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Work on the railway line at Dawlish

For a number of reasons we were looking for a fairly short and easy walk and decided to head to Dawlish to walk the coast path around to Dawlish Warren at least. At the start of February 2014 winter storms washed away a large part of the railway embankment at Dawlish in Devon.  I visited the area not long afterwards and the whole of the coastal section around to Dawlish Warren was blocked off to public access because of the renovation works.  We decided it would be interesting to see how the area looked long after the line had re-opened.  Because of that we were a little surprised to find that a section of the walk along the beach was still closed off with work still going on to strengthen the coastal defences.  In practice the work is no longer along the railway line itself but on the path that runs alongside the line.  It seems that this path is being widened in order to provide additional protection for the railway line.  At the time of writing this it is not possible to walk this section of the line/beach and you need to take the bridge that goes inland, then walk the road and then back across another bridge over the line to return to the coastal path after the section of work (if heading east from Dawlish).  I actually thought that the work platform looked quite interesting from a photographic point of view both in the mistiness early in the day and in full sun when we came back.


The other aspect of the walk was from Dawlish Warren around to the point which looks over towards Exmouth.  We arrived here just after the tide had turned and the water was running quite fast at times.  The photograph above that looks over the river Exe to Exmouth looks quite tranquil however the water had been running very fast for some time and had only just started to ease.  We sat in the sun here for a while having lunch.  Both before and after the stop the light varied quite considerably with sun and clouds creating light and shadow most of the time.  Again these seemed to make for interesting scenes.  We headed back to the car at Dawlish, again having to go inland to avoid the work on the coastal section.  All in all a very nice walk along the coast and interesting to see the work on the railway line.  I’m sure I’ll be back there again and you can look here and here for blogs I’ve written about the area previously.

Hangershell Rock, Three Barrows and snow

The forecast for a bitterly cold day after some snow might not be a sign for taking a walk in fairly remote open spaces for some however it acts as a magnet for me! In practice the forecast also included sun which was good news and fairly strong winds, less good. One of the issues was where to set off from to ensure that we didn’t find ourselves on one of the many steep approach roads to Dartmoor in such icy conditions. In the end we decided to set off from Owley Corner which is relatively low down however it does mean that the walk starts with a climb up Ugborough Beacon. Getting out of the car we realised it was very cold; by the time we were at the top we realised that, with wind chill, the temperature was noticeably below zero despite some winter sun. However the moors really did look lovely and it was a pleasure to be out in such conditions. The ground under foot was hard, however on the moors that has a benefit of making the walking less damp than usual. On some of the ponds the ice was really quite thick and would take my weight – on others it wouldn’t! It was obvious as the ice broke that it had thawed and then frozen again a time or two at least given the layers in the ice. We walked from Ugborough Beacon over towards Weatherdon and then on to Hangershell Rock mostly in sunshine although the temperature seemed to remain below freezing in the wind.

We decided we would stop rather more often than usual on this walk to top up on food and drink whenever we found some shelter – relatively – from the wind. From Hangershell Rock we made our way loosely north and roughly along the line of the Redlake tramway (long disused). For this section of the walk the fairly faint sun mostly disappeared and something like very fine snow was striking our faces although it was so fine it was not actually visible.We walked on north past Piles Hill and then Sharp tor to our west and then struck off the track up towards Three Barrows (named as there are three barrows there).  Both looking north and moving north it was clear that there was more snow than to the south of us and the same applied as we climbed.  At 460 metres Three Barrows is one of the higher points on the south of Dartmoor and it certainly felt exposed when we reached the top.  In better conditions we would have stopped for a break up there but today it was a case of grabbing some pictures and then heading back down the ridge again.  We varied the route for the return trip heading rather more directly for Ugborough Beacon and then from there to the car.  It had been a great winter walk in generally very good conditions if you have the right equipment so I guess it was not that surprising that we saw a number of other people out while we walked.

 

Wet and windy on Hameldon

It has been a while since I’ve walked on the moors, partly due to the Autumn travels and partly weather and the other usual things that simply get in the way. We decided to try and get the year off to a good start from a walking perspective and agreed to get out early in January. The overnight weather was very bad indeed and it was still raining almost until we set off.  One of the problems walking on Dartmoor is that it is usually quite wet; weather such as we had overnight makes even the relatively dry areas wet (and the wet areas become streams) so we headed to Hameldon near Widecombe in the Moor as that is usually drier than many areas.  We did wait in the car for 10 minutes before setting off to allow a heavy shower to clear and when we got out of the car we realised just how windy it was.  Heading up the ridge I took the left hand photograph looking south.  The “washed out” look is typical of Dartmoor in these sort of conditions and the amount of water on the track can be seen.  A fairly short distance further on the view of the right hand image appeared and it was obvious there was bad weather on the North Moors.  It seemed sensible to duck behind the wall there and have an early snack break to allow the weather to pass as the ridge becomes more exposed from here.

