Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Beer Coast Walk

The latest walk up at the Devon Walks site is a short coastal walk starting from the town of Beer.

A shorter walk this is an ideal route for a sunny summer day to combine with time spent exploring the village or on the beach. The walk also returns to Beer via the entrance to Pecorama and the beer Light Railway, this is a great attraction and well worth stopping in for.

Beer is a very picturesque village with a strong fishing, and smuggling, heritage. In addition, the village has been sustained by the Quarry caves that have been in use as since roman times. The caves were only abandoned in the early 20th Century. The great caverns left behind are now open to the public, which offer a trip into history as well as into the Earth.

This walk also takes in the Hooken Landslide. This occurred around 1789 and was caused by the water draining through the porous chalk and greensands of the cliffs being held at the clay like rock below. Here the water is forced sideways causing instability the result of which is the dramatic slippage. At the time crab pots that had been set out at sea in 10 feet of water were found the next day 15 feet above the water due to a ridge in the seabed being pushed up by the movement.

This whole area is part of the Jurassic coast and is world renowned for its fossils. The landslip here exposed many sections of rock, which are still inspected by eager fossil hunters. As you head along the coast path, keep an eye out for the odd stray dino leg!

I hope you all enjoy this route that reminds me how scenic it is to go walking in South Devon


Image remixed with permission from http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/932052

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Cosdon Beacon Walk

A new walk is up at the Devon Walks site. This walk starts from South Zeal and shows off some of the best views of Dartmoor by visiting its second highest peak - Cosdon Beacon.

This area is a real treasure trove of early archaeology. There is a comprehensive article over at http://www.legendarydartmoor.co.uk/cosdon_beacon.htm that details all the sites of interest around Cosdon Beacon.

What strikes me is how the way we view Dartmoor has changed since the Bronze Age when many of the settlements and cairns were first established. To those people this was a rich area where it was possible to live a good life. Flint was available for making tools and the local flora & fauna were rich enough and diverse enough to sustain them.

Those people would have had an intimate knowledge of the land and today we speculate that the beacon had cultural significance to them due to the number of important sites here. To them this was home, a place to respect but also a place in which they were entirely comfortable.

Today we see Dartmoor as something of a wilderness, albeit one that has been tamed to a greater extent. In general, it is somewhere we would venture for a day out but the thought of staying out and sustaining ourselves off the land is incomprehensible. The frequent call outs for the moorland rescue team are a testament to how difficult we find it to stay safe out on the moor.

Over the years our standards of living have improved immeasurably and many of the skills need to survive have been lost. This is completely understandable, as we do not need to worry about our day-to-day subsistence any more. However, as we have become detached from the land and from nature we have lost a little of that connection that was so integral to our ancestors health and well-being.

I do not think it is necessary to abandon modern living and 'get back to nature' and nor do I deny that our lives today are longer, healthier and more enjoyable thanks to modern efficiencies. However, what I would suggest to those that walk in this area is to imagine what Bronze Age life was like. How special is the intimate knowledge of the land that most of us have lost and what can we learn from their lifestyle.

Finally, when you are enjoying the view from the top of the beacon be thankful for modern walking shoes, country pubs and the ability to drive home to a nice warm bed!

For more ideas on walking in Devon, please visit the site.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

A trip to Lydford Gorge


Recently I headed over to Lydford Gorge; somewhere I had been past before but not taken the time to stop. As usual, there are so many great opportunities for walking in Devon that it is hard to know which to do first!

  So eager was I to experience the gorge that I actually arrived at the National Trust car park half an hour before it opened. Nor was I the only one looking to make the most of the early morning sunshine. After changing into my boots, the doors were thrown open and in I went.

During the winter there is restricted opening of the Gorge to allow for essential maintenance work, so check opening times before you go. It also meant that the lower river path was closed to visitors, which was a shame for me but provides a reason to go back. As compensation, there is a reduced entrance fee, which felt very fair. 





I headed along the top path looking out over the steep wooded gorge. This is a fun windy path with lots of great views and the odd piece of woodcarving for added interest.

The path also performs a clever trick of disguising the waterfall from you so that as you approach it you don't get a sneak preview. Just before you descent to the waterfall you run alongside a fast flowing stream which feeds the waterfall. Here you can see it rushing towards the edge with no idea of the plummet it is about to experience.

There is a choice of two paths down to the waterfall- short & steep and long & gentle. We opted to go down the short and back up the long path. Had the river path been open you would only need to head down one of these paths.

The waterfall is quite spectacular. At first, it is hard to get a sense of scale, appearing quite small to begin with. However, as you stand below it you can feel the force of the water and realise just quite how powerful it is.

Along from the waterfall on the long & gentle path is the remains of an exploratory mine operation that is now home to several species of bat.

Overall, this was a very pleasant walk. It is not too strenuous and the National Trust facilities add a welcome bit of comfort for a leisurely Sunday morning coffee.

For walkers that are more adventurous there is a longer circular walk that takes in part of Dartmoor before returning through the Gorge over at the Devon Walks site.

Friday, 5 March 2010

A Trip to Hay Tor

Hay Tor is perhaps my favourite location on Dartmoor and home to some of the best Devon walks. The long views and range of interesting walks available from the starting location are what makes it so great to me. And who can resist taking the scramble up the roughly hewn steps to enjoy the view from the top of the tor.

Because of this I decided that a grey and windy February weekend was the ideal time to pack up a rucksack and go and enjoy a picnic at the tor followed by a walk out across the moor.

Arriving at the main car park the visitor centre was open and the many cars suggested that I wasn't the only one who fancied a yomp across the moor. It didn't feel too cold in the car park but once the boots were donned and we'd left the shelter of the low scrubby trees that back onto the car park it was clear that there was plenty of bite to the wind.

We headed up towards the tor and took shelter on it's lee side to enjoy our thick cut sandwiches and chocolate muffins. Having got a bit cold stopping to eat we headed off across the moor at pace to Smallcombe rocks passing one of the old quarries and the granite tramway that used to serve it. The small pond behind the tor was completely frozen over and with that wind showed no sign of thawing any time soon.

We returned to the car park via the tramway, marvelling at the craftsmanship of hewing the rough stone into tram tracks. We also enjoy the company of several Dartmoor ponies who set off at a graceful canter when one of their number was disturbed by a light aircraft.
It's moments such as these that remind you what makes walking in Devon such a special experience.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

North Devon Hospice - Walk for Life

More details about the North Devon Hospice Walk for Life event have been added to the charity walks in Devon page of the site. 

With 8 great walks being led by volunteers from HM Coastguard it is sure to be an interesting day out which will also help raise money for a great organisation. 

This year's list of walks looks great and in some ways it's a shame that you won't be able to take part in them all! For more information on this great event and to enter please head over to the event page on the North Devon Hospice website