Welcome to Peter Caton books

Childhood Dartmoor Walks

My Father has lent me his precious notebook of his Dartmoor walks from 1965 – 1975. These include the many walks he took me on, starting at the age of five. All the walks used public transport, starting from my grandparents’ home in Kingskerswell. We did two or three walks every year until I was about 17 and it was these that introduced me to the wonderful place that is Dartmoor.

This is the longest walk, 20 miles I think. It was a very early start with bus to Newton Abbot, train to Plymouth (a parcels train with a few passenger coaches), then bus to Yelverton. And we caught the 9pm bus back from Buckfastleigh. I was twelve but although almost 50 years ago remember it quite clearly.

April 20th 1973 Across S. Dartmoor

Bus to Yelverton. Walked via Lake to Dousland then across Burrator Dam to Sheepstor and then to Ditsworthy Warren. Lunch just beyond the warren house.

Looked at Drizzlecombe remains. Then to Plym Steps, Calveslake Kistvaen & to Great Gnats Head cairn (could not find Great Gnats Head kist).

Then to Duck’s Pool. Signed visitors book and posted card. Then on to Philpott’s Cave (tea) and over Green Hill – across Dry Lake – on to Abbots Way near Redlake – along Abbots Way to Buckland Ford (missed Abbots Way at one point near Naptha Mine – had to keep out of workings).

Then to Huntingdon Hill over clapper, round hill to just below Huntingdon Warren & crossed Wallabrook near to chapel. Then to Lud Gate, Cross Furzes & Buckfastleigh and bus home.

Weather fine, moderate wind, some showers

Time 8¼ hours  (this was time on the moor & doesn’t included walking on lanes at either end)

50 Walks on the Essex Coast

The second reprint of 50 Walks on the Essex Coast is now available with free postage from www.swanbooks.co.uk (plus elsewhere but please support local independent businesses where you can).

The 2020 reprint of the book includes a number of minor changes to the walks, such as closure of pubs and replacement of stiles with gates.

Almost 150 copies were sold last week through a special offer on the Rambling Essex Facebook Group.

£9.99 for fifty walks (more if you count the different options on some of them) represents excellent value and as well as the clearly described routes and maps, the book contains information on many of the places of interest seen on the way.

50 Walks on the Essex Coast – 2nd Reprint

After selling almost 2500 copies 50 Walks on the Essex Coast will shortly be reprinted for the second time.

Proofs have been agreed with Matador and another 1500 copies will be printed.

In the meantime the book is still available, although Amazon keep running out of stock.

This and all my books are always in stock at Swan Books, a local business who offer free delivery and pay the author a fair share of the selling price. Please support independent book shops wherever possible.

The 2020 reprint of the book includes a number of minor changes to the walks, such as closure of pubs and replacement of stiles with gates.

There is also a note based on my experience repeating the walks, that walkers should note that sometimes the route across farmland varies according to its usage and for example paths shown on a map as crossing a field may run around it.

Not How I Expected my Dartmoor Walk to End

18th August I went for a walk on Dartmoor, heading for Wild Tor from close to the village of Chagford. All was going well. I found a Bronze Age Stone Circle on Buttern Hill, ate my lunch, then headed further into the moor. And here’s a quick summary of events from there on:

Felt fine and energetic.

Reached a gentle gradient after 1.5 miles.

Ache in chest. Slight breathlessness. Felt weak and bit sick.

Rested for an hour. No improvement.

No phone signal. No other person for probably at least a mile. Rain on the way.

Very slow walk off moor, ache becoming pain each time I walked.Stopped regularly for rests and for pain to subside.

Wife met me at end of remote lane.

Drove 3 miles down very narrow lane to Chagford Health Centre.

Doctor strongly suspected heart attack.

Gave me spray and aspirin. Promptly vomited on surgery floor.

Ambulance called.

ECG taken as we travelled & sent directly to hospital.Heart attack confirmed.

Ambulance accelerated, overtaking my wife who was driving ahead with blue light flashing. Somewhat worrying for her.

Taken straight to cardiac unit at Exeter hospital.

In Cath Lab within minutes.Artery blocked. Stent fitted.

Another artery 60% blocked – further investigation required.

Stayed in the superb RDE Cardiac Unit.

Feeling of liberation on being disconnected from monitor after 48 hours.

Discharged after 3 days.

On five medications, four for life.

Can’t drive for 4 weeks.

Made good progress during our extended stay in Torquay, walking up to 2 miles a day, slowly and with breaks.

Pain in arm through which stent had been inserted. Advised to go see GP – but was still in Devon.

Went to Newton Abbot Minor Injuries Unit. Infection diagnosed & antibiotics prescribed.

Long, slow drive back to Essex in constant rain.

Chest pains in car which didn’t go on reaching home & using GTS spray.

Ambulance called as we’d been instructed.

ECG and blood not normal.

Night in Queens Hospital Romford.

Excellent care in A&E and Majors. Less impressed with care on ward.

Eventual conclusion not another heart attack and indicators still affected by previous occurrence.

Diagnosis muscular skeletal pain.

