This walk is unusual in that I have some overlap with the previous walk. This is a consequence of the fact I have not walked the coast in order and that I really like the little town of Beer, so wanted an excuse to visit again!
I was heading to the area from east Dorset, so decided to drive to the end point of the walk, Lyme Regis, then take the bus to Beer, where I would walk back, without any time pressures. It took me around 1 ¼ hour to drive from where I was staying. If you’ve not been to Lyme Regis before it is worth noting that the roads down into the town are steep and it is best to park in the first car park you come to, whichever way you enter the town, as the parking right in the town centre is very limited both in quantity and the time that you can park in it. That is what I did. The bonus is that the long stay car parks on the edge of town are quite cheap.
I like Lyme Regis, I always have done. I visited it occasionally when I lived in Exeter but not as often as I might have liked, as there wasn’t a direct bus then (there is now), so it was a rather convoluted journey with the train to Axminster, then a bus. The town is very pretty and has a shingle beach, with a smaller sandy beach at the back of the harbour called the Cobb. However I didn’t linger, first needing to take the bus onto Beer, which only ran once every two hours, so I wanted to get the journey done, so I didn’t need to worry about any time pressures about missing the bus on the way back.
The bus arrived on time and soon dropped me at the top of the main street in Beer. One feature (of many!) that I like about Beer is the stream flowing down the main street. I wonder how many it has caught out, staggering out of the pub at night, after a few too many of the town’s’ namesake?
Heading down the main street I could seen see the sea and it was a lovely day too. It was tempting to stop for an ice cream, but I felt I had not really earned it yet, having only covered about 200 metres.
Soon I reached the beach, and it was certainly inviting. An unusual innovation I had not seen here before is a cafe has setup at the back of the beach, rolling out rubber matting on the pebble beach, so they can put some tables out. It added some nice colour to the beach and was clearly proving popular. The similarly brightly coloured deck chairs were not proving so popular.
I quite like the mix of uses the beach has here. The cafe I’ve already mentioned, the deck chairs and also a small fleet of beach launched boats, all mixed in.
Before I started the walk properly, I headed down onto the beach and stopped for a little paddle, always a nice way to refresh the feet. It was also a nice way to enjoy the beauty of this little beach.
Soon I could put if off no longer though, I took the coast path out of Beer, which soon heads up a zig-zag path through some small gardens and then joins the top of the cliffs, as I climb out of Beer. Soon I was at the top of East Ebb, the headland to the east of Beer. It was a lovely day with a lovely view to match, with Seaton ahead.
At the western end of the beach there is a path down to the beach. There used to be a coast path along Old Beer Road at the back of the beach, but it fell off the cliffs a few years ago, so now there is a high tide route along the main road, or the route I took on this walk, along the back of the beach, which is difficult at high tide (as there are boulders as coast defence at the high water line).
Even on this day, as you can see, it was rather a tight squeeze (and one where you needed to be careful with timings) to get past. The height of the cliffs can be appreciated when looking back!
I soon made it to the promenade at the western end of Seaton. Already Beer was out of sight, now hidden behind the cliffs of East Ebb.
The sea was calm and there was a nice view to the west, where I was going, too.
The coast path passes along the promenade of Seaton and near the eastern side of the town reaches the river Axe, which reaches the sea here. There is a little harbour, packed with boats.
Thankfully this river has a bridge at the coast, Axmouth Bridge. In fact it has two, what I presume is the original road bridge, now only a pedestrian bridge and a newer road bridge behind.
Oddly the village of Axmouth is not in fact at the mouth of the river, but a little over half a mile upstream. The view is good with the river being tidal and a lot of mud flats and little islands having formed. As most of the river estuaries in Devon seem to be, it is also a nature reserve, Seaton Marshes.
At the eastern side of the bridge I can see quite far up the river and the main body of water of the estuary flows down this eastern side.
The coast path now briefly follows the very busy B3172 towards Axmouth, which is not pleasant, but only for a few metres before it leaves along a minor road, Barn Close Lane, which heads uphill passing Axe Cliff Golf Course, which sadly occupies the cliff top here, pushing the coast path a little inland. At the end of the golf course though, the path turns back to the coast. I can briefly enjoy a cliff top view.
Why briefly? Well the coast path east of here is rather unusual. A large part of the coast between Axmouth and Lyme Regis is an area subject to landslips known as the Axmouth to Lyme Regis undercliff. It is an area of active landslips the largest of which occurred in 1839, when a massive chunk of land slipped forwards to the sea, leaving a large chasm behind it. This also took some buildings with it and became a bit of a tourist attraction for a time. Gradually the farming that had taken place in the area ceased and it became wooded.
