I am trying to return to the Petit Tor Point area of Torquay, where I plan to find the footpath that goes down to Oddicombe Beach. A friendly local man advises me to catch the bus to Petitor Road and shows me where the bus will stop. I suddenly realise that ‘Petitor Road’ is so-named because it leads to ‘Petit Tor Point’.
For some reason, I anticipated today’s walk would be along the promenade of a busy seaside resort and, expecting concrete and paving, I left my walking poles behind. I didn’t expect to find myself in such a natural landscape.
Then I come across a wire fence. What is this? A railway track? No, it’s a cliff lift. Or Babbacombe Cliff Railway, as it’s called officially.
There is a tunnel leading under the tracks.
I hear the rumble of machinery and take some great photographs of the cliff train as it comes down. Sadly, on this day, the train is only carrying one passenger.
At the bottom of the slope, I stand on the edge of Oddicombe Beach. Now I realise why I couldn’t follow the path running along the top of Petit Tor Point yesterday. It must surely have disappeared in the huge landslide – of jumbled red earth and rocks – that has tumbled down and lies sprawled across the beach.
I leave Oddicombe Beach behind and continue walking around the shore, following a well constructed walkway. Here is a lovely little cove with a hotel. On the sea front is a cafe and people are sitting outside in the intermittent sunshine.
At the end of the small beach is a harbour wall with a view across Babbacombe Bay. I can see where I walked yesterday. I don’t seem to have covered much ground. And, from here, yesterday’s walk looks gentle with no real intimation of how difficult it really was.
I see a memorial bunch of flowers and wonder if this marks another suicide spot. A lone female walker strides past me. I see signs telling me the Redgate beach below is ‘closed’ because of unstable cliffs.
Looking down through gaps in the trees, I see I am passing by Long Quarry point. There is a car park and a path leading down to the sea – with a newly constructed brick post next to it. On the post is a small sign that says ‘Community Payback’ and, in smaller letters, ‘Offenders working for the Community’.
The rock formations of Long Quarry point look interesting and I am tempted to go down the newly refurbished path in order to get a better view and take more photographs from the shore.
But time is ticking by. I was hoping to get to Brixham, on the far side of Torbay, where there is a ferry I can catch back to Torquay. I need to hurry on. The last ferry leaves just before six o’clock.
So, I stick to the official South West Coast Path and walk along a wonderful wooded path that winds around the sloping hillside above the sea.
Here the ground is uneven and muddy – I wish I had brought my poles today. Why did I think I would be walking along promenades? This area is far more scenic than I anticipated.
Through the trees I can see glimpses of bright sea. These woods are old. The tree trunks are thick and twisted.
Somebody has tidied the way – newly slashed grass stems and scattered weeds lie across the path. Part of me is sad to see nature interfered with. The other part is glad. At least the path is clear of nettles and brambles.
The path leaves the sea and joins the road, forced away from the coast by private housing. The views here are stunning. You can see all the way across to the coastline beyond Exmouth. Shame I can only catch glimpses between the buildings.
I walk with traffic for a while, before heading off into the woods again, hoping I am nearly at Hope’s Nose.
I emerge onto another road and see the promontory called Hope’s Nose lying ahead, with the island of Ore Stone beyond. I cross the road and follow a track down onto a pleasant, open grassy space, interspersed with rocks.
From here I get my first great view across the blue expanse of Tor Bay. I can see the far shore where I intend to walk this afternoon, all the way to Brixham. It looks a long way away. The small island in the foreground (below) is Thatcher Rock.
I sit on a bench on Hope’s Nose, to have a snack and a drink. I admire the view and take photographs. Then I head back to the road and, a short while later, take the path down towards Thatcher Rock.
The path winds around the coast and there are a few people out, usually with dogs. From here the path is relatively crowded as I head towards Meadfoot Beach. Sadly, I have to walk along the road for a short spell, coming off the high ground and down towards the beach.
