90. Paignton to Brixham

Last time I was here, the rain was pouring down. Today, Paignton looks lovely in the sunshine. Paignton, Ruths coast walk around the UK, Devon

I walk past the pier and pick up the South West Coast Path, heading southwards around Tor Bay.

polite notice, Torbay, Ruth on her coastal walkClimbing up a slope, I walk around Roundham Head, where there is a green space and children are playing rounders – or it might be baseball, I’m not sure.

It is a sad facet of modern life, but I don’t like to take photographs of children playing, unless they are part of a larger scene. Instead, I take a photo of this very polite notice on a shed.

The tide is high and I don’t see much of Goodrington Sands. But there are some colourful beach huts lining the narrow promenade, and I take photographs of their brightly painted facades.

Goodrington Sands, beach huts, Devon, Torbay, Ruth walking the coastline. It is still early in the season – a lovely, bright June day, after weeks of incessant rain – and there are very few people around.

Goodrington Sands, Ruth on her coast walk, Devon Further on are more beach huts and some exposed sand. Then I leave the beach and walk alongside the railway line.

Last time I was here, I assumed normal scheduled trains ran through from Torquay through Paignton to Dartmouth. Then I discovered the official train line ends at Paignton. From here onwards, the railway line runs a steam train service, operated by The Dartmouth Steam Railway and River Boat Company.

As I walk along the line, I hear the noise of the train behind me. It halts at Goodrington Sands station. I walk onwards up the slope and stop where a pedestrian bridge crosses the line, and wait. The train starts up again. It labours up the hill. The wait is worth it. I manage to take some great photographs of the train as it passes under my bridge.

Paignton and Dartmouth steam train, Broadsands, Devon, Ruth on her coastal walk

I walk along the South West Coast Path, following the railway line as it heads from Goodrington towards Broadsands, eventually leaving the railway – and passing under it – to walk along the edge of Broadsands beach, past more beach huts, towards Elberry cove.

Looking back, there is a wonderful view of the viaduct carrying the line across the valley behind Broadsands beach.

Broadsands, Ruth on her coastal walk, Torbay

Elberry Cove is a beautiful little bay with clear water and a peaceful atmosphere – with no direct road access. An information sign tells me that Elberry Cove contains a huge bed of sea grass – not sea weed – sea grass.

I also discovered it was a favourite bathing site for Agatha Christie, who set one of her murders here (The ABC Murders). And there a strange brick structure at one end of the cove, which I assumed was something to do with the war, but I later learned was the remains of a bath house belonging to a Lord Churston – lucky man.

The Grove, South West Coast Path, Ruth walking around Torbay This section of the path passes through a narrow strip of coastal woodland – Marridge Wood and Elberry Coastal Woodland. Although the sea is just to my left, the route is shaded by trees and the walk is very pleasant, with gently rolling slopes. To my right is a golf course. I can hear the thwack of golf clubs and see glimpses of the greens behind the trees.

[I found a beautiful YouTube video by Andrew Fletcher of this section of coast. This showcases a selection of photographs and video clips, set to music. In the text that accompanies the video, he explains how the sycamore trees, predominant in this area, are salt resistant and provide a protective barrier for the other trees.]

Churston Cove, Ruth walking the coast around Tor BayChurston Cove, Ruth walking the coast around Tor BayThe path emerges from the trees above another beautiful little bay – Churston Cove.

(This area of the coast is full of lovely little surprises, like this wonderful, secret cove.)

The way down to the sea is steep and the climb back up is equally steep. But the view is lovely and the place is surprisingly deserted – perhaps because it is difficult to access by car.

Just beyond the cove is an area of parkland, with manicured lawns and pathways. Below is a rocky promontory where some fishermen are standing. The fishermen are young men and they are shouting to each other and talking about their exploits the night before, which involved a great deal of alcohol and a hangover this morning. Their coarse words seem incongruous in such a lovely place.

seal off Fishcombe Point, Brixham, Torbay, Ruth on her coastal walkWhile I stop to watch them, I notice a seal in the water. I wonder if he finds the noisy fishermen as irritating as I do?

sea gull, Churston Cove, Torbay, Ruth's coastal walk.The fishermen don’t notice the seal’s head bobbing close beside them.

Neither do they notice the watching seagull.

The seagull waits while one of the men reels in a small fish and watches carefully until the fish is removed from the hook. Then, in one quick swoop, it flies down to seize the fish from the man’s hands.

‘Oy,’ comes the shout, ‘the bird took my fish!’

I feel a sense of justice. Karma.

approaching Brixham, along the South West Coast Path, Ruth's coastal walkBrixham Marina, Ruth's coastal walk, around Tor BayFrom here, the path follows close to the shore and heads into Brixham Marina.

I meet my husband for lunch and we sit at a cafe on the quayside overlooking the marina.

I had hoped to get to Kingswear by the end of today but, as usual, I was much too ambitious. Instead, we arrange to meet in the car park at Sharkham Point, just beyond St Mary’s Bay – only another 3 or 4 miles of walking to do.

