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Home Travel StoriesExploring South Devon

Dartmouth, Slapton and Salcombe

By Ren Withnell

Ride Date 10th September 2018

After yesterday's walk we need to ride today. In search of something more rural than the conurbation formed by Torquay and Paignton the maps suggest we should head South West along the coast.

The ride to Kingswear is promising. Pleasant and peaceful lanes rise and fall through green farmlands then drop us down into a town of compact houses squashed together around a large river estuary filled with small boats and yachts. I don't know what I'd expected but I'm liking it.

I knew there'd be a ferry too and regular readers know I love a ferry. They're all a little different and this one is quite a lot different. We're guided onto not a ferry but more of a pontoon or a barge with no motive power of its own. This is provided by a small tug attached to the barge by a couple of ropes. It works fine and soon we're across the water and in Dartmouth.

A small tug boat pushes and shoves the pontoon that the bikes are on across the river Dart
I just hope the ropes don't come asunder and we drift off out to sea.

Dartmouth is literally just across the river from Kingswear but it is larger and more modern. We park up and wander down to the promenade by the river. The harbour, or is it a marina, is large although the boats are mostly small. I figure the river isn't deep enough for larger vessels and it's all the better for it. A diminutive tourist paddle steamer splashes and chuffs by.

hundreds of small boats spread out across the estuary with trees on the steep river banks at Dartmouth
We'll have none of those massive trawlers here thank you.

Beyond Dartmouth we are once again into the countryside, happily rolling through the small and pretty village of Stoke Fleming. Then much to my surprise we find ourselves at Blackpool Sands! Golly, I never realised Blackpool was so close to Brixham...

Blackpool looks different though. I can't see the tower or the roller coasters or the trams or the piers. All I can see is a wooden surf shack come cafe, some benches and a beach in a cove. It's a damn sight quieter - and all the better for it. We have a brew, we walk along the beach a little and enjoy the day.

A beach hut type cafe among trees and sands at Blackpool Sands
Blackpool (Sands) is looking quite tropical today.

We follow the A379 to Slapton only to find the road closed for repairs. Dagnammit! These roads are narrow, twisting, winding and wriggling and there's quite a few turnings too. Rather than struggle I put my phone into navigation mode and detour inland then back coast-wards to Torcross, the other side of the road block.

There's a rather beat up looking Sherman tank, how odd. As we get closer it's obviously a memorial due to the number of poppy wreaths placed upon it. We park up and read the information board - well I never.

I have heard the story before. In short while practising for the D-Day Normandy landings a German patrol stumbled across American boats all ready to take their practice runs. The Germans wreaked havoc, killing something in the order of 750 allied troops. I know the story but I never knew where it happened. And yet here I am, I nod a thank you to "The Forgotten Dead".

A very damaged and painted in thick black paint Sherman tank. There are wreaths and memorials on it
The tank sat at the bottom of the sea before being salveged to create this remarkable memorial.
The long beach at Slapton Sands, used for D-Day landing practice
Slapton beach, a stand in Normandy beach for training purposes.

If you want to get the full story follow the link - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-devon-27185893

The sun is high in the sky yet here the wind is whistling. It's not cold but it's a little uncomfortable so we seek shelter in a cafe across the road. We have a brew and share a portion of chips.

The riding today is relaxed. These are not the type of road to be attacked like those we enjoyed in Spain earlier this year. These are narrower, often with high hedges hiding potential problems around each corner. There are no problems but I don't want to find out the hard way. I'm happy to saunter and dawdle, there's little traffic.

Salcombe is peculiar. It is small and it is pretty just not in the oldy-worldy once-was-a-fishing-village kind of way. There are older properties and there are sharp, crisp, modern and trendy properties too. I smell money ooozing from a few of these alongside the smell of the sea. A sharp zig-zag road challenges Sharon and I as we make our way down the steep bay walls to the beach.

We sit on the wall by the beach watching some dogs running around. One of them seems to be on fast forward - whizzing up and down the beach, into the sea then back to the coastal wall then across to one side of the bay then pounding back to the other. I'm exhausted watching it.Ren sits on the sea wall with a thinking expression and stroking his chin at Salcombe beach
What is the answer to life, the universe and everything? Tea, plenty of tea.

The road out from Salcombe is narrow, steep and the hedges are high. It'll be blooming difficult if we meet a large vehicle coming down this way, fortunately we only have to pull into the bushes for a couple of regular sized cars. We wendle our way out to Malborough (not Marlborough) and the road opens out to two lanes and we can make progress.

These tall hedges block the views. When they occasionally fall away we can see we're in quintessential rural English countryside. Rolling hills, green fields, small villages with church steeples and clumps of trees, deep in leaf. The traffic is light but there is sufficient to keep the pace down, with no views around the be-hedged corners this is probably a good thing.

What's not too good is the thick gloop of traffic we're greeted with as we reach the hinterland of Paignton once more. It's like wading through mud and my tummy is hungry and my fuse is shortened. I manage to keep a lid on things and then calm down as we get back to the caravan.

This caravanning is very easy. The milk in the fridge hasn't gone off. Sitting on a sofa while surfing the net is very relaxing. Hmmmm. I wonder if my 500 can tow a 4 berth touring caravan?


If you'd like to see your advert on Bikes And Travels contact ren@bikesandtravels.com

Riding To Devon It's a long and arduous trip down south to Devon. Or - perhaps Ren is being a drama queen and a bitter cynic.
A Walk Around Brixham Our intrepid motorcycle muppets don't even touch a motorcycle today. In fact it's quite a day for doing things differently for Sharon!
Dartmouth, Slapton and Salcombe South of Brixham the coastal landscape is proving to be quite rural and enjoyable for Sharon and Ren.
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