south west coast path
3rd october 2013
Today's weather forecast looks to be on the ropey side.
Turns out it was worse than forecast. It started raining heavily just before I reached Budleigh Salterton, I walked through a thunderstorm while going through Budleigh Salterton. After that the weather turned much worse and I walked through another big storm while going through Sidmouth and beyond.
The rain finally relented just before I reached Branscombe and then it turned into rather a nice afternoon. By then I was soaked though!
Today's walk starts at Exmouth and since there's a nice, sandy beach here I might as well stroll along it for a bit. I couldn't find any signs so lucked upon the coast path by going through Foxholes Car Park just before Orcombe Red Rocks.
A path rises out of Exmouth to reach High Land of Orcombe and the start of the Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage Site stretching 95 miles from here right the way around to Dorset. A sign gives details of the Jurassic Coast and a Geoneedle can also be found which was unveiled by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, in 2002. The Geoneedle is constructed from a variety of different stones, representing both the major building stones to be found on the Jurassic Coast and the sequence of rocks that form this part of the coastline.
I stay up on the cliffs passing the Devon Cliffs Holiday Park and the Beachcomber Bar before dropping down onto the beach just before Straight Point. The Royal Marine Ranges is found on Straight Point and they were practising today so a lot of gunfire was disturbing the tranquility. I climb back onto the cliffs, passing the rifle range, to reach Littleham Cove where there should be some fine views of the lovely crumbling red sandstone cliffs but it was a bit misty and the sea was red with sand.
I keep well away from the edge of the crumbling cliffs and climb onto Beacon Hill. A trig point is found showing the height to be 423 feet.
The path continues through some woodland and it is around here that it started chucking it down so I had to don my waterproofs. A tarmac path leads in to Budleigh Salterton and its pebbly beach. It was still chucking it down so I saw very little of Budleigh Salterton except for a shelter which I stayed in for a few minutes as a thunderstorm passed by.
I head along the sea front in the pouring rain but can't see very much.
The River Otter and the Otter Estuary Nature Reserve are reached so I turn inland in order to cross the River Otter via a road and then head back to the coast over the other side of the river. I don't see any otters but there are plenty of noisy geese here. There should be some fine views back to Budleigh Salterton but it's still chucking it down and still a bit misty.
More red sandstone cliffs are climbed and the going from here to past Sidmouth is going to get pretty rough. Another holiday park is encountered at Ladram Bay and a series of red sandstone stacks can be seen offshore.
As I make my way through Sidmouth it is blowing a gale as well as tipping down with rain so I duck inland a bit to try and get some shelter. It's not the weather for photographs!
After enjoying the delights of a wet and windy Sidmouth I cross a bridge over the River Sid before climbing back onto the cliffs via a tarmac path. It's quite a climb up here (525 feet) but there are some benches at the top to rest and admire the view. Well, I admired it last time I was here in 2005 but there's not much to be seen today.
The path continues past South Combe Farm and down some steps to Salcombe Mouth where there is a pebbly beach. The coast path however, heads inland before climbing up on to the cliffs again at Higher Dunscombe Cliff. Even on this filthy day the views are spectacular. Here can be found the Weston Plats where, in the 19th century, thanks to the unique micro-climate on these cliffs, local residents were able to produce early crops of flowers, vegetables and strawberries.
After a walk along the clifftops the path descends on some steps to the beach at Weston Mouth. The path climbs steeply yet again to the top of Weston Cliff and then passes Weston Wild Flower Meadow. Unfortunately it's the wrong time of year now to enjoy the butterflies but if I came at the right time I could see Brimstones, Orange Tips, Skippers, Common Blues, Marbled Whites, Meadow Browns, Painted Ladies, Clouded Yellows and Red Spotted Burnets.
The path ducks inland at Coxe's Cliff before heading over grassy clifftops and descends once again, this time to Branscombe Mouth. The 62,000 tonne container ship MSC Napoli was beached here in January 2007 after experiencing difficulties during a storm. After containers started to get washed up on the beach, scavengers started arriving to 'recycle' the contents. Unfortunately there are no longer any spare motorbikes lying around! The anchor of the ship, weighing 14 tonnes, was presented to the people of Branscombe by the ship's owners and was installed here in July 2008.
The weather has now vastly improved so I'm able to enjoy the beach here before another climb takes me to the top of East Cliff and I enter another caravan park, the Sea Shanty Caravan Park and then the coast path heads through the Hooken Undercliff, formed in 1790 by a slump in the chalk cliffs. I'm thankful for the undercliff as it saves me a hefty hike to the top of the cliffs.
Following exceptionally wet weather in 2012, there was a cliff fall severing part of Old Beer Road along which the South West Coast Path used to run. As a result Old Beer Road is closed for walkers. It looks like a new route is being completed as I'm diverted through some woods to reach the other side of Old Beer Road. From here I trudge wearily into the destination for today, Seaton. It's been a long day!
FLORA AND FAUNA
Flora and fauna encountered on the walk today includes :-
- noisy geese
- little egrets
- no otters
MARKS OUT OF TEN?
According to my phone I've walked a whopping 24 miles today which amounts to 51851 steps. Despite the atrocious weather for most of the day it has been a great day's walking with plenty of interest to see (or not) throughout the day. 9 out of 10.