace descends and in the distance I can even see signs of tea and cake.

As I drift contentedly on, my eyes come to rest on a boy walking towards me, a small terrier  beside him, not on a lead. At the same time two young girls overtake me with an extremely ugly pug face dog trotting along beside them. As I watch, the pug face scuttles over to the terrier and starts the initial chat up, sniffing a little here and there. Suddenly, with a ferocious growl, the pug face launches itself at the terrier’s neck, jaws snapping, locking on, silly little tail snapping back and forth with the velocity of the intended garrotting. I watch appalled as the owner of the terrier tries to snatch up his poor dog and shake off the pug, earning a few nips in the process. Not before time, one of the girls totters over in her high heels and grabs hold off her little darling by the scruff of its neck and thank goodness it’s over. The owner of the victim puts up his hood and slinks away, the dog in his arms. In the strange shocked silence I put in a few words about dogs that should be on leads and owners that can’t control their pets – it falls on deaf ears.

The spell is now broken, Damian and I head hastily for the tea shop.

Heading out of the cafe up into the woods, Damian makes the mistake of looking back over his shoulder……IMG_1963It is here I lose the clip to my camera strap and amazingly find it again – in the piles of leaves!IMG_1964From here the path winds up through woods and out over the cliff tops, down to the sea – we meet no-one.IMG_1965

IMG_1966At one point, the so familiar diversion sign appears, which we dutifully follow into Port Eynon.IMG_1968This is without doubt a popular seaside destination in the summer – in November even the chip shop is closed. But no matter, we have finished the walk fairly early and there are Sunday newspapers to read over a glass of local ale.

 

 

South Sands to Bantham 18.10.14

It seems so long ago………………….and it has been, but hopefully I am now back on track. Two months to say goodbye to Mum but I think she’s still with me – in the sea spray, the sound of waves breaking on the rocks, the shy morning sun, the gentle rain and warmth of the colours of Autumn.

Damian joins me to walk from South Sands – we’re going to see how far we get, as the weather looks unpredictable. The sea tractor ferry to Salcombe is still in operation but lies idle on the beach as there are only a few people about on this overcast morning. What a difference from the madding crowd of a hot summer’s day, last time I was here.

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Up the narrow tarmac road we walk, through some woods and then out onto the path that runs along the top of the cliffs. It’s an overcast day but no rain yet – in the distance the vegetation has settled itself into patterns – can you see the heart? IMG_1888

The path is quite narrow as we approach Sharp Tor, here’s Damian taking a sharp breath in ………………….

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……….and myself, not bothering.

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Up ahead some curious cattle stand in wait, ears pricked expectantly. Six or seven of them straddle the path and as they are quite small I make a point of checking their undercarriages to see if they are cows or bullocks.  IMG_1899

Damian is braver and gets close in to say hello.Image 1

The path is easy walking and we soon reach Soar Mill Cove where a path on our right takes us up the hill to the hotel we will be staying in tonight. This is a chance to lighten our bags and take advantage of the complimentary cream tea – say no more….

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Back by the beach again the path rises steeply upwards and we are then back onto the top of the cliffs heading for Bolt Tail. On a downward slope we pass a bench with its own moat – a testament to the amount of rain we could have encountered, we have been lucky.

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From Bolt Tail we look down on the villages of Inner and Outer Hope, the sea is very rough.

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Walking over the bridge we stop to watch some surfers and then further on, in Outer Hope, some people in wetsuits standing right at the very end of a long breakwater. As we watch, massive waves crash up and over the wall – these matchstick men look extremely vulnerable but I guess they know what they’re doing.IMG_1918

Suddenly, one of them dives into the water and emerges some way away – he then swims back to the breakwater ladder and hauls himself up onto what must be a very slippery surface…….it looks great fun.