Week later. More pains. Rang 111. Ambulance to Queens at 3am.

Diagnosis angina. More tablets.

Saw specialist cardiac consultant privately. He doesn’t think pain is cardiac.

Still getting slight pains with exercise or stress.

Awaiting exercise ECG & stress echo scan.

It will be a while before I can resume previous level of walking.

I’m 59, reasonably fit, don’t smoke, hardly drink, not overweight, not unduly stressed, diet not brilliant but not that bad (cholesterol was 4), so don’t appear to be at high risk of heart attack. Problem is genes. Parents, grandfathers & uncle have all had heart problems. Nothing I can do about that but GP said that had the other factors not been positive I may have had the heart attack ten years earlier and may not have survived it.

Extremely grateful for NHS and that the heart attack didn’t happen further into my walk.

Coastal Erosion on Mersea Island

It’s a wonderful walk round Mersea Island; in many ways a microcosm of the Essex coast.  I first did it in 2011 when visiting all 43 tidal islands which can be walked to from mainland UK. Mersea is the largest of these and No Boat Required describes my walk and much of the island’s history.

There was then a path along most of the southern sea wall but when I repeated the circuit for 50 Walks on the Essex Coast in 2015, a section was closed. Storms and high tides in the winter of 2014 had damaged coastal defences and the sea wall. I have to admit to ignoring the closed sign and walking with care on the damaged path. Then I went back and worked out a temporary diversion in my route instructions. When checking the walk for the 2016 reprint the path was still closed.

With 50 Walks on the Essex Coast being reprinted again shortly, this week we went back to Mersea. Not only is the path still closed and the sea wall damaged but now it has been breached. It was just after high tide and water was pouring back into the sea.

Clearly it has been decided to allow (or at least not to stop) the forces of nature to take back this small piece of Mersea Island. As sea level rises and climate change brings more severe storms it is no longer viable to maintain all of our defences. A natural barrier is sustainable and allows the waves’ energy to be dissipated harmlessly.

The diversion inland will be permanent but the bonus for nature is that salt marsh will soon be created – a habitat for birds and breeding ground for fish. And a bonus for walkers is that the path now passes the beautiful East Mersea Church where Sabine Baring Gould, author of Onward Christian Soldiers, was once rector.

2015 – Sea Wall Damaged by Storms

2020 – Just before the closed section but how long will this path survive? (There is an alternative beside the field).

2020 –  Path diverts inland from here (by the youth camp).

2020 – Looking towards the breach and the tidal lagoon that has formed inside the sea wall.

2020 – Water pouring out through the breach

2020 – Path closed Westbound

East Mersea Church – Safe from the sea half a mile inland. But for how long?

Peter Caton 7/8/20 

More Dartmoor Walks

In the last couple of weeks I’ve completed seven more Dartmoor walks. Some were checking previously walked routes and two were new ones – all for my next book.

Unfortunately as coronavirus has curtailed visits to the West Country the book won’t be completed until sometime next year. I’m having to walk each route multiple times and in different seasons, but this is also giving the opportunity to add extra points of interest to visit on each walk.

Some of the places of interest in these walks –

Sourton Tors Ice Works – An ice factory which was set up in 1875. Pools in the dips were fed by a spring and ice formed in winter on the cold north facing slopes. This was taken to Plymouth by train for use in the fish market, but unfortunately much melted on the way and the venture didn’t last long.

Broken Apple Crusher – These were cut from granite on the moor and used for cider production. A horse would walk round turning the stones and juice flowed from a groove in the middle. This one must have been broken in manufacture or transporting, so was left on the moor near Sourton Tors.

Sacred Pool – One of many small pools on Dartmoor, some of which may have been ancient Sacred Pools, associated with Bronze Age remains. This one near Sourton Tors is popular with ponies.

Rattlebrook Tramway – Remains of a tramway to the Rattlebrook Peat Works. To prevent the need for a long curve as the track descended, the line was built with a reversing point.

Sourton Church – Attractive church on the edge of the moor. Still holds regular services.

Cist – A cist or kistvaen, a Bronze Age burial chamber. This fine example is near Postbridge.

Braddon Lake, looking to Hartland Tor. Lake is a Dartmoor term for stream. I enjoyed my lunch at this pretty spot.

Waterfall – A very attractive spot on the East Dart.

Hurston Ridge Stone Row – A double stone row from the Bronze Age. Dartmoor has the largest concentration of stone rows in the UK but their purpose is unknown.

Vitifer Mine – One of Dartmoor’s largest tin mines, now returned to nature.

Welstor Rock – Looking to Buckland Beacon.

Abandoned Building on Welstor Common – It may have been used to keep the horses, (or possibly explosives) for a nearby quarry, or as a store for the rifle range that was once on the common.

Sheep Creep – Hole in wall, small enough to allow sheep to pass from one field to another but not cattle or horses.

Boundary Stone – One of many boundary stones on Dartmoor, this is one of a line erected by the wonderfully named Edmund Pollexfen Bastard.

