We 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.High 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.
Following 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.Back 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.
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!
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.
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.We 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.The 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.
The 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.
Distance: 14 miles