After a good meal, I head off towards Berry Head.

I walk along Brixham quay and see a group of children in kayaks, with an instructor. The sun has disappeared and the light is gloomy, but the children cheer up the afternoon in their bright kayaks with their yellow helmets.

kids in kayaks, Brixham, Ruth walking the coastline

Brixham with Golden Hind, Ruth walking the coast around TorbayThere is an interesting ship moored in the harbour. I realise this is the replica of The Golden Hind – the ship sailed by Sir Francis Drake when he circumnavigated the world. If I had more time, I would have liked to look around it.

Brixham is a very attractive place. In my mind, perhaps getting confused with the name Brixton, I had imagined a down-market holiday town. So this pretty town, with its pastel coloured houses, spreading across sloping hills, is a nice surprise.

Brixham Breakwater, Torbay, Ruth on her coast walk.There is a breakwater at the end of the harbour, protecting the marina from the waves of the open sea. You can walk along the breakwater to the light at the end, but I decided I needed to press on.

Beyond the breakwater, the path follows a road, climbing up to Berry Head.

This is an open area – a National Nature Reserve and Country park – with two old forts.

I walk along the track that leads through one of the forts and to the end of Berry Head, where there is a stubby little lighthouse. The headland has high cliffs and some half-hearted fencing, to which is tied a sad bunch of memorial flowers (perhaps another suicide?). Far below are fishermen, standing on rocks.

Berry Head light house, Ruths walk in TorbayBerry Head, memorial flowers, Ruth's coast walkBerry Head, Brixham, Torbay, Ruth's coastal walk

Rounding the headland, I see a view of the wild, rocky shoreline stretching away to the southwest. Gone are the crumbly red-sandstone cliffs of Tor Bay. This is a vista of grey granite and firm stone.

Sharkham Point from Brixham, Devon, Ruth's coast walk

In the foreground is the lumpy island of Cod Rock. Beyond is the curve of St Mary’s Bay, then the promontory of Sharkham Point and that must be the rounded mound of Scabbacombe Head in the further distance.

The light is dim but is shining in my eyes, reflecting off a silver sea. The walk ahead looks bleak and uninviting. I’m glad I decided to cut it short.

St Mary's Bay, Brixham, Devon, Ruth's coast walkingThe walk around St Mary’s Bay is surprisingly beautiful. The path remains high above the sea and gives great views over, first, the rocky shore and, then, the unexpected sandy beach of St Mary’s Bay itself.

Below me, the stretch of beach is almost deserted, with just a lone couple sitting on a rock. The beach is beautifully un-developed and I gather there are no amenities and the steep cliffs make access difficult. The map shows this area as being built-up. But it doesn’t seem this way. There may be houses inland, but the path is surrounded by trees and bushes and it seems I am walking through an isolated landscape. In fact, I only meet one small group of walkers – and they are in the process of deciding to turn back as the sky darkens and threatens rain.

With cliffs falling away on one side, and bushes rising up a slope on the other, I begin to wonder how I will know when I have reached Sharkham Point car park. Luckily, I meet a woman with a dog and she directs me down a lane.

Here I find the car park – and the rather ominous sight of a burnt-out car on bricks.

Burnt-out car, Brixham, Ruth on her walk around the coastline

I wait for my husband to arrive. It takes him longer than expected. The car park near Sharkham Point is not signposted from the road and he has great difficulty finding it.

This area is a beautiful nature reserve, wonderfully quiet and a ‘secret’ find.

Vital stats = 9 miles.
High points = the steam train, the amazing little coves, the fish-stealing seagull.

About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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4 Responses to 90. Paignton to Brixham

  1. Aha! Your travels continue! I was starting to worry that your circumperambulation might have ended.

    Brixham is lovely isn’t it? I paused there for breakfast rather than lunch, since I arrived there quite early in the day when I passed through. I think it demands a break for food though, it’s such a nice environment for it. I was fortunate in knowing what to expect though; I know south Devon quite well in consequence of having been a student in Plymouth in the 90s. I can only hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

  2. I’m still going! Have another 4 days to write up – takes me as long to write up the damn walks as it takes to do them 🙂 Lucky you, being a student in Plymouth…. One of the great things about NOT researching my walks before I do them (apart from checking the OS map, of course) is being constantly surprised by what I find.

  3. paul sennett says:

    AWESOME WALK, BUT many of the SW PATH SIGNS, have lost their arrows and labels.. was very pleased to have your notes, as we would have made mistakes ..
    the steam train whistling was a real rewind to older times. Brixham was especially charming.,. if there on May 1st weekend, they have an amazing Pirate festival…with mock sea battles with the Golden Hind boat and others.. much more interesting than the clashing BMAD Biker festival in Paignton AT THE START.
    We really liked the seafood café CLAW, on Brixham harbour… cock crab one day and fresh lobster the second… right out of the harbour

    • Hi Paul. Sorry to hear the SWP signs have been allowed to deteriorate. Brixham is a very pretty place – the highlight of Torbay – and the pirate festival sounds excellent!

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