Mount Batten

Mount Batten to Wembury – South Hams

We had such a lovely time in the South Hams at the beginning of the month that we decided to find a site a bit further along the coast and explore some more. For this visit, we stayed in the village of Down Thomas, about a mile from the South West coast path.

The walk to the coast path is downhill. Nothing new for us, and on our first night, we wanted to walk to Bovisand Bay. Unfortunately, there weren’t any footpaths that would take us to the coast path. Not without walking miles out of our way first. So we had to walk along a road with no pavement. This wasn’t a problem though as the road was pretty wide and there wasn’t a huge amount of traffic.

Reviews for the area mentioned that there was a steep walk back up the hill from the coast path. So we were expecting the road to be pretty steep. As it turned out there is a small part of the walk that is steep, the rest is pretty manageable.

Bovisands beachside holiday park, Plymouth, Devon, UK
Bovisands beachside holiday park, Plymouth, Devon, UK

Bovisand Beach is rocky at the top of the beach and this is the only thing you will get when the tide is all the way in. When the tide is out you have the most beautiful sandy beach. There is a pay car park on the far side of the beach, reached by climbing steps. In the car park is a little café. Dogs are allowed on this beach all year round.

When we reached the beach the tide was almost all the way in. So we let the dogs have a bit of time to play before walking a little way along the coast path. We didn’t go far as the coast path runs through a holiday village. And the next beach along dogs are banned all year around. We only went to walk the dogs and get an idea of what to expect when we set out the next day. So once we were satisfied we went back to our site for the evening.

Thursday

The day started out bright and sunny so with some excitement for the adventure ahead we set off. Heading for the coast path and a trip to Mount Batten. Although the sun was hot, we were at the top of a very windy hill. Therefore, we had started our day with light jackets. These were soon shed when we reached the bottom of the hill.

Our walk took us around the coast past Leekbed Bay and through a little, wooded path to Jennycliff. Most of the walk was pretty flat, with a series of steps to climb every now and then. However, at Jennycliff there are a set of pretty steep steps down the cliff followed by a short flat walk along a wooden walkway along the edge of the cliff, with beautiful views out to sea, before more steps that take you up to the top, at the other side. Coming out onto the cliff, is a plaque in the ground welcoming you to Plymouth. Which also asks you to wipe your feet. It puts a little smile on your face when you are feeling a little winded.

Welcome to Plymouth "Door mat" along the Southwest Coast Path, Plymouth, Devon, UK
Welcome to Plymouth “Doormat” along the Southwest Coast Path, Plymouth, Devon, UK

At Jennycliff there is a small pebble beach. Unfortunately, there has been some storm damage to the steps leading down to it. So access has been blocked. The actual cliff is a lovely grass area with benches facing the view. There is plenty of space for setting up a picnic. Although while we were there is seemed to be a very popular spot for dog walkers. There is also Jennycliff café set back towards the car park with outside seating. We had brought a picnic with us so didn’t try the café. It was very busy though on both occasions that we walked past it. Reviews say that they only accept cash.

We stopped here for our lunch and a look at the stunning views across Plymouth Sound. Eventually, we continued our walk around the coast to Mount Batten. We didn’t quite follow the footpath to the end as we got a little distracted by Fort Stamford. Which originally formed a chain of defences, that formed the Staddon Lines. This was a series of fortifications centred on Fort Staddon that were built in the mid-nineteenth century in response to the French re-armament. We were hoping to get a good look at it and maybe some history and photos. Unfortunately, we were quite disappointed to find it was now a fitness club.

Because we’d gone to look at the fort we decided to walk down the road to the marina by Plymouth Yacht Club. We picked up the footpath from there. Nik loves taking pictures of yachts so we did spend quite some time here before moving along.

Small yacht sailing up the Plymouth Sound, Devon, UK
Small yacht sailing up the Plymouth Sound, Devon, UK

Mount Batten is an outcrop of rock on a 600-metre peninsular in Plymouth Sound. Named after Sir William Batten an English naval officer and politician. After a 5-year refurbishment, Mount Batten now has a marina and a centre for sea sport. RAF Mount Batten Memorial Park can also be found on the peninsular. The Mount Batten Breakwater, also known as Mount Batten Pier and Cattewater Breakwater, built in 1881 by the Cattewater Commissioners was also refurbished and opened formally in 1995.

Nik particularly enjoyed walking the pier as he could get some fantastic photos of yachts playing on the water. We finished our day with a visit to Mount Batten Tower. In Medieval times this became an important defensive point for the settlement at Plymouth Harbour. Mouth Batten Tower, built in 1652 is 30-foot high circular artillery fort and is a scheduled ancient monument.

Mount Batten Tower, Plymouth, Devon, UK
Mount Batten Tower, Plymouth, Devon, UK

The history in just this small area is fascinating. After taking it all in it was time for us to retrace our steps back to our site. The sun stayed out for the whole day and by the time we reach Bovisand we were all rather hot. So we stopped off at the café and got us all an ice-cream to eat on the beach. Then let the dogs have a run around in the cool wet sand before making the final uphill climb of the day back to Daisy.

