Helen Cottington on the Start Point walk
Seals and surf at Start Point
By Jo Bishop
To celebrate its 25th anniversary BBC Radio Devon is doing a series of short walks around the county. So it seems appropriate to start at Start Point, with this 2.5 mile walk suggested by listener Helen Cottington.
I met up with Helen on a splendidly sunny and clear February day to join her on her favourite walk at Start Point, in the South Hams.
Helen walked the whole of the South West Coast Path in 2006 and she said this part stood out as being one of the most beautiful.
In her description she wrote: "It encompasses stunning views of rugged rock formations, where seals are often seen basking.
"As you climb over the headland's grassy ridge, the panoramic view just takes your breath away. Over Start Bay, the lost village of Hallsands and on to Slapton. Then far in the distance the hidden entrance to the Dart estuary.
The fabulous view to Mattescombe
"There's also an opportunity to visit Mattescombe beach for a paddle but best of all - I'm lucky enough to live near enough to walk it often and I take my thermos and a piece of cake to eat at one of my favourite spots along the way."
The walk begins at the car park at Start Point. Take the footpath at the far right corner that is signed to Mattescombe beach.
This path leads down into the combe along a field edge and in a short while you reach the coast path itself, with views round to Prawle Point, the most southerly headland in Devon.
To get down to Mattescombe beach is a little bit of a scramble but it's worth the effort to get right alongside the surf, where waves break over jagged rocks.
Helen and the dogs, who had great fun on the beach
Helen's dog Gemma and my dog Bella certainly enjoyed splashing about in the waves and chasing sticks on the densely-packed and colourful pebble beach.
From the beach, retrace your steps back to the path and head eastwards towards Start Point lighthouse. The path is narrow, but clear and easy to follow. On a clear day views of the lighthouse are superb.
Wildlife is abundant. We were lucky enough to see seals basking on the rocks and also oystercatchers on the beach.
The lush grassy slopes make an ideal spot for a coffee and cake break – but you'll need to carry your own, no cafes out here!
There's a little bit of a climb as the path continues to the grassy ridge, but the view is certainly worth the effort.
The lighthouse at Start Point
The route back to the car park is an easy walk along the tarmacced lighthouse access lane.
Helen, who is a grandmother of seven, walked the whole of the South West Coast Path in 2006.
"It was absolute magic," she said. "No responsibilities apart from making sure you don't break an ankle or something."
Having had breast cancer a couple of times she decided - with her step daughter-in-law to be Emma - to raise money for Cancer Research UK.
"We were absolutely amazed and incredibly humbled by the fact that we raised £12,500 for just having a jolly good time."
last updated: 28/03/2008 at 12:51
Helen's Start Point walk
Start/finish grid reference: SX821375
How to get to the start: There is no public transport to Start Point car park. The car park is signposted from Stokenham on the A379 between Kingsbridge and Dartmouth.
Distance: 2.5 miles.
Duration: Approximately one hour.
Terrain: Field track, shingle beach, cliffside coast path, tarmac path.
Additional information: There are no refreshments or toilets on this route.
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Beach life - a guide to Devon's coastline