I begin my walk on Plymouth Hoe. It is Easter Saturday and the weather forecast says this will be the best day of the Easter weekend. It turns out to be a sunny day, not as windy as yesterday but still a very cold breeze.
I pose with my mother-in-law while my husband takes a photo and a couple of black labradors run up to us. One of them has a bunny in its mouth. Luckily, it turns out only to be a toy.
My mother-in-law loves dogs. We try to get them to sit and pose for the photograph, but they are too excited and keep running about.
The view from Plymouth Hoe is lovely – the sea of Plymouth Sound is bright blue and the sky is clear.
As I look across the Sound to the southwest I see Drake’s Island and I wonder what this small island is used for. With such a strategic position, I assume it is a military base. Later I find out it is now privately owned and there is some dispute about planning permission. [You can read one man’s account of how he managed a clandestine landing on the island in 2009: Operation Drake’s Island]
I walk down to the seafront and follow the esplanade, stopping to take some photographs of the Hoe – with the red and white striped lighthouse (Smeaton’s Tower) and Tinside Lido beneath. Dominating the scene is the big ferris wheel. This 60 foot ‘Eye’ was due to close at the end of 2012 and was supposed to be demolished, but has been given a temporary reprieve.
I see a series of little concrete ships perched on the sea wall – models of real naval vessels with their names proudly displayed.
I find the HMS Invincible, keeping an eye on Drake Island. There is a succession of British battle ships named HMS Invincible. This one is a model of the latest – and possibly the last – a light aircraft carrier, scrapped in 2011.
Now, I am heading for the Cremyll ferry. I see a sign indicating that pedestrians for the ferry should walk along a path beside a wide road. There is no traffic on the road, no pedestrians either. I check my map and there is only one ferry crossing marked, so this must be it. It does seem to be a rather grand driveway leading up to what I assume is a little passenger ferry. I have some misgivings but I dutifully follow the path and find I am in a wide concrete area, marked out in lanes for cars and lorries – a proper full-blown cross-channel ferry port. There is nobody around. Obviously, no ferries are running today. I walk across the car park towards the terminal buildings, hoping to find a way through. But it is a dead-end.
Cursing inwardly, I retrace my steps. This has been a wasted detour and my quick walk to catch the ferry has turned into an hour-long trek.
I follow cycle route signs and finally I arrive at the real Cremyll ferry slipway. According to the timetable, there is a 20 minute wait until the next crossing. 10 minutes later, the little ferry-boat chugs into sight.
Sitting outside, in the company of other passengers and a couple of large dogs, I can’t resist taking this photo of a large sailing ship. I can’t see any name on the hull. It is painted a dull grey, echoing the colour of the concrete models I passed on the sea wall, and seems to be in the process of being refurbished. I suspect it will end up being painted a different colour when it’s finished.
The landing is marred by an unsettling incident. As I stand on the slipway, taking photographs, I hear a horrible hawking sound behind me and realise someone is spitting – not at me, into the water, but very close to me. A young teenager swaggers past me. He has low slung jeans, a cigarette in one hand and a can of beer in the other. A can of beer! It isn’t midday yet. A young woman is standing at the top of the slipway, holding the hand of a toddler. She greets the young man. I realise he is the child’s father and he has come to collect his son for the day.
The child doesn’t want to go with his father. ‘Don’t you want to spend the day with me?’ ‘Noooooo! I want my mummy.’ In the end, the young man has to almost drag the child down the slipway to catch the ferry back over to Plymouth, while the young woman watches from the top of the slipway with a resentful stare. I feel sorry for all of them. The estranged father is so young he is still a child himself. The young mother has her life options somewhat reduced and I wonder if she turns the child over to his father willingly, or with a court order. The child is confused and frightened.
By this time, all the other passengers have disembarked, they are heading up a lane into the wonderful Mount Edgcumbe Country Park, owned by the council.
The South West Path runs from here towards Rame Head. I am hoping to have lunch at Kingsand, walk past Rame Head and meet my husband in the Tregantle Fort car-park. I must press on. I have some walking to do
Distance: 2.5 miles (due to detour around ferry port)