I have just arrived at my hotel in Torquay. It is late afternoon and it is raining. I check the latest BBC weather forecast on my iPad. There is a promise of a few bright spells this evening.
From Torquay station I catch a train up to Dawlish Warren. I deliberately choose a seat on the right hand side of the train, nearest the sea. After an inland deviation via Newton Abbot, there is an amazing view through the rain streaks on the train window. The track follows Brunel’s original route and runs alongside the coast between Teignmouth and Dawlish Warren. The tide is high and fierce. Grey waves crash up against the sea wall as the train trundles by, just a few feet from the lashing spray.
I almost decide to catch the next train back to Torquay.
But the sun is shining when I arrive at Dawlish Warren. The sky is still grey and I can barely see Exmouth across the water, but there is a rainbow over the sea.
It is 6 pm. I decide to try to carry out my plan – to walk along the sea wall and get to Teignmouth, today. Five miles. I should be able to do it before it gets too dark.
I walk through a closed amusement park – with skulls grinning down at me. Perhaps they know something I don’t?
There is a sign that warns about using this path at high tide. Is the tide going out now? The alternative walking route is on the other side of this railway line and involves road walking. I would rather stick to the sea wall.
The path ahead is wet – but from rain rather than from the sea. The waves are breaking well below the rocky edge of the footpath.
It looks safe. I am going to start walking.
But first I climb up onto the footbridge that crosses the railway line – the bridge that would take me to the alternative walking route, inland.
From the bridge, there is a great view along the line, looking towards Exmouth. The railway carriages (on the left of the photo below) have been converted into holiday cottages.
I come down off the footbridge and begin my walk along sea wall. Ahead is a promontory of red rocks, carved into interesting shapes by the action of the waves and with an archway through the furthest rock. On my map, this area is called ‘Langstone Rock‘ – but local signs simply refer to it as the Red Rock.
On the other side of the Red Rock is a small beach. A couple of fishermen are standing on the sandy shore. Beyond here, the beach is covered by the tide. The railway line, and the sea wall, curve away towards Dawlish. I can’t see the state of the path ahead, but so far, so good. I keep walking.
As I round the curve, the sea gets wilder and the wind stronger. Waves leap up at wall. It starts to rain. I stow my camera and my iPhone in plastic bags and I keep walking. The sea looks grey and menacing, but the path is clear of the waves and I can see Dawlish ahead.
During the next part of my walk, I only meet one other walker. A man, coming towards me, who is taking photographs of the crashing waves. I am passed by a train.
Finally, I reach a point where there is another footpath bridge over the railway line.
Looking ahead through the zoom lens of my camera, I realise I can’t continue into Dawlish along the sea wall. The high wall comes to an abrupt end a few hundred yards ahead. A lower ledge continues, but this is covered by water every time a wave comes in.
At low tide, the walk would be possible. But not today.
I shelter under the footbridge for a while and consider my options. The rain continues falling and the waves continue pounding the walk ahead.
Reluctantly, I turn away from the sea wall and use the footbridge to cross the railway line. I walk into Dawlish along the road until I find a footpath that strikes off to the left and takes me down to Dawlish Station and to the sea wall again.
By this time it is raining hard and my trousers are soaked. I decide to abandon my walk to Teignmouth today. I’ll try again tomorrow.
As I cross the station platform bridge, the rain stops and the clouds clear somewhat. I can see Dawlish looking pretty in the evening light and the promontory of Holcombe ahead.
I am tempted to change my mind (yet again) and continue walking onwards to Teignmouth. But if the rain returns, I will be caught in the open with no chance of catching a train until I reach the station at Teignmouth itself.
It is nearly 7 pm. The trains run infrequently and I mustn’t miss the last one. In the end, I am glad to sit in a dry train and head back to Torquay.
This was my shortest walk ever. Perhaps I shouldn’t have bothered trying. But after a long train journey down to Torbay, with only a few precious days for walking ahead of me, I was keen to make some progress.
Miles travelled = 2
High points = walking alongside the track of Brunel’s wonderful railway.
Low point = the rain!