South West Coast Path Adventure – Leg 7 – Stairway To Heaven

With travel restrictions lifting and the weather improving, our journey around the SWCP was back on. A relatively simple affair logistics wise, we drove to the end point in Paington and jumped on the train back to Starcross. Although this meant we are still missing a mile down Exmouth seafront and a trip on the Strarcross Ferry but with a free weekend to get this leg done and the ferry not being open yet we figured we can add that section in at the end!

Getting off the train and picking up the signs with the familiar Acorn, we set off from Starcross station knowing initially this run was going to be OK, the first 10km pretty much flat on a mix of road/footpath and light trail through Dawlish and Dawlish Warren would break us in gently before picking up the tougher trails later on in the run. The sun was out and this was the first leg outside of full winter conditions and it was amazing to swap base layers and rain coats for T-shirts and sunglasses. The first hour went by nicely, a little diversion through the town but we made good progress and were soon well on our way to Teignmouth. The first of the hills came as we made it back onto more familiar coast path territory. A diversion round the edge of a Golf Course, a few wrong turnings where the signage had gone missing added a few extra challenges but stunning scenery and the promise of Ice Cream at the next stop kept spirits high. Dropping into Teignmouth, the path flattens out as you pick up the footpath next to the train line again which had been very familiar from the early miles of the run. We reached the ferry crossing to Shaldon and found exactly what we were looking for, an ice cream hut!

Getting off the ferry in Shaldon we very quickly hit the trails again and things started to go up! We had hit a few hills and a couple of long flights of steps to climb so far but at this point things went to another level. The trail was stunning and now well away from towns got a lot quieter. It weaved its way up and down into each cove and back up again with set of steps after set of steps to help you along. The miles ticked off a lot slower as we walked up the steps and shuffled on the downs, just aiming to keep moving. What started as a bit of a joke though soon got pretty tough, each climb with its relentless steps sapping the legs further. The trails were still stunning, into and out of wooded areas, views of the coast line from the high points and secluded beaches at the low points.

Pretty confident this was going to be a 20 mile leg, we were in search of Torquay before the finish point of Paignton. However, as we rounded each headland, sure Torquay was going to be right there waiting for us, we got closer to 20 miles on the watch and there was still no sign of it. Popping out onto a road again some locals said it wasn’t far to go although still a few hills and the inevitable flights of stairs to deal with but we knew once we got there it was flat back to the car and we could get food! Despite having a selection of snacks to keep us going, the general theme of the conversation as we got tired was definitely food! Missing some pretty spectacular sea spray on the final mile into Torquay we hit the promenade early evening and took a break to refuel for the final few miles. We had already passed the 20 mile mark to this point and been on our feet nearly 6 hours, so a Nutella crepe and scone with cream and jam were quickly demolished.

Hopeful that some information from a helpful dog walker that Paignton was still 5 miles away was wrong we slowly followed the prom out of Torquay heading back towards the car. Thankfully with all the hills and steps now behind us and the road signs saying it was only 2 miles away, the last section was nothing too difficult to deal with. Again avoiding some pretty spectacular sea spray from the waves crashing against to sea wall we were soon onto Paington prom and a pretty epic leg in the bag.

Run 7 Stats – 24 miles (141 out of 630) – 6h moving time (34h28 total) – 7h18 total time (39h31 total) – 3960 feet of elevation (122,519 out of 114,931)

This was a well fueled leg! Starting with a bacon roll and a pasty for breakfast, 3 Cronuts, 2 Ice Creams, a Nutella Crepe and a Scone with Cream and Jam!

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