This one was always going to be a bit of a race against the clock or rather the sun and sunset. When I lived in Exeter I used to walk the coast of Torbay quite often, as it was not far to travel. However it is many years since I walked the coast, so long ago that I was last using a film camera! I therefore decided it was high time I returned, so drove down to Torquay Station (where I had a previous walk). I had a good journey and decided to park at the station, but the car park had temporary fences around it and whilst there was a gap, I wasn’t quite clear if it was closed for building work or if that was the gap for the public to use. In the end I quickly parked up in one of the 20 minute bays in front of the station to look for an alternative space. I headed over the station footbridge to see if there was a car park the other side of the station. It looked like there were a few spaces round the back, so I moved my car round there, and got the last remaining space. Best of all, it was free parking (or at least I couldn’t see a sign saying to pay, and I didn’t get a parking ticket).
I then headed off down to the sea front. It might be December but it was a glorious sunny day. I turned right and headed along the coast, with good views back to the town and ahead around to Berry Head.
The first stretch was road walking, but I headed down to Corbyn Head to briefly escape the road walking. Sadly it was soon back to the busy A3022, or at least the pavement alongside. I followed this for around half a mile and spotted a sign off to the bizarrely named Institute Beach, presumably named after an old building nearby. This was a dead-end, but it was still a small pleasant beach, and nice to escape the traffic fumes for a few minutes.
The road soon crossed the railway line and just after, at last, there was a South West Coast path sign heading into a park, but no sign after that. I spotted an arch under the railway and followed the path under it to a pleasant beach, with red sand and rocks behind it. This is Hollicombe Beach. I wondered it would be possible to walk along the beach, but couldn’t see a way off, so headed back to find the correct route.
I picked the tarmac path through the park which soon took me up to the railway line, which was crossed on a footbridge – just after which was another path up from the beach I had just passed. Ah well. The path took me around Hollicombe Head and then down to the promenade alongside Preston Sands, the northern of the two main beaches in Paignton. I had forgotten quite how close to the two towns are! I walked along the lower promenade behind the beach, although it being near high tide, there was not much of it. Ahead, the way was blocked by an unusual looking hotel, which the sea reached at the seward side, but it was soon back to the beach again, now Paignton Sands.
Paignton has a good sandy beach, backed by a low promenade with the red sands, characteristic of the local rock. It is quite a busy beach in the summer, but it being winter, it was much quieter today. I soon reached the small pier and as I usually do, I like to take a walk along it. I was pleased to note it was free, too. From the end I got a good view around the bay in both directions on this beautiful day. Sadly on this pier you are forced to walk through the arcade, but it’s not that big.
Back on the promenade, I turned left, passing some brightly painted hotels at the back of the green behind the beach.
At the end of the promenade I went under the arch between buildings to reach the small harbour at Paignton., I always seem to forget Paignton has a harbour, what with the large harbours and marinas in the towns either side, Torquay and Brixham.
Around the harbour I lose the official route again, following the wall on the south side of the harbour, where there is a fish merchants that looks quite busy on the right, but I see there are steps down onto the beach, so I take these. It’s a small beach, with coarse red sand and rocks.
However there are different steps a bit further along the beach, so I take these to get back onto the official route of the coast path. This brings me into a small park, at least I think it is, I was not entirely sure it wasn’t a private hotel garden! Anyway I walked through this back to the road and then into the gardens at the top of the cliffs. The path then drops down steeply on a zig-zag path down to Goodrington Sands. The path passes through nice gardens, which I remember having lots of flowers, but it’s a little less pretty today probably because it’s winter and all the flowers have died.
Goodrington is a large beach, with a park and large car park behind and one of the best beaches in Torbay. I had forgotten quite how many beaches there are in Torquay, with lots of small coves, some rocky, some sandy, rather than the large sweeps of sand that you get in most other resorts. I pass beside the Premier Inn to the main beach, which has a lot of sand and unlike the other beaches the tide doesn’t reach the back of the beach at high tide. It’s a nice beach and I take a slow walk along it, taking in the sea air. Behind is the Quaywest water park, which I imagine makes this rather noisy in the summer, but it’s quiet today.
At the end of the beach the path crosses the Paignton and Dartmouth steam railway and then runs alongside it. I was hoping a train would come past but it didn’t and being December I suspected it wasn’t running anyway.
