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Starcross to Dawlish along the SW Coastal Path - by Jan Woodhouse

Jan - wearing the 3500toendit T-shirt

Where? Where's Starcross? It's an Exe estuary village 8 miles south of Exeter, opposite Exmouth and on the South West Coastal Path   Ah...near Dawlish? Yes, Dawlish - the place where the coastal railway line got washed away a while back.

It was a pleasure for  Steve and I  to host Laurence and learn about his quest to raise awareness that cervical cancer can be eradicated.

Tanya is Melitta's sister and my longtime ex-neighbour and friend in Windsor. Our girls went to the same schools, Saturday music school and appeared together in some shows. I heard about the great trips to the States over the years!

I recently moved to Devon to start a new life with a great guy I met online  on E Harmony! My  home now  is still near a castle and water. Instead of Her Maj being my neighbour in Windsor on the River Thames,  we now have the very down to earth Earl of Devon and Powderham Castle on the Exe Estuary!

The deer on the Powderham estate remind me of Windsor Great Park. The beautiful black swans of Dawlish contrast with the white swans of Windsor.

Beautiful black swans in Dawlish. Seen the film? Read Nassim Taleb's book?

Instead of airplane noise, I live to the soundtrack of trains and seagulls and out of tune (but charming) church bells.

One of the most picturesque rail lines in the country, running right along the coast.

Prince Albert was instrumental in bringing railway lines into Windsor while Isambard Brunel was busy blasting tunnels through cliff rocks in Dawlish and testing out his atmospheric railway system (which failed). A grand looking Brunel pump house remains in Starcross - now home to various nautical clubs. The estuary is busy with all sorts of boats!

Brunel was an incredible guy. Among many other things, he designed an "atmospheric system" whereby the trains were moved by vacuum traction, with the air being extracted from pipes laid between the rails by pumping stations such as this one. The section from Exeter to Newton Abbott was completed on this principle, and trains ran at approximately 20mph. The technology involved leather flaps to seal the air pipes, the leather had to be kept supple by the use of tallow, and tallow is attractive to the system lasted less than a year, from 1847 to September 1848.

As Laurence is also on the lookout for unusual letterboxes, I showed him the yellow French letterbox embedded in the outer wall of the local primary school . It was given to Starcross by its twin town Henvic in France. It's good to know there's a 4.15pm daily collection!

Working letterbox in Starcross: definitely one for the letterbox album!

The walk to Dawlish town was charming along the sea wall. Too much chatter meant I forgot to look out for an enchanted tree so Laurence wasn't able to open one of his mysterious treasure hunt style envelopes.

Looking for an enchanting tree...

Dawlish is all about the beaches and  seafront,  the coastal railway line, different tea rooms to suit everyone's taste and Gay's Creamery!

Gay's Creamery in Dawlish has some of the county's largest and best Cornish pasties!

We enjoyed a cream tea eating it the Devon and Cornwall way. What's your preference?  All the best Laurence! We will be following your journey!

Jan and Steve: thank you for hosting me!

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