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His partner then tries feet first ………IMG_1921

After a quick look around a small disappointing art gallery (why is there so much bad art around?) we climb upwards, leaving Hope Cove behind. IMG_1925

Just before Thurlestone we are diverted off the path due to slippage – at the base of the signpost is a strange flesh coloured wall – I wonder…….

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The diversion takes us over a very narrow wooden bridge and back to the shore. Looking back I take a photo of Thurlestone Rock – a pierced rock standing stiffly in the rolling sea.

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…….and in the distance, looking north, the beautiful art deco hotel on Burgh Island, a second home for Agatha Christie and Noel Coward. Difficult to see I know but you can Google it…….IMG_1931

By now, I am starting to feel a little faint. We have covered a lot of miles and the cream tea seems like a distant memory. The choice is whether to walk into Thurlestone and find  a taxi back to our hotel or carry on to Bantham and hope that there is a pub – it says so on the OS map but you never know……

Asking the locals is not much help – some say no, others yes, so fortified with a soft mint, that I discover tucked into the seam of my rucksack pocket, we decide to brave it out. The path follows the coast at a low level, past the golf course and up to Bantham Sand where it turns inland into the village…………and there it is, a lovely little 14th century hostelry, the Sloop Inn. The local beer, Proper Job, is wonderful and fully lives up to its name.

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Swansea to Southgate 3.8.14

We start from the footbridge close to the Dylan Thomas Centre where I finished last time – dark clouds are massing but we may out-walk them.IMG_0961The footpath winds around the Marina past new dockland flats, looking just like new flats in any other re-developed dockland area in the country. Soon the path veers off into rough grass and on the other side a long stretch of sand, a lonesome tower at the end of the beach. We later discover there is a restaurant and bar at the top but we’ve no time for this today.IMG_0962Half way along is an exotic looking building which turns out to be Swansea’s ecliptic observatory, where some of the first photographs were taken of the moon – bit difficult to see but the goddess Eciptia is mounted  on the glazed roof of the back tower.IMG_0963From here it’s quite a long walk on firm sand up to the university. I had no idea that Swansea had such long sandy beaches, although when I think about it we were often bussed down here from mid Wales as children on school trips – but it was always raining, so maybe we never got to the beach!

At one point we decide to leave the sand for the path which is equipped with a range of exercise machines. Every eight metres we are presented with a different contraption to strengthen and exercise a different part of the body – Damian goes for the thigh toner.IMG_0966The concrete path runs along the side of the main road – we are warned of passing trains but do not see one.land trainAfter a while we reach the outskirts of Mumbles, the pier in the distance, where we stop for a Welsh cake and a cup of tea. In the same way as I enjoy eating cream teas in Devon I also love eating Welsh cakes in Wales – it reminds me of my grandmother who used to  make them on a griddle over the open fire of an old fashioned kitchen range. IMG_0970The pier itself has a few odd moments……… IMG_0974 IMG_0971…………….but we walk to the end and spend some moments marvelling at the huge, shiny, bright orange lifeboat parked inside its station. On the far side of the pier is a rough little beach, the lighthouse on Mumbles Head in the distance. IMG_0972From here the path leads upwards onto a road for a while and then back to the coast where an information board tells us that we are entering the Gower. In 1956 this was the very first Area to be designated as one of Outstanding Beauty.  IMG_0981The path is well maintained and it’s easy to walk and stare at the same time – at one point we see the heads of two seals bobbing above the water. IMG_0980The next beach is Langland Bay where a lot of people are out enjoying the intermittent afternoon sunshine.IMG_0976

 

IMG_0977We ask a coastguard whether it would be possible to walk on the beach, round the headland to the next bay – but no. IMG_0987The path now gets rockier and I have to concentrate more on where I place my feet, I stop to get a photo of the rugged slabs of rock below.IMG_0986IMG_0993Walking down into the delightful Pwlldu Bay we walk past a pretty creamy white calf cooling his heels in the stream.IMG_0994We then get a bit lost, following signs that lead to dead ends, there are two lovely old farmhouses facing the beach but no-one to ask for directions. Eventually, we find the path that winds upwards through woodland to Pwlldu Head – the map shows the remains of a fort but we don’t find them.IMG_0995  The last part of the walk is wild country, wide stretches of grassy cliff top – no-one around until we arrive at the road that leads to the outskirts of Southgate. We walk down into the village and find a pub where we drink to a wonderful day’s walking and then get a taxi back to Swansea (the buses are very few and far between on a Sunday).

