If you go down to the sea in Devon; past the bright lights of Torquay and the fishing boats of Brixham. Then on past the safety of the River Dart and long Slapton Sands; you will arrive at the prominent headland of Start Point.
Clearly visible from many a mile to seaward; thanks to its brilliant white lighthouse. Necessary for the long line of jagged rocks that reach almost four miles out to sea which give this headland its name. With the name Start deriving from the old Saxon word: ‘Steart’; which means: tail.
Too many mariners have sadly lost their lives on these rocks; working hard to feed the nation. So today I feel lucky as I relax on my landlubbers stroll.
Getting to the Start
Getting to Start Point from landward seems just as difficult if you think too much about the windy narrow lanes of Devon. Driving from Totnes, it will still take almost a hour to safely navigate the roads to the small car park. From the main road to Kingswear and Salcombe; look for signs to Start Point. Taking care and remembering every passing place; you will soon arrive at a grassy car park. From here, I could see as far as Exmouth in Lyme Bay to the east and to the west the big blue Atlantic ocean.
Down to the Lighthouse
Walking down the access road to the lighthouse
Like a scene from a classic seafaring yarn; the smooth access road, curved down and around to the lighthouse of Start Point. I was blessed with clear sunny skies and a gentle breeze; birds playfully soared and sang above, the waves lapped the shore and yachts glided gracefully out on the shimmering sea.
Yet the lighthouse is an indication that this place is not always so welcoming to passing mariners. Start Point is a headland; where two tidal streams can meet over a jagged underwater ridge that runs four miles out to sea. In the ‘Great Blizzard’ of 1891; 52 souls lost their lives on these rocks. In another storm; a brave local farmer rescued four men by lowering himself down over the unforgiving rocky cliffs. All sorts of cargo have been lost here too; from tonnes of tea from India to ancient Islamic gold. Luckily, these days, with the invention of radar and GPS; these tragedies are less common.
I stopped for a few minutes and marvelled at the construction of the lighthouse and its brilliant white painted walls and outbuildings lit that shone in the summer sun. It is possible to stay here, at Start Point lighthouse; a great idea anytime of year. To enjoy and gain inspiration from the relaxing sunny summer days or to bear witness to the powerful winter storms. Here is a link to the the official website; to find out more: https://startpointdevon.co.uk/
To see the accommodation availability at the adjoining cottages; look here: https://www.ruralretreats.co.uk/england/devon-holiday-cottages/beacon-cottage_dv066
Seal watching at Pear Tree Point
Retracing my steps back up the access road for about two hundred metres; I arrived at a signpost for the long distance coastal path. It stated it was 168 miles to Poole going east and a whopping 462 miles around the Cornish Peninsula to Minehead on the Bristol Channel! Turning left and up and over a small bluff; a gentle path led us west and into the sun.
From here we could take in more views of: the lighthouse; the treacherous shore and Blackstone Rock; the seals at Pear Tree Point and the wide open sea. The path dropped gradually down to the sea at the next ridge known as Pear Tree Point. I am no psychologist or medical man, yet it seems to have uninterrupted views stretching to the horizon; frees the mind of barriers both inside and out. With less in my way, I did not feel alone; my mind felt open and more relaxed. All the same, I kept my eyes on any trip hazards and took care whilst climbing down a large rocky step in the path.
Reaching a pebbly beach at the shore line; I soon noticed numerous seals bobbing about in the water. Some seemed to be playing whilst others lazed on the rocks. A couple of kids with wetsuits, flippers and snorkels swam out and the seals met them with a friendly curiosity. I wondered what they thought of us; coming into their watery world in strange clothing?
It was relaxing watching the seals relax on this warm summers day. They must use tremendous energy chasing after fish in the strong currents; yet here it seemed their best skill was taking it really easy. Although I could sit on the soft grass or smooth pebbles all day; I knew that just around the corner was the sandy beach of Mattiscombe Sands. Taking care on a short but steep path near a recent landslide; I soon arrived at this beautiful beach.
Although this was late summer, this beach was not crowded; probably due to the difficult access. So finding a space to sit down was easy and took off my walking boots. I massaged my feet by rubbing them through the sand and looked out on the sun-kissed sea. A sea so warm; that it was possible to swim in for a short while. I thought I do not need the Caribbean or the Mediterranean when I can relax here in Devon.
As the sun began to set; it was a short climb through a meadow to get back to the car. Do not worry about spending money and time; travelling to far flung places. Stay and relax in merry old England.
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