Having to adjust your plans to suit the tides is, I’m sure, an integral part of the Coast Path experience. I was happy, therefore, not to have missed out. Honest.
Heading onwards from Wembury it’s an easy 30 minute walk to catch a ferry across the River Yealm, which operates from 10am-4pm. From there it’s a further three to four hours’ walk to the mouth of the River Erme, which can only be forded at low tide. I checked my tide tables and discovered low tide was at 10:21am, so that should be no probl…wait a second…oh. I considered:
1. Walking round the Erme – an eight mile detour, which would necessitate a night’s rough camping as it would make the day infeasibly long and there are no campsites on the way
2. Getting a taxi round the Erme – about £25 (ouch!)
3. Waiting a few days until the low tide time aligned with the ferry better – but I didn’t want to lose that much time.
With hindsight, I was so focused on the Erme I missed the obvious solution: to make an early start and either walk or taxi round the much shorter (maybe two miles?) road route around the Yealm instead. But by the time that thought had struck me the tide had long since turned, and to be honest after two tough days the prospect of being packed and ready to go by 6am was not at all appealing. Deciding I’d earned a more relaxing day, I left the alarm off, strolled mid-morning to the Warren Point ferry slip, and cooked up a better plan with the help of Billy the boatman as he took me across the Yealm.
Billy very kindly checked the tide times and the shipping forecast for me, suggested a good walking circuit for the afternoon and pointed me towards the campsite. And he drove up the hill after me when he realized he’d given me the wrong time for low water, which was really above and beyond the call of duty. And as a result of all that planning and advice, I’m camping tonight in Newton Ferrers, less than two miles as the crow flies from where I stayed last night!
But I’ve not been idle. Having pitched the tent I did an eight or nine mile loop around the cliffs (including five miles of the Coast Path) to save time tomorrow. I’m glad I did. Despite a showery start when it looked like the weather was only going to deteriorate, by the time I’d pitched the tent, eaten lunch and walked back out to the cliff top at Beacon Hill it had turned into a lovely sunny afternoon – much too good to waste.
The route back round to Noss Mayo was reasonably level and easy, and despite the soreness in my legs from the last couple of days I made good time: it’s wonderfully easy without the pack! As a result, there was plenty of time for a delicious cream tea in the riverside tea garden in Noss Mayo. It was so tasty I gobbled it all up before I remembered to take a photo. Luckily the view lasted longer!
The tea garden’s owners, Cathy and her husband Andy, were as friendly and helpful as Billy had been, warning me of a campsite to avoid in Bigbury-on-Sea and suggesting another much nicer one. And when I stopped off at the convenience store on the way back to the campsite I found the staff, and even the other customers, equally friendly and chatty. The pub in Wembury last night was the same. Stuffed full of local River Yealm mussels, sun-kissed and bowled over by how friendly and welcoming everyone has been, I might never want to leave this beautiful corner of Devon.