Meadfoot Beach is probably lovely if the weather is right. But today – with intermittent dark clouds, a high tide, and the chill of this particular day – the beach seems bleak and is almost deserted.
It’s worth it. The view from the top is great.
In the photo below, the nearest rock is called East Shag, the further island is Thatcher Rock and the furthermost is Ore Stone.
This is a popular walk and I begin to meet a lot of people out strolling. The path is very picturesque as it winds around an old estate and actually passes through the base of a tower built into a wall.
Beside the road I see a strange area, covered in a huge net that drapes over walkways and bushes, like a huge tent. Within the net, birds are flying.
Looking at my map, I realise this is the Living Coasts – a coastal zoo. I am tempted to visit, but I am hungry and worried about the time.
Later I learn there are penguins in the zoo and a great aquarium and I wish I had stopped to look after all.
The marina area of Torquay is attractive but crowded. Here are where the buses congregate and a busy road runs around the far end. There are shops, fish and chip bars and amusement arcades.
I stop at a cafe with tables on the quayside and have a good lunch. The weather is cool and breezy, although the sun is shining.
Checking my map, I realise I’m not going to make it to Brixham, on the far side of Torbay, in time to catch the last ferry back to Torquay. I reconsider my options and decide to head for Broadsands instead, where I can head inland and catch a train from Churston station.
(At this point, I am blissfully unaware that the official train service ends in Paignton and there is only a steam railway from there onwards, with the last train back from Churston at 5:15 pm. !)
After lunch, I follow the promenade round past the Torquay Pavilion – now a shopping centre – and onto the sea front. Here the beach is of red sand, a vivid contrast to the blue sea of the bay.
Heading for Cobyn’s Head, I walk along a stepped promenade. The tide is coming in and splashing up against the concrete. The sky darkens. Rain threatens.
At the end of the beach, I pass a number of pretty little beach huts with ladders leading down to the sand.
The weather has deteriorated. It is only 3:30 in the afternoon, but people are packing up, heading home.
The path leaves the coast and I am forced to follow a road. This is the main road running from Torquay along Torbay and there is a flow of cars, lorries and buses. The road heads steadily upwards. I am tired, hot and fed up.
Coastal walking? Pah! This isn’t much fun.
I have passed Livermead Beach – which looked lovely. Maybe during low tide you can walk on the sand more, but now you can’t. Further on is Hollicombe beach, again a lovely stretch of red sand. But there is no coast path and I follow the road which runs high above the beach and is on the wrong side of the railway line.
Just when I am feeling thoroughly fed up, the official South West Coast Path leaves the road and crosses over the railway track and winds through a strange derelict park – to end up joining a path running high above the sea.
From here, if I turned back northwards, I think I could get onto Hollicombe Beach. But I head southwards and follow the path down to Paignton.
Paignton pier looks sad in the gathering gloom. There are beach huts and a promenade. But the sun has gone in and the clouds are very black. A few rain drops begin to fall. The ice cream man and the snack bars are closing up.
The light is too poor for photography and I stash my camera in a plastic bag as more rain falls.
Passing a children’s play area, I see groups of wet European children milling about – teenagers really – maybe Italian youngsters on a school trip?
I stop at a pub that is pretending to be a cafe, and I have a cream tea – but with coffee instead of tea. It is not as good as yesterday’s cream tea and is more expensive. They only gave me one, stale scone.
When I come out, it is still raining. I decide I have done enough walking for today and head into town to find the train station.
I realise, belatedly, that this was the end of the line. Yes, there are steam train that run onwards to Churston, but they provide a daytime service only. If I had decided to walk further, I would surely have missed the last train back to Torquay and would have had to find a bus or take a taxi back to my hotel.
Perhaps the rain did me a favour by cutting short my walk?
Next time I will get to Brixham and Berry Head. But not today.
Miles walked = 9 miles
High point: the beautiful, natural shoreline around Torquay.
Low points: road walking to Paignton. And the terrible British summer weather!