The Cornwall Coast & Country Challenge – Saturday 1st June 2019

After their hugely successful Erme-Plym Trail this time last year, Barry and Sal once again created something a bit different and longer for the A team walkers.

It was a misty morning, when a dozen Torbay Ramblers set off from Totnes, to travel down to Admirals Hard in Plymouth, to catch the Cremyll Ferry across to Mount Edgecumbe in Cornwall. Here we were joined by Emma, making us a Baker’s dozen, as we set sail in improving conditions, and took in the view from the water of the Royal William Yard buildings, formerly the Royal Navy Victualling Centre. Also clearly visible in the sunshine, was Drake’s Island, sitting centre stage in Plymouth Sound. We strolled through the gardens of the Mount Edgecumbe Orangery, looking very attractive having been newly planted out. Then we started out along the South West Coast Path, and admired the structure of Milton’s Temple, a resting point built Circa 1755, which bears a quotation from Paradise Lost.

Soon we encountered the ruin of the ‘Folly’, which was constructed in 1747 using stone from derelict churches in the Stonehouse area of Plymouth. Lady Emma’s Cottage was the next building of interest, Circa 1882, and originally the residence of Lady Edgecumbe, but now a holiday cottage. A climb through the woods brought us eventually to Fort Picklecombe, which was used as a Gun Battery site, but has been residential since the 1970’s. There was also a photo opportunity here for
the group at the Picklecombe Seat, another 19th century viewing point, carved using stone from St George and St Lawrence Churches, from Stonehouse.

Shortly after noting the Hooe Lake Scouts Camp site, a coffee stop was taken on a grassy area, which afforded extensive views out to sea. It was at this juncture that Hilary decided to take a temporary leave of the group, to rest her slowly improving foot problem. The rest of us trekked on through the former quaint fishing villages of Kingsand and Cawsand, which during the 18th and 19th centuries were rife with smuggling. In Cawsand itself stands a building which until the mid 19th century, marked the original border between Saxon Devon and Celtic Cornwall. The original 19th century Fort buildings in the village, are now   residential. The way then led up through more woodland, where the Naval Adventure Centre at Pier Cellars is located. This was formerly a Brennan Torpedo Station, constructed in the late 1880’s, and it remained in use until 1903. Once we emerged into the open again at Penlee Point, the path undulated gently all the way to Rame Head, where lunch was enjoyed. Four of the more energetic walkers climbed to the top for an even more spectacular view, and to get up close to the Chapel sited on the pinnacle. The Chapel was built in Medieval times, and was dedicated to St Michael Archangel in 1425. It was licensed to hold Mass on Monday and Michaelmas! It was restored in 1882 by the Earl of Mount Edgecumbe, but is now a ruin. It was also utilised for siting anti submarine detection equipment in WW1, and a mobile Radar installation was placed here during WW2. A glimpse of the Eddystone Lighthouse was possible from here. The original Winstanley one was just 59 feet high, and was first lit in 1698. It was destroyed in 1793. The current Douglas Lighthouse is 161 feet high, was electrified in 1959, automated in 1982, but now runs on Solar power. The path then undulated again, to pass by Fort Polhawn, which was designed by Lord Palmerston and built in the 1860’s to defend Plymouth. This is now used as a Wedding venue. This area of coast is called Whitsand Bay, and here in 2004 the Royal Navy Frigate HMS Scylla was scuppered to provide an underwater reef. Shortly after a steep stepped climb up through to Freathy, the route left the coast path and turned inland. Some country lanes were walked, and Wiggle old farmhouse, AD 1500 was skirted, before some fields with emerging cereal crops were traversed. From this location, there were glorious views across to Dartmoor, and Plymouth Dockyard and both the Tamar Bridge and the Brunel railway bridge could easily be spotted. The track then descended through grassy fields, back into Cawsand, where Hilary and Isobel, who had also remained behind, rejoined the group. Two brave souls then decided to paddle their feet on the beach, where a fresh onshore breeze was blowing. Many people indulged in an ice cream at this point, before trudging up through the villages again, passing two Victorian Post Boxes en-route, to connect with another ascent known as Devonport Hill. The view from the top was worth the effort, and the mile long Breakwater, positioned prominently at the entrance to Plymouth Sound, was clearly seen from this height. This was constructed in 1812, and used 4 million tons of rock, at a cost of £100 million pounds in today’s prices. Here we encountered up to 10 Hang Gliders taking advantage of the conditions and enjoying the delights of the aerial views. The way soon emerged on Maker Heights, where there are several War Department Boundary stones and the remains of WW2 military installations. A brief stop was taken to explore the interior of the Church of St Mary and St Julian at Maker, which was first mentioned in 1186, and enlarged in the 15th century. This was followed by a quite steep roped descent through the woods, to emerge alongside the estuary of a tributary of the River Tamar, which forms Millbrook Lake.

A pleasantly flat section brought us to the harbour at Empacombe, where stands an enclosed Fort like construction, behind which there were gardens formerly used to grow produce for the house at Mount Edgecumbe. From here, another easy stroll led back to the ferry, and our return journey to Cremyll.

Then followed a road trip to the Lyneham Inn just outside of Plympton, where our appetites were satisfied with a Carvery meal, and refreshing glass of something cool after the sometimes warm conditions of the day. Finally a journey home to reflect on the pleasures and exertions of another successful challenge walk of nearly 15 miles.

Well done to all concerned, and your certificates will be a permanent reminder of your participation in this event.

Sal & Barry H