This is a section of coast path that I have already walked, so you might be wondering why I am posting about it again. The reason is that whilst the previous walk (which I numbered 75A) was along the coast path, much of it was through the Lyme Regis to Axmouth Undercliff, an ancient landslip now mostly woodland, meaning my view of the coast was the occasional glimpse of the sea through the woodland. It was more a walk near the coast than a coast walk really.
So on a later visit to Lyme Regis I wondered if it might be possible to find a better coastal route along the beach, walking along the foreshore as far as Axmouth. The access here is not clear, but my understanding is that land below the mean high water is considered legally to be part of the sea and hence public access is permitted. The downside is that with no access to the coast path from the beach if I got stuck I might have to walk the whole way back, and there is the ever present risk of getting cut off by the tide, or rock falls. But I didn’t let that put me off.
The Ordnance Survey map showed that the Mean Low Water mark was never against the cliffs and there were rocks or beaches the whole way, so it looked to be possible.
So I headed to Lyme Regis to see if I could make it. I was travelling from a village in South East Dorset, so it took me around 1 hour and 20 minutes to reach Lyme Regis. I walked down to the sea front and stopped on the beach for a minute. It was a cloudy and windy day but forecast to be dry.
I walked along the promenade to the sandy beach near the Cobb. A tractor had just been cleaning the sands of seaweed and rubbish, so it was looking pristine.
For the sake of variety, rather than stick to the coast path along the promenade, which I walked last time, I headed up into the little park at the back of the promenade, the extra height giving a better view around the bay and of the town.
It also gave a nice view of the Cobb and harbour behind it.
Soon the path returned to the beach. The promise of dry weather turned out to be false, as a squally shower blew in. Thankfully within 10 minutes or so it was over.
Returning from the Cobb, I headed down onto the beach west of the harbour. The coast path begins just behind the beach, heading into the hills. The beach is called Monmouth Beach and is backed by a car park, beach huts and caravans initially. Soon these end though. The beach itself is mostly pebbles, but with some sand and shingle near the shoreline.
The cliffs ahead are called Devonshire Head and the reason is that I will very shortly pass from Dorset to Devon. Lyme Regis is in Dorset, but only around ¼ of a mile west of the Cobb and I have crossed into Devon.
Already the beach had become quieter, there was some sand and the sun was beginning to break through. It was beautiful.
Looking back to Lyme Regis and around the bay I could see the rain clouds that had bought me the rain earlier now heading off into the distance. Ahead the beach began to narrow with the sand soon ending and coming back to pebbles.
This made the walking harder, as I had to leave the sands of the beach and head back onto the loose pebbles. Soon I faced my first problem, the sea ahead was almost touching the cliffs.
But I could see that there was a bit of rocky beach at the end and so I managed to time it between waves to get across without getting wet feet. I knew the tide was going out, so although that part was a struggle, as long as I did not leave it too long I would be able to get back if needed.
Soon the beach gave way to smoother rocks, I suspect the base of the cliffs from where they had eroded, but it did make for easier walking, although slippery in places.
Soon I was surprised to come across a marvellous and very large fossil on top of one of the rocks – it would be the first of many I saw that day but I had not expected to find such a good specimen without even making any effort to look. It is a reminder why this is called the Jurassic Coast – I am literally walking on millions of years of history.
The going ahead soon became more awkward though, as the rocks ended and I was back to lose pebbles and shingle. Lyme Regis had now disappeared around the corner. The view ahead was of these grey slate cliffs with the trees of the Undercliff on top. The number of rocks on the beach made it clear these cliffs were unstable too, but I had little choice but to walk close under the cliffs for much of the way.
Soon though I had rounded the corner and reached Pinhay Bay.
There was once again a bit of sand and no evidence of people having been here recently. I stopped here for a rest, glad to reach a safe point where the sea did not reach the cliffs. Looking back the narrowness of the beach below the cliffs was clear.
