91. Brixham to Kingswear to Dartmouth

signpost and knotweed, Ruth walking the coast, Brixham, DevonMy husband drops me off at the ‘secret’ car park at Sharkham Point. ‘Is that Japanese Knotweed?’ I look at the green shrubs growing around the signpost and take photographs for later identification.

[It turns out that, YES, this is the awful Japanese Knotweed and it’s running rampant in this area. Maybe this is why the car park isn’t signposted?]

The first section of the walk  is through fields, high above the sea. I meet a few gentlemen, out walking their dogs on this sunny Sunday morning.

I look back, across St Mary’s Bay, to Berry Head, where I walked yesterday.

Berry Head, Ruth waking round the coast, Devon

And I look ahead where the South West Coast Path stretches before me, crossing a grassy meadow and heading over Southdown Cliff. This is National Trust property and it looks lovely. I’m  glad I didn’t try to attempt this yesterday, when I was tired and the light was dull.

National Trust land, from Brixham, Ruth walking round the Devon Coast.

The long grass is wet from last night’s rain and my lower legs are soon damp. I consider putting on my gaiters, but realise it is probably too late. And, in any case, I have nowhere dry to sit.

From Southdown Cliff, there is a lovely view. I stop to take photographs. Ahead I can see a small beach and a few houses beyond. This is Man Sands. In the further distance is the mound of Scabbacombe Head.

 ahead to Scabbacombe Head, Ruth's coastal walk. Devon.

The ground slopes steeply down to sea level. The grass underfoot is wet and slippery. I pick my way down carefully, glad I brought my walking poles.

Man Sands, with stream, Ruth walks the coast of Devon

Then I spot the stream that crosses the pebbly beach. From this height, the water looks narrow and, even if there are no stepping-stones, I believe I can step across it in an easy stride.

In fact, the stream is swollen from the recent rain and, when I get down to the little beach, I realise the distance between the two banks is more than I can stride.

Meanwhile, a young family have arrived along the track on the far side. They are wearing wellies and cross the stream easily by splashing through it.

stream across Man Sands, Ruth's coast walk, Devon‘Do you need help?’ they ask. I wonder what help they can offer, but decide I have no chance but to try to jump across it.

‘Don’t look,’ I tell them. ‘We won’t,’ they promise. I take a few steps back and begin running across the pebbly beach.

I almost make it. One foot lands on dry pebbles. The other  foot lands in the shallow margins on the far side of the stream. Although the depth is too shallow to cover my boot, the water splashes up, cold and wet, onto my lower trouser leg and runs down onto my sock and into my boot.

The family, in the mistaken belief that I landed without problem, cheer and clap. Then they remember – ‘we weren’t looking really’ – and laugh.

I sit on some steps at the edge of the beach and take off my shoe and wet sock. Luckily my boot lining is only mildly damp. Ever since a particularly wet walk though Boyton Marshes in Suffolk, I carry a dry pair of socks. I change my wet sock for a dry one and then I continue on my way.

Scabbacombe Sands, Ruth walking the South West Coast Path, DevonThe walk up the hill on the other side of Man Sands is steep. I meet a few other walkers – a group of women, heading for Berry Head for lunch at the cafe in the fort.

I walk along high ground. Some distance below me is a strip of beach called Long Sands. I am not sure if there is an easy route down. Perhaps the easiest way to access this beach is by boat.

Meanwhile, ahead I see another little beach. Scabbacombe Sands. There are a few people walking here.
looking back to Sharkham Point, Ruth's coastal walk, DevonThis beach is accessible from a car park – although the car park is not visible because it is about half a mile inland, along a rough track. It is the remoteness of these lovely pebbly beaches that keeps the crowds away and contributes to the beauty of this unspoiled stretch of coast.

I scramble down the path to almost sea level and on the way back up the other side I stop for a breather and to take more photographs of this lovely little bay.

As I rest, I see a rubber boat with an outboard motor entering the cove. A man splashes off the boat and wades ashore, before pulling the boat onto the beach. The boat is full of young people wearing life jackets. They have arrived here the easy way.
Looking down to Scabbacombe Beach, Ruth on her coastal walk.
Shortly after leaving the beach, I am overtaken by a lady with a dog. She looks remarkably fit and I would guess her age to be anywhere between late fifties and late sixties. She stops to talk to me. Apparently she comes here every day to swim at Scabbacombe sands – starting in March and continuing until November.

She tells me the way ahead is fairly easy, apart from the climb up to Scabbacombe Head. And she apologises for walking quickly, but she is cold from her swim and keen to get home. I ask her if she wears a wet suit or a body suit. She looks horrified at the thought. ‘Oh no, that seems like cheating.’

