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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Beginning and Ending at Start

This was going to be a short walk at short notice down the private access road to the lighthouse. When we arrived though, we were seduced by the beautiful weather and blue sea to take a slightly different route.

We weren't properly kitted out with clothes or footwear for the walk we ultimately ended up doing, but weeks of dry weather meant that although a dangerous route, it was made safer by the fact that everything was bone dry. We should have had weather proofs and walking boots but we just had T shirts and ordinary shoes.

The place is Start Point and the lighthouse of the same name is built on the point of a steep sided ridge of bare rock, Devon's most southerly point, jutting out into the English Channel.

The nearest settlement is the lost village of Hallsands, most of which used to be below these cliffs set back on a shingle beach. By 1891 it had 37 houses, a spring, a public house called the London Inn, and a population of 159. The beach is now completely washed away and there are just the remains of two houses left at sea level. The other remaining houses were higher up on top of the cliff.

In the 1890s, following a scheme proposed by Sir John Jackson, it was decided to expand the naval dockyard at Keyham, near Plymouth, and dredging began offshore from Hallsands to provide sand and gravel for its construction. Soon, up to 1,600 tons of material was being removed each day, and the level of the beach began to drop, much to the alarm of local residents. On 26 January 1917, a combination of easterly gales and exceptionally high tides breached Hallsands' defences, and by the end of that year only one house remained habitable.

Access and the car park are at the top of the ridge so the walk is fairly easy in terms of walking across the ridge to the other side.

The walk is a descent almost to sea level on a natural rock path, at some points wide and others narrow. There are fantastic views in both directions. This stretch of bare rock is the path.

At some points the path is pinched to a narrow point and the steep drop very close to the edge of it.

The good thing is that the descent and therefore the climb back up is not too steep but long and gradual, making it easier to tackle. There is a lot of boat traffic along this stretch of coast, with some routes closer to shore than others. The closest to the shore are normally the small fishing boats, then a little further out the yachts travelling between Dartmouth and Salcombe the two nearest small ports and then nearer the horizon, anything from bulk carriers to oil tankers and container ships.

At each section we were tempted to go a little further as there was always a hint of a better view just out of sight. At this point where the path proceeds around another ridge it's possible to appreciate how close to the edge that path can get.

Here the path descends in stages to a wide rock platform just above sea level.

Looking back it's possible to see the distance travelled.

Now looking west, this is Lannacombe Bay. On top of that promontory is the village of East Prawle.

We took the return trip back up slowly, stopping to take in the dramatic views of the lighthouse.

At some time in the past, enough farming was going on here, with enough labourers, to think it was a practical idea to build a stone wall running top to bottom down the steep hillside.

A spectacular view of the wind stripped rock along the edge of the ridge. In the short time we had taken to make the walk out and back, the weather had already turned to dark cloud and strong winds, making it difficult to hold the camera steady on this exposed spot. The sea was rapidly turning to a lead grey.

The local snails had already taken cover wherever they could find shelter.

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What a beautiful heavenly spot. Great photos. Love the snails capture, good eye 😉

Gethin Thomas
Gethin Thomas

Thanks Camellia

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