Kitiara Pascoe – The Templer Way to Teignmouth

Kitiara Pascoe – The Templer Way to Teignmouth

It took me several years of living in Devon to find myself on Teignmouth’s stony shores. The seafaring town sits quietly on the South Devon coastline, often overlooked by visitors on their way to Torbay or Cornwall. Remembering its calming glory, I’ve decided to take another trip.

As Teignmouth’s parking situation doesn’t always make for a stress-free visit, I’m taking a more laid back entrance. I’m walking.

The Templer Way is a hiking route that begins at Haytor on Dartmoor and, along some 18 miles, traces the old granite tramway and canal that historically delivered the moor’s precious rock and clay to Teignmouth docks. It’s a well-marked path that’s mostly downhill until you reach the estuary and travels past Bovey Tracey and Stover before descending to the Teign.

wooden sign post

The entirety can be walked in a day but, due to time constraints, I cut the first half and instead start from Newton Abbot where you can join the route behind the station.

The first thing I sense stepping onto the footpath is an impressive smell. It’s the kind of stagnating foliage scent you get in swamps. Following the path, it’s not long before I step down onto the foreshore and this is where things get a bit sticky. Because the Templer Way south of Newton Abbot is very much tidal.

Despite having lived in flip flops for much of the past month, this final 5.5 mile section of the Way is about as far from flip flop territory as you can get. I walk along the muddy stones, crunch across the bladderwrack like it’s bubble wrap and occasionally slip.

It’s fascinating to see the northern banks of the Teign from this side, a view you’d struggle to get without this trail. I see the mainline trains rumbling along between stations, fields stretching up on the hills and swans squabbling on the edge of the marshes.

You can only walk the foreshore within two hours of low tide and today there’s a three-metre range, making it almost impossible to imagine how different the estuary would’ve looked a few hours ago. But everywhere there’s evidence of its recent presence. For one, the shoreline is littered with jellyfish.

Barrel jellyfish are enormous, they can grow up to 90cm across and weigh up to 35kg. And the ones that I’m picking my way over aren’t exactly dainty. They sprawl on the mud like jellied aliens.

This last half of the Templer Way is almost entirely foreshore until I reach Shaldon, Teignmouth’s absurdly pretty neighbour. Walking up through the town, I’m surrounded by quaint cottages covered in climbing plants and briefly hover by an estate agents’ window.

The route technically uses the Shaldon ferry to get across to Teignmouth, but I opt to put the £1.50 price towards cake instead and walk across the bridge. The difference between Shaldon and Teignmouth is vast with the latter a little rougher around the edges. But it’s Teignmouth I love the most because it retains its ageing Georgian charm and rather retro vibe.

It’s the beginning of the summer holidays and the town is awash with children. It’s compact and easy to walk around with the station just moments from the beach and its sweeping promenade. The Back Beach is the place to go for a quieter atmosphere and from here you can look across to Shaldon over the adorably named, ‘The Salty’ sandbank and back up the Teign Estuary where you came from. Having left the car in Newton, I take a seven-minute train ride back. But not before eating that slice of cake.

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