It is now a nature reserve and the coast path runs right through it. It is big too, this stretch of the coast path is more than 5 miles. Once on the path, there is no way off it with no access either to the beaches or inland.
This means views of the coast are rather limited, with this sort of view being typical.
It is actually a very interesting area to walk through and on a warm day like this felt a bit like a jungle. The difficult access and length of the path means that it is also fairly untouched and contains some interesting remains, including the ruins of some houses, abandoned when the landslips occurred. The walk though is quite hard, the path is very undulating and narrow in places too. In fact this caused a bit of a problem when I met a group coming the other way. I tried to step to one side, but I slipped and nearly fell off the path. This would not be a good place to fall over and injure yourself, as the access is so difficult. Thankfully I did not do myself any harm and could carry on once the group had passed.
There are occasional glimpses where you see more of the coast. This stretch of path is quite time consuming though and it had been nearly 2 hours since I entered the Undercliff before I got this view.
Beer Head can be seen at the end. On a warm day like this it was rather nice with the rich green trees and numerous other plants growing on the woodland floor.
In places there were glimpses of the cliffs inland, as there are often essentially two cliffs, those now facing the sea and those inland, once the chasm that opened behind the landslip.
I soon passed the wall of a house, all that left standing, as this area was abandoned.
At one of the higher points I briefly emerged from the trees to make out the cliff of Golden Cap, just east of Lyme Regis, which is in fact the highest cliff on the south coast and you can see from this photo how it gets it’s name.
A little while later I left this area and passed the warning sign.
It had taken me a little over 2 hours, so I think the timings given are a little generous, but it is worth making the point that you need to have plenty of time (and water) before starting this stretch.
Sadly there is a rather negative footnote. The section of the path I have just described is currently closed (as of March 2014) .Sadly walkers are now advised to catch the bus, but there is also an alternative route, but it goes quite far inland.
As this area is an area that has suffered many landslips in the past I guess it is not too surprising that another has occurred. The good news is that the path either side of the landslip is still open and so you can still explore the area, but have to come back the same way. I have heard that it is (or was?) possible with care to pass through the area but it is illegal because the path is subject to a closure order and the possibility of access may no longer be true, so I would not recommend trying it and in any case there might be barriers put in the way too. Sadly with the health and safety rules and risk averse nature now I would not be surprised if this section is permanently diverted inland if the powers that be decided it is too risky to walk through this area. Perhaps the England coast path will help when the route is devised in this area. Time will tell.
Anyway onwards with the walk. I emerged from the woodland and followed the wide track which soon heads down through a few fields, briefly back along the road and then through woodland to emerge at the back of the Monmouth Beach, a large sand and shingle beach at the western edge of Lyme Regis.
The beach huts at the back of the beach were proving popular on this warm day. I soon reached the Cobb, the harbour in Lyme Regis. The large stone wall here shelters the harbour and has caused a good sandy beach to build up behind the harbour, whilst at the coastal side there are a few attractive buildings on the wall, which are almost an island. The tide was out, so I did not see it at it’s best, but it is still very pleasant.
I walked out to the end of the Cobb, which gives a good view back to the town and it’s brightly coloured buildings.
I rather like the sign above one of the buildings on the Cobb
The gods do not subtract from the allotted span of mens lives the hours spent in fishing
The cliffs to the east of the town are spectacular, and clearly very soft.
The ancient stone wall of the Cobb is also very pretty and it is clearly a popular place to walk.
Finally I headed along the promenade behind the Cobb and passed the beach huts and amusements of Lyme Regis. Near the town centre I headed down onto the beach for a drink and a rest before heading back. This part of the beach also has a bit of sand at low tide, so I had a quick paddle too.
This is a walk of two halves, the first part along the coast between Beer and Axmouth and the second through the Undercliff. Sadly with the path closed the route you now have to follow is further inland than it was when I did this walk so is even less coastal. It is still worth exploring the Undercliff though, it is nice to see an area now largely untouched by man. Obviously I could not condone the official advice to skip this section and take a bus, either!
Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk:-
First Dorset X53 : Poole – Hamworthy – Sandford – Wareham Station – Wareham – Wool Station – Winfirth Newburgh – Osmington – Preston – Weymouth – Chickerell – Portesham – Abbotsbury – Burton Bradstock – West Bay – Bridport – Chideock – Morecombelake – Charmouth – Lyme Regis – Colyford – Seaton – Beer – Sidford – Newton Poppleford – Clyst St Mary – Exeter. Only a few buses each day run the full length (Exeter – Poole), but between Lyme Regis and Beer the service is one bus every two hours, seven days a week.