Otterton to Babbacombe / Hope's Nose to Prawle Pont / Kingsbridge to Plymouth

DEVON


Ness CoveA county of unspoilt countryside scattered with pretty towns and villages meeting the magnificent World Heritage Jurassic Coast in the east and Cornwall in the west.

There are magnificent red cliffs and some idyllic coves and beaches, but these are often difficult to reach due to the horrible narrow roads with high hedges and steep hills.

Railway at DawlishThere is a huge amount of traffic and little parking where you want to be, but the South West Coast Path runs all the way round the coast and there is a picturesque coastal train service and several small steam railwaysUs at cottage.

We rented a very nice National Trust cottage for the week with Helen, Alison, Gary and Mark, in the grounds of Compton Castle.



Otterton and Ladram Bay


River Otter Otterton is a village of pretty thatched houses is set beside the River Otter which runs through one of Devon's most beautiful valleys. There has been a working mill since Norman times when King William granted all the local land to the abbots of St Michel of Normandy.

During the Middle Ages Otterton Mill was one of the largest and most productive in Devon but fell into disrepair in the 20th century. It was restored in 1977, and once again began producing wholemeal flour. There is a bakery, shop, restaurant and a gallery selling work by local artists. Ladram Bay stacks

Ladram Bay can only be reached from the caravan park near the village, but down on the pebbly beach there are spectacular red cliffs and sea stacks.

Bicton Park GardensA little inland, Bicton Park Gardens is a landscaped park with modern amenities. There is an Italian Garden, laid out in 1735, walled borders from Victorian times, an American Garden that was, established in the 1830s and a Mediterranean Garden.

Bicton is famous for its trees with its Grecian fir being the tallest ever recorded, at 134ft.



Budleigh Salterton


Beach huts The Otter Estuary is full of wildlife and reaches the sea at Budleigh Salterton, where there is a 3 mile sweep of pink, pebbled beach. Red sandstone cliffs rise on the west and a line of white beach huts run along the shore.

SunsetWe arrived in the evening as the sun set over the cliffs and the beach was deserted but for a few fishermen.

The town was made famous by the authors Noel Coward and P.G.Woodhouse. A small stream runs through the main street with its quaint town houses, shops, restaurants and cafes.

OctagonPlaqueMillais painting

Fairlynch MuseumIt was also made famous by Sir John Everett Millais, whose picture "The Boyhood of Raleigh" was painted in 1870 from a house called the Octagon, which is marked by a blue plaque.

Nearby, stands the pretty Fairlynch Museum with its thatched roof, and which has exhibitions of local history, costume and lace.



Sandy Bay


Sandy BayThe south west coast path passes Littlesham Cove and Otter Cove. Part of this cliff area is has a military firing range with its customary red flag flying when in use.

If you want to get to the superb beach at Sandy Bay from the road, you have to pay to go through a large holiday camp. Nearby, you can also go to the ‘World of Country Life’ and see vintage vehicles and farm animals.



Exmouth


Exmouth Beach View to Dawlish WarrenThe cliffs dominating the coastline give way at Exmouth to a flat, sandy beach. The tip of Dawlish Warren seemed only a jump away over the water.

 

Clock towerThis old fashioned sea-side resort has a wide promenade with a clock tower and the usual attractions such as putting and a boating pool.

From the town centre you can walk from one garden to another to the beach but it was the end of the season and all the flowers had been removed. There is also a marina with boats and a foot ferry to Starcross, over the Exe estuary.

 

Sea wallCockle SandFrom the old docks area there are magnificent views upriver towards Exeter and a nature reserve encompasses Cockle Sand and the surrounding mud flats.

 

GeoneedleAn area of sand dunes and grassland form Maer Nature Reserve, where around 400 species of plant now grow. The Exe is a renowned SSSI and an important habitat for wading and migrating birds.

In 2002, the Geoneedle at Orcombe Point was unveiled by HRH Prince of Wales to inaugurate the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site.



A La Ronde


A La RondeWe visited this quirky house, built on the instructions of two spinster cousins, Jane and Mary Parminter, on their return from a grand tour of Europe where they collected a vast array of souvenirs and wanted an exotic home in which to display them.

