It is the morning of the Bank Holiday Monday of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee weekend. My husband drops me off at the end of a short track – a place called Monk’s Wall on the map – and I walk down a footpath towards Ladram Bay.
To my right I can see the peninsula of land that stretches south-west from here to the mouth of the River Otter. And I can see the footpath of the South West Coast walk, undulating gently along the edge of green fields. No steep up-and-downs? Excellent! This looks like an easy day of walking.
I am glad I finished my walk early yesterday and could come back here to enjoy the scenery again on this beautiful day. I stop and linger in the field above the bay, taking photographs of the rock formations.
Then I turn away and follow the official South West Coast path, walking alongside the sea, above an area of shoreline called Chiselbury Bay on my map. The sea is gleaming silver in the morning light. There are surprisingly few ships out and about – just the occasional fishing boat. Maybe it is too early for yachts?
In the distance, across the far side of Lyme Bay, I can just make out the raised area of land that is Portland. (It is visible on the left in the photo above, if you blow up the size of the image.) I wonder for how much longer I will be able to see this familiar landmark?
Closer to me, looking eastwards, I can see the town of Sidmouth, nestling between the red cliffs and further east are the two dips in the land – Salcombe Mouth and Weston Mouth beyond. I remember my long hard slog walking, first down and then up again, through these particular river valleys. I’m glad the walk is easier today.
I make good progress and soon reach Budleigh Salterton, in time for an early lunch. My first view of the town is across the pebbly banks at the mouth of the river Otter.
At this point I turn inland and walk along the river to reach the nearest footbridge. I am walking alongside rows of wonderful pine trees. The shape of the trees, and the smell of their resin, is particularly evocative of the coast and I am filled with a wonderful, joyous, holiday feeling.
I walk back towards Budleigh Salterton, along the opposite bank of the river. Here the river walk is pretty crowded – with strollers, walkers, dogs, joggers.
When I reach Budleigh Salterton, I find an area of beach is cordoned off with bunting. There is a pile of wood and packing crates – an unlit bonfire – set up on the shingle. Two men in yellow jackets are standing guard.
‘Do you have to stand here all day, guarding the bonfire?’ asks a lady on the promenade.
‘Yes. There are fireworks being set up later,’ explains one of the men.
Beside the beach, small tents are being erected and barbecue equipment is being assembled. It looks like they are going to have a great Jubilee celebration tonight.
I meet my husband and we have lunch at the far end of the town. An elderly couple sit next to us in the pub with a young man who is carrying some wrapped paintings under his arm. It turns out he is an artist and the couple have commissioned a couple of paintings from him. They look pleased with the finished products.
After lunch I set off, heading west, towards Exmouth.
I reach an area of high ground. Here, with my camera on full zoom, I catch a photo of the Isle of Portland. It certainly does look like an island from this distance, because the low-lying mainland and causeway have disappeared below the horizon. I can see the hump of land that is Fortuneswell, tailing downwards to the far tip of Portland Bill.
To the west, I can see the mouth of a distant bay – is that Teignmouth? (Later I realise I am actually looking beyond Teignmouth. At Torbay.)
In the foreground is a flat peninsula, called Straight Point. This is an army firing range and there is no public access. I see bunkers and hear the sound of shots being fired. There is a small ship in the sea just off the shore. I wonder if this is the intended target?
I walk downwards, passing through a holiday park of static mobile homes. On the other side of the firing range, I come across Sandy Bay.
This is lovely. The first decent sandy beach I have come across for some distance. The sun is still shining intermittently and there are plenty of people around.
The official path goes along the top of the cliffs, but I walk down, across the sand, to the edge of the sea. Now I am walking along damp sand with the waves lapping at my boots. Wonderful.
I follow the shore as it curves around a cliff face. The tide is in, and I worry that I will find the way blocked and have to return the way I came. But in fact, there is a narrow strip of sand below the rocks at the bottom of the cliffs, and I can walk along the beach all the way into Exmouth.
Exmouth looks attractive in the low sunshine. I walk along the promenade and stop and have a cream tea at an outdoor cafe. It is very reasonably priced.
There is a new marina complex here with colourful residential buildings. I did come to Exmouth once, many years ago, but this seaside town has changed tremendously.
I find myself at the ferry crossing point . This is the official crossing point across the River Exe if you are following the South West Coast Path. The ferry sets off from a low-lying pontoon, just inside a narrow quay. (Unfortunately, the light is too poor for good photography.) The river currents are fierce, but the small boat crosses the mouth and chugs upstream, in the lee of the opposite bank of the river, until it docks at the village of Starcross.
At Starcross, we end up on the wrong side of the railway tracks and have to walk to the little railway station, where there is a pedestrian bridge over the line and onto the street.
The next part of the walk is deadly dull. I follow a combined walking/cycle route, running down one side of the busy road, along the river towards Dawlish Warren. The raised train track lies between the road and the river, obscuring the view.
I decide the best way to see this part of the route is by sitting comfortably in a train. Now I am tired and suffering from hay fever. And I just want my walk to be over.
There is one nice section of the walk – the village of Cockwood. There is a pretty little bay and a very inviting-looking pub, at which cyclists are stopping for drinks. A sign points to a bike rack. Bunting is out.
But I keep walking. I shall be relying on public transport on my next walking trip (when I will be walking alone) and I need to end today near a train station. It is a long and boring two miles to Dawlish Warren, where I finish my walk today.
Distance = 12 miles
High Points = Ladram Bay in sunshine and the delightful Budleigh Salterton.
Low Points = the boring walk to Dawlish Warren, hay fever, and falling asleep during the Queen’s Jubilee concert on television (because I had to take my hay fever tablets!)