Sunday, 5 February 2017

Our Last Day on Dartmoor, Then on to Dawlish Warren

Our Last Day on Dartmoor, Then on to Dawlish Warren

Monday 30th January 2017

Oh dear, another day of ☔ rain, but the weather man said it would get better towards afternoon, however that didn't quite happen!  But after being stuck with T4rdis2's very pleasant interior all day yesterday, we/I had a little dose of cabin fever and felt we would just have to wrap up in our waterproof gear and go out regardless - and in particular, I wanted to go up onto the high moors again.  Therefore, possibly against the more sensible person in our group's better judgement, we left the campsite just before 2pm  and headed up the road to a footpath that would take us over the moors to a trig point high up at  Cox Tor.

Now, down low at our campsite the mizzle and mist weren't too bad, but as we gained height it got quite eerily worse, and most of the life forms we could see just appeared as ghostly shadows that seemed to be watching us!  I'm sure if these chaps  could have spoke they may have said something like

"What are those 2 silly buggers doing up here on a day like this"

and we certainly didn't see any other walkers on our travels!

Anyway, undeterred we carried on over wet squelchy moorland that slowly rose - but with no target in sight because it was obliterated by the murk - we just had to rely on John's built in Sat Nav, and of course his trusty Samsung GPS maps!

I thought the view from the top might be better!

But then as we got higher up the scree and rocks underfoot became muddier and slippery requiring extreme care to prevent landing on a delicate part of our anatomy ,  and then because I wanted to have a quick look at a non existent view we become separated!

Hey, Wait for me!
We were a soggy pair!

But eventually we made it to the top together for a quick selfie at the trig point before starting our downhill treacherous trek home for a hot shower and warm cuppa.  And in the end we agreed that we were glad we went out because it gave us the opportunity to see Dartmoor in one of it's more sinister complexions!

Tuesday 31st January 2017

This morning we left Dartmoor and headed over to our next destination which was to be the huge site of Cofton Country Park, a place we had chosen because it offered pitches through the ACSI scheme - thus reducing our fee to the equivalent of 17 euros per night๐Ÿ˜€.  The distance we had to travel was only about 50 miles, so even with a refuelling stop for T4rdis2 and a restocking stop at Exeter Aldi for us, we were there in time for a late lunch and a stroll out.  Our pitch is on the edge of the park in a brand new area that would fit about 60 vans in, but at the moment we are only sharing with bout 12 others so there is plenty of space for everyone, and there are also additional pastimes available in the form of a pub for Sunday lunch, a games room and a large indoor pool, so if we get board of our usual pastimes, or if we get rained off, at least we'll have alternatives if we choose to use them.

For our walk we escaped from the park via a back gate that led directly onto a lane that took us towards the small  hamlet and harbour of Cockwood which lies on the west side of the Exe Estuary between the villages of Starcross and Dawlish Warren.
Cockwood's  harbour is tidal and at the time of our visit was empty so not displayed in it's best light, and therefore we were soon looking for something else to interest us.  This came in the form of 2 old Devon pubs that had recently won awards for their beer, and as we'd never intended to walk far today you can guess what we did ๐Ÿบ๐Ÿ˜€.  Our only dilemma was which one to choose - should it be the The Ship or should it be The Anchor?  In the end the latter won out and we soon found ourselves nestled on an old pew in it's atmospheric confines with 2 pints of Dartmoor Jail Ale and lots of quaint sea faring memorabilia and artefacts for us to browse while we supped.    The pub is reputedly over 450 years old and was originally opened as a Seaman's Mission, and like many other old buildings, it is said to have a ghost ๐Ÿ‘ป who wanders with his dog ๐Ÿ•. We didn't see anything spooky but on one of the walls there was a hangman's noose and a cat-of -nine- tails - I'm not sure if that would be enough to put me off my  'a la carte' dinner, the production of which is the main business of the establishment now.

Wednesday 1st February 2017 (white๐Ÿ‡s)

This morning, after studying the Met Offices' predictions for the next few days we decided to go out on our bikes as this was likely to be our last opportunity until the weekend.  This was because a weather warning had been issued, and although today looked as if it would be ok until about 3ish, after that lots of ๐ŸŒง with gale force winds and more๐ŸŒง were likely to be on the way.

So today we chose to cycle along part of  The Exe Estuary Trail, but before we got to that we had to pass by Powderham Castle where the Earl of Devon lives and then through the hamlet of Starcross.  While we were there we learnt that the village has played an important roll in the life of the Exe Estuary for centuries because the wide course of the river along side the village - the Bight - was an off loading point  for cargoes destined for Exeter and Topsham.  It was also from here that a ferry is known to have been operating since the 14th century, and even today that tradition is still maintained - but only in the summer months.