 

The heavy shower passed quite quickly and we headed on up the ridge. In practice the walking became quite hard as the wind speed increased markedly on the top of the ridge.  We estimated that the wind was gusting at over 50 mph based on the impact it had on our walking.  We tend to walk using poles and without them on a day like this it would have been very hard going.  We veered a little left as we walked to bring to the point of the ridge immediately above the ancient settlement of Grimspound.  Heading down a little I took the two images above.  The left hand image looks a little west over Grimspound and beyond to the tin mine workings at Headland Warren.  The right hand image looks over Grimspound to Hookney tor, our next destination.  As can be seen the threat of rain had lifted and without the wind it would have been a decent day.  There was a little shelter at this lower point however we were heading back up the ridge.

Looking south from Hookney tor

Reaching Hookney tor we came back into the wind again.  While not large Hookney is a reasonable sized tor and we expected to be able to shelter from the wind to have our lunch.  In practice it was one of those days where the wind was swirling around the tor and shelter was  a relative concept.  The photograph above was taken as I was having lunch looking south down the valley.  In some relative shelter it was lovely to sit and look out over the moors in winter.  We headed off again to the east and then back south along the ridge to the car.  As we headed north up the ridge we were walking almost head on into the wind and so had said that at least as we headed back the wind would be behind us… Wrong – the wind had actually gone around to the west more and so was blowing in from the side and still making walking hard at times.  I do realise others have had far more problems with weather recently however we have had strong winds for a while now and it may well be a week or so before I’m out again.  It was great to be out again though.

At Saumur on an island in the Loire and on the coast of Picardy

Moving up north again towards the Channel from Coulon (the previous blog is here) we decided to stop off on the Loire. While we had no real plan for the break the idea of stopping somewhere along the Loire had always been a possibility. It is an area we have passed through a number of times but never stayed in so it was time to put this oversight right. Again using the ACSI card we found there was a camp site on an island in the Loire at Saumur and the idea of that was simply too tempting to miss out on.

We arrived at the site while reception was closed for lunch however that gave us a chance to have a look around at the site and some of the pitches so that when reception re-opened we had an idea of where we would like to be on the site. There are a small collection of hard standing pitches which are at a higher level than the rest of the site – there are benefits! The view from our pitch was one of the best we have ever had.  Over the course of our stay there we did have the odd night where another motorhome would obstruct our view however, even then, it was a matter of two or three paces to be able to see the view again. Looking at the château across the Loire will remain one of the most memorable aspects of the whole trip – the various times of day, weather and light all making for great photographic potential.

The town of Saumur is one of those particularly appealing French towns to us. Large enough to be interesting and small enough to be easy to get around on foot. We also found the service in the restaurants and cafes good, again maybe an aspect of the size of town. The obvious place of interest is the château however much of the town close to the château is very old indeed and there are plenty of other things to see both in the town and a little further afield. The river is good for walks and is scenic. There is a large military establishment there where horses are trained (if that is your thing). Again the campsite offered a “7 nights for 6″ deal out of season so we stayed a little longer than we planned however the time passed quickly and we would certainly return to Saumur and the campsite in the future.

Sadly we had to consider the trip back up to the tunnel by this time and so the maps and campsite books came out. After quite a number of “plan B’s” we ended up with something that had been the original “plan a”! We decided to head back up to a different spot on the Normandy coast. The place we originally decided on was St Valery en Caux. The town looked fairly well situated on the coast and, although the campsite did not get rave reviews, we felt it should be alright for a night or too. We were right about the town but not about the campsite which was the least good of those we stayed at on the trip. The last straw was the lack of anything other than warm water in the shower and so we moved on after a night. We moved a fairly short distance to Saint-Valery-sur-Somme on the coast of Picardy

Our stay at Saint-Valery-sur-Somme was very pleasant. The campsite was well placed for the town and the Bay of the Somme was an interesting area. The old “city” of Saint-Valery-sur-Somme was fascinating. Set apart from the modern town, it is very old and with a lot of history to it varying from the fact that the invasion of England set off from it in 1066 to the fact that the English held Joan of Arc there until she was put to death. Throw in a very good food market which we sampled and the interesting railway that runs around the bay which we did not have time for and it is an area I’m sure we will return too. Three nights was not enough. From there we had a night close to Calais and headed home. All in all a great trip which we thoroughly enjoyed and we will be going to Europe in the motorhome again in 2015 I hope.

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