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Section 5. Torcross / Beesands to Dartmouth  – Devon Coast Path

Distance -  10.5 miles. Grade - Starts Easy then mainly Strenuous - What these grades mean.

This morning you get your deserved respite from the crags and cliffs with a long flat beach section along the Slapton Ley Nature Reserve, very different to anything seen so far. Some short inland diversions characterise this afternoon's walk, along with a stunning pine clad beach and the prize at the end of the walk with a stay in stunning Dartmouth.

Slapton Ley Nature Reserve starts from the doorstep of Torcross. 521 acres of fresh water, this is Devon’s largest natural lake. Over 3000 years old and incorporating protected silty marshland and reed beds. A National Nature Reserve and protected since as far back as the early 1900’s, never mind the legions of ducks, grebes, swans and herons, rarer birds such as the Cettis Warbler mix with sedge, reed warblers and widgeon. In the shallow waters numbers are kept in check somewhat by some monstrous pike who share the lake with freshwater eels. All this can be spotted from the bird watching hide and yes... you would be lucky... the Ley is also home to otter. The coast path itself follows “the line” as it's simply known in the area, the line being the impressive low pebble and shingle bar stretching away from Torcross for 2 ½ miles, a barrier between land and sea. Deposited just after the last ice age you have the Slapton Ley lake on one side and an exposed and windswept sea on the other.

Part way along the route you pass a large obelisk presented by the US Army in gratitude to the 2000 odd locals from seven nearby villages who were all asked to evacuate along with all their possessions and farm stock during the latter part of the 2nd world war to allow for the mass training exercises here in preparation for D-day.

If you have not read the section about Torcross, do so now to learn about the other more sombre memorial to this massive troop movement in a tragedy that occurred in the waters just beyond the line in 1944. The path finally leaves the shingle bank and the Ley to head inland at Strete, leaving behind another lost village at Undercliffe which was lost way back in 1703. After some high pasture walking with great views back over the bar to Torcross, a steep woodland descent to a flight of stone steps welcomes you down to Blackpool Sands, sitting in its own bay. A stunning setting sheltered by evergreens and pines. Fear not, this beach is the opposite of its namesake though, it’s also not the isolated coves of the last few days. You can hire water sports equipment here and have lunch at the organic Venus Cafe or just stop for a paddle in an award winning Blue Flag Beach. Inland, if you want a diversion from the coast, the restored 19C tropical Blackpool Gardens is open to the public a few minutes away.

The coast path heads away from the coast and takes you through the appealing village of Stoke Fleming with its dramatic church whose tower acted as a landmark for the boats heading into Dartmouth.

At Blackstone Point, having crossed a chasm by footbridge, enjoy a switchback descent to Sugary Cove and one more climb before reaching wooded Gallants Bower and the gloriously situated 14C Dartmouth Castle, a most impressive entrance to the gentle and rounded Dart Estuary. With the medieval harbourside of Dartmouth beckoning, head for tonight’s stop, enjoying the classic views across the water to Kingswear with its own castle as you return to sea level.

Overnight stops in Dartmouth on the South West Coast Path

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