It’s possible to walk the whole of this route, but it’s not a circular trail and includes a certain amount of road walking, so driving to each point of interest is an option definitely worth considering.
Between Meadfoot Beach and Babbacombe is one of Torquay’s most exclusive areas. Centred on Thatcher Avenue, the area is known locally as Millionaire’s Row, but you don’t need to be a millionaire to enjoy what is arguably the most interesting part of the Torquay coastline.
This area of Torbay is as good as anywhere to understand why the English Riviera was given status as a UNESCO Global Geopark, one of only seven locations in the UK.
The best place to begin discovering what all this means is Kent’s Cavern, but as I’ll be writing a separate post about it, I’ll just give a brief explanation as to why the area was deemed important enough to be added to the list.
Anyone who read my post Golden Cap and Fossil Hunting at Charmouth will be well aware that the Jurassic Coast is a great place to study geology and early life on earth, but the rocks around Torbay are much older.
The Jurassic Coast covers rocks formed over a period from 65 to 250 million years ago, but the geology around Torbay covers a period from 360 to 419 million years ago – give or take a few million years.
This different time period was discovered by geologists Adam Sedgwick and Roderick Murchison and endorsed by William Lonsdale, another geologist, who recognised that coral fossils found along the Torquay coastline were from the same era.
Although there was a lot of debate at the time, by 1840 it was generally agreed that there was indeed a new geological era between the already recognised Carboniferous and Silurian periods. Due to the studies made here this new era became known as the Devonian Period.
My previous Torquay post was From Beacon Cove to Meadfoot Beach, and at the far end of Meadfoot Beach turning right into Ilsham Marine Drive will bring you up to Kilmorie, a development of luxury apartments built in the 1960s, described by the company who owns it in a language that only developers and estate agents can, but to most other people it’s an incongruous eyesore. As the road winds up to the top though, it will soon become obvious why people with money would want to buy property here. For us ordinary folk we can at least enjoy a piece of the lifestyle by wandering down the large green open space that leads to Thatcher Point where there are close-up views of the small rocky island known as Thatcher Rock. If you’re into picnics, this is a place to bring one.
The island is one of Torquay’s best-known landmarks; geologists might be interested to know that it’s made up of Devonian limestone, 350 million years old, and has a raised beach 25ft above today’s sea level. I’m sure most people though just regard it as a lump of rock with a few seabirds on it.
Ilsham Marine Drive continues around the coastline, but look out for a path that leads down to Hope’s Nose. A map will show you that the crescent-shaped ‘Tor Bay’ stretches from Berry Head around to Hope’s Nose, but whereas plenty of people visit Berry Head, not many visitors stray down here.
There are a couple of reasons why. Firstly, it’s not the easiest of places to negotiate down to, and secondly, the last few years has seen it necessary to introduce a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) on this Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
If you can get down to the water’s edge, it’s a great place for angling, and has been a popular pastime for local fishermen over many years. Unfortunately, in recent times it’s become a magnet for newcomers who don’t seem to have the same respect for our natural environment. Hopefully, the PSPO will sort it out.
Hope’s Nose deserves to be looked after because it’s not been made a SSSI for nothing. This rocky limestone tip not only has flora that grows specifically in areas like this, but is also where coral fossils, like those that William Lonsdale discovered, can be found. I haven’t found any myself, but I’m assured that they do still exist.
This limestone also has carbonate veins which when treated with strong acid reveals a web of gold branches. Associated with this gold are two rare minerals – selenium and palladium. Don’t expect to find any gold here now though because collectors have seen to that. If you really are keen to see what this gold looks like there are examples in the Natural History Museum in London.
Even if you’re not a person who is interested in geology or fishing, Hope’s Nose is still worth a clamber down to. With views across to the Lead Stone and Ore Stone ahead of you, Thatcher Rock to your right and Anstey’s Cove to the left, it’s worth coming down just for the views alone.
The carousel below shows some images of Hopes Nose.
You can pick up the coast path a bit further along Ilsham Marine Drive. This part of the path is known as the Bishop’s Walk, named after the Bishop of Exeter who built Bishopstowe, a large mansion which is now (for the time being at least) the Palace Hotel.
If you’ve driven along here there’s a large car park above Anstey’s Cove, our final point of interest along this stretch of coast.
It’s a fairly steep climb down to the cove from the car park, but it’s worth the effort. Even though coasteering activities often take place here they don’t normally detract from the ambience of this lovely little cove sheltered by Long Quarry Point.
This area of Torquay is a quiet part of town, and whether the Devonian limestone rocks hold any interest to you or not, it’s a part of the bay that is a pleasure to visit for anyone who prefers a few hours away from the hustle and bustle of the harbour – and who knows? If you find any of that gold at Hopes Nose, you might even be able to afford a house up on Thatcher Avenue as well.