The last day of my four day coastal adventure and I was again up early – I had a train to catch! I made my way back down the valley to reach the coast path again at Salcombe Mouth, where I turned west and walked across the high headlands. Sidmouth was just a short mile or two away and I hoped to find somewhere there for a nice breakfast 🙂 !
The morning had started cloudy but there were soon signs of brighter weather to come as I dropped off the high cliffs towards the town. The view ahead of me showed my route for the day – some high headlands to climb early on, including the clearly conical shaped hill of High Peak, but then a much more level path towards Exmouth. Before reaching the town, I got sidetracked by an amazing field of wild flowers. These surprising patches are gifts to be savoured!
When I did eventually reach the town, the sun was trying its best to break through the thinning cloud, producing a lovely atmospheric light that reflected off the gently rolling waves. The cliffs were red and the water seemed red too – in fact the beach was reddish as well, creating a cohesive warm toned scene typical of this part of the coast.
I walked along the seafront looking for somewhere to eat but it was too early. Even so, stallholders were setting up all along the promenade in readiness for the day as there was a folk festival on over the weekend. I would have liked to stopped but I had around 18 miles to walk before my journey home!
In the end, I passed straight through the town, following what could almost be described as ‘bright red’ sandstone cliffs, to reach an equally rose coloured and old looking set of stone steps that took me up to the clifftop where there was another cafe……..it too was closed!
This area is known as Jacob’s Ladder, although that name actually refers to the white wooden steps at the west end that take you down from the clifftop to Jacob’s Ladder Beach. These steps were installed in the mid 1800’s as an actual ladder to replace crumbling stone steps that had been cut out of the cliffs. The ladder wasn’t popular with the ladies with their long, flowing skirts, so it was replaced by these more appropriate steps around 1900.
With not one single eatery open, I did what pilgrims have done for generations and shook the dust off my feet and left the town 😉 !
As I climbed steadily out of the town, the sun broke through, bringing to life the beautiful Devon landscape. The day was peaceful with just the bleating of sheep and the sound of birds to break the silence. I was enjoying my early walk.
The path doesn’t actually climb over High Peak but instead runs along its base, but I decided to take a detour to reach the peak itself. Standing at the top of that lofty perch, I could see why the hill was a dwelling place for people for centuries. There were 360 degree views which would have made it a difficult place to attack. Over the centuries of course, erosion has eaten away at the seaward side of the hill.
Looking west, I could see what was to come, with the only ‘blot on the landscape’ being the Ladram Bay caravan site. The red cliffs were ever present!
I scuttled through the caravan park like a frightened rabbit, anxious to get out the other side and to be on the wild rather than commercialised coast. I climbed over Brandy Head which clearly got its name from the smuggling trade that once took place here. It is perhaps more famous for its wartime activities, being once a centre for testing aircraft mounted cannons and gun sights – the remains of the observation hut still stand on the clifftop. This activity led to another commercial trade as it is said that local divers would collect spent artillery cases from the sea bed and sell them to tourists at Ladram Bay.
There was one place I was especially looking forward to visiting on this day and that was Budleigh Salterton – it soon came into view. The reason I was looking forward to visiting Budleigh was because some of my ancestors came from there, giving me a real sense of connection with the town. Although I am Dorset born and bred myself, I also have Devon in my blood……..as well as London and Cambridgeshire through other ancestors 🙂 !
The approach to Budleigh Salterton is another of those strange places – You can stand on the coast path and see the sea front just 50 feet or so ahead of you but still have to walk another couple of miles to reach it because of the River Otter that gets in the way. I duly detoured a mile inland to cross the river, and then detoured back out to the coast again on the other side of the river 🙂 !
I reached the seafront just as rain began to fall; it had been threatening for a while! It was however, conveniently timed as it was lunch time. I found a seafront kiosk with a nice overhanging roof and sat on the ground eating a pasty with a welcome cup of tea – I know it was not Cornwall, but Devon do pasties as well 🙂 ! By the time I had eaten my lunch, the rain had stopped 🙂 !
I love Budleigh Salterton sea front! The pebbles are amazing, with so many different colours, textures and tones – I often think that a picture of these pebbles would make a great canvas print for the wall at home! An information board explained how this beach came about.
Naturally, the pebbles can be used for artistic purposes too :)!
Before long, I reached what I call the business end of the beach, with fishing boats and other paraphernalia strewn among the pebbles. There would of course have been much more of this in past generations. I wondered if any of my ancestors had ever been involved in fishing from this beach. It doesn’t feel as if I have the sea in my blood……and it is certainly not in my stomach!
All too soon it was time to leave Budleigh behind and I climbed out of the bay, taking a last look back before losing it altogether. I promised myself that I would return soon and spend more time exploring, and maybe to see if any relations still live there. I do remember visiting with my parents when I was a child but whether we met up with anyone or not, I can’t recall.
The red cliffs continued to follow me as I walked on westwards – it is amazing just how red this stone and soil is, contrasting starkly with the green of the foliage and the blue of the sea and sky! This is a colourful coast!
I was nearing Exmouth by now, and I passed Sandy Bay……presumably named thus because the bay is, well, sandy 🙂 ! I was actually more intrigued by the lines in the sand where boats had been dragged to the sea. Unfortunately, on the clifftop here is another caravan park so I scurried on!
I had spent four days walking the World Heritage Site known as The Jurassic Coast so it seemed fitting that near the end of my trek, I should pass The Geoneedle, a ‘memorial’ celebrating 250 million years of this coast, covering the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods…….I wonder why it is known only as the Jurassic Coast! It has certainly taken a year or two 🙂 to form and it is still changing today.
After 18 miles of walking, I reached Exmouth and treated myself to an ice-cream on the sea front 🙂 ! I sat thinking back over the last four days and all that I had seen and experienced and then decided that I would try to catch an earlier train home……and thus began another epic journey……
The journey should have been straight forward, a comparatively short trip east to reach East Dorset. In fact, because of a short stretch of track that was causing problems, I wound up travelling north, east, south and west, going practically into London before travelling back to Dorset in a westward direction. With delays, missed connections, hours spent sat waiting on platforms, I despaired of ever reaching home and thought I might end up having to stay somewhere overnight. Eventually, I did make it home safely though……at midnight 🙂 ! I was glad I had decided to take an earlier train 🙂 !
Despite the travel problems – and the dog attack 🙂 – my time away was awesome with mostly great weather, fabulous walking, great scenery and views, good campsites – in fact, it had been another amazing experience all round. And more great memories stored in my ‘treasury’!
I am now busily planning my next trip although this might be in the new year now……..watch this space!
Thanks for stopping by!
Until next time,
The Dorset Rambler
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