Starcross's other claims to fame are associated with the 19th century engineers Brunell and Peacock. Captain George Peacock of the Royal Navy originated in this area and was famous for his work related to the construction of the Panama Canal, and also  his contributions  in converting salt water to drinking quality. Isambard Kingdom Brunell constructed the South Devon 'Atmospheric' Railway that ran along side the Estuary frontage.  Now I thought 'Atmospheric' was to do with something creepy๐Ÿ‘ป but John explained that an Atmospheric Railway used differential air pressure to provide power for propulsion of a railway vehicle ๐Ÿš‚. However, the innovative system failed after only a few years but the line is still there and became part of today's rail link between London and the South West beyond Exeter.

Anyway, that's enough history and I'll get back to the story.  From Starcross we soon found ourselves on the Exe Estuary Trail - a route that provides an uninterrupted cycle and walk way on both sides of the Estuary, and that could have facilitated a circular ride. However, to get home we would have needed to take advantage of the ferry crossings, but as I  said earlier, it was closed for winter.  So this resulted in us doing a 'there and back' on our side of the water which provided a ride of about 28 miles - a distance that suited us just fine.

The Trail  was also very easy to follow, because along with a continuous tarmac path, it was way-marked with decorative signs that have been sculpted to mimic the unique shape of the Estuary and the sand spit at Dawlish Warren.

Along our way there were lots more information boards that provided historical facts, as well as loads of info about the importance of the area in relation to migratory birds who visit each year.   Nowadays the Estuary is recognised Nationally and Internationally as a Sanctuary for large colonies and varieties of sea and water edge birds - we learnt that up to 23000 wild fowl and wading birds travel to the Estuary from the far north to escape the cold winter. They start arriving August and stay until late March and some travel from as far away as Siberia. However, unfortunately we'd forgotten our binoculars so we could only view them in the distance.   But, that couldn't be said of the swans, geese and gulls who seemed to be resident on the Exe as we entered the city - there were hundreds of them - many of which were quite keen to share our picnic!

After lunch by the river, we decided that rather than going into the city itself (we'll save that for a trip without our bikes) we'd start our homeward journey, because so far we'd been very lucky and only experienced occasional splatterings of rain.  However,  heavy downpours, along with strong winds that were already noticeably picking up were forecast for the late afternoon.   Therefore,  our new mission was to get back before they struck, and even though we dawdled with a coffee and cake break while we watched some learner canoeists, we made it  - but once again only just, because within 5 mins of being in the rain was banging on our roof!

Thursday 2nd February 2017

Another very windy night!  But the morning dawned dry with short bursts of ๐ŸŒž so we soon settled on walking for our day's entertainment.  Our planned destination was Dawlish Warren Nature Reserve, a route which in total would be about 9 miles and one that took us out over the sand dunes and along a 1.5 mile sandspit that lies across the mouth of the estuary.

However, when we first arrived we weren't sure if we were going to walk or swim because much of the entrance was covered in muddy water!

Dawlish Warren
But we crossed safely and we were soon walking through deep sand overlooking the beach and the old groynes that have helped with erosion control over the last couple of centuries.

Sadly, many of them are worn out and broken, and  Dawlish Warren beach is now involved in a scheme to replace and refurbish 14 of the timber groynes, and to reface the beach with further sea defences. Without these interventions extreme coastal erosion would take place in the near future (2030), leading to a permanent breach of the Spit/Neck which is the narrowest section of Dawlish Warren, and in time this would result in a huge rise in water levels within the Estuary itself.  The information boards informed us that the work will therefore reduce flood risk to over 2800 properties in Exmouth and the Estuary communities, as well as to the main railway line into South Devon and Cornwall.

However, even though all this work was going on it didn't take anything away from the raw beauty of the place on this windy overcast day.  The slate grey sea was crashing up onto the beach despite the fact that the tide was on it's way out, but we hadn't realised quite how rough the day was until we noticed this picture of Dawlish town in today's Times!  It must have been quite scary being a passenger on that train, especially in view of what happened to the railway line a couple of years ago!

Our walk over the dunes took a couple of hours, so by the time we got back to the 'civilised' part of the beach front we were cold and hungry, therefore it didn't take much persuasion for us to pop into The Boat House for a burger and a pint while we continued to watch the waves crashing up onto the shore.

Friday 3rd February 2017

Today there was another Met Office Weather warning for high winds and torrential rain, so after our exertions of the last few days we decided another duvet day would be in order.   But we haven't been altogether lazy - both of us have spent a good part of the day editing and generally trying to improve our blog site.  Usually, I do most of the writing and then John 'proof reads' it and hopefully corrects most of my mistakes.

