Lynmouth – Heddon’s Mouth.
I have a great admiration for Devon’s bus drivers. We are winding our way along narrow steep lanes from Barnstable to Lynton and at times seem to have only inches room either side but it doesn’t seem to slow the driver. Thatched cottages in the little villages add to the character of the area along with the thick accents of my fellow passengers. I take the funicular railway 500ft down the cliff to Lynmouth harbour. This link was opened in 1890 as tourism was expanding and many arrived by boat, local goods could also be transported more effectively than by pony up the steep hillside. The cars are powered by a simple water system, 700gallons are pumped into the top car which is linked by cable to the lower and gravity does the rest. Talk in the quayside cafe where I had breakfast was of boats, engines and tides.
Back up the hill I walked on the SW Coast Path. A popular terraced path leads dramatically across the exposed hillside high above the sea towards the far end of The Valley of Rocks. The poet Robert Southey visited in 1799 commenting “the very bones and skeletons of the earth” and that is an apt description today. Goats were scrambling across some of the higher places, Just above the path was a large buttress of good sedimentary rock which called out to be climbed – turned out to be the Devil’s Cheeswring with several 45ft climbs, no time today. Lanes continued past an impressive Christian Centre, Lee Abbey, a large estate on a headland. I was feeling a bit miffed that some good looking walking paths were denied to the public – most unchristian. All was forgiven [almost] when a great little garden cafe appeared. Run by volunteers at the centre this was one of those places you couldn’t walk past.
The next headland, Crock Point, was accessible but I regretted the long detour and lots of ascent and descent involved. Back on the road I circumvented Woody Bay but could hear children playing on the beach below. A long pull up onto the next hill rewarded me with views across to south Wales and back to Foreland Point beyond Lynmouth, visited a few weeks ago. I kept coming across a pleasant chatty knowledgeable couple and they turned out to be staying at the same hotel tonight,
I could see right down into Heddon’s Mouth cove below and as I had time I diverted to it on the way into the valley. A lively stream finds its way to the coast, it looked a likely spot for dippers but I saw none. Apparently otters visit this area. Above the pebble beach was an old lime kiln, large quantities of limestone and coal were shipped from south Wales, kilns were built on harbour sides to avoid the need to transport raw materials over land. Families were just ending their day on the beach and wandering back up the valley, one of many places on this coast managed by the National Trust. The Hunters Inn was doing a roaring trade but I’d booked into the Heddon’s Gate Hotel which turned out to be a mile up a 1in4 hill. The situation on the edge of Exmoor with glorious gardens, a lovely sunset and a gourmet dinner in good company were worth the climb.
What a great short day’s walk in outstanding scenery.
Seen today, not all sign posts are as helpful as others…