'Bounding' around Bolt Head

Salcombe Travel Blog

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BOLT HEAD The old signal tower

When I agreed to accompany my friend walking his dog, little did I know what an energetic experience I was about to let myself in for, even though I was warned that some of the paths would be “a little steep”. Despite it being a bit of a physical challenge for me, the trail we followed was exceptionally beautiful.

We drove from Salcombe to the National Trust car park at East Soar, and then began walking southwards to a farm after passing a creeper-covered derelict brick bunker or block-house.  From the farm (named ‘East Sewer Farm’ on a 19thcentury map), it was possible to see a small brick tower with a pointed roof. This is West Soar Admiralty Signal Station, which was built in 1794.

BOLT HEAD An old wall at the edge of The Warren
It is one of the few remaining examples of a chain of signal stations that used to run along the coast of the English Channel (see: http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/3984323). 

Our path turned eastwards as we approached the top of steep cliffs high above the sea. We walked along the cliff-top through The Warren, some common land, until we reached a well-built stone wall that separates the Warren from fields owned by farmers. This wall exists on a map drawn in 1884, but it is probably older.

After passing east of the wall, we followed steep paths which afforded views of a rugged, treeless, rocky landscape that falls away sharply to the sea far below. This would make a perfect setting for a scene in “The Game of Thrones” fantasy series. Near the summit of Bolt Head, which some believe to be even further south that The Lizard in Cornwall, we saw a few black, presumably wild, horses.

BOLT HEAD
Apart from one keeping watch, the rest were lying on the ground.

From this high vantage point, it is possible to see the Cornish coast on a clear day, but we were only able to see the coast across the ria (a coastal inlet formed from a drowned river valley) that runs to Kingsbridge via Salcombe. Across the ria, my friend pointed out some land that still bore traces of very ancient (pre-Roman) agricultural fields. He also showed me small rocky inlets that had been formed by quarrying in Tudor times.

Continuing along the steep coastal path, we found ourselves looking down on Starehole Bay far beneath us. Approached best by boat, this rocky inlet has a couple of short stretches of sandy beach.

BOLT HEAD The coastal path
Not far beneath the water in this small bay, lies the wreck of the ‘Hertzogin Cecelie’, which hit The Hamstone Rock (out at sea a short distance west of Bolt Head) on the 25thof January 1936, and then drifted onto the rocks beneath Bolt Head. This accident marked the end of the career of the four-masted steel ship built in Bremerhaven in 1902 (see: https://www.submerged.co.uk/hertzoginececilie-wreck.php).  After some salvage work had been undertaken, what was left of the vessel was sunk in Starehole Bay, where it can, apparently, be seen beneath the water if light conditions are right.

Because of the poor visibility that morning, we were only just able to make out Prawle Point, a rocky promontory to the east of the ria. This has been the site of many disastrous wrecks over the centuries (see: https://www.

BOLT HEAD Starehole Bay
submerged.co.uk/prawle-point.php).

Our path led steeply downwards around the bay until it met with two others. One led along the cliffs to Overbecks House and then on towards Salcombe. The other, which we followed, went steeply upwards towards East Soar Outdoor Experience, a farm converted into an attractive outdoor pursuits centre. This includes a café/restaurant inside a huge barn and a field where there were several identical ‘pre-pitched’ tents for people wanting to camp (see: http://www.eastsoaroutdoorexperience.co.uk).  Its aim is to instil a lifelong love of the joys of living in the great outdoors.

Close to the Outdoor Experience, there is a massive concrete structure that stands beside one of the grassy runways of the former RAF Bolt Head Airfield, which is still used by small private aircraft if there is not too much wind.

BOLT HEADHope Cove nuclear bunker
The concrete structure, designed to withstand a 5 kilo-ton nuclear blast, The Hope Cove Radar Station, was built during the Cold War between 1952 and 1954. In the late 1950s, it became a fortified nuclear-proof Regional Seat of Government (see: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1427493), where selected government officials could take refuge during and after a nuclear weapons attack. Prior to assuming this function, the site was part of a chain of coastal radar stations designed to give advanced warnings of the approach of enemy aircraft and to track them as they headed inland. The airfield was, for a time, used for planes that were to be used to intercept airborne intruders. (For a description of the interior of the bunker, see: http://www.subbrit.org.uk/rsg/sites/h/hope_cove/index2.html). The bunker was closed-down by the government in 1992, and is now privately owned.

The former bunker is not far from the car park, where we had begun our energetic trek. Apart from getting plenty of exercise (well over 8000 steps according to my friend’s pedometer), and many lungsful of fresh air, I experienced the dramatically beautiful scenery of this headland on the Devon coast.

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BOLT HEAD The old signal tower
BOLT HEAD The old signal tower
BOLT HEAD An old wall at the edge …
BOLT HEAD An old wall at the edge…
BOLT HEAD
BOLT HEAD
BOLT HEAD The coastal path
BOLT HEAD The coastal path
BOLT HEAD Starehole Bay
BOLT HEAD Starehole Bay
BOLT HEADHope Cove nuclear bunker
BOLT HEADHope Cove nuclear bunker
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photo by: AdamR3723