However ahead there is a small path over a little bridge over the railway that leads to a couple of other little beaches. As I’m approaching this I hear the train, and manage to get a photo of it – as it’s going barely above walking pace.
It’s such a shame this line was sold and is no longer part of the main rail network, but it’s good to see it lives on as a private heritage railway. With the traffic congestion in Dartmouth, linked by Ferry to Kingswear, like so many, it seems a short-sighted decision. I head down to see the two beaches, then return to the coast path, as this is otherwise a dead-end path.
The path is squeezed in between the railway and houses for quite a while and then descends to a large caravan park, and back up the other side. Again it being winter, all is quiet at the caravan park too.
The path then keeps alongside the railway and beside houses to descend to a valley at Broadsands, another large and good sandy beach.
Heading down to the valley I turn left and am pleased to see a couple of horses and their riders walking on the path down to the beach, although glad they don’t leave any “deposits” on the path as I am following them. The path passed under the impressive Broadsands viaduct, carrying the railway line, and heads down to the promenade behind Broadsands beach, which lives up to it’s name. It’s another busy beach, which I suspect becomes packed in the summer, although it’s not so busy today. I head down onto the sands and walk along the beach – the one negative of this walk is it has been mostly tarmac which soon gets a bit hard on the feet.
At the end of the beach the path goes up over a grassy area, I think a golf course in summer, with a bit of a climb and then down to the next beach, which is quite a contrast.
One of the things that fascinates me about the coast is how the geology can change in quite a short distance. Broadsands had a red sandy beach, characteristic of the rocks nearby, but the geology is now changing to more solid granite, reflected in the fact the next beach I soon reach, Elberry Cove is a pebble beach, part backed by trees.
You would not know we are close to a town, since this is a lovely unspoilt beach, backed by trees with a little ruined castle at the end. Someone has made some artwork out of the debris washed up on the beach and some people (I suspect students) are enjoying throwing pebbles in the sea.
The path at the far end heads up, quite steeply initially, into the woodland and follows this out to Fishcombe Point. The woods last for around half a mile, but soon I get views back around Torbay. As I near the next beach, I can see the breakwater of Brixham harbour sticking out ahead, a sign I am getting close. First though I come to another shingle beach, Churston Cove.
It sounds like there is a party going on, as I can hear lots of loud voices. As I descend I realise it is people filming, in costume, but I don’t like to ask what. I walk behind the cameras along the beach, trying not to get into the film, but realise the sound of me crunching over the shingle is probably not what they wanted. Oops.
The path then heads up the valley past a couple of houses, one undergoing a lot of work, and then I take the path down to the next beach, another little shingle beach, this time all in shade due to the low winter sun. It is mostly rocky and I wonder if it was once a small harbour. There is a path up through a stone arch at the end of the beach, which I take to head through another small area of woodland, which then descends down to the path around the harbour on the edge of Brixham.
At first the path passes a car park and a boat yard and is rather squashed in between buildings, but soon opens out to reveal a good view of the harbour ahead. Brixham is a pretty town, the fishing harbour of Torbay, with brightly painted cottages packing the steep hills either side of the harbour. The town is very touristy however, with a replica of the Golden Hind and some dreadful looking themed place about Smuggling, it looks a bit like the London Dungeon, but in Torbay.
I head around the harbour and keep to the low path on the other side. This gives a good view back over the busy harbour.
Rounding the corner, boats continue, now with a large marina packed with boats.
In fact I continued the walk on to Man Sands, where I had to end because it dark but I covered that in my last post. It is an easy journey back to Torquay, with a regular bus service. This was an area I had not walked for some time, the previous time being around 15 years ago. Torbay is largely urban, a contrast to the walks I have done previously and generally don’t enjoy urban walking that much so I wondered if I might find it a bit dull. Happily though I found Torbay to be rather lovely, with a huge variety of beaches from wide sandy beaches like Broadsands and Goodrington to smaller pebble beaches like Elbury. It was a lovely and varied walk and I very much enjoyed re-visting this area. It is also a good walk for winter, since much of the path being tarmac it does not get too muddy.
Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk:-
Stagecoach 12 : Newton Abbot – Kingskerswell – Torquay – Paignton – Broadsands – Brixham. Every 10 minutes Monday – Saturday. Every 15 minutes on Sundays. It takes around 30 minutes from Brixham to Torquay Station (alight by the Grand Hotel) and a few minutes more to the town centre.