By: Blonde Two
One of the things I love about the South West Coast Path is its capacity to deliver the unexpected. SW coast path walks have stunning scenery whether you are in Devon or Cornwall but, if you keep your eyes open and on your map, you will often find little nuggets of ‘treasure’. If you walk the South West Coast Path from Kingswear towards Brixham for example, after about three kilometres, as well as finding yourself out of breath (it is a tad steep) you will find yourself at Froward Point. You can’t miss Froward because in is inhabited by a collection of utilitarian concrete ‘buildings’. More big boxes than buildings, these are the remains of a Second World War gun battery.
On National Trust land (and needing support) the battery was built in 1942 to protect Dartmouth and Start Point from a sea attack. There is an information board describing the use of each building which immediately turns the ugliness into interesting history.
The other thing that Froward Point has (as well as lovely views towards the Dartmouth entrance and the Mew Stone) is a National Coastwatch station. Not many people (including me until Sunday) know that these Coastwatch stations are manned entirely by volunteers. They came about in 1994 in response to the closure of smaller Coastguard stations. I have walked past this particular one many times before but never before when it has been open.
We were welcomed inside by Tim who gave us a fascinating account of their work and some of the history. The views from inside the Coastwatch station are stunning and on a clear day, the team are able to log all sea activity for 16 nautical miles (I now know what a nautical mile is!) If they spot anything of concern on the sea or on the land, they alert the Coastguard and are able to help in searches with information from their logs.
I am hoping that I didn’t ask too many questions, but it was all so fascinating. I found out some differences between land (maps) and sea (charts) navigation, was shown a ready reckoner which related distances to features (it had a name that I have forgotten), admired the radio equipment and was particularly impressed by the windscreen wipers on all the windows.
It was a sunny but hazy day so we could only see about a mile (a nautical one I think). I would love to go back in a storm, Tim told us that it is magnificent. Froward Point has a webcam so I will be able to find the perfect moment and you will be able to check the weather for your coast path walk.
As you know we Blondes are big fans of volunteering, both as an experience for ourselves and our youngsters and as a way of giving back to our community. If you are interested (and I suspect it would be very rewarding) there is more information about Coastwatch here and a video here but if you have a Coastwatch station near to you, I would thoroughly recommend popping in and giving them your support. What a great way to view the South West Coast Path!