Walk of the month: South Hams
Too often overlooked, South Hams is a lush landscape with abundant wildlife, says Mark Rowe
Sunday 05 November 2006
The South Hams is one of the greenest areas of England. Curiously, this lush South Devon countryside is often overlooked. I've realised that many friends with an interest in wildlife and walking had never heard of the South Hams or, if they had, were unable to place it on a map.
This is a short but glorious walk that displays some of the best the region has to offer. In a perfect world, you would walk it in the early morning or late afternoon, amid the glorious light of the low, late autumnal sun that floods the valleys. You start in the village of Frogmore.
Begin at the old bridge at the head of the creek, by the sign for Gara Rock and East Portlemouth. If the tide is low, you can walk along the right-hand side of the foreshore for a mile or so, until you reach the second of two footpath signs, where you follow a path inland.
The foreshore is a more attractive option than the path above the water, but you will need to check tide times before setting out. At low tide, with a landscape of mud marked by the occasional trickle of water, you could easily wonder if the sea will ever make a return, but the tidal range here is huge; the tide rises rapidly and perceptibly, resembling a time-lapse documentary.
If the water is high, then turn left on to the A379, pass the Globe Inn and, after 200 metres, follow the footpath sign for Frogmore Creek on the left between some stone cottages and follow it through a wooden gate and straight ahead along the edge of a field, bearing to the right and crossing a stone stile.
Follow the track, skip over a wooden stile, then a third stile and bear to the left of the old stone barn. Follow the fingerpost for Geese Quarries as the path climbs above Clevehouse Bay (which is, in fact, not a bay but a saltmarsh, but tempting as it may be, local wildlife enthusiasts ask that you do not walk over it).
The hedgerows here are a haven for bird life, and you may see flocks of redwing and fieldfare at this time of year. The creek appeals to a wide range of birds: ducks, greenshank and Brent geese are among the visitors, as well as black-headed gulls in their winter plumage of a fetching black dot on their heads, while ospreys pay a fleeting visit on their way south.
The path then crosses a series of fields - four stiles in all - before bearing left around a thicket and dropping down to the foreshore. For an hour or so either side of high tide it can be tricky and even impossible to walk along here. Walk over the slippery fronds of seaweed and kelp until you reach a footpath, by a fingerpost, leading uphill. (If you have walked along the foreshore from Frogmore, this fingerpost is around 200 yards after another signpost).
The track winds uphill to the disused Geese Quarries. Follow the path ahead until it meets a sheltered lane bordered by Devon banks - distinctive high walls of grass and mud - and continue straight ahead. Where the lane bends to the right, you'll see a footpath sign by a millennium beacon, from where you can see the village of West Charleton. Follow the path across the field, then left along the hedge to a stile. Cross the stile and follow the path through a field, with a pond on your right, to reach the main road.
Turn left along the road, passing the Ashburton Arms, and after 50 yards, take a footpath on the right leading inland. The path rises and falls as it passes some houses to reach a junction of paths, where you turn right uphill and through a kissing gate into a field. Go through another gate in front of Charleton Grange and walk through the field and over a stone stile. Follow the path ahead, which runs beside the stream, and then cross over a wooden stile, and then another stone stile.
You have now reached the old turnpike road that linked Kingsbridge and Frogmore. Turn right along the path. Follow the lane, with sea views, for just under a mile, until it curves left as another lane joins from the right by a fence. Drop down the narrow, leafy tunnel on your right until you reach the main road at Frogmore. Turn left to return to the bridge.
THE COMPACT GUIDE
DISTANCE: Four and half miles.
TIME: Two and a half to three hours
OS MAP: OS Explorer OL20, South Devon, Brixham to Newton Ferrers
WHERE TO STAY: Mark Rowe stayed at the Marine Hotel, Salcombe (01548 844444; bookmenzies.com). Doubles from £130 in November, including breakfast and dinner for two.
FURTHER INFORMATION: This and five other walks feature in a booklet "Six self-guided walks around the Salcombe-Kingsbridge estuary with wildlife guide", available from local tourist information centres. For tide times for this walk, call Kingsbridge Information Centre (01548 853195).
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