PC 2/8/20

Hamford Water

While the beaches at Clacton, Frinton and Walton were packed, last week I enjoyed a far quieter walk beside Hamford Water, the large inlet south of Harwich also known as The Walton Backwaters. It is a hugely important site for birds and was the setting for Arthur Ransome’s Secret Water.

Beaumont Quay is at the end of a man-made cut along which boats were engaged in flourishing trade. It was built in 1832 using stones taken from the old London Bridge. The wreck of The Rose, originally a 42 tonnes Thames sailing barge, has lain here since the 1960s. It has deteriorated significantly since I first saw in in 2007 when I came this way writing Essex Coast Walk. The first photo was this week and the second is from 2016, so it hasn’t changed much in four years. The lime kiln photo is also from my 2016 visit. The quay was taken last week when I returned in evening light. The fish who had been swimming by the wreck were long gone.

Kirby Quay is a picturesque spot where smuggling once thrived. The quay house was originally a granary. The little cottage was ‘Witch’s Cottage’ in Secret Water.

At high tide the footpath is covered. I got there just in time. An inland section makes a loop or a shorter walk starting at Kirby-le-Soken.

It is hard to believe that when writing No Boat Required I walked the mile from this slipway to Horsey Island which is just visible in the distance. The causeway wasn’t the driest (fishes were swimming in little pools) but it was an exciting walk across the mud. The island is private but unlike Osea I wasn’t thrown off. The full story of my visits to both islands and much about their history is included in No Boat Required.

The routes from Beaumont Quay or Kirby-le-Soken are both variants of Walk Six in 50 Walks on the Essex Coast.

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Please support local independent businesses who pay their taxes and give a fair share of the selling price to authors. Sales through Amazon barely cover my printing costs.

Swan Books always have all my books in stock whereas certain online retailers keep selling out.



An Essex Walk from the Bewitched Village of Canewdon

Another Essex Coast Walk checked; a very enjoyable route from Canewdon along the River Crouch. The full route (Walk 34) starts at South Fambridge but I completed only the circular section.

The tall tower on St Nicholas Church can be seen for many miles and a light used to be maintained here as a guide to shipping. It was said that the village was bewitched and according to legend as long as the tower stands there will be six witches in Canewdon but I was disappointed to spot not one broomstick, or even a black cat.

Outside the churchyard is the village lockup and stocks which date from around 1775.

Paths run across countryside to the river, which was at its best with the tide high and sun shining. I had a pleasant chat with a family who should have been walking the West Highland Way this week, concurring as to the beauty of the Essex coast and the few people who venture out to enjoy it.


The circuit is completed heading inland at Upper Raypitts Farm, although I have on occasions found this section to be problematic. The way is now clearly marked with orange posts that roughly coincide with the OS map but I have seen the route across the field vary according to its use and once when crops were growing the only way through was to squeeze round the edge.

Blue discs were tied to the gates but their significance appears to be only to mask the sign below. I did once walk through the field when the bull was in residence but it was a relief to find he was elsewhere today, although it looks as if he may have had a nibble at the sign before moving on..

Back in Canewdon I passed The Anchor, said to be haunted by the ghost of a young woman named Sarah who was murdered here after giving birth to the child of a wealthy landowner whose wife had been instructed him to lock her up when she found out about the affair.

There are some excellent walks in this little-know corner of Essex and routes in 50 Walks in the Essex Coast cover the whole of its coastline.

A Walk Around Shoeburyness Range

Today’s walk, in weather more like October than June, took me around the military firing range at Shoeburyness. The area east of Shoeburyness, including Foulness Island, has been used by the military since 1858 when the British School of Gunnery was opened. It is still an active range and the footpaths can only be accessed when red flags are not flying (usually evenings and weekends).

Many signs warn walkers to stay on the paths.

This is Walk 42 in 50 Walks on the Essex Coast and starts from Wakering Steps from where the Broomway heads out across Maplin Sands. This six mile low tide route to Foulness is extremely hazardous and one should only venture onto it with a guide. Over centuries many people have drowned as the tide comes in faster than a person can run. Today the tide was high but when it goes out a huge expanse of flat sand and mud is revealed. There is much more information about the Broomway in Essex Coast Walk.

The path crosses two disused military railways which served the site. It must be a long time since a locomotive came this way.

An interesting selection of signs at the tiny settlement of Oxenham.

Havengore Creek. The uninhabited Rushley Island is on the far side.

The bridge to Havengore Island which leads to Foulness. Access is severely restricted and there is a military checkpoint at Landwick Gate.

Beyond the bridge the path re-enters the range.

Haven Point, arguably the mouth of the Thames. The river’s 215 mile length is measured from a line drawn from here to Warren Point in Kent. There used to be some disused guns here pointing out to sea but they’ve been removed in the last few years.

A few years ago I took part in a BBC Countryfile programme which featured a walk on the Broomway. I was filmed on this section of sea wall talking with Julia Bradbury and mentioned my book – which may be why they didn’t show that bit. I did however get to walk on the Broomway, although despite what the programme implied, not all the way to Foulness. The following year however I joined a guided walk across the sands and set foot on the very edge of Foulness Island.

The only change needed when 50 Walks on the Essex Coast reprints is that one gate as disappeared.