Day 036: Exton to Shaldon

Distance: 23.54 miles

Ascent: 2371 feet

Weather: Sunny but Cold

Accommodation: Wild camp Near Shaldon


I set of from Exton, well rested and well fed, and though it was very cold as I had got ready inside a warm house this was no issue. I continued along the Exe Trail/footpaths from Exton up to Topsham. Topsham is a really lovely small town, with several pubs, some lovely rickety old buildings, some marine industry and just generally a nice feel.

From Topsham I continued up the River Exe, underneath the M5, before crossing just shy of Exeter on the Countess Wear Bridge. The path continued in the same way on the other side though this time heading back towards the coast. I passed the Turf Locks Hotel, which feels very remote, it was originally built to house the lock keeper and the crews of vessels using the canal, as well as having stables for the horses that pulled the barges.

The path then crossed over the trainline, which I will be following on and off all the way to Plymouth. I passed a massive deer park which surrounds Powderham Castle, a building that houses the Earl & Countess of Devon and has been in the same family for almost 700 years. It was also the site of a large siege during the English Civil War.

At Dawlish Warren I came to the end of the Exe Trail, a trail which has been thought out and constructed so well, making it perfect for tourists and commuters alike. The only thing I would say it that the towns and villages could have been a bit more inventive with their names: Exmouth, Exton, Exeter, Exminster, Exwell.

Dawlish Warren was not what I expected at first, from the map I had imagined a sedate nature reserve, but on arrival it felt more like I was arriving at Thorpe Park. But once through this first part it did turn into a beautiful nature reserve. I walked along the spit on one side of the dunes on the way out and the other on the way back.

I was very hungry and very kindly Lizzy my host for the rest day had provided me with a packed lunch. This was so crammed full with sandwiches, sausage rolls, brownies, crisps, fruit, chocolate that it even defeated me in my ravenous state and also became half my dinner.

I joined the seawall and carried on to Dawlish. I passed the section that had collapsed into the sea a couple of years ago crippling all trains to Plymouth and beyond for several weeks. It does look though like it is only a matter of time (and fairly short time at that) that another collapse will occur.

I definitely did not leave Dawlish by the most efficient way, seemingly doing several unnecessary cutbacks to get up and over the cliff and on to Teignmouth. Teignmouth Pier looked very sad as did a fair few other buildings, but it did have several lovely churches and the harbour side was very sedate and pretty.

As the weather was dry I decided to just push on and crossed over the River Teign through Shaldon and back onto the cliffs. This part around Bundle Head has some seriously steep parts and I finished the day with two very steep climbs before finding a very scenic pitch spot.

Today was a very good day, with sun most of the day, and completing more miles than I was expecting. This means tomorrow will be a shorter day, as I have a kind offer of accommodation.

charles compton