Walking in Ida’s footsteps

By Contributed in Local People

Norman Maudsley writes: I would like to introduce you to the late Ida Sebag-Montefiere.

Ida was one of the first people to help protect the coast of Wembury, the very coastline we were headed down for a circular walk taking in both the coastal and inland tracks.

Ida was widowed young when her husband died during the First World War. Her story started in 1935 when she decided to sell her Wembury estate and move to London.

Having been one of the earliest members of the National Trust and a great lover of walking and the outdoors, she couldn’t bear the idea that her estate might disappear under housing.

Ida generously gave her estate to the National Trust on condition that the adjoining fields were safeguarded from development.

Thus our day’s walk, and but for Ida most likely we 21 Newton Abbot ramblers would have started through a housing estate of £1 million-plus houses. However, by good fate we were enjoying distant views across Lyme Bay under pale blue skies.

We were following an inland route which opened up to views over Plymouth Sound where we saw what we believed to be at least one Royal Navy craft, possibly having undergone a refit out on trials.

Reaching the coast we saw to our right Fort Bovisand where, reaching the coastal path, we turned south to pass through Crownhill Holiday Park.

The pristine natural environment in this area encourages wild life.

Rocky cliffs attract birds, scrub land provides cover for ground-nesting songbirds, while the rocky shores, slate reefs and massive rock-cut platforms provide a secure home for a variety of amazing plants and mammals.

It was soon time to make the climb up to walk above the cliffs with forward views of this beautifully rugged coastline.

As we walked our eyes were drawn to a large rock out at sea. This was the Great Mewstone (an old English name for a nesting place for seabirds). On coastal maps you often come across the name mewstone.

Dolphins can sometimes be seen in the sea below this section of the coastal path, though sadly not on today’s visit.

The rough seas had recently washed lots of seaweed up onto the rocky foreshore, and the steady breeze was carrying its recognisable smell over the cliffs.

In the past the farmers used to gather the seaweed and spread it on the low-level arable fields backed by dramatic land cliffs – the seaweed improved the condition of the soil.

Plymouth Sound and the estuaries are classed as a European Marine Site with restrictions on the fish species that anglers are allowed to catch, although small boats can set out crab pots in the bay.

Having made good time on this well-maintained coastal path, we eventually had a change of view as we approached the River Yealm estuary.

For those coastal path walkers their onward route would now require a ferry trip over the River Yealm. As for our group we left the English Channel and headed inland, making our way back to the cars.

After another good day’s walking in the South Hams, it was time then for myself, Brian and Mike – not forgetting our driver Steve – to head home via a local garden centre for light refreshments.

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