South West Coast Path 2011 – Day 1

Dartmouth to Torcross

With us booked on the 07:30 from Paddington, we have to be up early, and I opted to spend the night at my parents house where I could get the high speed train into St Pancras instead of an earlier train from home, coupled with a desperately tight crossing of London on the tube. But at £14 for a 20 minute journey, it’s not cheap. And to that I have to add a further £3 for the ferry crossing to Gravesend, which brings back memories of when we started the whole path in 2008 (then I took the ferry to get the train with my dad and brother because a recently discovered WWII bomb had disrupted all of the trains on my side of the river). This time though, instead of meeting the others in Gravesend, I walked the 4.5 miles to my parents house to warm the legs up.

I rose early, we made the train on time and our connections and were soon on the 3 hour ride to Newton Abbot. Still feeling the effects of my injury from Snowdonia, it was an uncomfortable journey and I was glad when we alighted at Newton Abbot then quickly crossed platforms for the local train to Paignton.

Once in Paignton, we had an hour to kill before our next train, so wandered around the shops and had a bite to eat, finding a sausage baguette for a bargain price of £1. We then queued up for tickets for the steam train, which to add authenticity (I suppose) took ages.

The steam train was surprisingly empty, at least at our end, and having done the reverse journey last year, it was uneventful. When we got to Kingswear we avoided the more upmarket ferry run by the train company in favour of the normal car ferry.

Having left my parents house just before 6am, it was now 1pm and we were just about to start walking, and it wasn’t much of a surprise that it was quite hard going, as we climbed out of Dartmouth, past the castle and onto Blackstone Point – stopping for lunch about a mile outside Dartmouth.

It felt worse as we rounded the point into Compass Cove and had to head inland up a hanging valley. In a light drizzle, this was a slog as we were also still getting used to our pack weights and warming up into the walk too, but eventually we regained the clifftop which we rode over Little Dartmouth to the Dancing Beggars (which we couldn’t actually see until we were well past them). Then we turned inland for a path into and through Stoke Fleming, emerging on the A379 on the other side of the village.

This took us down to Blackpool, not the one with the lights though – this one consisted of a beach and beach shop and nothing else. Then the worst climb of the day, steeply up a field on an inland detour around Matthew’s Point. And then we were on the cliffs for a short while before we came to Strete, with best views of the day back past Blackpool to the Dancing Beggars.

Strete came and went with a stretch along the main road before we descended steeply down to the start of Slapton Sands, which we slogged along over sand, shingle and odd patches on the tarmac. All 3 of us were glad to arrive at the B&B after what has been the hardest first afternoon yet.

Distance: 16.22 km
Ascent and Descent: 463m
Duration: 4hrs 10mins

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