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When George Nokes published his "History of the Great Western railway" in 1867, he included extracts from James Walker's report to the Admiralty (mentioned previously) so that his readers might understand why Brunel was motivated to do things in a particular way. Below, we see the section between Parson's Tunnel and the artificial island called Sprey (or Spray) Point which was  created by Brunel  to enable materials to  be brought directly to the work site by boat.


Teignmouth Sea Wall at Sprey Point Kenneth Yarham

Teignmouth Sea Wall at Sprey Point

We are looking towards Parson's Tunnel with Teignmouth behind us

Note the houses which have been allowed to develop on the top of these cliffs

and the newly-erected fences (left) which have failed to hold back falling soil and rock

©Kenneth Yarham


Continuing the extract from Walker's report to the Admiralty:


"Notwithstandng that the coast line between Exeter and where it leaves the Teign (river) is 3 miles longer than that portion of the inland line which would compare with it, I consider that its being nearly level for the whole length, and the much greater population upon it, whose convenience is to be considered, gives it a preference over the inland line, which on leaving Exeter, has first a long, rapid ascent of 1 in 75, for 3¾ miles, then a tunnel of ¾ of a mile long, then a series of descents."

Then came Walker's recommendations' all of which Brunel observed closely:


First: Keeping the general line of railway closer to the cliffs, cutting off the projections to enable this to be done, so that the necessary width may be obtained chiefly out of the cliff.

Second; Forming at proper distances sloping ways of approach of sufficient length from the  beach to the level of the railway, wherever the coast is encroached upon. These would act as groynes or jetties to stop and collect on either side of them, the gravel and sand as it is driven along the shore by the heavy seas, so that the beach would probably be kept as high as the retaining wall .


Third: As a parapet wall must be raised above the level of the railway to protect it and the trains from the winds, and occasionally, the waves, I think that this parapet wall should, for the whole length upon the river Exe and the coast - say from Powderham to Teignmouth - be nowhere less than 6 or 8 feet inside the retaining or embankment wall, leaving the space between the embankment and the parapet as a public right of way for the convenience of the fishermen and mariners, and as a public walkway and communication. This might be considered by the inhabitants of the town as an equivalent for the facilities which the railway may in other respects deprive them of, so as to leave the balance in their favour"


That sentence about "cutting off projections so as to keep the line of the railway close to the cliff " - it all sounds so easy, doesn't it. Not a word about the ferocious seas which beat upon this coastline; not a word about the nature of the crumbling rocks from which these cliffs are formed and the dangers caused by water seepage; not a word about the possibilities of causing damage by using dynamite to "cut off projections" or to  create the necessary tunnels through these rock formations and bearing in mind that this piece of engineering took place in the 1840s, not a word about the cost of upkeep of this line over the centuries to come..



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