Shell galleryApparently what inspired this curious little round house was an octagonal Byzantine basilica and evidence suggests that it was the brainchild of John Lowder, a distant relative.

The result was a 16-sided cottage, originally sporting lime washed walls and a vast thatched roof that was flippantly referred to as a 'South Seas Island' hut.

Inside there is a series of peculiar wedge-shaped rooms that were created around a central octagon. This rises to a shell-encrusted gallery at the top. It is so fragile that it can only be viewed on closed-circuit television.



Lympstone


Lympstone estuary Lympstone and is a good vantage point to observe the bird life of the estuary.

Lympstone streetThe pretty village has pastel-coloured cottages, narrow streets with cobbled pavements and a lovely harbour set between low red sandstone cliffs.

We were looking for a pub serving food and there were several that looked good. As there was absolutely nowhere to park near any of them, we gave up and found one just outside the village.



Topsham


Topsham riverTopsham is the historic port of Exeter, set on the confluence of the rivers Clyst and Exe. It is famed for its shipbuilding and maritime history and nowadays river boat trips and cruises are available.

Topsham fish shopThere are plenty of cafes, antique and bric-a-brac shops and the fish shop sells crabs, lobster, shark, squid, scallops and monkfish.

Dutch style housesThere are a large number of Dutch style houses, some dating from the 17th and even the 14th century, when the town was an important cotton port. Many are built using Dutch bricks, which were brought over as ballast to where the wool and cotton had been exported.

Topsham Museum has lovely furnished period rooms that can be explored, along with displays of local history.

topsham churchSt Margaret's Church was destroyed by fire in the 19th century but was rebuilt in great style. Strangely the top of the tower is older than the bottom and the story behind this comes from the Civil War when the base was completely destroyed by cannon fire. This left the belfry inaccessible until a new section was built underneath.



Exeter


City wallsExeter was founded by the Romans, as ‘Isca Dumnoniorum’. Much remains of both the Roman and Medieval walls of the city of Exeter, but the ancient gates have been demolished.

Underground passagesThe medieval vaulted underground passages are located under the city centre but are closed until 2007 so we weren’t able to see them. They were devised to bring water into the city in the 13th century. In 1340, labourers were paid 1½d per day plus liberal supplies of ale, to line the passages with lead to reduce contamination. The pipes often sprang leaks and were replaced by cast iron in the early 19th century until a cholera outbreak finally precipitated a new water supply.

Cathedral CloseIn the heart of the city, alleys are overhung by the upper floors of half-timbered medieval buildings and lead to Cathedral Close where there is a high concentration of Grade I listed buildings.

Mol's Coffee HouseMol's Coffee House has an Elizabethan facade whose name referred to the Italian proprietor who ‘regularly supplied newspapers and other periodical publications and is frequented by gentlemen of the first distinction in the City’. The artist, John Gendall, is said to have painted the 46 coats of arms in the oak panelled room. The coffee shop next door provided us with a rather delicious cream tea.

St Peter’s CathedralSt Peter’s Cathedral has a wealth of carved stone and wood and is one of the finest examples of decorated Gothic work in England. The nave has the longest unbroken stretch of Gothic stone vaulting in the world with a soaring roof decorated with ornately carved and coloured bosses.

Cathedral clockWe were interested by a 15th century clock showing the Moon and Sun revolving round the Earth.

Guildhall Other interesting buildings include the Assembly Rooms, now the Royal Clarence Hotel; No.7 the Close, which in 1662 was the town house of the Earls of Devon; Annuellers House, which in 1528 housed a group of priests who served in the Cathedral.

The Guildhall is a medieval building with colonnaded facade of outstanding architectural interest that is still in civic use. ‘ye olde Tesco Metro’Charles Dickens was inspired by the Turk’s Head for the fat boy in Pickwick Papers but it has sadly been modernised. One really pretty building sports a ‘ye olde Tesco Metro’ sign!

In the 1960’s, the 15th century ‘House That Moved’ was cut from its foundations and winched 150 to the side of the city’s former West Gate.

PrioryExeter Castle was built in 1068 and the gatehouse remains with Rougemont Gardens which were planted in the outer bailey of the castle during the 18th century. St Nicholas Priory is about a quarter of its original size. The Priory had a very important and lively life until the dissolution of the monasteries, when the monks were pensioned off and their church and cloisters were pulled down. The remaining buildings and precinct were then sold by the Crown and you can still see the Norman under-croft and kitchen.

