Saturday March 16th 1957.


To Sidmouth by train.
  We left the Central station on the Waterloo train at 10:30am. After a half hour journey we reached Sidmouth Junction where we changed on to the small Sidmouth branch line. This took us through Ottery St. Mary and Tipton St. John's to Sidmouth where we arrived at about 11:30 a m. We walked the mile from the station to the sea front. The weather was quite fine and warm, though threatening clouds were gathering overhead. The sea front was very pleasant and on reaching the east end we took a photograph beside a boat "Enterprise Exeter".
 We then took the steep path up Salcombe Hill. This afforded a good view over Sidmouth. On reaching the top we found that there was a mist blowing over the high ground. At our feet the cliffs (vivid red in colour) fell sheer way to the sparkling blue sea far below. We continued along the cliff and then began the descent by the steps to the beach at Salcombe Regis. These steps were steep and very slippery and the party had some difficulty in getting down. However, we finally reached the shingle beach without serious mishap and sat down to have lunch.We decided that we would not walk any further along the coast but would stay on this pleasant beach. Soon some of the party were very busy collecting shells.
 Two of the party decided to try to paddle in the sea. Bearing in mind that this was a shingle beach and that the sea was bitterly cold, this soon proved to be a very painful experience.But they were very determined. Someone also suggested that we should fake a cliff climbing photo and quite a number of people joined in this with great enthusiasm. [This photograph still exists but it is such an obvious fake that I would be embarrassed to show it. ] Then, after more shell hunting and a debate about the state of the tide, we returned to Sidmouth along the beach. This was a very spectacular walk beneath the vivid red crumbling cliffs.
We reached Sidmouth in the middle of a shower of rain and made our way to a cafe for tea. The party then decided to split up. Half wanted to stay down in Sidmouth to look around the shops. Four of us set out up the road to the cliffs on the west side of the town. After proceeding a mile up the road, we turned off onto the Ladram Bay footpath and reached the summit. From here we had a splendid view of Sidmouth, the beach, and the great cliffs beyond. I took more photographs here. We decided not to go any further but sat down on a seat to admire the view. We then returned to Sidmouth and made our way to the station, arriving just in time to meet the others on the train. We arrived back in Exeter at 6:40 p m.
 

 We were to return to Sidmouth many times in the next three years but none of those future walks around that enchanted place were ever to match this one. It was such a simple outing wholly lacking in any of the careful pre-planning, which characterised later walks. But it had so much going for it. None of us had been to Sidmouth before and I can still feel the thrill of arriving on a small steam train in a new place. Nowadays we have all but lost this thrill of arriving in new places because we invariably arrive by car and that can never be a pleasure. But in those times the stations were kept clean and tidy to provide an impressive portal for the arriving visitors. All long gone now. But on that day it was all intact. I still remember the excitement of emerging from the pretty station, looking eagerly round and then walking quickly through the quaint, peaceful streets to catch our first glimpse of the sea. And what a spectacle confronted us. The sun was shining patchily from dark clouds and great shafts of light lit up the soaring cliffs whose mysterious summits were cloaked in mist.

The Journal records that, after tea, four of the party climbed Peak Hill. The grass was wet and slippery and we had to help each other along. When we reached the summit the view back over Sidmouth was just awesome and breath-taking. The wind was gusting towards the sea bringing great swathes of mist over the dark cliffs which reared away into the distance lit by occasional beams of cold silvery light - majestic, magnificent and very frightening. Four tiny figures sat on a wet seat in the fading Winter light - alone in a gigantic, troubled and spectacular landscape. This scene is still fresh in my mind after 43 years. In my life I have only witnessed one other landscape to rival it in magnificence and mood and that was far away in an enormous city on the other side of the world.

It would be wonderful to know if any of the other three remember it in quite the same way. Maybe they just thought it was a damp, cold afternoon and the sooner we were home in Exeter the better. Sadly I will never know - unless, of course, you just happen to be........

 [PREVIOUS] [HOME] [SITE INDEX] [NEXT]