Norman Maudsley writes: TWO walking mates and I headed down to the South Hams. We were meeting other Newton Abbot A walk ramblers at the Fish in the Wall National Trust car park below East Prawle.
Today’s leader was Mike Shead from Teignmouth, a regular walker with the group.
By 10.30am eight walkers had arrived and were booted up ready for the off. Mike welcomed everyone present including one new member who had travelled down from Ashburton to walk with the group.
After a brief description of the day’s route we headed towards the sea to join the South West Coastal Path.
Within view was the Prawle Point Coast Watch Station. Built in the 1860s, its original purpose was to watch for smugglers and vessels in distress.
Today the site is manned by volunteers looking out for any commercial shipping or private craft, watching over the seafarers as they pass through or fish within their sector of the sea.
The name Prawle still lives up to its derivation meaning ‘lookout hill’ and since ancient times people have kept watch for shipping – and invaders, even in more recent times. Our route passed one of many secret bunkers that housed radar stations around the coast of the UK from the Second World War.
Moving on, we headed east, walking the cliff-top path.
The dramatic inland cliffs were that day lit up with brilliant sunshine which soon had the group shedding some of our clothing. It was hard to believe this was still January, we feel sure this is a prime example of global warming.
Soon we were approaching the coastal home of Kate Bush. All the downstairs blinds were closed so no point in calling in for our morning coffee, it was a good job we all brought our own!
We were now just over one hour into our walk and Mike had chosen a suitable place to have our morning coffee break. This entailed a steep rough path down to a pebble beach, below Kate’s house and the perfect spot to enjoy the sea on a beautiful spring-like day.
Morning coffee over and refreshed, it was back up the steps to make a detour along a new section of the coastal path. A section had fallen away during the 2016 spring tides and we had to re-join the coastal path down by the cliff edge.
We made good time to finally turning inland and pick up field paths, where we encountered the toughest climb of the day. This was up a slippery valley side onto higher ground. It proved to be a tough workout that sorted the group out.
Now on a better track we found an ideal spot to enjoy our packed lunches.
The route then took us along quiet roads and green lanes to arrive at East Prawle with its village store and cafe by the green. However, we were out of luck as the cafe was closed on this occasion, but fear not – the village pub the Pigs Nose was open so quenched our thirst.
All that remained was a half-mile road walk back to the car park. With boots removed we thanked Mike for the enjoyable warm spring day’s walking down in the South Hams.
ON Sunday, the Teignmouth and Dawlish Ramblers met. Just five hardy souls turned up, we can only assume the weather forecast of impending inclement weather had put some off.
However, the five of us at Higher Woodway Road were all prepared to make the most of Pauline Jones’ trek over in east Devon.
Arriving at our start point of Joney’s Cross car park, two miles west of Newton Poppleford, we had a pleasant surprise when three other ramblers, members of the east Devon group, had decided to join us.
When we were all booted up and well-protected with waterproofs – the rain had already started – it only remained for Pauline to welcome our visitors and make the introductions.
On our way we were soon heading down Hawkerland Valley on part of the East Devon Way, which stretches for 38 miles from Exmouth to Lyme Regis.
The valley we were walking through is privately-owned. Historically, during the build-up of the wartime invasion of France, it was used as a huge military storage area for equipment.
No visual signs now remained, as before us we could enjoy a rich heathland habitat for fauna and wildlife.
The valley had led us to Colaton Raleigh. On the way down to the village we passed a bore hole, part of the village’s modern-day water supply.
In the village we saw signs of three much older water supplies constructed in the reign of Queen Victoria.
Seven taps had been installed around the small, thatched village as a memorial to the 1887 Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, for the benefit of the present and future inhabitants of Colaton Raleigh.
The mains supply had been provided by the Hon Mark Rolle at the cost of £300, and the seven taps paid for by residents at a cost of £12.
At the church of St John the Baptist with its 15th century tower the rain took a short respite and I took the opportunity to take a group photograph.
Heading for the River Otter we followed the left bank.?However, there were no signs of otters or remains of their activity on the surrounding trees today.
We reached Newton Poppleford, well-known for its pretty thatched cottages and walls decorated with the rounded stones found all over this area.
Known as popple stones these are the remains of what was once a large river that had travelled from the north and originated in Europe. This being when the two were joined by a land bridge – long before my time I might add.
Soon we arrived at Tipton St John which was once connected to the British Rail Southern Region. The station opened in 1874 and later served as a junction for the Budleigh Salterton Railway.
It closed to passengers in 1967 thanks to the Beeching Act, and the station and platform remain today as a private home known as Station House.
Moving on through this beautiful countryside, even though the rain persisted as continuous drizzle it was a joy to be sharing it with other walkers. It was good to know we were not the only group to be out today.
We reached Venn Ottery, which in the past was spelt Fen Ottery. It is a small village one mile north of Newton Poppleford and goes a long way back in history, becoming a civil parish in 1866. Leaving the village we made our way over Venn Ottery common, a nature reserve owned by Devon Wildlife Trust, and is part of East Devon Pebbled Heathland, a nationally-important lowland heath area and a site of special scientific interest.
Soon we were back at the cars, rather wet, and thanked Pauline for her valiant effort.
Our guest ramblers wished us all the best, and it just remained for myself, Geoff and Steve our driver to find refreshments at a garden centre on the way back home, where we unwound and relaxed with the knowledge we had in fact covered 10 miles that day.