We had a few days off last week – our usual monthly recharge of the batteries. We’d decided not to go away as despite it being time off, we did have several work related things to do which had been waiting until no guests were around. We did manage a lovely evening at The Elephant – our local Michelin star restaurant where we enjoyed their latest tasting menu and matched wines. Due to the new 10pm curfew we booked a little earlier than normal so we weren’t rushed. Another day we had afternoon tea at a local hotel which to be honest was a little disappointing in various ways and we won’t be returning.
On the day with the best forecast (sunny spells all day) we decided to take a walk along a part of the coast we’ve only ever seen on the train before. The journey by train from Torquay towards Exeter is delightful as much of it follows the coast and you can enjoy fabulous views.
We walked to Torre Station to catch the train, which is slightly closer than Torquay station by only a few minutes and literally at the top of our road. We then got off at Starcross which is less than half an hour away.
Starcross is a little village on the Exe Estuary where you can catch a ferry to Exmouth if you fancied a day out there. It’s also possible to walk to Powderham Castle from here which is about a thirty minute walk and well worth a visit. Just another reason to leave your car at home.
We had disembarked to walk in the opposite direction back towards home. We picked up signs for the coastal path, but it’s the Exe Valley Way you walk on first which leads on to become the South West Coastal Path. It’s a pleasant walk, initially through the quiet village streets, briefly along the main road then off down a cycle path and through a wooded area to join the SW Coastal Path back on the seafront.
We were surprised how busy the path was for an October day and it’s clearly a favourite for dog walkers and cyclists as well as the holiday makers and tourists.
You pass through the pretty village of Cockwood with its harbour and two pubs, then into Dawlish Warren which is popular with families and well catered for by caravan parks. This leads into Dawlish, a nice little town with a selection of touristy shops selling souvenirs, fudge and so on, an amusement arcade and plenty of cafés and eating places. A brook runs through its centre and you’ll see their unofficial mascot – the black swan.
At the start of the 1900’s, a local Dawlish man emigrated to New Zealand but kept in touch with his family and friends in Dawlish and came back to visit a number of times. On one of his visits in 1906 he bought with him some Black Swans as a gift to the town. Many people think that he wanted to give Dawlish something that would make it unique from other seaside towns and back in the early 1900’s a Black Swan certainly did that.
During the two World Wars, the Black Swans sadly died out, however, after the war, Captain Pitman, a game warden in Uganda, presented the town of Dawlish with a pair of Black Swans in memory of his parents as his father had been a County Councillor and loved the town. The Black Swans have thrived ever since and have long been the emblem of the town.
You can catch a train at any point of the journey. Both Dawlish Warren and Dawlish have train stations but we had planned to keep walking. We had lunch and a coffee (well I did – Julian had a bubble gum milkshake which he loved but I didn’t think much of!) in Dawlish at a friendly café then headed on. I should mention that the walk so far had been really easy going – unlike many walks along the coast which are up and down steep hills or steps, this had all been flat so far, however, after Dawlish, the going soon gets tougher.
We headed along the promenade, in line with the railway – a stretch made famous by its collapse in 2014 from a terrible battering by the sea in a storm. The South West of the country was completely cut off until it was repaired in record time. The repair is evident today and works still continue to prevent future issues along that stretch of the coast.
The path takes you up a steep incline to get to the top of the cliff at the end of the promenade, through a little park and onto the main road for a short while where you then join the Old Teignmouth Road and then back on to the path. There are some big hills ahead but the walk is worth it as you can appreciate the stunning views at the top whilst you rest. Suddenly there were a lot less people on this stretch – they obviously knew the incline of the hills. We did find that we could have just continued on the main road to miss out the hills but we’d then have missed not only the appreciation of the views but also the cute sheep we also saw on route.
As you join the seafront again, you’ll need to go down Smugglers Walk and under a railway bridge which isn’t passable during high tide but there is an alternate route via the main road if needed. We then walked along the promenade adjacent to the railway line until we reached Teignmouth (pronounced Tin-muth).
It’s was originally a fishing port which expanded with the arrival of the railway as demonstrated by the grand Georgian buildings. There’s a town centre and a nice promenade to walk along with an art feature along its length. We had a wander round and enjoyed a Mr Whippy strawberry and vanilla 99 ice cream each whilst overlooking the sea. There’s a train station just on the edge of the town centre so after a drink in the sun on the theatre bar outdoor terrace, we headed there to catch our train home. You could continue at this point and catch a little row boat over to Shaldon but we had to get back to walk Patsy.
Our walk was about 7 miles and would take about 2.5 hours if you did it straight but we made a really enjoyable day of it.