Distance: 11 miles

 

 

Lannacombe Beach to Salcombe 30.7.14

Much of the path today is stony and when skirting a sharp drop down to the sea it’s exciting. P1040202 P1040206P1040231Silver studded blue butterflies whirl up in front of me as I walk up the path out of Lannacombe Beach through ferns and low scrub. The path is narrow but easy to follow and at one point I come across a memorial. “Dula Rose” what a wonderful name – if it wasn’t in Devon I could see her as a strong, silver haired matriarch in her 70’s, sapphire blue eyes bright against her lined weather beaten face, a wide straw hat protecting her from the pitiless sun and dust of the American prairie  – what do you see?  P1040204After a while the path opens up and after walking through a gate I catch a glimpse of some buildings and a large house. Diggers lay idle behind large piles of earth – the lucky someone who owns this property is obviously renovating and rebuilding.  P1040208

P1040209P1040210A very beautiful but isolated place to live, your only uninvited visitors a few walkers crossing the bottom of the garden occasionally.P1040207Leaving the house I am now on a broad grassy shelf, craggy rocks to the right, cliffs down to the sea to the left. It is a beautiful day and the slight breeze is salty and refreshing – at one point I come to a very interesting sign.P1040205

P1040213Up ahead I can see the look out station at Prawle Point and after a steep climb I reach it. There is a small visitors centre which tells me I am at the most southerly point in Devon. I have a little chat with one of the coastguards who bemoans the fact that they can’t get enough volunteers for the evening shifts……any takers? P1040214

P1040215The path now winds off to the left following the contours of the coast – the landscape is wild and empty. I keep wanting to stare into the distance and immerse myself in its rugged beauty but I have to keep an eye on the rocky path – don’t want to end up spraining an ankle again, especially when there are so few walkers around (like none so far).

P1040218Down below me are lots of small coves, all empty of human life until I come to Maceley Cove. From where I’m standing I can see no-one, but moored in the bay are two boats and I can also hear children laughing.P1040222

P1040223When I reach the other side of the cove I can see two families camped up under the cliff and I also notice a very steep narrow path leading down to the beach. So to get to this small piece of paradise you have to walk a good few miles or come in by boat – I have also discovered that the cove is on the Wild Swim Map drawn up by the Outdoor Swimming Association.

Leaving this enchanting spot I come across another memorial plaque involving the Rose family – they must have been a powerful presence at one time.P1040226After a while the wildness of the landscape retreats and I start to see signs of human life. Below me sea kayaks dart around the contours of the rocks and I start to meet holiday makers from (I realise this when I get there) the hotel at Gara Rock. P1040230

P1040227By this time I am extremely hot and sweaty and despite the tangles of green weed floating on the surface of the water I pick my way in between the large rocks covered in green slime and hurl myself into the water. Almost immediately a young girl swims out to join me and treading water we have a little chat about this and that. When I decide I’ve had enough she is still splashing about so as there are no adults in the close vicinity I try to ask her where her parents are. There ensues a confusing exchange involving the family’s black labrador with a red ribbon round its neck whereas I can only see a knot of people (quite far away) sitting next to a black labrador sporting a blue ribbon. Fortunately a woman floats by on a body board who seems to know the girl and assures me she will keep an eye on her. There follows a bit of wondering whether at that age I would have left my daughter alone in deep water even if I knew she could swim. I then decide it’s probably age – we do tend to get more jittery about things the older we get non?

