Walk - Labrador Bay from Teignmouth
Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2021. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
- Leave Teignmouth Station, cross the car park and roundabout and head down Hollands Road for the seafront and the Esplanade. Pass the pier on your left with the Den on your right.
- At the end of the promenade cross the car park and pass beyond the Lifeboat Station down Lifeboat Lane to the Ferry. Cross to Shaldon on the ferry.
The Ferry runs all year round except on Christmas and New Year’s Day. All tickets are single. Adults and children must pay but dogs and bikes go free. Ferries leave on demand every 10-15 minutes from 8am to 6pm in summer. Please check www.teignmouthshaldonferry.co.uk for further information. A passenger ferry has been in existence since at least the 13th century, when the yearly revenue was 6s8d (80 old pennies!) and the crossing took up to half an hour. The black and white gunport design was added after the Napoleonic Wars to make them appear as fearsome Men ’o’ War. It has remained unaltered for over 300 years.
- Reaching Shaldon near the Ferry Inn, turn left down Marine Parade, pick up the South West Coast Path, heading eastwards towards the headland.
Shaldon is a picturesque village with a number of listed buildings, some of them dating back to the seventeenth century. The original settlement was upstream at Ringmore. It has fifteenth century buildings and a Norman church that was probably built on the site of a wooden Saxon church. Shaldon grew up as the estuary silted up over the centuries and reclaimed land downstream.
Like the Exe, the Teign estuary was very popular with smugglers during the eighteenth century, when the notorious Jack Rattenbury used it as one of his many drop-off points on the Devon and Dorset coastline. Estuaries were particularly favoured by the 'free traders' because the land-guard was usually based on one side, with the only means of crossing the estuary some distance upstream, which took time.
From the beach at Shaldon, pick up the South West Coast Path, heading eastwards along the narrow lane up the hill towards the Ness Headland (be aware of cars). Above the Ness Hotel turn left and follow the path as it climbs up and around the wooded headland taking in a panoramic viewpoint. Continue on around until the paths drops down into the top of the car park.
Here you have a great view over Teignmouth and onwards to Exmouth and the Jurassic Coast.
- From the summit, head south through the woods, passing the small but fascinating Shaldon Zoo.
Next to Shaldon Zoo is a tunnel through the headland to Ness Beach - allegedly this is an old smugglers' tunnel, where goods were carried through to be stored in caves at Teignmouth, but is now the main way of reaching a lovely sandy beach.
- Continue southwards along the Coast Path passing the pitch-and-putt course before climbing steeply through fields to come out on the A379.
Down on Labrador Bay Beach, at the foot of the cliffs are the remains of a concrete boat, designed for use in the D-Day Landings in Normandy. It was beached and abandoned here after the Second World War. The remains of the boat lie among large boulders which have fallen from the breccia cliffs. This rock was formed in the Permian period, some 250 million years ago, when flash flooding carried limestone fragments through a red desert environment, embedding them in the sand which was later compressed to form the breccia.
- Turn left along the road for a short distance, and then pick up the Coast Path once more, to walk along the Coast Path leading off to the left. From here the path plunges up and down around the edge of fields, through a pretty woodland. (Ignore the path to the right at the edge of this wood, unless you want a shortcut - this is the path you will return on).
The land here was purchased by the RSPB in November 2008 to help secure the future of the cirl bunting, a small songbird related to the yellowhammer. Once a common farmland bird, by 1989 the cirl bunting population had declined to fewer than 120 pairs throughout the whole of Britain – all of them on the South Devon coastline. The greatest threat to their survival was the common practice of intensive farming. In the last few years the RSPB, in conjunction with the Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust, has been leading a project working with South Devon farmers to revive traditional farming methods. Using grazing animals to control scrub and invasive species and abolishing the use of artificial fertilisers, encourages the growth of wildflowers. This, in turn, attract insects, a vital food source for the birds. In addition, spring barley is planted and the stubble left on the ground until the following spring to provide winter food.
As a result of these strategies the cirl bunting population has made a dramatic recovery, and by 2009 already there were more than 850 pairs breeding here. In spring the cirl buntings become territorial and the males' distinctive rattling call can often be heard. By summer they are well into their breeding season, and will be quieter and harder to see as they forage for crickets and grasshoppers. Autumn is a better time to see them, when they form flocks, often perching in the hedge around the car park. Look out, also, for skylarks, chaffinches and yellowhammers, as well as buzzards and peregrines hunting overhead.
- After about a mile, you come to a footpath leading off to your right. Turn uphill on this path and follow it a little way, until you come to another path off to your right, just before the trees.
In the 1950s some of the land here belonged to Stan Prosser, who lived in a cottage at the top of the cliffs. He ran a tearoom which he called 'Smugglers' Cove'. He also ran a small but profitable business selling 'lucky wishing well water' from a well at the foot of the cliffs. He claimed that Bob Hope was one of his lucky water customers!
- Turn onto this path and follow it uphill through fields, heading back up towards the A379.
- Turn right at the top and walk about 300 yards through the field, parallel to the road. Here the footpath drops to the right and travels through the field passing the Labrador Bay car park (where there is often an ice cream van. If you want you can catch a bus back from here to Teignmouth.
- Ignoring the car park, carry on along the footpath to head back up to the road at 7urn right on the road and walk back to join the Coast Path on the hillside below and retrace your steps past the golf course, back to the Ness and Shaldon.
Catch the Ferry across the River Teign, walk along the Promenade back into Teignmouth.