I have always enjoyed walking ever since I was a little boy, this walk along our three beaches has changed so much in the last few years, I hope you remember how it was.
I am at Petitor Down, just by the shelter, ignoring the South West footpath off to the right that takes me along the cliff top behind Redcliffe and Petitor Roads towards the Model Village, I walk down the grassy slope to the point overlooking the bay and follow the path down the cliff and through the trees. I bubble out just above the Gentlemens bathing place from Victorian days. The blue tiles tell me the name, although it’s also known as boys rock because it is a good place to dive into the sea at high tide. I walk along Little Oddicombe with it’s white pebbles and up and over the causeway cut into the red cliff towering above.
On the other side side I am on Oddicombe beach with it’s beach hut chalets along the promenade to the cafe and beach shop. There are more chalets above the cafe with a bit more privacy from the crowded beach and another row of beach huts at the foot of the Cliff Railway. If I want a trip around the bay or ferry down into Torquay I can wait alongside the wooden slipway that is wheeled up and down the beach to follow the rise and fall of the tide. The boatmen shout out “trip around the bay calling at Babbacombe, Redgate and Kittiwake Corner.” I can hire a pedalo if I just want to stay around Oddicombe. No! I mustn’t hang around, it is a walk, so along towards the Cliff railway and looking back at the cliff that divides the two Oddicombe beaches I can see why it’s called the Red Indian. The features show so clearly in the sun, his nose, face and forehead, the scrubby windblown bushes above making the perfect headdress.
Up the hill past the Cliff Railway lower station and over the style towards Babbacombe beach. The cliff is always leaking water Summer or Winter and some ‘bright spark’, many years ago, built drains and gullies alongside the paths to take the rushing water along the walkways and then under to drain away at sea level. A little before Black Ball cove or Half Tide rock I look up to the right. The water is pouring out of the cliff as usual, falling into a pond that overflows under the path and then cascades as a waterfall below. I follow the path down to sea level to see the full beauty of the fall. History books tell of ships replenishing their water supplies from here. I used to drink from the springs with no ill effect. Down again and over Black Ball and up the other side over the causeway to Babbacombe beach.
This beach is rocky and far more interesting for scrumming around in the rock pools, crabbing or fishing from the pier. It was always the fisherman’s beach and I was fortunate enough to meet the last fisherman who took his boat out from here. He could tell a tale. There were smugglers too, but I didn’t meet any. I don’t think so anyway. I pass the cafe and the car park and head on towards the pier and if I am really lucky a pod of dolphins will be around though more usually a seal or two. Just below the Cary Arms there’s Little Babbacombe sheltered by tall rocks and the water break. I follow the footpath behind the promenade and up towards Withy Point, Giants Rock and Cave. Should I have a look inside the cave to see if the giant is at home? Best not because I still have quite a way to go yet and he might get angry about being awoken. So it is up again, behind the Cary Arms, it is quite steep but I keep going up, zig-zagging through the woods, past the Grove and eventually the trees are behind me and the wide open space of Walls Hill is before me. The view out across Babbacombe Bay and Lyme Bay beyond is just spectacular.
Walking on and looking to the sea, Long Quarry is a long way below. I could follow one of the paths down to quarry but I’m not too good with heights and those paths are rather too close to the cliff edge for my liking. At the far side of Walls Hill there is the path down to Redgate Beach, I can cope with this one with no problem. Redgate is a real favourite beach, sheltered by high cliffs and sandy. Red sand yes! but the clue is in the name. The swimming is lovely. There is a shop, cafe and boats for hire. The ferry to Torquay picks up from here. The shout is much the same as Oddicombe “calling at Kittiwake Corner”, because I am not there yet. Redgate has everything for a day on the beach but I am walking and my ‘three beaches’ walk is coming to an end pretty soon.
Leaving the sand it is over the footpath, part rock, part man-made concrete and look back at Long Quarry. The two rhinoceros tusks of limestone standing proud, really is a sight. One very tall, the other at the end, shorter. I round the corner of the promenade and Anstey’s Cove is a few yards away. The smugglers beach of old, along with Babbacombe. Anstey’s is rocky and rugged nothing like Redgate behind me. The three beaches are walked,and all the little coves between them, now it is back up the cliff.
Another steep climb, alongside a road this time. At the top road turn to the right and there is the signpost ‘to Babbicombe and St Marychurch across the downs’. Straight on across the car park Kents Cavern. Turn left and I can walk the ‘Bishops Walk’ with it’s bluebells in Spring and Kittiwake Corner aka Hopes Nose at the end.
I now have to make a choice…..but those walks are other stories for another day.
A man and his walking memories.