Monday, 17 June 2013

Barnstaple to Appledore - Walking the South West Coast Path

Detail from board on Tarka Trail
I had friends visiting over the weekend so I had a couple of days off the trail. Today however I wanted to get a bit more walking under my belt. By now I took it for granted that Mick would be coming along too, and had given up any ideas of doing the walk alone. In truth I quite enjoyed having his company. Most of the time anyway.

The route consisted for the most part of a walk along the tarmaced Tarka Trail from Barnstaple to Bideford, ex-railway line which makes a great cycle track but is rather less interesting for walking. After Bideford we would be doubling back and heading along the opposite side of the river to Appledore.

Subway, Barnstaple
Butcher's Row, Barnstaple

First stop in Barnstaple was Butcher's Row for provisions after which we headed off across the medieval Long Bridge and onto the Tarka Trail. Drizzle turned into rain proper as we headed down the trail. The tide was out and only a trickle of water ran between the biscuit coloured sand banks that stretched across the estuary.

On the Tarka Trail
At Fremington Quay we stopped at the visitor centre and cafe, built on the site of the old station and in a style that imitates the station that would once have stood here. So this was where all the cyclists and walkers were! The path had seemed almost deserted but the cafe was packed with people huddling out of the rain. Looks like another British summer is here. Mick said summertime in Britain is like the English football team, it always turns up and there is hope that it will be different this time, but it never fails to disappoint. We stayed for over an hour enjoying a pot of tea and reading the papers. Before we left I climbed the stairs to 'the lookout', built to look like an old signal box with magnificent views across the estuary. After Fremington the trail passes alongside Home Farm Marsh and Isley Marsh nature reserves after which the coast path parted company with the track and meandered off around East Yelland Marsh. It was a relief to lose the tarmac from underfoot for a while and we had the place to ourselves, there was not another soul in sight. Every now and again we would pass an old jetty where hulks of long forgotten ships rusted in the sand, and the site of East Yelland Power Station, now demolished. At Instow we crossed a small cricket ground and passed a small beach before finding ourselves on the old railway line once more. The old station was attractive with old milk churns and bunches of pink valerian decorating the platform.
Fremington Quay

Rust in peace
Long Bridge, Bideford

Torridge Bridge, Bideford

A mile farther on we came to East-the-Water and crossed The Long Bridge -  like Barnstaple's bridge it is a medieval bridge, with 24 arches of different sizes and arrived in Bideford, Charles Kingsley's 'little white town', and birthplace of my grandmother.

All who have travelled through the delicious scenery of North Devon must needs know the little white town of Bideford which slopes upwards from its broad tide-river paved with yellow sands, and many-arched old bridge where salmon wait for autumn floods, toward the pleasant upland on the west.

Westward Ho!

Across the bridge we started off along the opposite bank and at the end of the quay we passed a statue of the author who penned Westward Ho! while living in the town. After passing through a small housing estate and under the enormous new bridge, the path soon headed into woodland before re-emerging near the enormous Babcock shipyard on the edge of Appledore.

Charles Kingseley

Thrown the bath out with the bath water?

Appledore itself is the epitome of quaint. Narrow lanes are lines with brightly coloured cottages which wind around the harbour. By now we were in dire need of another cup of tea and we called in to visit my aunt who lives in Appledore and took the liberty of raiding her biscuit tin. We stayed so long that we abandoned any thoughts of walking farther today. Instead, after leaving my aunt we called in The Champ, a great little pub famed for its frequent music nights. Sadly there was no music while we were there, but there was a superb pint of beer from the Forge Brewery in Hartland which we enjoyed while waiting for the bus home.


The Champ, Appledore

Distance: 13 miles
Total Distance: 81 miles
Accommodation ranking 8/10
Accommodation cost £0.00 (home)

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