Then she disappears along the path and, walking much quicker than I, is soon lost from my view. I have no idea where she lives, but there is nothing around for miles, so she must have walked some way to get here.

Scabbacombe Head, South West Coast Path, Ruth's coastal walk. Devon

horses on Scabbacombe Head, Ruth walking the coastline, Devon. I walk through wild scenery and then, incongruously, pass some horses grazing on a steep grassy slope.

After losing sight of the swimmer-lady, I meet nobody else for the next hour and a half. Compared to the crowded paths around Weymouth and the busy Lulworth Cove, where there were hundreds of people, this is bliss – and it is exactly what I imagined coast walking to be like.

The rest of my walk is fairly strenuous and the scenery is empty and beautiful. The path is narrow and hugs the shore, winding over grassy areas, rocky outcrops, going up and down with the contours of the coastline. Lovely.

Later, I decide this is the best day of walking yet.

Mew Stone, Start Point beyond, Ruth on South West Coast Path, Devon

Scabbacombe Head is a heaped mass of gently curving headland and it is difficult to decide when I have reached the top or rounded the point.

Mew Stone, Ruth walking around Scabbacombe Head, Devon coastal pathBut when I see a rocky island ahead (is it Mew Stone?), I realise I have come around Scabbacombe and I am now heading South West, towards Inner Forward Point and the mouth of the River Dart.

Beyond Scabbacombe, the coast curves inwards to Pudcombe Cove and beyond is a succession of small coves.

I have the mistaken impression that I am nearly at the end of my walk. In fact, the ups-and-downs of this section of coast make for difficult (albeit beautiful) walking, and I take far longer than I anticipate to reach Dartmouth.

It is early afternoon. I stop above Pudcombe cove for a snack lunch and after I have  finished eating, I set up the camera for a self-portrait.

I have not met another human being for over an hour, not since the swimming lady, and I am not expecting what happens next. Just as the shutter clicks, a black labrador rounds a corner in the path and runs across in front of me. There he is. In the photo.

self portrait, Ruth on the South West Coast Path.

As I walk down into Pudcombe cove, through woodland, I meet people out for a Sunday session of bird watching. At the bottom, there is a wooden platform and a collection of men with cameras on tripods. And some bored looking wives.

entrance to Dartmouth, Ruth walking the South West coast path

Beyond Pudcombe, I walk along more lovely coastline, getting progressively more overgrown with trees, until I reach Inner Forward Point. Now I can see the wide water of Start Point Bay and, nearer to me, the mouth of the river Dart.

The light is dull and I am getting tired. The shore is woody and I lose track of where I am.

Brownstone Battery, Ruth walking the coast, DevonThen I come across some concrete bunkers, left over from World War II. Here were artillery guns, guarding the mouth of the river. And, leading up from the gun platforms, a set of rail tracks where a little tram used to run, carry ammunition down to the guns.

I make my way up the steep track.

From here, the South West Coast Path plunges up and down through dense tree cover. I barely see the sea, so thick is the foliage. Surely I am nearly there?

 Mill Bay Cove, Ruth walking the South West Coast Path, DevonI am heading for the passenger ferry across the River Dart, which will carry me from Kingswear over to Dartmouth, where my husband is waiting.

Through a gap in the trees, I look down on this little craggy cove – Mill Bay Cove – with a castle tower on the far point.

PRIVATE castle at mouth of Dartmouth, Ruth coastal walk

Sadly, when I finally emerge near the castle, the land turns out to be private property and you can’t get access to the castle. In any case, other warning signs tell me the ruined remains are unsafe. What a shame.

This is no longer National Trust land – but is privately owned. Signs tell me to stay on the foot path.

Kingswear, Devon. Ruth's coast walking.After another steep, punishing climb out of a valley, I arrive on a roadway. The walking is easy now. Following the track, and then passing through a park area, and another track, I head into Kingswear.

Kingswear is probably prettier from a distance. But when you approach the village along the coast path, you are constrained by tall walls and houses, and you can’t see the river below or really get a sense of where you are.

So it was almost a shock to suddenly emerge unto a road by the river and to find, straight ahead of me, a slipway with a rather scruffy little car ferry waiting to cross over to Dartmouth.

Ferry at Dartmouth side, Ruth walking the coast.I was expecting a passenger ferry.

‘Do you take passengers?’ Yes, of course. ‘Oh good. I’m very pleased to see you,’ I tell him.

There is nowhere to sit. I stand beside the side rail. There is a single car waiting with me. No other passengers. The ferry is lying alongside a tugboat. This starts up with a great rumbling sound – making me jump – and pulls the ferry platform across the flowing river.