However, today he has spent his time sorting out and mapping our 'stopping places'.  On the 'toolbar' at the top of the page there is now a button marked 'Campsites and Aires', and on that page there is a link that will take you to a map where all our recent campsites are marked.   This is definitely a work in progress, but in the near future, we hope to identify most of the places where we have stopped since we started this venture, and eventually we plan to add photos and our own reviews along with pricings etc. - (that is if we can remember them all!)

Also, we've taken the time to make a nice healthy warming beef stew and dumplings in our slow cooker ready for tea later, and presently the lovely aroma that is rising form the pot is almost making us drool๐Ÿ˜.

Saturday 4th February 2017

Well what a difference a day makes - yesterday it was lashing down with rain and blowing a hooley, and today it was wall to wall sunshine until about 4.30pm but then more torrential ☔, but by  time it arrived we were back from our little outing๐Ÿ˜€.

So where did we go?  We left T4rdis2 on our ๐Ÿšด and peddled our way along the cycle trail to Dawlish where we were particularly looking for the Australian Black Swans.  We'd read that they'd been introduced here in 1896 - apparently Mr Dart, the fishmonger of Beach Street had brought them as a present to the town, and since then they have populated The Brook - a small tumbling stream that runs through York Gardens.  And we weren't disappointed, we only managed to spot one adult swan but there were several cygnets along with lots of less rare ducks!

So following our photo stop we remounted and continued on our way to Teignmouth, but for this section of our ride we had to scoot along on the main road for about 3 miles, however the coastal views were quite stunning, and once we arrived in the town we found a lovely promenade and walkway by the railway line, so our journey had been well worth while.

Once we were in the town our first priority was finding a place to stop for coffee so we dismounted and waked along the sea wall (๐Ÿšซ๐Ÿšด) to the East Garden where we paused for said drink and ๐Ÿซ.  We then retraced our steps and followed the prom to it's end at the mouth of the River Teign which arises in the peat bogs of Dartmoor and flows for 61 miles before emptying into the ocean. From here we couldn't really go any further without more road riding so as it was nearing 1pm we about turned and decided to find somewhere for lunch while the sun was still providing it's warmth.

We settled in the Den which is a sea front area that runs for several hundred yards and it is also the place from where the Pier that dates from 1865 originates.  The Den can trace it's history back to the 1800s and was used for a variety of actives which included donkey and ๐Ÿ–(pig) races, along with penny farthings competitions!

Later, during World War 2 it was also used for firing rockets at the enemy, and today it provides an area for play and leisure, and of course it also caters for diners like us with lots of benches along it's way!

After lunch it was back up the long long long  hill  and then a Swoosh  down the other side back into Dawlish, and once  there we didn't need any persuasion to pause in York Gardens again to finish our coffee. Then as the day was still youngish, (3ish) we nipped onto the sea wall at Dawlish Warren to pass a little more time in the ๐ŸŒž๐Ÿ˜Ž before we went home (and once again we only just beat the very heavy rain).

Sunday 5th February 2017

Cycle bridge over railway lines on Exe Trail - Just gentle staged
ramps to get to the top.
John is the little blue blob in top left corner!
Today we decided to cycle out along the Exe Trail again, but instead of going all the way along into Exeter we crossed over the River at the Lift Bridge and then backtracked along the opposite bank.  This part of the trail led us through the historic town of Topsham which was once a busy port and ship building centre, and is now a thriving holiday destination.   However, on this cold cloudy Sunday, we just found a sleepy little hamlet, but one that did retain it's maritime flavour with scattered memorabilia to be seen as we passed through it's narrow lanes where numerous residences, specialist shops, pubs and other eateries vied for space.

Then after that we were soon back on the Trail, but in many places we found ourselves riding on long sections of raised boardwalk that doubled as bird hides as we crossed the marshes.  And then finally we rolled onto the very pretty and well cared for esplanade of Exmouth, and this was where we stopped off for lunch - luckily in a seafront shelter that protected us from the bitingly cold wind.  

View across the Estuary towards Powderham Foley

Our ride today was about 34 miles, and although we enjoyed it, it wasn't quite as good as when we'd ridden on the other side of the Exe on Wednesday because in many places our views were obscured.  This, along with the cold made us decide to use our batteries more to speed our journey home, however we hadn't recharged before setting off so it was a real eeeeeeek to get back (John just 1 mile left on the clock!).

Anyway that's about it for this week - we've got 4 more days here that I'm sure will include more walking and cycling, but to find out what we get up to you'll have to read the next instalment.
Bye for now ๐Ÿ˜˜