Martin Hockey's Walk from Oxford to Land's End

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Oxford to Poole (9 to 16 June 2006)

Poole to Exmouth (16 to 22 June 2006)

Cornwall (27 June to 7 July 2006)

 

South Devon, 22 to 27 June 2006

At Exmouth is the first of many water obstacles on the South West Coast Path - the River Exe. I found the dock for the ferry to Starcross, but there I met some yachties waiting for the water taxi to take them and their shopping back to their boats. The water taxi driver agreed to drop me at the tip of Dawlish Warren, from where I had an easy walk along the sand, rather better than the road walk from Starcross.

From Dawlish Warren the path followed the seawall beside the railway to Dawlish and, after a short hilly inland section, to Teignmouth. I took a short ferry ride across the mouth of the Teign to Shaldon ferryShaldon, then started some serious climbing. It was a clear day, with views back to the Dorset coast I had walked 3 days before. By the time I reached Babbacombe I had walked 21 miles, and I was ready to rest. Finding a B&B in Babbacombe was harder than I expected - most of the accommodation seemed to be targeted at retirees in coach parties, and was not interested in walkers. I had walked most of the way into Torquay by the time I found a bed in a small hotel - which looked like Fawlty Towers.

From Torquay to Brixham the guidebook warned of a lot of pavement pounding, and I was very tempted to take the ferry across the bay. But I thought better of it - taking ferries across rivers is one thing, but using transport to avoid the less interesting bits would definitely be cheating. Actually it was quite a pleasant walk across the sands at Paignton and through the woods to Churston Bay and Brixham. The next bit, to Dartmouth, was a surprise. My mental map of Devon put Brixham and Dartmouth almost next door to each other, but it took me well over 5 hours of serious ups and downs to reach Kingswear and the ferry across the Dart.

Dartmouth was full of expensive shops and restaurants catering for the yachting fraternity, and I was not sorry to leave next morning. This was a day of contrasts - fine walking round Blackstone Point at the mouth of the Dart, a tedious and dangerous stretch of road walking through Strete, level walking along Slapton Sands to Torcross, then one of the best sections of the whole coast path - great scenery for not a lot of effort - round Start PointStart Point to East Prawle.

More great walking next day from Prawle Point to East Portlemouth and the ferry to Salcombe was followed by road walking to South Sands, a beach I last visited almost half a century ago (the beach had not changed, but the car park seemed a lot bigger). Then a spectacular route round Sharp Tor and Bolt Head to Bolt Tail, and gentler walking past Inner Hope and Outer Hope to Bantham and the B&B at West Buckland.

Day 17 was wet - the first rain since Salisbury Plain. This was a day of logistical problems - a ferry across the Avon which only started at 10 am, a wade across the Erme which is only possible an hour either side of low tide, and a ferry across the Yealm which stopped running at 4 pm. The first two worked out, the Yealm ferry didn't. I reached the ferryslip at Noss Mayo at 5 pm and the ferryman had gone home. After some looking around I found a B&B in nearby Newton Ferrers.

Next day was fine again. I took the boat across the Yealm and headed for Plymouth. "Welcome to Plymouth, please wipe your feet", said the sign. I sat for a while watching the ships in Plymouth Sound, then took the ferry across the Plym to the Hoe. This was the biggest city on the whole trip, and I headed into town to do some shopping. On a whim, I walked down King Street where my parents were married 66 years to the day before my mother died. The church is no longer there, bombed soon after my parents married in 1940. The flats and shops which line the street now were a reminder of how much the world had changed in my parents' lifetime.

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Updated November 2006. Copyright Martin Hockey 2006.
email: mhockey29@gmail.com