Day 20 – Exmouth to Maidencombe

We woke up to drizzle. It wasn’t meant to be drizzling but here we were. Tarrant said I’d angered the weather gods because I said yesterday’s rain felt like they couldn’t be arsed. It’s not my fault the weather gods are lazy and didn’t manage to fit all of yesterday’s rain into 24 hours.

Mincing about in the drizzle as I had my morning wee was a little fox. We just sort of stared at each other for a bit. I couldn’t do much else mid-flow to be fair. It was wary, but not “run for the hills, the bipeds are here!” wary.

We learned a little bit about the rocks we were teetering along the top of today. The cliffs around here and definitely since Sidmouth are this incredible red colour. So it turns out that this whole area used to be desert, and it used to be south of the Equator millions of years ago. This was the Triassic period, we’re talking pre-dinosaur shit here. I can’t even comprehend that sort of time but to be fair I can barely comprehend last week.

The Geoneedle. It’s meant to represent the different rocks exposed along the coast.

But the sand was rich in iron minerals, and these cliffs are ancient sand and mud compressed over millennia, and they’ve literally gone rusty hence the colour. I could bang on about this for hours but I’ll leave it there. It’s definitely worth taking the time to stop and read information boards as you walk this section though, you learn so much interesting shit.

Today’s fun should have included a ferry. We’d agreed before we’d even set off on this mission that this wasn’t a pure walk, we’d take ferries that were official parts of official trails, or if the alternative was a dull as shit walk around then a ferry would also be permissable. So the Exmouth to Starcross ferry was off the water on account of overdue maintenance and the only other option apart from a train was a 14 mile walk around, and opinion was divided on whether it was “quite a nice walk actually” or just an absolute hell loop.

This is where we would have caught the ferry from if the ferry were running.

Fuck it. We caught the train. If you were going to get transport from point to point anyway, as long as you hit those points it’s not cheating. And even if it was it’s our walk and we’ll do what we want. If I wanted to strap a racoon to each foot and ride them around the rivers I damn well would. It turned out to be an hour’s journey, which meant we got to be warm and dry for that whole hour. That alone was worth the train fare. Tarrant got a good nap in, which half the train knew about on account of the fact she snores like a fucking sawmill.

There were some flat bits today too, a few stints along sea walls with signs advising you not to try it at high tide. The tide must have been fine, we got through with dry feet. We relished those flat bits because the rest of it was lumpy as fuck. The worst thing about the sea wall was the drop to the left as you walked along it, but I’m not sure what would be worse out of the drop or the sand you’d land on. Nothing adds insult to three broken ribs and a dislocated shoulder than getting sand in all of your holes as your pride washes out to sea, never to be seen again.

The good thing about not finding anywhere to camp until really quite late after panic started to set in and we genuinely considered breaking into disused mobile homes at the holiday park, we covered a lot more ground than we intended to. We didn’t need to be in Torquay until tomorrow, but we didn’t want to get too close to the town either because camping in a bus shelter by the main road didn’t sound like any manner of fun.

At least the Teignmouth to Shaldon ferry was running.

We just took it easy when we got to Teignmouth. We found the Costa and relieved them of some electricity for our powerbanks. I’m usually up for shopping more locally but Costa has an abundance of plug sockets and space and I tend to feel less guilty about hogging a table for two hours as I drag out two cups of tea as long as I can. The smaller cafés need that turnover, they can’t have unwashed hikers taking up their tables. It was nice being warm and dry for a couple of hours but tea races through me faster than you can say “diuretic” so it’ll be fun diving into the gorse for several pisses later on.

Cheeky little water top up. I wouldn’t attempt this in British waterways without a decent filter.

We took the ferry over to Shaldon from Teignmouth because it’s a proper part of the trail and we’re allowed to. The walk around isn’t too obnoxious if you miss the ferry or just feel like walking but I figure we had plenty of walking ahead of us and who are we to do the boatmen out of their £2 per person? You meet some fab people on ferries too, plus it gives you a chance to answer all the questions about your backpack and people tell you you’re an inspiration and stuff. Good for the ego, ferries are.

These hills are very pretty but certainly not conducive to a nice, flat camping spot.

We had to walk up some insidious hills after Shaldon but with great hills come great views. They were really quite awful hills though and you do get to the point you wish they’d just bloody stop so you could experience normal breathing again. Unfortunately great hills don’t come with very many ideal spots to stick a tent for the night. We didn’t want to walk until too late so we said we’d nab the first acceptably slopey spot we could. Perhaps we’d have to readjust our definition of acceptably slopey. Fuck it. We broke all the rules of wild camping by pitching about 15 metres from the trail at 6.30pm, and shovelled some food into our chops.

Yeah, that’s really as slopey as it looks.

Tonight’s culinary delight consisted of those pre-packaged cooked chicken tits, and I was experimenting with instant mash with a packet of minestrone Cup-A-Soup stirred in to add something resembling flavour for the stodge section of my meal. It looked like an absolute abomination but it filled a hole. God I can’t wait to get to Torquay and eat real food.

Day: 20
Day on South West Coast Path: 10
Distance walked today: 13.68 miles
Total walked so far: 306.3 miles
Weather: Odd drizzly patches but mostly just grey. Not cold though, and no wind.
Coldest temp last night: 10.56°C inside / 8.56°C outside
Trigs bagged: 0
Trigs to date: 29
“Have you read ‘The Salt Path?'” (Running Total): 5

Jump to “Useful shit to know…”

Exmouth, Devon to Maidencombe, Devon, England

Stayed at: Wild camp in a field about a mile before Maidencombe

Useful shit to know…

  • The Teignmouth to Shaldon ferry does operate all year but less so in winter. There’s no timetable, just a start and finish time and they just go back and forth. Their Facebook page has all the info you need. It was £2 each at the time of writing.
  • The Exmouth to Starcross ferry usually runs every day from April to October but do check their Facebook page for cancellations and disruptions. The train is the accepted alternative when it’s not running.
  • There’s only one platform at Exmouth and every train terminates at Paignton it seems. Do check which train you need though as only the trains leaving at ten to the hour stopped at Starcross. It was £8.10 each at the time of writing.
  • There are several toilets in Exmouth but some are seasonal. There are also toilets by the train station in Starcross, seasonal toilets at Dawlish Warren, and more in Dawlish, Teignmouth and Shaldon.
  • We filled up our water from the tap outside Rockfish in Exmouth. You pass plenty of businesses that you could ask for refills today.

BUDGET for one person (based on two sharing)
Lunch at Costa, Teignmouth: £7.33
Groceries: £5.70
Postage for Tarrant’s shoes: £2.73
Train, Exmouth to Starcross: £8.10
Teignmouth to Shaldon ferry: £2
Grand Total: £23.13

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