Launched October 24th, 1999
Ronald Langereis - 1999 - Amsterdam
Day Four - Tuesday, October 19th
First hike by the Coast Path - Bantham to Salcombe - 11.5 m
|While we stood and shivered three undaunted surfers dived into the breakers. In the distance lies Burgh Island||On this stage we'll make our first acquaintance with the South Devon Coast Path. It will lead us across a scarcely populated area between the mouth of the river Avon and the Kingsbridge Estuary.|
In former times the village of Bantham had a small harbour for fishing-boats, as it lived from the sea, but nowadays it's thriving mainly on tourism. The whole neighbourhood is privately owned by the Evanses. We'll park our vans on their property, and we'ld be mindful to pick them up in time, for in the evening their steward will lock up the car-park.
From here we'll start our walk, and skirting the shed of the rescue-team, annex 'bay-watch', we'll engage our today's first steep slope to the top op the cliffs. The promontory here goes by the - very appropriate - name of 'Long Stone'. For several miles we'll be passing nice little bays with small strips of sandy beach. Near one of them, called 'Leas Foot Beach', where a golf-links extends to the very edge of the cliff, we encounter the wreck of the 'Louis Sheid'. In December 1939 this steamer ran aground here, after picking up 62 survivors of a Dutch freighter - Click on the link to read an account of its wreckage!
Behind the next beach, 'Thurlestone Sand', we'll find one of the biggest reed-districts in Devon. In this area of England reed still is an important product. Many houses have traditional roofs thatched with reeds. Thatched cottages almost are growing into touristical attractions of their own.
Further on we'll pass the twin villages of Outer and Inner Hope, linked by a single path that runs past the Cottage Hotel. Here we'll find an Iron Age hill fort, where long ago tribesmen entrenched themselves for protection from cattle-thieves and worse.
The promontory of 'Bolt Head' is quite literally a turning-point on our path. Having walked for miles in an eastern direction, from here onward we'll face north, walking along Salcombe Harbour to the village of that name. From Salcombe to Torquay the coast is called 'the English Rivièra', as the climate is mild enough for subtropical plants to survive.
Salcombe Harbour is in fact only a minor inlet of the Kingsbridge Estuary. Normally, an estuary is the tidal mouth of a large river. In this particular case hardly any river is involved, the estuary being in reality an arm of sea. Its waters are fully salt and the tide reaches even far-off Kingsbridge unhampered.
There was a shorter path to Salcombe, which was taken by the second group, but this involved a steep descent from the higher path by steps. Ruud chose to pass the village, walking through shrubberies along its outer fields and meadows and afterwards returning to it by a lazy, tree-covered slope. I had no objections, as the back-side of my right knee had started to really hurt when going down a line of steps earlier on.
When we came out of the wood overlooking Salcombe from the landside, the first thing we saw was a caravan-park at the bottom of the valley, that aspired for a high position on the top-list of places never to be in, but for the rest Salcombe seemed to be O.K. We passed Overbecks House, which is reputed to have an exquisite garden, and which is now a youth hostel. We didn't go there, but instead descended to the lowest level of the village and there entered a pub with a view of the sea.
Once we were enjoying our first refill, the sun who all day had shunned the shore, began to throw splashes of light at random into the grey world of the estuary, like an impressionist painter on a picnic. There was hardly enough time for a second refill, as the drinkers of tea needed less time to reach the point of satisfaction, and in haste we left the pub, carrying Miep's bouquet of wild flowers in a half-pint glass the friendly publican allowed her to take.
It was in the car-park that Miep realized her walking-stick was missing. A search of the pub and of the nearby woods didn't bring it back and we drove home speculating how long it would take for somebody to find this priceless trophy.
|After climbing a steep ascent we walked by a golf course. The tee was at the top of the steps|
|Having passed Bantham's sandy beach, we had a short rest in the shelter of a high garden wall. Trees grow horizontally there on behalf of the steady gales|
|As there wasn't any shelter, we had lunch on the very path, the waves thundering against the cliff a hundred feet beneath us|
|Turning away from the cliffs we descended to head for the car park, where Henk would appear to pick up the weary of way. No-one obliged.|
|Miep and Elly gathering shells. A minute before a wave had washed over Elly's shoe, startling her into a funny frisking gait and high shrieks|
|Two pictures back, on the right, the landmark at the top can yet be spotted. It was a very long climb to this ridge|
|All day long the sun seemed shy to come ashore, tempting us at sea with phantastic pools of glittering light|
|Salcombe, around the corner. When you can see your destination the journey seems almost done. It still proved to be a long way as Ruud chose a descent through the woods|
|At Bolt Head, where the path turns north to Salcombe, Carolien volunteered to take a picture of me, my only one|
|I don't recall the name of the establishment at Salcombe, but its bitter is to be remembered|
|The closely knit company of the Shepherd's Cottage discussing the facts of life|
|The last stragglers haggardly coming in to join the main body|
|A view through the window pane. The sun spilling splashes of light randomly over the estuary, while far away Bolt Head is haughtily turning its back on us|
|How far we went and how we should have gone ...|
|The fatal bouquet. While picking the flowers Miep left her priceless walking-stick behind, sadly standing at attention, ready to salute its next owner|
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