SWCP Day 33. Slapton Ley nature reserve to Sharkham Point, Brixham

Today’s distance walked – approx 29kms (18 miles).
Ascent – approx 1255m (4117ft).

I’m clean!! At time of writing I’m in a campsite sitting in my bikini top and rain pants having had a wonderful, free, hot shower. I’m waiting for all my other clothes to wash. It feels great after the creepy crawly past few days 🙂
In my rather public beachside wild camp spot I woke in the night to see flashing lights, which puzzled me. I poked my head out of the tent and it was the Start Point lighthouse, which I passed yesterday. I sat and watched it for a while, and thought about the ships which had been swept onto the rocky coast before the lighthouse was built.
I woke in the morning at 5am, packed up quickly, took a few photos of the incredible sunrise and headed off.

Magnificent sunrise from Slapton Sands
Magnificent sunrise from Slapton Sands

The toilets at the carpark I was camped next to were out of action, so I headed East towards Strete, and the nudist end of the beach a couple of Kms away. Thankfully the toilets here are open all night. A little beach shack (not open at 6am) provided tables and chairs directly on the beach, so I stopped to enjoy a fabulous breakfast of coffee and a huge raspberry and almond croissant. I bought the pastry yesterday from the bakery in Salcombe, and it’s definitely the best of the trip yet!

Blackpool Sands - Devon
Blackpool Sands – Devon

I left at 7.30am and climbed the switchback turns to reach Strete by 8am. I wandered through the village, then it was on to a stretch of farmland. The trail this morning was really well signposted. There were some big ups and downs already, and it was hot and humid.
I made my way down into Blackpool Sands – which couldn’t be more different than the one up North! It was a perfect bay, with hardly anyone there at 9.15am. The Venus beachside cafe had just opened, so I bought a full English breakfast and ate it outside on the beach without being plagued by seagulls. As I left, I asked the waitress whether my leftover jam would be kept or thrown away, and as it was going to be biffed, I poured it into my peanut butter pot. I now have pb&j for my oatcakes! I made use of all the facilities, and Blackpool Sands has the nicest public toilets so far – spotlessly clean, with the added bonus of music.

Breakfast time
Breakfast time

I left at 10.15am. The next little village I passed through was Stoke Fleming, and even though this was a road section, it was really beautiful and I enjoyed it. It was actually one of the very few flat-ish sections of today’s walk. After Stoke Fleming the trail crossed into National Trust land around Little Dartmouth and over farmland, giving excellent views of the large day beacon on other side of mouth of the river Dart. It was breezy on the little headland, and as I came closer to Dartmouth Castle. I was glad as there were some very steep hills on this section again and I was sweating as I trudged up them.

Into the river Dart and Dartmouth Castle
Into the river Dart and Dartmouth Castle

After the castle was a short but pleasant road walk into Dartmouth itself. Dartmouth is a very fine looking town, with tall, period houses on either side of the river, and a very busy harbour full of motor boats, yachts, ferries and car ferries. There’s even a steam train which runs along the opposite bank of the river Dart.

Dartmouth from Kingswear
Dartmouth from Kingswear

It was 12.30pm – time for an ice-cream and a bit of people watching. Dartmouth has a long naval history, but unfortunately like so many places on my hike, I didn’t have time to spend looking at any of the sights, or delving into the history.

Kingswear, opposite Dartmouth
Kingswear, opposite Dartmouth

I got the ferry across the Dart. Actually I wasn’t paying attention, and got the wrong ferry, back to the castle (oops). The ferryman dropped me over to Kingswear anyway after his usual drop-off, which was very kind of him. He had some strong opinions on the England football team’s semi-final loss, Brexit, Trump, the Trump balloon in London, and how London isn’t the real Britain – which couldn’t have been further from my own. But it wasn’t the time to start a debate on any of those topics, so I smiled and was grateful for the ride.
Once across the Dart in Kingswear there was a quick road walk on the other side. Unfortunately a small part of the trail was closed and there was a painful diversion up a huge flight of stone steps. I had filled up with water as I’d already drunk 1.5 litres this morning, so my pack was feeling pretty heavy again.

More steps
More steps

It was a LONG, hot, humid afternoon. The trail was beautiful, but from Dartmouth to Brixham the hills are relentless. It’s billed as ‘strenuous’ in the guide book, which I would absolutely agree with.

Near Mill Bay Cove
Near Mill Bay Cove

It was 1.45pm when I got to Mill Bay Cove, and I was hardly even out of the river Dart. I’d been texting with my buddy Steve this morning (who I’ve walked with a little over the past few weeks). He’s now a day ahead of me. I had contemplated stopping around Dartmouth, but he said I’d easily make it to Brixham today, so here I was… As I was going up the hills I was politely cursing him!

One of the steep downhill sections at Brownstone battery
One of the steep downhill sections at Brownstone battery
Steps - again!
Steps – again!

I reached Pudcombe cove at around 3.10pm, and it was signposted 4 miles to Sharkham Point, where I was staying tonight, as Steve recommend. My spirits lifted immediately! I had a 15 minute rest at the top of the next hill and ate some oatcakes with the peanut butter and jam mix. I honestly can’t describe how good it tasted, the fresh raspberry burst!! Food definitely tastes better when you’re hiking!

More beautiful, hilly coastline
More beautiful, hilly coastline

The hills continued… There were good views from Scabbacombe Head and beyond to the headland of Torquay. At one point I walked through a beautiful tunnel of butterflies near Man Sands, which was a nice experience in an otherwise difficult afternoon.

I reached the Upton Manor
campsite at 6pm, thankfully in time to buy some washing machine tokens! I showered, then washed all my clothes. In the evening it was bell-ringing practice at the local church… the sound of an English summer I’d forgotten about.
I went to bed an extremely tired tinytramper. As I climbed into my tent my knee cap was really painful. For the past couple of days I’ve not been able to put any weight on my right knee when I kneel on it. There is no pain other than that, but the knee cap is red hot, although it’s not swollen or bruised. I took an anti-inflammatory, and will assess tomorrow.

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