Section 2 . Noss Mayo to Bigbury – Devon Coast Path
Distance - 13.5 miles : Grade - Starts Easy then strenuous - What these grades mean.
River Erme Crossing - no ferry, wade the river or taxi/walk option round the estuary
River Avon Crossing - Limited Ferry or taxi/walk option round the estuary
A Woodland ramble leads onto higher grassy slopes today as the cliffs start to get higher and higher and the panoramas better and better. Stonechats, Dartford Warblers and Cirl Buntings share the skies with Holly Blues and Marbled White butterflies.
Only a day out of Plymouth and you are now entering some of the most remote walking on the whole of the South Devon coast. With little habitation it has also escaped the holiday parks and the hordes of tourists. Three rivers mark this stretch of the Devon Coastal Path and all need careful planning to overcome - the Yealm, the Erme and the Avon.
To cross on the Yealm ferry this morning nothing much has changed in a century - wave and shout “ferry” at the top of your voice to be taken over the river basin. A board shows the former ferry rates - Ferriage for every persons on weekdays 1d the like on Sundays 2d and for every pony and ass 3d!
Climbing from the wooded river banks you soon join the looping nine mile carriage drive, an impressive feat of engineering constructed in the late 19C by unemployed fisherman working for the local landowner Lord Revelstoke of Membland Hall . His grand vision was a carriageway to impress his visitors that circled his substantial lands, and his legacy has left us with a fine and comfortable high level walkway.
On ancient bluebell carpeted oak woods alive with woodpeckers and tree creepers you can still see “deflecting” walls built on the sharp and exposed corners to prevent any runaway carriages heading for the sea. As you reach the cliffs look out on a clear day for a distant Eddystone lighthouse 14 miles offshore. Closer in, Great Black Crested Gulls, Ravens, Kestrels, Buzzards and even Peregrine Falcons swoop around the rocky headlands.
Warren Cottage (Lord Revelstoke's Rabbit Farm) sits above Warren Beach - a lookout spot for dolphins, whales and seals, spot the sheep creep holes in the walls here to allow sheep but not cattle to pass to the next field. At bleak Gunrow you arrive at the signal station built as part of the chain of Napoleonic defences and inland a short diversion is worthwhile to see the atmospheric ruins of the abandoned Church of St Peter the Poor Fisherman, which was first recorded in 1225. Partly restored in the 1960s, it is iconic with its roofless nave and partly restored tower a dramatic sight, along with its pirate and cholera victim gravestones.
Past the Coastal Tor at St Anchorites Rock you now reach the Erme River. There is no ferry here, but the river can be waded by the adventurous during a short window around low tide. Other options involve an inland walk / transfer around the hidden valley. It's golden sands, ancient woods and isolation mean that it is quite simply described as the least spoilt river mouth in England. Redshank, Dunlin, Oystercatcher, Curlew and Turnstones are present and, if you are lucky, Egret, Hoopoe and even Golden Oriole may be spotted in the wilderness.
Once over this hurdle, Aymer cove is a highlight in the rollercoaster flanked by sheer and impressive cliff walls. A spot infamous in the past for smuggling with bounty brought up the path by Donkeys to the local village inn. Watch brown trout in the steam here, herons, kingfishers, dancing butterflies and dragonflies. Looming offshore ahead is the end of today’s trek at Burgh Island. Thrusting out of the sandy causeway, it's famed for its 1929 art deco hotel and association with Agatha Christie - this was the setting for Evil under the Sun and her novel “And then there were none”. The island houses The Pilchard Inn, over 650 years old and haunted by the ghost of the smuggler Tom Croker who was shot dead here by the Customs Men.
It’s well worth exploring the island, and you can climb to the ruined Huer (Pilchard spotters) hut which is built at the highest point of the island on the site of an old medieval chapel. If the tide is out you can walk over the sands, if not, the most bizarre form of transport is needed on H. G. Wells type upper deck sea tractors, which travel through the seawater giving you a most unusual taxi service to the pub, 6 foot above the waves.
Back on the mainland the village of Bigbury sits on an excellent beach where kite surfers amass on a windy day. This or nearby Bantham over the Avon river is your overnight stop.