diamond geezer

 Monday, February 27, 2017

Seaside postcard: Dawlish
A trip to the South Devon coast brightens the soul, especially when the sun's out, it's not too cold and an ice cream shop is open. Which is why I hopped on a train from Exeter down to Dawlish - it's only ten minutes if you get the right one - and enjoyed the panoramic views across the Exe estuary. At Dawlish Warren a sand spit stretches out across the mouth of the river, home to a nature reserve, a popular beach and a golf course, plus somewhere to buy chips and beer. It's here that the railway breaks through a gap in the sandstone bluff and curves right, running along the sea wall at the foot of the cliffs and exposing itself to the vagaries of the English Channel. This wave-hugging track continues for the next mile to Dawlish, where there's a seafront station, before plunging onwards in similar style (and through a succession of tunnels) to Teignmouth. I fail to understand why anyone would choose to sit on the right hand side of the train.

Dawlish had already risen from fishing village to minor seaside resort before the railway came, with Jane Austen the most well-known early holidaymaker. But it was Isambard Kingdom Brunel's decision to route the Exeter to Plymouth line around the coast, rather than across more challenging moorland terrain inland, which brought the town to prominence. Initially the line was run as an 'atmospheric railway', powered by air pressure, but this proved susceptible to all sorts of mechanical failure and lasted barely a year before steam took over instead. But stormy seas were always the main hazard hereabouts, sometimes splashing the trains as they sped by, and in 2014 wiping out 40 metres of wall and ballast, disrupting travel to the southwest for two whole months.

The station's westbound platform is the most interesting, maritime-wise, with planks protruding out above the sea wall, and seagulls perching in the timber supports beneath. There's even a short section adjacent to the canopy where the boards stretch further back, allowing a longitudinal view of what you've just been standing on. A footbridge crosses to the station entrance on the eastbound, but if you have heavy luggage (and are accompanied by the stationmaster) you can cross the tracks rather than haul everything over the top. Immediately adjacent to the station exit is a diner called Geronimos, which is as quaintly Native American retro as you'd hope, and then you're straight out into Dawlish proper.

The resort is unusual in that you can't reach the beach without crossing the railway, either by footbridge (of which there are three) or by ducking under a very short viaduct where the Dawlish Water enters the sea. I didn't see much of a beach when I visited, but there is allegedly a lengthy strip of sand at low tide rather than simply waves lapping at a wall. Never mind, the walk along the wall is plenty interesting enough as it is.

Head east and before long you reach the section that tumbled into the sea, the dividing line between old and new wall clearly visible, immediately adjacent to a single row of houses risking it all at the foot of the cliff. Every several minutes a train rushes by, more usually passing through Dawlish station than stopping, so you're likely to come right up close to an Inter City 125 or some lesser loco as you proceed. Indeed the stone wall between path and railway is unusually low, and would be no problem whatsoever to scramble over, hence a red sign warns of the £1000 fine which awaits those who trespass against it. A popular constitutional is to continue all the way to Dawlish Warren, but I didn't have the time.

I did, however, walk west along the wall, which was noticeably wavier than the east. This runs for a few hundred metres from the station before meeting the foot of a lofty headland, as does the railway, except this promptly burrows inside. On foot it's possible to walk round the foot of the red sandstone cliffs, past beach huts and a burnt-out ice cream kiosk, to Coryton's Cove on the far side. Here you can watch trains plunge into their next tunnel, but not the next three immediately beyond, each named after local landowners when the railway was built. But better to climb the zigzag path to the top of the outcrop, named Lea Mount where a sloping public garden offers panoramic views of the coast. There's Dawlish spread out below, and the railway snaking along the coast, maybe even a tiny train... and best get here before the leaves come out, I reckon.

And what of Dawlish itself? It's charming, I'm pleased to report, especially the central landscaped strip. The local river was ornamentalised in early 19th century, sandwiched by greenspace called The Lawn, and overlooked by a Regency street called The Strand. This, rather than the High Street, has the best of the shops, while the river is draped with fairy lights for enchanting after-dark illumination. Watch out for the famous black swans, originally introduced from Western Australia and now the town's proud emblem. There are currently eleven a-swimming somewhere, and according to the latest egg count three chicks on the way.

Which just left me the ice cream to source. I was tempted into Gay's Creamery on the western bank by a windowful of goodies and its promise of 'old fashioned Devonshire ice cream", not to mention Scrumpy, Gifts, Pasties and Cakes. I was so very not disappointed. Not only was the ice cream thick, vanilla-y and lush, in portions verging on the over-generous, but for an extra 20p I got a thick layer of gloopy Devon cream spooned over the top. My arteries will no doubt complain at some point, but blimey, that put scuzzy London ice cream vans in the shade. I confess I'm not sure how holidaymakers ever spent a week in Dawlish, even cream-loving train aficionados, but I'm chuffed I decided to drop by.

My Dawlish/Exeter gallery
There are 30 photos (15 of Dawlish, then 15 of Exeter) [slideshow]

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan21  Feb21  Mar21  Apr21  May21  Jun21
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20  Jun20  Jul20  Aug20  Sep20  Oct20  Nov20  Dec20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

» my flickr photostream

twenty blogs
ian visits
blue witch
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
the ladies who bus
round the rails we go
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel
from the murky depths
exploring urban wastelands

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
Things to do outside London
Inner London toilet map
The DG Tour of Britain

read the archive
Jun21  May21
Apr21  Mar21  Feb21  Jan21
Dec20  Nov20  Oct20  Sep20
Aug20  Jul20  Jun20  May20
Apr20  Mar20  Feb20  Jan20
Dec19  Nov19  Oct19  Sep19
Aug19  Jul19  Jun19  May19
Apr19  Mar19  Feb19  Jan19
Dec18  Nov18  Oct18  Sep18
Aug18  Jul18  Jun18  May18
Apr18  Mar18  Feb18  Jan18
Dec17  Nov17  Oct17  Sep17
Aug17  Jul17  Jun17  May17
Apr17  Mar17  Feb17  Jan17
Dec16  Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

the diamond geezer index
2020 2019 2018 2017 2016
2015 2014 2013 2012 2011
2010 2009 2008 2007 2006
2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
Herbert Dip
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards