It is safe to say that I am officially hooked on the South West Coast Path. 

Having grown up in what is now known as Shoreditch-on-sea (i.e., Margate - which by the way has become hipster beyond belief!), I derive a lot of comfort from the sea when I'm far from home. When deciding where to go for university, I was lured to Exeter by the promise of the sea's proximity and settled on the leafy campus without actually checking a map (it turns out that most people's idea of "next to the beach" is a half hour train journey - which is fine by most people's standards except I had been used to the sea being a 5 minute walk away). 

But how different the South West coast is from that of my childhood! I am used to chalk cliffs and meandering ribbons of flat, golden sand and vast stretches of long grass waving lazily in the sun. Whilst hiking the SWCP in Devon, I have seen castle-like formations of rock in Lynton and great monoliths of red, jurassic cliff along the stretch from Exmouth to Sidmouth. The sea stretches away infinitely, punctuated only by scraps of rock that jut sharply from the waves, unlike the view across the English Channel we have in the East which is contained within the parentheses of France on the horizon.

Michele and I set out to explore the stretch from Teignmouth to Torquay, a walk of approximately 12 miles. This would take our total number of miles walked on the path up to 42. Only 588 left to go!

We got the train down to Teignmouth from Exeter, bumping into a friend in the carriages as we glided along the impressive railway line that hugs the sea at Dawlish (a friend from the area once told me that on stormy days, the waves crash upon the trains and push the windows open, drenching any poor soul unlucky enough to be sat beneath them!). From here, we struck out along the promenade, heading straight for the ferry to take us across to Shaldon. It's one of the oldest ferries in England and is a pleasant and quick trip across the mouth of the Teign estuary.

From Shaldon, our walk quickly increased in intensity; little did we know that the remainder of the walk would be a harsh lesson in making painstaking gains in elevation before swooping back down closer to sea level. We climbed up through the trees, grateful for their shade, before rounding a corner and facing a steep ascent up to a breathtaking viewpoint. From there, we looked onward to the horizon and decided that the rest of the walk looked a little flatter - how wrong we were. We climbed and descended, climbed and descended. I was grateful for the increases in leg-work I'd introduced to my exercise regime in the months before as I bounded up the inclines quicker than Michele for once in my life! Our boots gobbled up the soft, damp earth beneath us.

So it continued through truly awe-inspiring landscapes. The sea glistened below us, calmly passing through all the shades of blue we could imagine as we strode through open fields, shaded woods and everything in between. Stopping for a break between Maidencombe and Babbacombe, we perched exhausted on a bench, gulping water and snaffling down the apples and pumpkin seeds we'd brought along. Not long after, at Babbacombe beach itself, we succumbed to the calls of our stomachs once more, taking up a table at the water's edge and dining on freshly baked baguettes filled with cheese and tomatoes. It was difficult to tear ourselves away again; the tiny bay was one of the most beautiful little places I had ever seen. Down on the shingle, children and dogs played, with adults jumping down and joining in for good measure. Everybody looked calm and happy, out for the day wth their families - we stuck out somewhat in our sweat-drenched hiking gear and muddy boots!

From there, it was a steep climb once more, although one that was finally rewarded with some slightly more level strolls. From our vantage point we could see the boats moored down in the water, like so many seabirds, between which a lone swimmer made the slow, measured journey back to shore. Then we were off again, treading paths fringed with wildflowers, our boots making soft, measured sounds along the way. We spotted huge clusters of wild garlic, sadly dying this late in the season, and lamented our failure to make the most of it. And then we were out on the sparse coastline once more, our destination in sight beyond the bleak beauty of these rocky outcrops. Torquay announced itself to us in stages; first the luxuriously large houses, then the curve of beach huts built into the cliffs, then the towering hotels.

We arrived in the town absolutely spent. Our legs barely dragged behind us as we ambled zombie-like towards the train station. The promenade was bright and sunny and full of things to see and do and we made a note to come back to Torquay another day with a little more energy. Instead, we practically collapsed onto the benches at the train station where Michele bedded down for a little nap and I flicked through all the bright blue photos on my camera.