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24 September 2014

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You are in: Devon > Great Outdoors> Walks > Torquay Circular Walk > Stage 5
Hope's Nose
The old quarry at Hope's Nose
Hope's Nose - Devonian limestone
The path eventually drops down to rejoin the Marine Drive close to Hope's Nose. You can take a short detour here to investigate this site of geological interest using the stile opposite.
Evidence of 350 million-year-old Devonian limestone is all round you at Hope's Nose - the finger-like rocky tip at the northern end of Torbay.

Nearby is a great example of a raised beach, some 600 meters to the south beside Shennell Cove. There's another raised beach at Thatcher Rock, a tiny island inhabited by seagulls just off Hope's Nose.

The raised beach at Thatcher Rock is 25ft above today's sea level. To find out the reason for this, you have to travel back in time to the Ice Ages which began two million years ago.

Thatcher Rock
Thatcher Rock
The ice-caps never actually reached Torquay, but the effects of the Ice Age certainly did. The melting and growth of ice caps caused the sea levels to rise up and down.

Raised beaches are notoriously difficult to date - but there's no doubt they were formed during one of the warm interglacial periods when sea levels were higher.

It's thought the raised beach at Shennell Cove offers some of the earliest evidence of the formation of the English Channel.

At Thatcher Point, just along from Hope's Nose, you can clearly see the hundreds of layers of limestone which were formed over millions of years - it's a stunning sight.

And all around this area are fossils, together with remnants of extinct corals which were formed when the seas were relatively shallow. The best place to see these is on the foreshore at Hope’s Nose when the tide is low. This is a popular fishing spot, so it's fairly accessible and safe.

It's in this area where you'll also find Devonshire cup corals (latin name Caryophyllia smithii). These are solitary animals and can be up to 3cm across. They're the most widespread of Britain's five corals and can be found along all the western coast of Britain. However, South Devon is its stronghold.

They have an internal limestone skeleton, which is shaped like a cup into which they can retract and hide. They also have see-through tentacles with a small distinctive blob on the end. Stripes of electric blues and greens can be seen between the tentacles.

Perhaps the most exciting discovery along these cliffs came in Victorian times, when gold was found.

A void where gold was once found
A hole cut in the rock where gold could once be found. Photo: Mick Murphy, English Nature.
During great earth movements, hot mineral-rich fluids were infused into the fissures of the rock, which explains the iron deposits along this piece of coastline.

But gold was also infused into the rock and in the 19th century, prospectors descended on Torquay in the hope of making a quick buck.

Collectors used heavy duty cutting equipment to remove samples of the gold veins which were worth large sums of money to mineral dealers.

However, the gold in this area was very fragile and crammed into narrow fissures, so mining it was never a viable proposition. Which is why some of the gold remains in place.

You can see samples of Hope's Nose gold at the Natural History Museum in London.

Today, people visit Hope's Nose to take in the sea views across to Brixham at the southern tip of Torbay, to go fishing, or to simply walk along the South West Coast Path.

And there's another reason to visit Hope's Nose - the array of flora and birdlife.
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