After a brief rest I continued on the shingle and pebbles around Humble Point where there was again only a small gap between the sea and the cliffs, but enough to get around. I was soon rewarded with another lovely beach, Charton Bay.
I was surprised to see chalk cliffs at the end, as I tended to think it was only Beer where there were white cliffs in Devon. I stopped to have lunch on the beach enjoying the isolation and the sound of the waves crashing over the shingle.
I was also a bit surprised to see this.
Yes, a clear path down to the beach, presumably from the coast path. I don’t remember seeing any path to the beach from the coast path and the official guides make clear there is no access off the coast path on this 6-mile stretch, but I can’t see where else the path can go. I didn’t try to follow it, but I was relieved it would likely provide me access back to the coast path if needed, so I would not have to return to Lyme Regis.
Ahead there was more interesting geology, as the slate cliffs I had been walking next to switched to chalk.
Time for a last look back along the deserted beach, before I continued around the corner.
Heading around the corner, I was soon back to a mixture of pebbles and shingle. Below my feet though in places were rocks, and the rocks had many fossils visible. I wondered how long they would be visible, before the sea would erode them away but then the sea would likely reveal more in the process too. It was a fantastic sight to see so many, I presume they survive because it is difficult to get here.
In places, the stones had made a line almost like it was my own pavement to walk along, making for a much easier stretch of the walk.
I soon passed the remains of an engine washed up onto the beach. From a boat I presume although quite what happened to the boat I am not clear.
Soon I could see Beer head ahead and the chalky cliffs were getting a hint of red, a sign I was making progress.
Soon I was round the next (and final) headland, Culverhole Point, which gave me a clear view ahead to Axmouth. It looked like it should be an easy rest of the walk now, as a footpath is marked on the map right along the base of the cliffs at Axmouth to the bridge.
The cliffs here were an interesting mix, going back to crumby slate but mixed in with some of the red cliffs common to Devon. As I headed west, the cliffs became more red and there was a line of large pebbles at the shoreline and even some sand below these.
Beer Head got progressively closer and I could soon make out the large caravan site to the east of the headland and the channel of the River Axe ahead.
Finally I reached the river. I wondered if it might be possible to wade over if the path I wanted did not exist. It would clearly not be, the water was deep and fast flowing. Thankfully the path marked on the map did exist and was in fact on the top of a little harbour wall, so was easy to follow.
I eagerly followed it, very pleased that my alternative route had proven both possible and wonderfully beautiful, as well as peaceful. I had seen no one for several hours.
I crossed the road bridge to Axmouth. It was now early afternoon and I considered whether to continue on to Seaton and catch the bus back to Lyme Regis, as I had found walking over all those pebbles quite tiring. However the bus timetable indicated I had more than an hour to wait for the next bus (it only runs once every 2 hours). So I continued over the bridge into Seaton.
Here it is.
I could wait in Seaton but I decided as the tide was out to continue along to my old friend, the town of Beer, and take the bus back from there. So it was more shore walking to Beer.
Soon the beach ended and I had a climb onto the cliffs, for the first time today, giving a view back over Seaton and Axmouth.
Soon I rounded the corner into the familiar sight of Beer with it’s sheltered beach and white chalk cliffs.
I headed down onto the beach for a paddle and a well earned rest.
It was then time to head up the main street for the bus back to Lyme Regis.
It was about 15 minutes late, so I was getting a bit worried that it wouldn’t show, but I could soon sit down for a rest and enjoy the view from the bus back.
I am glad I made the effort to do this walk, it took me to some unknown and little explored beaches and is a walk I very much enjoyed. The number of fossils was also a pleasant surprise. It is hard though and I would not recommended it, but if you do choose to go the same way, be sure to check the tide is going out (I suggest start around 3 – 4 hours before low tide). Then if you find the tide too high you can wait for it to go out, and this should give you enough time to get to the safety of Axmouth. And it is of course as your own risk!
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.
If you are interested in the Geology of the area, Ian West has an excellent page about it:-
- Geology of the Wessex Coast : Lyme Regis to Axmouth