Sunday 26th November – Chris’s Dartmouth Circular

A dry if chilly start for the 19 lucky walkers today who met for Chris’s Walk through History from Dartmouth to Stoke Fleming.

Meeting at the Banjo in Kingswear we embarked on the car ferry, crossing the Dart – rather grey on this occasion but always interesting. The two castles Kingswear and Dartmouth visible to our left.

We set off along Bayard’s Cove towards the Castle and took the higher path there above Sugary Green, climbing gradually until one final push uphill which took us to tea break, very welcome after that haul uphill. The view across the ocean to our left was clear now and some avid bird watching took place as we took the coast path towards Redlap and Little Dartmouth.

Now an AONB, Little Dartmouth is owned by the National Trust and is full of character and interest, offering glorious views from the cliffs.

Our route today took us inland to Stoke Fleming, The first records of Stoke Fleming appear in the Domesday Book of 1086 under its Saxon name of Stoc.

Lunch was taken in the sanctuary garden by some and a small breakaway group enjoyed the hospitality of the Green Dragon Inn before we set off up the road out of the town.

In the 1870s George Bidder built Stoke House, at the entrance to which Chris pointed out a plaque commemorating the man known as ‘The Phenomenal Mental Calculation prodigy‘. Born in Moretonhampstead in 1806, he began his career being exhibited at fairs by his father because of his astonishing powers of mental arithmetic. Subsequently he had a university education and became an engineer working with the Stephenson brothers, building many of the early railways.  He died in Dartmouth in 1878.  Can you beat his powers of arithmetic?

If two ships of 83 guns each exchange at sea, and they continue in action five hours, forty-three minutes, seven seconds, each firing a broadside every 2½ minutes; how many shots will they each fire? Answer, in 20 seconds — 11,391 each.

We picked up the coast path again and our history tour continued as we made our way along the higher coast path, the Daymarker in the distance, an impressive 80ft  octagonal tower on tall arched legs, made from limestone. It was built in 1864 by the Dartmouth Harbour Commissioners to guide mariners to the position of the Dartmouth harbour.

We finally came to Gallants Bower. Built between 1643 and 1645 to defend Dartmouth against the Parliamentarians, it saw the fiercest action in 1646, when it came under attack from Roundhead forces under General Fairfax. Four years later the fort was dismantled. It is now one of the best preserved in the country and is a Scheduled and Listed Ancient Monument. The views across the estuary from here are stunning and it is clear why it was an important vantage point. A tea stop here while the group admired the panorama.

Walking downhill now we came to Warfleet Creek again.  Built in 1819 the famous Grade II listed building here has variously been a fine paper mill, a bakery, an outstanding brewery and The Dartmouth Pottery before conversion to luxury appartments recently.  Warfleet Creek is a small triangular tidal inlet in the west side of the River Dart Estuary.

A short stroll now, past the last home of George Bidder, to the town and into the Bayards Cove Inn which was festive, warm and welcoming after a very enjoyable and most interesting walk through time and along coast, around 9 miles in total.