It was Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s railway, opened in 1846, that shaped the Dawlish of today.
The sea wall, built to protect that spectacular, if sometimes problematical, stretch of line that hugs the shoreline brought to an end the serious flooding that the town had suffered in previous years and enabled it to grow as a popular Victorian resort.
Dawlish is a delightful destination.
The Brook or Dawlish Water, that dissects the town and the Lawn exude calm even on the busiest of days and today’s walk is ideal for those wanting to get to know the town better.
The official town trail begins and ends at the railway station.
The level crossing will lead you into Tuck’s Plot, named after a character who grazed his donkeys here in the 19th century, and from here cross to the Lawn keeping the Brook on your right as far as the path allows.
The Brook is home to a number of waterfowl, many of which can be seen in the town council’s aviary which you pass en-route.
The most famous are the black swans, Dawlish’s emblem for half a century and one pair with their three cygnets are attracting a great deal of attention at the moment.
Passing the Shaftesbury Theatre, built in 1882 and now owned by the local repertory company, cross Barton Hill and continue alongside the Brook past the car park into Manor Gardens.
As the Brook turns away to the left, stay on the path before turning right over a bridge along Overbrook and make your way to Church Street.
The 600-year-old red sandstone parish church of St Gregory the Great is the historic heart of old Dawlish.
Before entering the churchyard you will see the Garden of Remembrance, which includes a monument to Bill Millin who became the last man to play the bagpipes in battle when he piped the forces ashore during the D-Day landings in 1944. The famous bagpipes are now on display in the town museum.
In the far corner of the churchyard itself look for the large mausoleum dedicated to the Hoare family of Luscombe House, about a mile west of the church.
Exit the churchyard into the large open space of Newhay, crossing Brown’s Brook until you reach Aller Hill.
From here follow signs to the town centre through the attractive old town via Weech Road, Old Town Street, Regent Street, King Street and Queen Street into The Strand.
This is an easy walk of about two miles and a detailed description can be found on southwestcoastpath.org.uk
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