Day 040: Salcombe to Holbeton

Distance: 23.58 miles

Ascent: 6612 feet

Weather: Wet & Windy ALl Day

Accommodation: Camping Pub Garden Dartmoor Union 


Well my Dad headed for Brighton this morning, at the same time as I headed of for the walk. The first couple of miles from Salcombe out of the harbour to Sharp Tor, were the only dry periods of the day.

The wind and rain strengthened, and alongside the very steep muddy sections, made the next part very tough. In fact, it got so tough that when I reached Soar Mill Cove I seriously considered taking a slightly inland route just to get some respite. I had actually started waking the inland route for about 50m when I decided that I would be pissed off in the evening if I hadn’t done the true route. So, I turned around and headed up onto the cliff and was battered by the elements again. I hopefully won’t seriously consider deviating from the route again and am very happy I still haven’t so far (other than official diversions when paths closed.)

At the top of West Cliff I encountered my next issue a group of cows, highland cattle I believe. They are massive, with giant horns and stubbornly refused to move of the narrow path. After 5 minutes of staring each other down, the cow finally moved enough to let me passed on the narrow cliff path.

Finally completely bedraggled after 9 miles of walking I arrived in Hope Cove, I had promised myself throughout the rainy morning if there was a café I would sit inside and have a hot drink to warm up. Fortunately there was one and I was so bedraggled I stayed a little longer than maybe I should. Whilst in the café, a couple informed me that I should ask for Swanny in Bantham and he may be able to get me across the River Avon.

I headed back out into the rain, and fairly quickly reached Bantham. In Bantham I headed to the pub and asked the landlord if he knew where Swanny might be. I was informed he lived about 5 doors down, and that there were lots of paintings in the window. I found it and knocked on the door, a man opened the door with paintbrush in hand. At first he looked out, saw the rain and said no, but almost immediately changed his mind and offered very kindly to take me across. We walked down to the boat, which was a small inflatable rib, and crossed the river in a matter of minutes. I had slightly feared with my backpack on I might topple out like a scuba diver.

The weather had still not improved and as I climbed up to Bigbury I bumped into another walker, who was doing the SWCP in sections over a year period. We walked a short distance together and he kindly bought me a tea and snack, opposite Burgh Island.

The weather was still terrible, and the next part had 2 very steep sections. After 6 weeks of not falling, I finally did and it was fairly spectacular. Both feet went from underneath me, into the air and I ended up hitting the deck on my backpack. As it was so muddy, the backpack acted a bit like a luge and I slid 10m or so further down the slope. I knew I hadn’t hurt myself, but the fall must have been heavy as I was winded for a few minutes. I was covered top to toe in mud. But there was nothing else to do but carry on.

I reached Wonwell Beach, where the South West Coast Path wades across the River Erme at low tide. Unfortunately, the neap tide, alongside the wind surge meant the river was uncrossable. So, my only option was to head inland to the first crossing point (about an 8 mile extension). I passed a local who gave me directions, ‘Head along the beach to derelict fishing hut, there is a small path from fishing hut into woods and track, make sure you don’t miss dogleg, you must cross embankment & bridge at end of lagoon, then bridge across’, somehow I managed to follow the route entirely.

Due to the extension and incredibly adverse conditions I would not make my proposed location, but did reach Holbeton where the Dartmoor Union kindly let me pitch on a patch of grass behind the pub, and despite my state let me warm up in the pub.

So, a day that at times felt like a battle and which was very tough but in the end I finished up just a couple of miles from my scheduled location. A mix of lucky and unlucky breaks.

NB - Not many photos due to weather conditions.

charles compton