This is my favourite part of the South Devon coast path. I have walked it for the past thirty years and know every cove and corner of its splendour. Today I have set off from Hope Cove for an 18 mile stretch into Salcombe for lunch and back again. The sea is perfectly flat apart from a clean swell. There is no wind and low pressure has descended a bluey-grey low cloud. The horizon is clear.
I am completely at peace as I stride out towards Bolt Tail; a high headland made of black granite and red sandstone cliffs. I know from kayaking these waters that underneath my feet there are huge sea caves: a dark, dripping underground decorated with sea anemones and crustaceans, and where grey seals have their white silky seal-pups. As the waves roll into the caves, you can hear their thunderous roar as they bounce around the cavern walls making the cliffs vibrate with their sound.
Away from the cliff edge, skylarks are singing, meadow pipits and stone chats are displaying whilst a kestrel sits grooming its feathers; watchful of my ever-closer steps. The rocks beneath me are painted with beautiful xanthoria; brilliant yellow in contrast to the greys and blues of the ocean.
I have now reached Bolberry Down between Hope and Soar Mill Cove and am writing this with my feet dangling over an overhanging ledge. My eyes are cast along these beautiful cliffs. Grey granite tumbles into the sea with long fingers of black rock reaching out to the waves. This is my spot and I love it. The peregrines that fly of its peaks, the green, grassy banks that flow down to the cliffs, and the bright sweet smelling gorse. I cherish this place and ponder our deep attachment to landscapes. Fortune plays its song on our life; the people, the travels, the endeavours, the loves and the disappointments, yet I return here and all is well, all is the same: a stillness in a tumultuous world.
I pick up my belongings and gather pace as I go past Goat Rock, on towards Bolt Head and around to Starehole Cove. Here I begin to turn into the Salcombe inlet. The vegetation changes from gorse to spring flowers. Nuthatch and tree-creepers sing in the old oaks that line the waterfront and I hear my first chiff chaff of 2017. Funny I always remember when and where I hear the first calls or our summer migrants – a sure sign that spring is coming. A squirrel briefly accompanies me on my way into Salcombe for lunch. Then it is not long before I turn around and head homeward before darkness falls. What a fabulous day this is.