The journey costs me £1.10 and, when we reach Dartmouth, I take a photo of the ferryman in front of the ferry. Later, I realise this  is the Lower Ferry . There is an upper car ferry too, and a passenger ferry – both much bigger than this.

Below is a photograph of the ferry with its tugboat. On the other side is Kingswear and the wooded headland at the mouth of the River Dart.

Dartmouth, looking to river mouth, Ruth's coastal walk
My husband is waiting for me by the passenger ferry. He sends me a txt to tell me I’m not on the passenger ferry as expected and he will wait for the next one. I tell him I’ve already arrived in Dartmouth and I walk up the river to meet him on the riverside wharf.

We stop and have a coffee in a cafe, enjoying the intermittent sunshine and the view across to Kingswear – which definitely looks nicer from a distance, with its pretty coloured houses.

Kingswear, Devon. Ruth's coast walk around the UK



Miles walked = 9
High points = the wonderful unspoilt coastline.
Low points = none!

Route:

About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, Doctor, woman, etc.
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14 Responses to 91. Brixham to Kingswear to Dartmouth

  1. Sally Jordan says:

    Nice to hear from you again Ruth. We loved this section – pleased you did too – and happy walking!
    Sally

  2. TheBigForest says:

    Lovely post and the black dog photo is a classic!

  3. Martyn West says:

    Well done for finishing what a lot of people regard as one of the toughest stretches of the SWCP! The walking gets even better as you wind your way around the Devon/Cornish coast. I’m off for a 10day walk in Wales at the end of September (Fishguard to Bangor) I expect rain!!!

    Martyn

  4. Martin says:

    Wonderful photos and what a coastline! Lucky you : )

  5. Pingback: 92. Dartmouth to Blackpool Sands | Ruth's Coastal Walk (UK)

  6. Wonderful to find your walks recorded. What a brilliant idea. We have walked the Dartmouth to Coleton Fishacre and back along the coastal path quite a few times. On one occasion we walked to Scabbacombe from Coleton Fishacre. I am surprised you did not mention the gate to Coleton Fishacre which you must have passed on your way to Brownstone Battery (the WW2 site you mention). I find that walk one of the best although strenuous at times. As you say views and the woodland are knockout and we always go April or early May and there are so many wild flowers in bloom then. In fact the climb up the steps to Kingswear from the valley is decorated completely with primroses then. Stunning. Fiona

    • It’s a lovely area and an enjoyable walk. I confess I can’t remember the gate! I was tired by that stage, so maybe paying less attention than usual to my surroundings. I’m currently walking, again, but when I get home I’ll dig out the photos of the walk and see if I captured it.

  7. paul sennett says:

    Ruth we completely agree with your view of this walk as the best walk between your start at Kings Lynn and Dartmouth. We loved it, but found it super tough. Not helped by the fact that we did it in 27 degree heat and full sun all day last weekend… we really liked Rockfish restaurant in DARTMOUTH afterwards… your jump over the stream is no longer needed.. there is now a 4 plank bridge.. so clearly someone read your blog and sorted it

    • 27 degrees?! Yes, that would be tough. And I wish the bridge had been there earlier 🙂
      Glad you enjoyed the walk. That section of path felt wonderfully wild and varied – just perfect.

  8. Gra Howard. says:

    Hi Ruth. Just a little addition to this wonderful walk.. I was one of the original team of 9 people who actually dug that footpath by hand in 1983. We started at Coleton Fishacre as a base and then worked out towards scabbacombe . It took a year to complete and at one point I managed to dig up a bomb !. It was disarmed by bomb disposal lol. There had been no path at all and at one stage above puddicombe cove the path passes a rocky outcrop. That had to be chiselled out by hand to give the required 3 foot width. Of the 9 that started only 3 people stayed to the end .It was hard work but amazing at the same time. Such views and I think to walk that path and imagine that people actually dug it out and it didnt just appear naturally gives a different outlook to it. I have never walked it since we finished the work .. Regards Gra.

    • Good grief! What a task! Well done for sticking it out and finishing the job. A tremendous achievement and, sadly, unappreciated by most of us who walk that beautiful path and take it for granted. Glad you survived the bomb 😲 A belated “thank you” for your hard work. 💐

  9. Gemma B says:

    Photobombed by a lab!

  10. Charles Glass says:

    Excellent post Ruth, having lived in Brixham for last few years decided to walk this section and beyond to Stoke Fleming. We regarded ourselves as reasonably fit for men of our age (approaching 60), but this provided us with a real challenge with many ups and downs !! A great section of the SWCP with stunning views. Your photographs capture beauty of this part of Devon. Can thoroughly recommend Green Dragon in Stoke Fleming for a refreshment break. Happy walking.

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