‘Snow on Dartmoor, Sledges in Shop’ a chalk sign proclaims in Budleigh. There’s no snow here but plenty of mud on the winding path up and down the red cliffs. “It’s like skiing isn’t it!” I say to a fellow slip and slider “It’s like glissading” he corrects me.
On passing a notice welcoming me to the ‘East Devon Area of Natural Beauty’ a hail of gun fire patters urgently from Straight Point range. This must make a strange sonic accompaniment for the holidaymakers in the vast Holiday Park.
The rock here is the oldest part of the Jurassic Coast, 250 million years before the dinosaurs. This epic journey through time is celebrated in the Geoneedle, a monument that stacks the ancient stones of the Jurassic Coast so you can pass your hand over the millennia.
The long beach at Exmouth is a prime location for that most beloved of British activities: sitting in one’s car and staring at the sea expressionlessly. Many elderly and not so elderly couples sit, some with china mugs steaming up the windows. Others read the paper, many women sit alone in their car texting – nobody looks happy.
As the Jurassic Coast draws to an end the English Riviera begins. As has been the case throughout this journey one alluring sounding location delightfully follows the next.
But first I need to follow the River Exe to the first footbridge near Exeter. The path passes the Commando Training Centre at Lympstone, the extensive ‘Bottom Field Assault Course’ looks like a monument to pain in brick and scaffolding. Due to their camouflage I only notice a group of Marines sitting like an incognito art class at the last minute. They are all studiously drawing while looking over the Exe with binoculars as an instructor intermittently issues instructions in a low voice.