Dartmouth Trip 9-11 July 2021

The Club spent three days paddling in the Dartmouth area from 9 to 11 July.

Tudor, Richard H and Rob were the first to arrive at the campsite near Slapton in warm sunshine, and used the evening productively with a recce of the local pub. Tudor led the way across the footpaths based on his memory of the “virtual” trip he had previously made on the internet.

Fiona and David T arrived later in the evening.


We met a local paddler Phil at Dartmouth Canoe Club in the centre of Dartmouth, and launched at the slipway near the ferry. Phil provided lots of interesting stories concerning the local sites and history on the way to Blackpool Sands which was the lunch spot. There were plenty of rock-hopping opportunities, and Phil pointed out some of the best ones. He also took us to a more dubious feature – the “smelly waterfall”. The static caravan park located on the cliff directly above the waterfall may have been the cause of the whiffyness. There were some very large grey seals along the coast to Blackpool Sands which came close up to the kayaks and were impressive to watch. You wouldn’t have wanted to startle one of them in a small cave.

Blackpool Sands was relatively quiet when we arrived there for lunch and visited the café. After lunch we headed back to Dartmouth weaving through the rocks, with Phil taking us through an interesting rock corridor close to the get out. The sea was calm with the tide slightly against us on the way but with a bit of help from the wind.

Dinner was had at the Queens Head in Slapton which we found with no problem due to the previous evening’s recce. We headed back to the campsite to meet Liza and David arriving from London at 9.02pm – a full two minutes later than they planned. There was time for trip planning for the next day and a quick Frisbee session before settling down, hoping the tent was waterproof as the forecast rain came in and lasted until 7am the next morning.


The plan for Saturday was Brixham to Warfleet, near Dartmouth, using a shuttle. We dropped a car off at the castle near Warfleet and used the higher ferry to get to the put in at the breakwater car park in Brixham. We got to the car park relatively early to bag some places which meant enough time for a coffee or tea. Local paddlers David J and Anita joined us meaning we had the benefit of local knowledge for a second day running, and that we had our full quota of ‘Davids’ – a total of three (J, P and T).

On the beach at Brixham, about to launch

After watching a seal near the beach we set off at 10:30am around Berry Head avoiding the long lines of the fishermen who are usually stationed there. David J took the group off shore a kilometre or so as he had seen dolphins in the area before. Unfortunately the dolphins were absent that day but it was good to feel a few waves under the kayaks. There weren’t many seabirds around Berry Head either, although it is a renowned spot, but a couple of guillemots flew by and there some gannets and fulmars around.

Looking at the guillemots at Berry Head

From Berry Head on there was some entertaining rockhopping available including caves to explore.


At one point Rob distracted David P by pointing at some geological feature just as a large wave broke and pushed David towards the rocks. David put in a couple of essential support strokes and paddled quickly to safety avoiding being dashed on the rocks.

Look Ma, no hands!

We stopped for lunch near Scabbacombe, as a mist descended, and sheltered under a rock. It got a bit chilly so Fiona organised a Frisbee game to get the blood flowing before carrying on to Warfleet. The next section also had some good rockhopping with more caves.

Rockhopping near Scabbacombe

We paddled into the Dartmouth estuary via the Mew Stone, where there were some grey seals, and then passed the mermaid statue before landing at the small beach at Warfleet.

Seal city, also known as the Mew Stone
Friendly seal near the Mew Stone

Overall, the trip was 18km and took 5hrs 50 mins, average speed 3.1kph (including the lunch stop), F2-3, with waves at a maximum of 0.5m (when offshore looking for the dolphins).

While the drivers headed back to Brixham to collect the cars, Richard and David collected tea and cakes from the tea room at Dartmouth Castle, with great views over the harbour entrance. Richard spotted Monty Halls (marine biologist and TV programme maker) arriving in a van with his family to go fishing and went over to had a chat.

We then went for dinner at the Start Bay Inn at Torcross for fish and chips, lucky enough to get a table indoors which also had great views out to sea.


Unfortunately, both Fiona and Dave T were a bit under the weather over the weekend and they decided that it would be better to head back home rather than spend another day paddling. The forecast wasn’t that positive with rain and stiff winds. Those remaining chose, therefore, to paddle on the Dart from Totnes down tom Dittisham and back. We were up promptly in the morning to strike camp before the rain started and then headed to Totnes for a coffee and bacon roll before saying goodbye to Fiona and Dave as they carried on homewards.

We got on the water at 11:15am at Steamer Quay, about two hours before LW, and paddled down river with the flow passing three canoeists who also set out from Totnes. We went up the creek at Stoke Gabriel to the mill pond and considered getting out to explore, but the water was rapidly draining and there was a real risk of getting stranded. A local advised that we were “fine for next half hour” but then qualified it with “don’t quote me on that and I don’t know when tides change”, so we ignored his advice and went back to the main river. We got to Dittisham at about 12.45pm and had lunch trying to find shelter against the wall under the café.

We set off back to Dartmouth at 1.40pm, which was around LW, at the same time as the canoeists who seemed to be working to the same plan. The total journey was 22.5km in total and took 4 hrs 15mins, average speed 5.25kph and fastest 10.9kph.

Down the River Dart to Dittisham for lunch

We said our goodbyes and headed home to see the Euros final. Even England’s loss after the inevitable penalty shootout did not spoil a great weekend of paddling.

Many thanks to Fiona for organising the trip, and to Phil, David J and Anita for their company and local knowledge.

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