The fragility of the frosty reed beds by the Exe contrast with the monumentality of the concrete motorway viaduct. Incredibly the river Exe starts just a few kilometres from the north coast of Somerset in Exmoor but perversely chooses to run south right across the country to get to the sea here.
I’m surprised that Powderham Castle and estate is actually lived in today by the Earl of Devon rather than surviving as a conference centre or National Trust enterprise. I can’t decide wether I think this is a good thing or not. I’m sitting below the incongruous burgundy powderham.co.uk sign applying blister plasters to my heels when a woman exclaims ”Oh dear!” in a Scottish accent with a smile as she walks past me.
I head into the Atmospheric Railway pub for lunch named after Brunel’s ill fated vacuum driven rail service that ran here briefly. I’m very glad to get out of the cold and am met equally warmly by the regulars curious where the backpacker in their midst is heading. However I don’t think I’ll be heeding the notice behind the bar that reads ‘If at first you don’t succeed give up and go to the pub’.
Dawlish Warren is a drab and tawdry holiday resort who’s charmlessness is only emphasised by the jolly rainbow signs stating ‘The Fun Starts Here’ and Miami style graphics of palm trees and golden sands.
Seeing trains passing close to the sea next to the red cliffs is so beguiling and iconically British that I stop for a while with a stupid grin watching the spectacle on the footbridge like a dyed-in-the-wool trainspotter.
Dog walkers scurry along the breakwater occasionally getting splashed by mighty waves – this must be a local amusement. I try my luck following along: first a wave breaks to my front then to the back and finally I get a wave full in the face as I shield my camera with my body like a baby.
Continuing into Dawlish the waves splashing over the breakwater shift from being entertaining to alarming and I end up being forced to backtrack and taking a higher inland route. Moral of the story: Devonian dog walkers are adrenaline junkies not to be trusted!