23. Sidmouth to Exmouth

My last walk of 2013 as I fitted in this short walk between Christmas and New Years Day. It also meant completing the first book (Exmouth to Poole) of the 4 volume National Trail Book series for the South West Coastal Path. Because of the constraints around transport I opted to park at Sowton Park and Ride on the outskirts of Exeter. From there I caught the Stagecoach bus to Sidmouth, quite expensive at £6.20!

It was a beautiful, warm, sunny Winters day as I set off from Sidmouth. Quite a contrast from the last time I was here some two weeks ago, when I battled through pouring rain and gales. I headed for the red cliffs of High Peak and Ladram in the distance. The sea wall contained a path that hugged the red sandstone cliff face at Jacobs ladder from there it climbed slowly out of the town. The view back along the coast towards Lyme Regis was beautiful. I passed along the slopes of the Iron Age fort at High Peak and was rewarded with magnificent views across Devon. The path hugged the cliff top for most of the way. I dropped down to a holiday park at Ladram Bay, which contained a number of isolated sea stacks composed of red Otter Sandstone from the Triassic period. The next couple of miles along the cliff tops was quite easy-going as there was little rise and fall in the Path as I headed out to the ominously named Danger Point.

Looking towards High Peak from Sidmouth
Sea wall at Sidmouth
Looking back towards Sidmouth
Looking towards high Peak from Ladram Bay

As I approached the small seaside resort of Budleigh Salterton I was forced inland slightly to cross the River Otter at White Bridge. I passed by a few fields the market garden crops of cabbage and kale. As I walked through the car park at Budleigh Salterton it suddenly became very busy with dog-walkers and others out for an afternoon stroll. I made quick progress along the trail and was soon approaching Orcombe Cliffs. The path descended a series of steep steps down to an esplanade which is very busy, with people enjoying the late Sunday afternoon Winter sunshine. I continued along the sea front as it merged slowly into the coastal town of Exmouth. I turned inland slightly along the River Exe towards the train station where I caught the train back to Sowton.

Approaching Budleigh Salterton
Recent cliff-fall near Orcombe High Land
Did not manage to spot one of the little ‘critters’
On the esplanade at Orcombe leading into Exmouth

Distance today = 12.5 miles
Total distance =   356 miles




22. West Bay to Lyme Regis

This was another thoroughly wet walking day with gales, wind and rough seas. I opted to get the bus from Sidmouth to West Bay for this particular section. I arrived at West Bay in the dark and it was a case of getting my head torch out for the first half hour of walking.

I followed the path up and down for a few miles before I dropped down to the small village of Seatown. I passed the Anchor pub in the village and remember reading how the landlords of the pub had made quite a few ascents on nearby Golden Cap for charity in the past.

I climbed slowly up the slopes of Golden Cap knowing the top was shrouded in mist. It was still raining as I descended towards Charmouth. One of the problems with walking in miserable and rough weather is that you tend to withdraw into yourself and not pay much attention to what is around you. After passing through Charmouth I was diverted inland due to a recent cliff on the SWCP. I took the Axminster road as far as the hotel near Fern Hill. The path then cut across the golf course bringing me out on the A3052. The road dropped down a steep hill and continued on through the narrow streets of Lyme Regis to finish at the Cob.

A throughly wet and miserable day.

Setting out in the dark looking back at West Bay
Looking back at Doghouse Hill
Looking down on Seatown with Golden Cap shrouded in mist in the distance
The summit of Golden Cap
Looking back at Golden Cap beginning to clear now
Looking ahead to Charmouth and in the mist and distance Lyme Regis
Looking back east from Lyme Regis

Distance today = 10 miles
Total distance =   343.5 miles


21. Lyme Regis to Sidmouth

The start of a thoroughly miserable two days of walking along the SWCP, which would see me leaving Dorset and entering Devon. Cannot believe why I did not check the forecast, or if I did why I should want to walk through heavy rain, strong winds and clag!

I parked my car at Sidmouth and drove my moped through the rain to Lyme Regis. I paid to park my moped, even though in retrospect I did not need to pay (or it was not clear whether I had to or not).

The next 4 miles would be spent walking along a series of cliffs which had slumped and slid overtime and were  now covered in dense vegetation, woodland  and scrub. The path turned and twisted, rose and fall for virtually the whole of the section. Occasional glimpses out towards the sea revealed little as the mist, clag and rain enabled only the white horse wave rollers to be seen and heard. I passed through Ware Cliffs first seeing the ruins of an old water pumping station as I approached Pinhay Cliffs. The path morphed from one cliff to the next, as I moved onto Whitlands Cliff and Dowlands Cliff. Only the presence of information boards told me what cliff I was  now walking through. The final set of cliffs were Bindown Cliffs, which saw a huge landslide in 1839. I was glad to see the back of the scrub woodland, which had offered some protection from the elements, but sorry to now face the full force of rain and wind.

Pumping house ruins at Pinhay Cliff
Scrub and woodland at Bindown Cliff

I dropped steeply down to a bridge which crossed the River Axe and entered the seaside resort of Seaton. I popped into a Tesco’s to buy a sandwich and get some relief from the rain. I still had some distance to go so I could not afford to linger and did not fancy finishing my walk in the dark.  A mile further on  I entered the brilliantly named  village of Beer. I vaguely remember coming here in 1973 on a University field trip. After passing Beer Head, the path meandered through another set of Cliffs before unleashing the final sting in the tail of a three-mile section of switchback, which rose and fell quite steeply. It was just getting dark when I dropped down the final descent into Sidmouth. It had a been an exhausting 7 hours of walking, made especially tough by the weather and the terrain.

Looking back at a deserted Seaton
Approaching the village of Beer
The anchor from the wreck of the container ship MSC Napoli, beached at Branscombe in 2007. Later broken up.
Descending down to Western Combe
Rough seas at Sidmouth with early evening approaching

Distance today = 17.5 miles
Total distance =   333.5 miles