Devon has its own Coast to Coast walk, stretching some 117 miles/188 km between the north and south coasts. Most of its length follows the Two Moors Way, but at its southern end it follows one arm of the Erme-Plym Trail, between Wembury and Ivybridge.
The café was formerly a water-powered corn mill. The sitting area outside the café is the old wheel pit and old millstones are used as tables.
It is surprising that this attractive area was the subject of plans in the early 20th century to create an enormous harbour which it was hoped would rival Liverpool and Southampton as a passenger port. Fortunately for the local environment, the scheme never progressed.
The lower parallel route is a bridleway and is often rather muddy. The higher footpath route continues up the Churchwood Valley, which was planned to be the route of the railway access to the dock scheme mentioned earlier.
Ford is the location of the family cottage of the Galsworthy family. John Galsworthy, author of “The Forsyte Saga”, often visited here and Wembury and its church is used as the description of one of the Saga locations, though placed in Dorset in the book.
Knighton is an ancient settlement in its own right, it was first recorded in 1281, although it is almost certainly earlier in origin. It now forms a residential part of Wembury and is the location of the village school, pub and shop.
Devon’s Coast to Coast follows the Erme-Plym Trail from Wembury to Ivybridge, but there is a western arm which branches off to the edge of Plymouth.
Langdon Court was one of the four Domesday manors of Wembury. The present house may itself have medieval origins, though it is largely Elizabethan, remodelled in the 18th century. It is now a hotel.
The village of Staddiscombe was once a quite remote settlement is now on the outer edge of Plymouth. There is a shop just off to the right and buses to and from Plymouth city centre.
At this point the Erme-Plym Trail climbs the steps on the right on its journey towards Plymouth. Our walk now leaves that Trail and heads for the “west coast” at Bovisand.
Bovisand Lane wax once the only road access to what would have been a remote cove. It is a very attractive walk, the track following alongside the stream which has cut the valley to Bovisand.
Bovisand Lodge was built in the early 1800s. It was a lodge for the extensive Kitley estate, based near Yealmpton but once stretching this far. It was used as a base by John Rennie and Joseph Whidbey, the engineers building Plymouth Breakwater during the first half of the 19th century.
Views open up to the right of the mouth of Plymouth Sound, with the famous breakwater being seen end on. This took much of the first half of the 19th century to complete, from 1812 until 1841 and was, and still is, important in sheltering the Sound from southerly winds and making it a safe anchorage for naval shipping.
As the angle changes, the view to the right extends further up Plymouth Sound to include Devonport, Drake’s Island, Millbay Docks and the western end of the Hoe.
Out to sea on the skyline, if it is clear, can be seen the needle shape of the Eddystone Lighthouse – if it’s really clear, you may also be able to make out the stump of an earlier lighthouse alongside. The lighthouse is 14 miles/22 km offshore on a largely submerged reef. The first light was built in 1696 but swept away seven years later. A replacement was built and then in 1759 this was in turn replaced. This light was eventually dismantled in 1881, leaving a low stump which may just be visible from the Coast Path. The lighthouse itself was re-erected on Plymouth Hoe, where it still stands today, known as Smeaton’s Tower, after the engineer who designed it. The current lighthouse dates from 1881.
The path passes a stone engraved with an anchor. Originally this indicated the boundary of naval land, later MOD land. The walk is now entering what was until recently the naval shore base of HMS Cambridge on Wembury Point. This was a naval gunnery school, guns being mounted inland of the present path and targeted out to sea. The area is currently being restored by the National Trust, which purchased the land with the help of public subscriptions.
A prominent feature offshore from Wembury Point is the Great Mew Stone. Its name derived from the Saxon word for “gull”, the island was for a while used as a prison, a criminal being sentenced there for seven years in the 1700s. Later, Sam Wakeham, a rabbit warrener, lived there and supplied rabbit meat to Langdon Court.
Wembury Church comes into view along the walk. It is thought there was a church of some sort here at the time of King Alfred in the 9th century, but the present building is largely 14th and 15th century. Historically, its tower was an important landmark for sailors approaching Plymouth.