Don’t be fooled by the length of this section, which is only eleven miles. This is actually pretty tough going due to the rollercoaster nature of the cliff-line along this stretch.
|Sidmouth Lifeboat Station|
The bus left from Marine Place and I was treated to an upper deck view of Seaton seafront before heading out of town and towards Sidmouth. This would be a section that I wouldn’t actually walk probably until next time, but it was good to get a sneak preview. As it happens I thought the town was a little disappointing compared with its near neighbours at Lyme Regis and Sidmouth. I’m sure that this comparison gets made a lot, but it did mean that the place was mercifully free of tourists.
|View Back to Sidmouth|
I had known that the first activity of the day would be to climb this hill, since it had dominated the onward skyline from Peak Hill on my last visit. I took it steady and enjoyed the bluebells in the wood at the top of the climb, knowing that I would have to keep energy in reserve for further climbs later in the day.
The view from Salcombe Hill across Sidmouth was astonishing and I was really pleased that I had again made the effort to come down here rather than stay closer to home. There were quite a few people up here enjoying the view and as most of them didn’t seem as breathless as me I assumed there was probably another way to the top that didn’t involve such a steep climb. After pausing briefly I pushed on along the clifftop path, which was pleasingly flat. However, my joy at being so high was short lived since I soon came to the head of the next steep-sided valley, Salcombe Mouth. It wasn’t the descent that occupied my mind, it was the sight of the hill ahead which was approximately the same height as where I stood, but with a huge gap between us!
|Down We Go Again|
Before continuing I decided to polish off the pasty that I had bought for lunch. It was far from authentic (now some way from Cornwall!), but was still very tasty. Feeling fortified I headed down the very steep steps and paused for those poor souls coming in the opposite direction. I found that this section of walk on the whole was less busy than the stretch from Exmouth and this was probably due to the extra climbing involved. Nonetheless there were quite a lot of people about and you could tell the seriousness of the walker from their sociability. Seasoned walkers tended to smile, nod or speak while the day trippers carried on with their boring conversations, pretending that the red sweaty fat bloke coming towards them wasn’t worthy of speaking to or simply looking the other way.
At the bottom of the hill I was slightly relieved that I wouldn’t have to actually go down to beach level since that saved a few more metres of descent. I was also relieved that I wasn’t heading the same way as a large group of ramblers who passed me on the way up. As a lone walker there is nothing worse than getting caught up in a crowd of people that you don’t know who seem hell-bent on getting in your way as they are oblivious to their surroundings. I sometimes wonder whether groups of ramblers actually get anything from the countryside that they are in? If it’s a social life you want, why not just meet in the pub? I find this is great after a day’s walking, but while I’m out I want to experience my surroundings, not listen to blathering from others.
On the other side of the valley I paused for awhile to watch a kestrel hovering close by at a very low altitude, obviously having spotted something rather than general reconnaissance. It moved away after some walkers came from the opposite direction and disturbed it. As I turned the corner I could see that I would be in for another steep climb for I had now reached the valley of Weston Mouth. By now it had got quite warm and I admitted defeat with the fleece and tied it round my middle. The way down this time wasn’t quite as steep although this time it went right down to the beach itself. There were a few people hanging around on the beach and as I looked back along towards Sidmouth I saw that I could have had a completely level route that way. However, the shingle would probably have been worse to walk on than the hills I had tackled (and far less interesting).
There were a few intriguing sights on the beach; the first were two very lonely looking beach huts that looked completely out of place. Why only two? I found that a bit of a mystery. There was also a small chalet that looked well preserved although still shut up for the winter months. On the way down to the beach I had crossed a babbling stream, which completely disappeared into the shingle before it reached the sea, emerging as a very different watercourse on the other side of the low shingle bank. As it reached the sea it was more of a seepage than a river; it was most odd. I later found that Weston Mouth beach is known locally as a nudist beach. No-one was brave enough to take in the sun’s rays without clothing today – a wise choice.
After lingering on the beach for a few minutes I summoned up the energy to climb once again up to Weston Cliff. This seemed steeper than the last climb, although this may have had more to do with my energy levels than reality. I again paused at the top, being in no special hurry to reach the car. Weston Cliff was a very enjoyable stretch of walking. On the landward side of the path was a wild flower meadow that was full of cowslips in particular. The path was level for quite some distance too, which helped restore me a bit after three strenuous climbs within such a short time frame.
Shortly after this I cut inland a little and headed through some woods overlooking Branscombe village and could see the handsome church through the trees. I suspect that this view is denied to the summer walker as the trees were quite densely packed, although devoid of leaves. This was a pleasant stretch, although I had to be reminded that I was actually on a coastal walk since there was no view of the sea for the first time today. Eventually I descended into Branscombe Mouth, which was rather more developed than the last two combes I had visited. This had its own café and car park and several hundred people were milling about enjoying an early season day at the seaside. I thought about buying an ice cream but there were too many people about so I pushed on. Branscombe beach is of course recently famous for the beaching of the MSC Napoli, a container ship that ran into trouble during stormy seas a couple of years ago. The story of the event can be found at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/devon/6282247.stm but for awhile at least this beach attracted large numbers of visitors out of season hoping to get their hands on some treasure. Now the only reminders are a few notices warning of the pollution risk, and a container in the car park.
Any notion that this low level route had enabled me to get away with not climbing to the top was soon dashed when I discovered that I had just delayed the inevitable just shy of Beer Head. I dragged myself up the hill, noticing that I was now entering a chalk area, leaving the limestone behind. The view from Beer Head was the last opportunity for me to see Sidmouth, now receded into the distance. Now the view would be only ahead, towards Seaton, Lyme Regis and beyond.
|Seaton Beach Huts|