A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Saturday, 8 December 2012

South West Coast Path. Day 5: Salcombe To Slapton

At 8.00 am Monday 19 November I breakfasted at Captain Morgan's café on Salcombe seafront. The weather forecast did not look good. The ferry was running (hey, that's a first!) — it was a small dinghy with an outboard motor — and I was soon safely across the river. I was the only passenger. The short trip to East Portlemouth had been choppy and I was glad to disembark. 

The path to the coastguard lookout at Prawle Point and the lighthouse at Start Point was long, rugged and arduous.  

I'm not good with too much exposure and at times felt giddy with vertigo. 

Despite the lashing wind and rain I felt I had a duty to my blog readers to record the day. 

The trail clung obstinately to the rim of the cliff tops, winding up, down and around, then up, down and around again. Then again.

And always the sound of roaring waves crashing against the rocky shoreline. And sometimes the sight of floating spume flung up from below, then flecking the path like soapsuds.

There was so little colour on this grey and stormy day that these remnants of yellow gorse flowers were a brief and pathetic source of consolation.

The photograph below is my favourite, and I think it captures everything about this challenging stage of the walk. I'm calling it 'The Devil's Cauldron'.

Can you spot the remote coastguard lookout at Prawle Point? It was at this point I put my camera away. It was just too difficult synchronising brain and freezing fingers to a backdrop of face-whipping winds, rain squalls and soaking spray.

But not before I'd managed to shoot a green field full of sheep from behind this stone wall — a temporary haven of tranquillity.

Eventually the gradients lessened and I dipped down to Hallsands, Beesands and Torcross. (In Beesands I had a late lunch at the Cricket Inn and ate one of the best sandwiches of the trek — thick slices of locally-sourced ham wedged in a huge floury cob with homemade coleslaw. Washed down with a pint of regional bitter. Naturally.)

Then it was a late-afternoon slog to Slapton with the road on my left and the restless sea on my right. The rain still poured. My spirits sank again. I passed Slapton Ley Nature Reserve and Slapton Ley Field Centre and finally located the spooky, secluded Tower Inn just as dusk was falling...  


Ruth said...

As magnificent as these scenes are, I really feel sheepish that you went to such lengths to document your trek to the cauldron. But then you got to the haven of tranquility, and I felt it was worth it.

Seriously though, were you the only person out there?

Something doesn't feel quite right about anything being so beautiful that was that brutal to you.

dritanje said...

What an incredible journey, alongside that heaving sea, in such bitter weather. Well done! I'm glad your sense of duty to your blog friends spurred you on, I for one appreciate it, I'm sure we all do. I enjoy so much seeing sea views, any sea, any mood - thanks!

The Solitary Walker said...

I was the only person walking the entire length of that section on that day, Ruth. To be honest, I don't think anyone else would have been so crazy. But it was magnificent, as you say, and I will never forget it. Raw nature is beautiful, but often remorselessly brutal too, isn't it?

Thanks for joining me on this windswept ride, dritanje! Though I think I've had enough of heaving seas for a while.

George said...

Well done, Robert. I think I may have been inclined to hang it up for the day after that fine lunch. That said, I'm often challenged by circumstances like these to test the metal, so to speak.

Rubye Jack said...

When I was in California I used to walk the Marin/Sonoma beaches a lot and these pictures look much like the Sonoma/Mendocino beaches and they also can be very cold in the winter, but the thing is it always would feel so good once back indoors. There's such a sensible peace in all that majesty. I'm glad you were able to get these pictures as it brings back some nice memories for me.

The Solitary Walker said...

I had to continue, George - as I'd booked my accommodation for the night several miles further on!

Thanks for this, Rubye. You touch on something interesting here. That we do all this so the simple half-hour's lunch break — with its warmth and shelter, food and drink and comfort — seems truly earned, and attains a tremendous significance, and reaps a kind of hard-won joy.

What Remains Now said...

Incredible photos. I enjoy following along.

Goat said...

We appreciate your noble sacrifice in the interests of getting the story told! It was worth it, these are great pictures - but yes, there comes a time when its just too much trouble to keep the camera dry and the fingers un-gloved.

That sandwich sounds excellent.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for following, What Remains Now.

BTW, Goat, I've been meaning to ask you — how do you carry your NEX on treks?