Friday

Again we awoke to beautiful sunlight, so warm for this time of year. Our plan was to walk through Down Thomas to the coast path and on to Wembury. Cutting off the part of the coast that goes through the holiday park. So we quickly got the boring job of washing and breakfasting out of the way, packed up our lunch and set off.

We weren’t entirely sure how long it would take us to get to the coast path. As we’d been suffering from a severe lack of internet reception at our site. Therefore, we couldn’t research as well as we’d have liked. Luckily there was a map on the wall of one of the buildings beside the pub. This showed us not only how to get to the coast path (besides heading downhill). But also, all the other footpaths in the area. I quickly took a picture just in case we get distracted along the route.

Discover Wembury Parish information board, Down Thomas, Devon, UK
Discover Wembury Parish information board, Down Thomas, Devon, UK

It was only a short walk through the village to the path. And then an equally short walk before reaching Heybrook Bay which was overlooked by a very nice looking pub with outside seating. It was a shame it was so early on in our walk. We could have been tempted to ignore our packed lunches and pop in for lunch. We followed the path around the bay to the beach at Wembury Point. Which was part of the Royal Navy shore establishment HMS Cambridge, formally named HM Gunnery school, where they used to teach gunnery. There was very little left from it’s past but it did have a lovely view across the water to The Great Mewstone.

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The Great Mewstone stands about half a mile out from Wembury Point and is the largest offshore island for many miles along the South Devon coast. Owned by the National Trust, there is no public access. The Great Mewstone is rich in wildlife and is an important conservation area. In 1744 a local man was found guilty of a minor crime and sentences to be ‘transported’ to the island for seven years. He stayed there with his family for the entire time. His daughter known as ‘Black Joan’ remained on the island, married and raised her children there. (Information from National Trust information board).

We continued on past fields with wild horses in until we came to Wembury Bay. Here we found a footpath leading into the village, which we never got to, in the end, a dog-friendly beach, public toilets, a marine centre, church and a café.

Old Mill Cafe, Wembury, Devon, UK
Old Mill Cafe, Wembury, Devon, UK

The Old Mill Café is just off the beach in the building that, as the name would suggest, used to be a mill. The mill, which is at least 150 years old, was originally the corn-grinding mill for the manor and later developed into a small farm with barns and a cottage. A stream that ran down the valley into the sea powered the mill. It fell into disuse during the 1890s and it’s though that its wheel was melted down for munitions during the First World War. The mill had become a café by the Second World War. Four of its stones can be found outside the café.

Saint Werburgh Church sits on a hill just above the bay and has been standing for more than 1000 years. There are many interesting items if stained glass and woodwork. These include the St. Werburgh window dating from 1886, the Fisherman window from the early 20th century. Parts of the roof in the south aisle are original medieval timbers.

St. Werburgh's Church, Wembury, Plymouth, Devon
St. Werburgh’s Church, Wembury, Plymouth, Devon

Once we’d visited all of the above and read all the information boards we decided to continue along the coast path to the ferry point along the River Yealm that overlooks the fisherman’s cottages. The walk so far had been mostly flat and was such a lovely walk that we weren’t yet ready to turn inland. It was a lovely walk along a beautiful stretch of the coastline on a most stunning day. Once we reached the ferry point, the tide was out so we had to wander along the shore. It gave the dogs a chance for a little off lead wander and Nik was in his element photography Yachts.

We stopped here for a late lunch before starting our journey back. When we were in Wembury one of the information boards showed a footpath through fields past Langdon Court and back to Down Thomas. So as it was such a stunning day we decided to take this route. This turned out to be the strenuous part of the day.

The path we followed was about 4 miles back to our village through fields with long grass, up hills (as Down Thomas was at the top of a hill), through fields with cows and past a farm dog that decided to see us off the property, even though we were on a public footpath, ha-ha. We did get an idea for where to walk the dogs on Saturday morning when we were almost at the end of our walk. We were definitely happy to be back at the end of the day, all thoroughly worn out but feeling very content with what we’d achieved for the day.

River Yealm with Newton Ferrers behind, Devon, UK
River Yealm with Newton Ferrers behind, Devon, UK

Saturday

It was the end of our little adventure for this week and we had promised to visit Nik’s parents on our way back to Cornwall so we just wanted to give the dogs a nice little walk before setting off. Nik had seen a footpath sign the day before that leads across a couple of fields to the other side of Down Thomas and leads in a circular route back to our site.

So we set off across the fields. Although there was nothing in any of the fields they were all circled with electric fencing, which because it was damp with dew we could here were turned on. The last field the electric fencing was attached to a pole beside a metal gate, which we had to open to leave the field. Nik grabbed the gate and swung it open for us all to go through. As he did so, despite my early warning to be careful of the electric fence he managed to catch the gate with it. The count is now at 3 for a number of times he has touched an electric fence in the last 6 months. He will never learn.

For more blogs about our adventures, click HERE

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