Beating the tide

Stage 013 5th March: Salcombe to Mothecombe  22.5m

We woke at dawn to see a cracking misty sunrise from our farm field overlooking the bay at Salcombe (photo).


Today was all about getting to Wonwell Beach an hour either side of low tide to be able to wade across the estuary to Mothecombe. I knew it would it was 22 miles away, but was confident I could make it as I’d worked out that low tide was around 4pm. I wandered off from Salcombe before 8am to give myself plenty of time.

Spring had definitely sprung and this was my first shirt sleeve day. Rounding the headland up towards Bolberry Down the only company I had was sheep traffic ambling along the path ahead of me and everything was good in the world. Onto Hope Bay and it was noticeable that even with light seas the tide was still high enough for waves to break over the sea wall.

One big path closure close to Thurlestone Sands was a set-back. There was no forewarning and the indicated diversion meant back-tracking half a mile and a good few miles of detour. The local farmer clearly preempted most walkers by putting a huge ‘No Trespassing’ sign on his fence. But sod that. There was no way I was going the long way round. So I found a stone wall and crept along behind it till I could make a sprint for the road out of the gaze of a tractor working in the next field.

It was then a long haul up the Avon estuary to Aveton Gifford and back down a tidal access road to Bigbury on Sea. At this point I noticed that the tide was already a long way out and Mike send me a text to tell me that low tide was at 2:40pm. Now I had to step on the gas. I pressed hard for the next 9 miles over plenty of that hard black stuff known as tarmac and 3 big cliff climbs. By the time I reached Wonwell I was pretty much at jogging pace, it was 3:45pm and the tide was racing in.  Boots off I eased across knee-deep with the ice-cold water and sharp gravel underfoot painful yet strangely relieving. A foot inspection on the other side revealed that the rushing had pretty much trashed my right foot, which now sported three blisters and a swollen toe.  And just to top it – my head was now sporting the first sun burn of the year and I was beginning to resemble a Swan Vesta match.


Stage 14 6th March: Mothecombe to Wembury   18.6m

With a decent shower and camp site, the night was very refreshing and though the map showed that I wouldn’t progress West much today, I knew that the next estuary was another to walk inland to get around.  Overcast with a forecast of rain, the day started well with several boot adjusting stops to get my toes in a moderately comfortable position. Fortunately it was easy walking along a coastguard track to Noss Mayo and I spotted my first dream house tucked away high on the cliff (out of my price range I suspect).

From Noss Mayo / Newton Ferrers it was a trudge up the Yealm estuary to the A379 at Brixton before heading back down through increasing drizzle to Wembury and a meet with Mike who had enjoyed a few flagons of cider whilst sitting in the van sifting through my ‘head banging’ selection of CDs.

The evening saw future support driver Rob pop out from Plymouth to meet for a beer and inspect Snickers the bus. A rapid reorganisation of weekend plans offered us a bed and bath at Rob’s the following night – as if I’d refuse!


Stage 15 7th March: Wembury to Freathy   20.4m

Overnight heavy rain had left ominous low cloud hanging close to land, but within yard of the coastline the sky brightened and things looked up.

My feet felt good and heading round to Plymouth I met up with Rob at the Mount Batten ferry and we crossed together. The Glaswegian ferryman and only other passengers – a retired couple – took interest in my little quest and we chatted all the way across. At the Plymouth side the ferry fare was generously waived and the other passengers Clark (forename or surname?) and his wife kindly pressed £10 into my hand.

Rob took a few photos of me posing at various Plymouth landmarks as he gave me an ambling tour of the city and we stopped for an al fresco coffee on the hoe. Rob walked me as far as the Cremyll ferry and I continued in shirtsleeves through an easy woodland walk towards Whitsand Bay.


The sunshine seemed to bring the best out in people and as I sat eating my lunch I chatted to man and his family. We nerded together about the RAB shirt he was wearing. His teenage family clearly similar to mine in raising a collective raised eyebrow at the detailed research he’d performed before he decided to buy the shirt.  Further along, two women lay back on the grass across the path watching the navy ships out in the bay and we idly wasted ten minutes talking excitedly and easily about more things than just my walk.

At Whitsand Bay a Weimeraner came bounding enthusiastically towards me along the cliff path followed by a woman lurching slowly and very unsteadily. She then stumbled and fell infront of me. She was clearly dazed and as I picked her up I noticed blood on her face and hands. She vaguely told me that her dog had pulled her over and that she had fallen on her face and her glasses had broken. I broke out my first aid kit and cleaned the cut under her eye, but she was very unsteady and I suspected she would be sporting a shiner for a fair few days as her eye socket was badly bruised. I offered to help her back up the cliff path but she refused, so I stood for ten minutes and watched after her as she stumbled unsteadily but safely along the path and out of sight.

All in all – a cracking day Gromit! Though my red sunburnt head really does make me look like a Scotsman on holiday in Cyprus! With an overnight stop at Rob’s house and a rest day to look forward to, it was time for Mike to leave. A cousin I barely knew beforehand was one I had got to like immensely by the end of the week – which is fortunate as he’s coming back for another two driving stints! He was great company and again I am highly appreciative of the time given up to help me.



3 thoughts on “Beating the tide

  1. Hi Peter. Co-incidentally, unaware of you walk at the time, I also walked west on the coast path from Salcombe on 5th March. I too came across the unsigned dead-end just before Thurlestone Sands. The diversion was a nightmare, most of it along a long farm track that was at least ankle-deep in mud all the way, high hedges on either side. I wish I’d had the bottle to leap the fence and sneak around the back of that big house like you. I thought about it, the big barking dog in the garden was one of the reasons I decided against it.

    Best of luck to you for the rest of your journey, this is a fantastic blog, I’ll be following with interest. Gary.


    • Thanks Gary – and yes that dog and the open back door kept me from jumping the barbed wire fence – but there was a dry stone wall to sneak behind about 100 yards back up the hill. Cheers Peter


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