South West Coast Path: Wembury to Mothecombe

In which: the River Erme looks very wet ● the River Yealm is even wetter, but comes with transport ● flowers grace my path ● I brave the ford ● a plan comes to successful fruition

Date: 17 April 2017
Time of walk: 0920 to 1450
Today’s walking: 18.6 km
Progress along SWCP: 17.1 km
Estimated ascent: 660 metres

The logistics for today were to drive to the far end of the walk at Mothecombe, and get a taxi back to Wembury. The car park was about 50 metres above sea level, with a steep descent to the river, but part of my plan was to start with a walk down to the river. Most river crossings on the South West Coast Path have a bridge or a ferry, but there are a few that need to be crossed at low tide, and this crossing of the River Erme was one that some guides have focussed the most on – highlighting that it can be tricky even at low water, particularly if the wind is from the southwest and pushing water up. I’d planned the holiday around the tide times, to make sure I could cross at the bottom of low tide, and the weather was fair for today, but even so I was a little anxious.

So having walked down the steep hill to the river, I checked out the ford that the South West Coast Path takes to the other side of the River Erme. The recommended route is diagonally across from here. Hmm, 600 metres across and it looks a bit damp. We’ll have another look at the end of the walk…

I walked back up the hill to the car park. The taxi arrived promptly and whisked me back to the car park at Wembury, ready for today’s walk proper.

Looking across Wembury Bay. The inlet is the River Yealm which will be the first river crossing of the day, but fortunately this one comes equipped with a ferry.
Some easy walking with floral accompaniments.
The River Yealm, which I walk along for a little way. The Coast Path ends where the inlet splits, the River Yealm going north and Newton Creek going east.
The view of Newton Ferrers while waiting for the ferry to take me across the Yealm to the Noss Mayo side. My guide said that the ferry generally runs from 1000 to 1100 and 1500 to 1600, so this had been another constraint when planning this day and this holiday – to ensure I picked a day when crossing here between 10 and 11 would enable me to get to Mothecombe at the right time to ford the River Erme at low tide. I followed the instructions to summon the ferry from the other side, and it duly arrived a few minutes later and for a modest fee conveyed me quickly to the other side.
A walk through woods along the south side of the River Yealm includes a climb which eventually brought me out onto open cliffs with a good view out past Great Mew Stone.
Much of the rest of the day’s walk was on a well constructed grassy track along the cliff tops, with a variety of flowers and rock formations to maintain interest.
Time to head down – and straight back up.
After a very pleasant but easy walk, I’ve arrived back at the River Erme ford. It’s now 3.30pm and this looks far more practical than it did at 9.45am – the water has almost all gone.
Looking upriver while standing midstream, and the water is barely covering my ankles.
The view from the far side after braving the raging torrents. It wasn’t exactly an anticlimax, because I’d been hoping it would be easy and trouble-free, but it was easier and more trouble-free than I’d hoped or expected. An interesting experience though, and I’m glad I popped down first this this morning to see it at high tide as well, since it illustrated nicely the difference and the importance of good planning (or patience).
So it’s farewell to Devon and Cornwall for a little while – I walked back up the hill to the car and returned to my apartment in Plymouth, ready to head home in the morning.

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