Walk - Wembury & Staddiscombe
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.
- Coming out of the entrance to the car park at Wembury Beach turn left, towards the beach, and take the South West Coast Path on your right. The path passes a boat park and continues along a flat open area that was once the shoreline. Ignoring the smaller paths heading away inland, carry on around Wembury Point.
Wembury is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for both its geology features and the wildlife it supports (see the Wembury to Mount Batten Point Walk). The rocky reefs provide the perfect habitat for all kinds of rockpool creatures, providing shelter for a wide range of marine species, even at low tide. The area is noted for its coastal sand and shingle, and its steep slopes of sea-cliff grassland and mixed shrub, and it is an important site for wintering and nesting birds.
In 1744 the tiny wedge-shaped island of the Mewstone - now the home of many nesting seabirds - was the home of a local man 'deported' there after some petty crime. When he had served his seven-year sentence he returned to the mainland, but his daughter stayed on the island, raising her three children there; and subsequently, several other people lived on the Mewstone (see the Wembury to Mount Batten Point Walk). The last was nineteenth-century warrener Sam Wakeham, who ran a ferry service 'to the Moonstone, for anyone on the mainland who 'holds up their white pockethanchecuffs for a signal'. The island was the inspiration for the Romantic artist Turner's watercolour painting 'The Mewstone', now owned by the Tate Gallery.
- At the far side of Wembury Point, the Coast Path merges with Marine Drive, the old access road around HMS Cambridge. Carry on ahead, bearing left with the road and then forking left onto Beach Road. At the end of this road continue ahead along the Coast Path, around Heybrook Bay and then Westlake Bay.
In 1940 a gunnery range known as the Cambridge Gunnery School was opened for the army and naval use at what had formerly been the Wembury Point Holiday Camp. In 1956 it was commissioned as an independent shore establishment under the name HMS Cambridge. This was exactly a century after the commissioning of the first HMS Cambridge - a second-rate vessel built in 1815 - as 'the gunnery ship at Plymouth', used for training naval ratings in the use of guns. The Wembury Point HMS Cambridge was used by the Royal Navy for much of its gunnery training until 2001 when it finally closed. The land was bought by the National Trust, with the help of 30,000 individual donations.
- Passing the lighthouse at Andurn Point the Coast Path heads takes a ninety-degree turn above the southern edge of Crownhill Bay and joins Bovisand Lane, making another sharp turn as it carries on in front of the rows of chalets and on above the beach below Bovisand Park.
- Continuing on the Coast Path around the beach before turning right up the footpath along the far side of the caravan park. Bear right on the drive to follow the track up the valley, signed to Staddiscombe. After about 100 yards, bear right onto the track continuing alongside the caravan park.
- At the road carry on ahead, crossing with care at the junction beyond to turn right and then immediately left along Staddiscombe Road. Follow the road around the sharp right-hand bend and onto the junction with Bovisand Road.
In a field to your right at the first junction after 5, the concrete pillbox is one of a pair used during the Second World War to defend a checkpoint leading to the military installations at Staddon Heights. The second pillbox is a short distance to the right when you join Staddiscombe Road after 6.
Staddon Fort, occupying a point high above the coastline to the west of the pillboxes, was the principal land fort of the Staddon Heights Defences. It was only lightly armed and was later used as a barracks and store. It was built around 1869 for the landward defence of Plymouth. The Brownhill Battery, built nearby at the same time, was designed to accommodate 200 men and 14 guns, and its function was to cover the ground in front of the lines and the scarp which surrounds it on the south and east. The Battery at Staddon Heights was built later, between 1892 and 1893, as part of Plymouth's coastal defences to protect shipping at the mouth of the Plymouth Sound. In the Second World War Staddon Heights was the site of heavy anti-aircraft battery Plymouth No.8, and UP rocket projector battery Z4, which was armed with 64 single-barrelled projectors and manned by 144 Battery of the 9th Royal Artillery Regiment.
- Cross the road to take the public footpath opposite, on the right of Leyford Lane, signed to Traine Road and following the hedge, keeping it on your right. Following the green waymarkers of the Erme-Plym Trail, descend through fields to the valley bottom and climb up the other side, crossing the stile and carrying on along the right-hand hedges. Cross the last field diagonally to go out onto Traine Road.
The remainder of the walk follows the Erme-Plym Trail, a Y-shaped route in the south-west corner of Devon, with views to the edge of Dartmoor. From the southern end of the Two Moors Way at Ivybridge, one arm passes to Plymouth via the villages of Yealmpton and Brixton, some 13 miles, while the second branch travels south from Hollacombe Hill to Wembury, providing a walking route from Dartmoor to the south coast.
- On the road turn right, turning right again after about half a mile, above West Wembury, onto the footpath signposted for the Erme-Plym Trail. Follow the waymarked path down through the fields and trees, past Ford Farm to the road.
- On the road turn left to take the footpath after a short distance, travelling through Churchwood Valley to Church Road. Cross the road, to take the road opposite, turning immediately right onto the footpath back to the car park at Wembury Beach.
The parish church of St Werbergh has tremendous views out over the Great Mewstone to the English Channel. The present church was built in 1088, on the site of a wooden Saxon church, and was refurbished in the 1880s. The tower dates from the early fifteenth century. St Werburgh was the seventh-century Benedictine Abbess of Weedon and Ely and was known for her humility and piety. She became very popular as a miracle-worker after she successfully stopped a flock of geese from spoiling the crops in fields at Weedon. Nine years after her death her body was found to be still miraculously intact (see the Wembury & Heybrook Bay Walk).
The café by the beach at Wembury was for centuries the old corn mill used by the local tenant farmers. The café's doorstep and some of its outside tables feature millstones from the old mill.
Old Mill Café, Wembury Beach (01752 862314). Beachcomber Café, Bovisand Park (01752 862679).