Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Seaton to Branscombe (SW Coast Path 22)

Haven Cliff at the east end of Seaton Bay

Day 2 of our three day walking trip to Devon. We are staying in a small hotel right on the sea front at Seaton, so we started today's walk by simply turning right outside the front door. A first! We walked along the fairly uninteresting sea front and made a slight detour to get a closer view of the clock we had noted last night. It is another Jubilee Clock from 1887 (we have seen others recently in Usk and Margate).

At the end of the sea front, there are red cliffs (iron ore) and beyond them chalk cliffs. There was clear evidence of the recent landslips which have affected this area.

We then walked up the road towards Beer, passing the well-named Check House, a residential home. A helpful blue plaque explains that it was formerly Calverly Lodge built for Sir Walter and Lady Trevelyan; Lady Trevelyan was an important patron of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and had a celebrated salon at Wallington Hall in Northumberland.

Further along the road was closed as the result of another landslip, necessitating a detour, but eventually we reached the cliffs at Seaton Hole and enjoyed a spectacular view across the bay.

A short cliff-top section led to the the pretty village of Beer.

At dinner last night I saw a (very poor) photograph of some Almshouses in Beer, so we decided to make a detour into the village in search of them. The first thing of note was a lovely pair of thatched cottages at the head of the main street.

The almshouses were difficult to photograph - although I am not trying to sell my picture - and seem to now be privately owned. They are of an unusual design with lovely arched gothic doorways and windows. Pevsner says they were given by Lady Rolle in 1820.

After a break for coffee we resumed the path at the back of the beach, walked up the road and made our way to Beer Head, with fine views in both directions. This is the view west: Sidmouth can just be made out at the point at which the coast bends. The high ground is Hooken Cliffs.

The path descends steeply to follow another undercliff - Under Hooken - behind three fingers of chalk, on the left in the photo above.

This path continues through a caravan park, rather incongruously located in this otherwise wild and isolated section of coast, to descend to Branscombe Mouth, where the restaurant and shop were doing a good trade.

We made the steep ascent of West Cliff and enjoyed another fine view back over the pebble beach.

A bit further on we took a path to the right leading down to Branscombe Church which we had identified as the place to end today's leg. We did not fancy trying to do the full 10.5 mile Seaton to Sidmouth section in one go and this was one of the few possible places to break the walk. The church has a Norman tower (except for the very top according to Pevsner) and nave, while the chancel is 14th century. Inside there is a fragment of a 15th century wall painting.

The rather spread-out village also has an old Forge and a Bakery owned by the National Trust.

We now hit a slight snag. Neither of our mobile phones (on different networks) had a signal and the lone telephone box was "not commissioned", presumably some new euphemism for not working. (Surely BT must know that this is precisely one of the few places in modern Britain where a phone box is still a necessity?) Happily we were generously allowed to use the phone in the Bakery tea shop to summon a taxi back to Seaton.

Conditions: mild, but quite cloudy - and wet while we were in Beer.

Distance: just over 5 miles. Distance now covered 98 miles.

Map: Explorer 116 (Lyme Regis and Bridport) and 115 (Exmouth and Sidmouth).

Rating: four stars.

Flower of the day

We saw quite a lot of this yellow spiky flower, but I have been unable to identify it.

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