Anyway, by now I am very hungry so I set off over Rickham Common and down into Mill Bay and the ferry crossing to Salcombe which I can now see in the distance.P1040233Walking through woodland alongside the estuary, I pass one beach, then another, then another – how many more!?P1040235

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P1040242Eventually I reach a small cafe with a sign pointing down to the ferry. I walk down the stone steps and take my place in the small queue on the landing stage.P1040240On the other side is the Ferry Inn – too early for alcohol though, so I walk up the stone steps out onto a street full of chi chi coffee shops, natty boutiques and crowds of well dressed tourists.P1040241I slide into a cosy well stocked cafe selling the most delicious cakes and treat myself. Sugared up I then decide I have time and energy to walk through the town and on to South Sands, where I know I can get a ferry back to Salcombe where I am staying the night.

The ferry service at South Sands starts with a sea tractor – I have to rush to get it, so no time to take a photograph, but what a strange sensation it is to be sitting in a cart being pushed out to sea by a tractor to meet the colourful little ferry boat further out in the bay. P1040248

Distance: I forgot my Jawbone so can’t say – maybe 10 or 11 miles.

Stoke Fleming to Lannacombe Beach 29.7.14

It is a beautiful day as I head down a quiet green lane, past the village church and onto a narrow tarmac road leading to Blackpool Sands. P1040160 On the main road there is quite a lot of traffic but fortunately, a sign soon directs me down through some woodland where I am allowed a few tantalising glimpses of the beach.P1040161When I arrive I am pleased to see that the shop is open so I can buy some water – the shock of the Brixham to Kingswear walk without much water has taught me a lesson. Coming out of the shop I am momentarily dazzled by the display of coloured plastic paraphernalia – everything you need for a day at the seaside.P1040162From here I cannot walk along the coast due to a stretch of private property (and I still don’t understand how that can be legal) so following the directions of a friendly car park attendant I cross the road just in front of a row of pretty thatched cottages, to follow a track over a lovely stone bridge and then through into a steep green field.P1040165

P1040167 Halfway across the field I realise I am heading for a corner with no apparent exit so retracing my steps I walk up the very steep slope to where I think I can see a coast path sign – I take another shot of Blackpool Sands from the top, it is such a lovely spot.P1040169 Sure enough there is a sign pointing left up a grassy lane, ferns, nettles and brambles on both sides, not great when you’re wearing shorts.

Eventually I hit tarmac again – I am on the very busy road leading through Strete. There is a lot of traffic but just as I am beginning to worry about the very real possibility of having to jump into the hedge to avoid speeding cars, I am directed off the road and onto a purpose built lane for cyclists and pedestrians – relief.

After a while I come to Strete Gate and the landscape opens up with some wonderful views of a long swathe of sand on one side of the road and a lagoon on the other. IMG_0942   This is Slapton Sands and I am not so enamoured when I realise it is actually very fine shingle. After five minutes of trudging I stop for a drink next to a striking piece of driftwood.P1040172There follows a bit of hopping from one tuft of wiry grass to another to avoid sinking into the sand until I decide to go back to the road.

At one point I walk past a war memorial erected to commemorate the loss of American servicemen involved in a secret rehearsal for the D-Day invasion of Normandy. Operation Tiger required the evacuation of 3,000 local residents from Slapton Sands which was chosen for its similarity to Utah Beach – a long flat stretch of gravelly sand backed by a lagoon. Nine hundred odd men lost their lives due to a combination of friendly fire incidents and an attack by E-boats of the German navy.P1040174After a stretch of easy walking on a grassy path, I walk into Torcross where I decide I need fuel. One of the many beneficial aspects of walking so many miles is that it allows me to quieten the guilt which would normally be brought on by eating Devonshire cream teas at any time of the day. Sitting in the glorious sunshine eating scones, jam and cream with a pot of tea is simply divine.P1040178