Butts FerryWe walked down to the historic quayside where woollen cloth was once loaded onto ships and is now lined with boutiques, craft shops, restaurants and visitor centre in old bonded warehouses.

Custom House and quayThe Custom House has an elaborate plaster ceiling and remained in continuous use by HM Customs and Excise until 1989 and the Maritime Museum has a collection of boats including a Chinese junk, Welsh coracle, African dugouts and an Iraqi boat built of pomegranate stalks.

Turf LocksFrom the quayside there is a pleasant walk alongside the Exeter Ship Canal to Turf Locks.

The canal was built to enable vessels to navigate to the wharves at Exeter Quay.. In the 1750’s some 500 craft used the canal annually.



Powderham Castle


Powderham CastlePowderham Castle is the historic home of the Earl of Devon and is still lived in by the Courtenay Family. It lies in a beautiful setting in an ancient deer park alongside the River Exe and is at the centre of a large traditional estate of about 4,000 acres. Built around 1390, it was much altered after damage in the Civil War and has fine state rooms.



Starcross


Starcross has the best surviving building from Brunel's Atmospheric Railway, known to locals as the 'Atmospheric caper’ and plagued by problems from the start. Brunel convinced the Directors of the South Devon Railway to invest in a revolutionary new propulsion system and not use steam locomotives. This required the laying of a pipe between the rails and a piston was connected to the train above through a slit in the top of the pipe.

Starcross pump housePumping stations situated at 3 mile intervals sucked the air out the pipe and the train was pushed along the track using atmospheric pressure. The first passenger trains eventually ran in September 1847 but there were frequent breakdowns, which resulted in third class passengers having to get out and push. Nine trains a day were running between Exeter and Teignmouth at speeds of 64 mph but after only a year's use the railway was converted to conventional steam-powered locomotives.

Lime kilnsThe pumping house at Starcross was built in an Italianate style with two engines about 30 feet high. The top of the chimney was removed as it was a danger to the railway line and the building is now the property of the local fishing club.

Cockwood has a small harbour that was somewhat restricted when Brunel ran the railway line across its entrance. Here lime and culm would have been shipped from its limekilns.



Dawlish Warren


Warren beachI liked Dawlish Warren in spite of the ‘tupperware’ clouds that prevailed that day. It consists of a 1¼ mile spit of coastline extending into the estuary of the River Exe and has some of the most beautiful beaches along the coast.

View to ExmouthWe walked along the sand to the far end where we were only a few hundred yards from Exmouth and where there are fast-flowing currents.

Nature reserveBirds were nesting on the beach and the path took us back through the dunes of the nature reserve which is famous for the Warren crocus, whose lilac-blue flowers can’t be seen anywhere else in mainland Britain.

At the landward end the view to the south is dominated by Langstone Rock, a huge block of sandstone with a wave-carved arch.

AmusementsChalets and caravans make up this holiday resort along a road with unbelievable traffic humps. A lane under the railway line leads to a car park, go-kart track (closed) and funfair.

The youngsters dragged us into the amusement arcade which provided us with an entertaining interlude with amazing prizes of 3 pencils and a bag of ‘juicy lips!



Dawlish


Dawlish WaterDawlish sits in a small valley with a rivulet running through the town centre and out to sea. This is known as 'Dawlish Water' and was reconstructed in the early 19th century to reduce the possibility of flooding by the introduction of small waterfalls.

Black swansIt is bridged at several places to provide pedestrian and vehicle crossings and is now set in a cute park with black swans and other waterfowl swimming around. We were smitten by the baby ducks in their own sun-lamp lit nursery.

IlluminationsAt night, the stream is illuminated and is a very pretty sight.

At the beginning of the 18th century Dawlish was a small fishing village as there were large quantities of mackerel, herring, and shellfish. The population grew and In the 19th century Dawlish became a fashionable resort for the aristocracy. Now it is a recognised filming location and occasionally featured in Victorian drama.

