Walk - Sharkham and Man Sands
Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2019. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
- From the car park at Scabbacombe Lane, take the track heading south-eastwards towards the coast, following it around two fields and then forking right to drop diagonally down to the South West Coast Path at Scabbacombe Sands.
Fulmars have colonised the cliffs here. The fulmar is an ocean-going bird which returns to the shore to breed, and looks like a gull, but with a shorter, thicker neck.
- Turn left onto the Coast Path and follow it around above Long Sands to Crabrock Point.
Pause at Long Sands and take in the spectacular views along the coast. Note, too, the Staddon Shales and Meadfoot Slates of the cliffs below, which regularly slump onto the beach.
The cliffs are rich in wildflowers, including early purple orchid, greater stitchwort and oxeye daisy, as well as the tall, spiky heads of teasels.
- Take the shortcut across the headland here or walk around the point for wonderful views along the coastline in both directions, and then drop down to the peaceful sandy cove at Man Sands
Look out for the coastguard cottages here, built by Napoleonic prisoners of war, as well as the boathouse and the lime kiln, used to make lime for use as an agricultural fertiliser (see the Greenway and Galmpton Creek Walk).
In 1985, rising sea levels made it necessary to put up steel gabions to protect the farmland behind Man Sands. In 2004, however, the National Trust made the decision to remove these wire baskets of rocks and let the sea flow inland and re-establish the wetlands which had been drained in order to create the farmland. The resultant environment is one of the country's fastest-changing habitats as a result and a haven for ducks and waders.
It is a popular area for grass snakes, too, which swim with their heads above water but dive beneath the surface to catch their prey.
- Turning left on either of the paths heading inland here will return you to the car park if you turn left at the top and make your way southwards again. (The second path, along Mansands Lane, is about three-quarters of a mile further than the first, along Woodhuish Lane). From here, stay with the Coast Path as it climbs steeply up to Southdown Cliff and continues north and then east, to reach the headland at Sharkham Point.
Sharkham Point is part of the Berry Head to Sharkham Site of Special Scientific Interest, noted for its geology, consisting of hard vertical limestone cliffs and calcareous (chalky) grasslands, with a number of intertidal bat caves, although there is no public access to these. There are also various species of lichen, and a number of breeding birds, notably guillemots.
Sharkham was also the site of an important Iron Mine. The source of the iron was thought to be from the red beds of sandstone in the region, dating from the Permian period, probably via circulating hot fluids migrating along fractures. The process producing it is likely to be similar to that in South Wales, where iron minerals replace zones in limestones from the Lower Carboniferous period. Although the former opencast workings are mostly filled in, there are still good exposures remaining in the coastal slope.
- Keep going around the point to St Mary's Road.
- At St Mary's Road, leave the Coast Path to turn left and walk to the campsite.
- Pick up Yards Lane just beyond the second campsite road and follow it around fields to where another path joins it from the left.
- Bear right here, then left a moment later, carrying on along Yards Lane to Southdown Cross.
- Here turn left onto Southdown Road and bear left at the farm, to carry on in the same direction for a couple of hundred yards to the fork.
- Bear right here onto Mill Lane and travel downhill with it till you come to the footpath leading left, at the bridge.
- Take the footpath and then go straight ahead at Woodhuish Lane for a shortcut back to the car park, but otherwise, carry on down Mill Lane to where it doubles back sharply on itself and another path joins from the right.
- Turn sharp left here, staying with the lane until it joins Woodhuish Lane a short distance beyond.
- Turn right onto Woodhuish Lane and return to the car park.
In Brixham and Galmpton