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At the end of the Torcross seafront a flight of stone steps takes me up and over the promontory known as Limpet Rocks, down to a small shingle beach. P1040179 Massive slate rocks sculpted by the waves are strewn across the beach – they make me think of Wales and the two large pieces we brought back from Snowdonia for our garden.P1040183The path now winds up through trees and shrubs but I am soon in Beesands where I have booked to stay the night. It is still quite early so after paring down my rucksack I set off to walk to Start Point. It is a strange thing about walking with weight on your back – you get so used to it that you only notice the difference when it’s taken off. I practically skip along the promenade and up the hill, over the next promontory and down to the beach at Hallsands. P1040189Hallsands is famous for its “lost cottages” washed away in the high tides and storms of 1917. Up until the late 19th century the village had been protected by a bank of shingle which was gradually removed as part of a scheme to expand the naval dockyard at Plymouth. Despite protests, the dredging continued for seven years – by that time it was too late.

The path now winds up through trees, bushes and shrubs with wonderful views of Start Bay. P1040191

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P1040197The sea beneath me is a wondrous blue, the underside of rocks marked by bright purple smudges under the crystal clear water – despite the sunny day I meet very few people. Reaching the road down to the lighthouse I check my watch and wonder if I can cover a few more miles. A young couple wearing walking boots appear and I stop to get some local knowledge. I decide not to investigate the lighthouse but carry on walking to Lannacombe Beach.P1040196  This last part of my walk is beautiful, the path winds along the top of the cliffs and at intervals looks down on small isolated coves where a few people are swimming – there is no road access.

And sooner than I expected I am looking down onto Lannacombe beach where a few families are catching the last of the sunshine. The tide is coming in and children are desperately trying to save the sand castles they have so painstakingly built during the day – their dismayed faces are a picture but in this day and age, taking obvious pictures of other people’s children can cause concern – sad.P1040201Lannacombe boasts a B&B, a horse, a few chickens and no mobile phone signal. It can only be accessed down a narrow dirt track which I start walking up to meet my taxi back to Beesands. I make a note to come back to this beautiful spot one day and stay a few days.

 

Dartmouth to Stoke Fleming 24.7.14

Damian has gone back to London early this morning and I must follow later in the day but I can just squeeze five miles in before I go.P1040143Up the steep narrow residential road out of Dartmouth I bypass the castle and head up through the woods on a well marked path. Down below me is yet another little cove, a few people are out walking dogs, playing with boats. This one is called Sugary Cove.P1040142

Ahead of me a german couple are peering at a map, making plans for the day. I pass by with a greeting and they reply with a hesitant good morning. They decide to follow me until sometime later when the path is diverted due to slippage and I am forced to scramble up a very steep grassy hill – when I look back they are gone.

P1040144Out to sea is a small rocky island with sharp pinnacles, I think this must be Meg Rock. This is a lovely easy walk compared to the torture of yesterday and although sunny it is cooler. Not much happens, I enjoy the sea air, the beautiful wild flowers and the views. Later on I meet dog walkers and on one of the last gates I see a sign which makes me laugh.P1040148And here is the afore-mentioned flicking stick – all I see is trouble but there must be a knack…….P1040150P1040149

Moving on from scatological studies I follow the lane inland and end up on a very narrow road leading down to Stoke Fleming. Just up from the village shop I can get a bus back to Dartmouth. I have twenty minutes to wait which I spend thinking about how to get back to Torquay – steam train? ferry? bus? As it happens I go for all three. I catch the tugboat ferry to Kingswear and arrive just in time for the steam train to Paignton. The train is hot and crowded and the wool upholstery is unbearable. I get up and stand by the door trying for a photo but it’s difficult to lean out far enough to get a good photo.P1040152The train rumbles slowly on and eventually we arrive in Paignton where I take a few more photos.