Mainline trainMainline trains run along the edge of the main beach and stop at the station which is an attraction in its own right. The line connects Exeter to Newton Abbott and on to Penzance, with much of it along the coast with several tunnels though the hard cliffs. It is one of the most scenic journeys in Britain.

Jetty on beachA tunnel under the track leads to the beach of deep red shingle and sand, where the stream cascades into the sea.

To the south, the cliffs rise and shelter a cove which is the starting point for fishing and boat trips to Brixham and Babbacombe.




Teignmouth


Teignmouth beach

Set at the mouth of the River Teign, this is a town with two different characters, a working port and a seaside resort.

Georgian buildingsAlong the seaward edge of the town is 'the Den', a large open space with lawns and flower beds that runs along the length of the town between the promenade and an elegant crescent of Georgian buildings.

PierAs well as a Victorian pier, there is a theatre, cinema, model railway and a long red sandy beach.

Town squareThere is a small square in the town surrounded by shops and restaurants with outdoor seating. We went in one of them and had the most enormous tuna and cheese melts you can imagine.

mini lighthouseThe beach shelves steeply near the mouth of the estuary where there are dangerous currents. A miniature lighthouse marks the entrance to the working harbour where large ships, fishing boats and pleasure craft enter and leave the port. Teignmouth exports ball clay from nearby quarries that is used to make crockery and bathroom fittings. HarbourDartmoor granite was shipped from Teignmouth in the early 19th century for the building of structures such as the former London Bridge and the British Museum.

Beside the estuary are waterside inns, boats for hire and beach and a passenger ferry across the estuary mouth to Shaldon, just across the water.



Shaldon


Clock Tower We crossed the estuary by a modern road bridge and turned off to the quaint village of Shaldon.

Georgian cottages, shops and pubs around a small bowling green with a Clock Tower, dedicated to the memory of local men who died during the World Wars. On Wednesdays in the summer, the green is transformed into a gift market when the locals dress up in Georgian outfits.

The tiny lanes lead to pretty thatched cottages and terraced houses painted in all colours and have names such as Salty Lane, Arch Lane and Horse Lane. Along the shore, small boats sit askew in front of the panorama of Teignmouth.

ShaldonShaldonShaldon ferry

Near the main car park, we found the smugglers' tunnel through the Ness headland leading to Ness Cove. It is well lit but still spooky as you can hear the sea crashing in on the beach well before you get there. The tunnel takes a turn down some steps at the end and you are confronted by a beautiful view of the red sandy shore through the entrance. It is quite a show stopper. The cove is enclosed by high red sandstone cliffs which are adorned with ‘danger of falling rocks’ notices. A lovely place.

Smugglers' tunnelSmugglers' tunnelNess Cove



Maidencombe and Watcombe


MaidencombeMore dangerous rock falls in the cliffs at Maidencombe and a precipitous path with a long flight of steps leading down from the car park to a small sandy beach framed by high red cliffs and fallen boulders.

WatcombeThe secluded beach at Watcombe is reached from the car park down a very steep tarmac lane, where there is a shop and a cafe overlooking the shore. Apparently, dogfish and mackerel can be caught from the rocks here.



Babbacombe


Cliff Railway The village grew up as a winter resort in the early 19th century and Babbacombe Downs is the highest promenade in the country.

Oddicombe BeachWe found the Cliff Railway leading down to Oddicombe Beach. This has been operating since 1926 and following refurbishment after the war was re-opened in the early 1950's. It is a long walk down so we were glad of the ride and the cove at the bottom is quite small.

Petit TorIn 1884, ‘John Babbacombe Lee’ was found guilty of the murder of Miss Keyes on this beach. They tried to hang him three times and failed, so he became world famous as the man they could not hang. A similar dauntingly steep walk from St Marychurch leads to the shingle Petit Tor Beach.

model villageWe spent ages at the model village as it was far better than we expected and a great place to visit. It is all scaled down to one-twelfth life size with some very amusing names for some of the shops and vehicles.

We didn’t have time to visit the Bygones Museum but it is full of nostalgic exhibits and original items, including street scenes and shops.

Kents CavernStalagmitesInstead we chose to go to Kents Cavern, a large cave system with beautiful rock formations. It is one of the most important Palaeolithic caves in Northern Europe and the oldest recognisable human dwelling in Britain.



 

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