Walk - Higher Brownstone to Froward Point
Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2020. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
A circular walk out to a spectacular headland overlooking the mouth of the River Dart and Start Bay with an undulating return journey along cliff tops, and through rolling farmland. On the way, there is much to see in terms of wildlife and remains of the fortifications that have defended the estuary for centuries.
- This walk starts at the National Trust’s car park at Higher Brownstone. Across the end of the car park is a gate, beside which is a gap – go through this and follow the track which will lead you to Froward Point. Midway, it is worthwhile deviating off the track to take the path running across the field to the hollow stone tower of the Day Mark. This was built in 1864 to help shipping find the entrance to the River Dart.
Much of the area around Froward Point is owned by the National Trust. The Trust works with its tenant farmers, with funding from Natural England, to manage the cultivated land for farmland birds and rare arable plants. Many of the fields are home to the Skylark, a species declining on farmland in many areas. The liquid song of this crested bird can often be heard as it rises in its characteristic songflight. The Linnet, a sociable ground-feeding finch is also found here, as is the rare cirl bunting, with its yellow and black facial stripes and green-brown plumage. Among the rare arable flowers in these fields are the pink lipped flowers of the lesser snapdragon, the bright blue cornflower and the purple and yellow flowers of the sharp-leaved Fluellen.
At Inner Froward Point is the Brownstone Battery complex built in 1942 as a defence against German naval attack. The site was equipped with two six-inch guns taken from a First World War battleship. Each gun had a range of over 14 miles and operated in tandem with a powerful searchlight situated close to the high water mark. During the war, the Battery was manned by up to 300 soldiers, and the cliffs all around were strung with barbed wire. An information panel near the buildings will enable you to orientate yourself, and it is well worth the steep descent and climb back up again to explore the remains.
A National Coastwatch Institute station is now situated at the Battery and has fine views across Start Bay. Visitors are welcome to pop in and say hello at the lookout and to peruse the display in the building opposite.
The Mew Stone, visible off the shore from Brownstone Battery is home to a large seabird colony as well as being the most easterly ‘haul-out’ for grey seals in the English Channel.
- From the Battery follow the Coast Path signed towards Kingswear.
The conifers you pass are Monterey and Corsican pines, which are tolerant of salt winds and harsh weather, and so thrive in coastal situations. Keep an eye out for peregrine falcons particularly as you pass high above Newfoundland Cove. With blue-grey plumage above and white and dark bars below, this falcon is the world’s fastest animal. When swooping to catch their prey, it can reach speeds of more than 200 miles per hour.
- As you descend down to Mill Bay Cove you can see two of the castles that have defended the important naval base of Dartmouth.
Across the water is Dartmouth Castle, built at the end of the 15th century, although the remnants of an earlier castle built in 1388 also stand just uphill. On this side of the river, close to the waterline and now partly hidden by woods, is the smaller Kingswear Castle, finished in 1503. The original iron cannon had to be replaced with brass guns after suffering severe corrosion from the salt water and wind. The fortification was abandoned once the development of more powerful cannon meant that the whole river mouth could be covered by guns from Dartmouth Castle. Kingswear Castle is now owned by the Landmark Trust and can be rented as holiday accommodation.
- Passing behind Mill Bay Cove the Coast Path climbs a steep flight of steps, at the top of which turn right to follow the footpath back past Home Farm along an ancient lane to the car park at Higher Brownstone.
Award winning tea rooms at Coleton Fishacre.