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On the harbour wall I wait in the blinding heat for the ferry to Torquay………….

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and then a bus to the station………….and a train to Paddington………..and the tube to Victoria………and the train to Herne Hill. Home again…….

Distance: Four and half miles

 

Brixham to Dartmouth 23.7.14

It is promising to be another hot day as we walk up the road out of Brixham, past the long breakwater, in the direction of Berry Head Country Park. P1040110

P1040111We decide not to spend much time here so after wandering around the fortified ruins for a short while we retrace our steps and join up with the South West Coast Path again.P1040112High above the sea the path winds around the cliffs allowing us occasional glimpses of small rocky islands and sparkling turquoise sea. The stiles we climb are granite, the handholds rubbed smooth and shiny by thousands of walkers’ hands – I first saw these beautiful stiles on a walk last year in South Wales where they were adorned with the emblem of the Welsh Coast Path.

P1040115P1040113In In this heat, our first sight of St.Mary’s Bay is tempting but it’s early in the day so we walk on only to come up short in front of a diversion sign. P1040116

P1040117Following the sign down the back of some houses we are thrown out onto the baking tarmac of residential streets where we lose the signs and have to ask for directions. Fortunately a local man (from Birmingham) is able to give us detailed information about paths back to the coast, including a path lined with sculptures carved out of tree trunks. I liked this one.P1040119Back on the path again we climb up onto Southdown Cliff and tip toe down the steep path to Man Sands which is a pretty pebbly beach overlooked by some coastguard cottages. P1040121

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It is here we decide to go for a dip and share a sandwich. I say share because I am now a little anxious about the paucity of our provisions for the day. I know from looking at the map that the stretch from here to Kingswear is remote, wild and uninhabited – we have an apple, a flapjack and three quarters of a bottle of water between us and that’s not a lot for a strenuous walk on a very hot day. My apprehension deepens when, on climbing out of the bay we meet a couple of tired looking walkers who had just come from Dartmouth.  “Any tea shops on the way?” Damian jokes, “nothing” says the woman, shaking her head wearily, “nothing at all”.

From now on we decide to only allow ourselves sips of water and only as a reward for a hard, steep ascent – and there were plenty of those!

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The path leads on through beautiful open country, down below are enchanting little coves, surrounded by majestic cliffs. This one, which must be Scabbacombe Sands, has no road access and as we stand on the cliff and look to the right, a walker is approaching, across the fields, intent on a swim no doubt. When we arrive on the sand a group of people are swimming naked, I envy them but we cannot afford to stop again. We dip our hats in the sea to cool us down and walk on.

From now on we meet no other human beings, the landscape is empty and primeval – it is also very hard going. P1040125

Eventually we begin to see life out to sea, water scooters and motor boats race around in aimless circles, whipping up the water – we must be nearing civilisation so we decide to drink the rest of the water.P1040128We are now both getting very tired and as each ascent presents itself I moan inwardly. I do the same when the path dips steeply down because as we all know, what goes down, has to come up again at some point.

Finally, we reach the remains of an artillery battery from the second world war and the path turns into a concrete one with a very welcome metal handrail. Hauling ourselves to the top we find a look out station which is selling bottles of water – I have never drunk so much water in one go…….ever.P1040130The last hour of the walk is pleasant, relatively flat and in the cool of dense woodland. Coming out onto the road we find the path diverted again and we are forced to continue on the road down to Kingswear to catch the ferry to Dartmouth. On the way we pass Kingswear Castle which is not open to the public and then down some very steep stairs to the ferry.P1040131

P1040134The ferry carries cars and passengers and we are lucky not to have to wait more than five minutes. Standing on what we suddenly realise is an unpowered pontoon, the tug boat pushes and pulls us across the mouth of the river and moors directly onto a slipway on the other side.

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P1040138 We head straight for the pub and sit on the harbour wall drinking well deserved ice cold beers.

Distance: 14 miles