75B. Lyme Regis to Beer

June 2012

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.

View east from Lyme Regis

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.

The beach at Lyme Regis

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.

Lyme Regis

It also gave a nice view of the Cobb and harbour behind it.

Lyme Regis

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.

Lyme Regis

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.

Monmouth Beach, Lyme Regis

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.

Monmouth Beach, Lyme Regis

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.

Monmouth Beach, Lyme Regis

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.

Near Seven Rock Point

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.

Near Seven Rock Point

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.

Near Seven Rock Point

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.

Pinhay Bay

Soon though I had rounded the corner and reached Pinhay Bay.

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.

Pinhay Bay

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.

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.

Charton Bay

I was also a bit surprised to see this.

Charton Bay

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.

Charton Bay

Time for a last look back along the deserted beach, before I continued around the corner.

Charton Bay

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.

Fossil near Culverhole Point

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.

Near Culverhole Point

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.

Near Culverhole Point

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.

East of Axmouth

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.

East of Axmouth

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.

East of Axmouth

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.

Axmouth

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.

Axmouth Bridge

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.

Axmouth and the River Axe

Here it is.

Seaton

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.

The beach at Seaton looking west

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.

View of Seaton from East Ebb

Soon I rounded the corner into the familiar sight of Beer with it’s sheltered beach and white chalk cliffs.

Beer

I headed down onto the beach for a paddle and a well earned rest.

The beach at Beer, East Devon

It was then time to head up the main street for the bus back to Lyme Regis.

Beer, Devon

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.

Here is the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link | Slideshow

If you are interested in the Geology of the area, Ian West has an excellent page about it:-

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7 Responses to 75B. Lyme Regis to Beer

  1. snowgood says:

    Thanks for your blog. It’s been useful for me planning part of our coast path experience down here in Devon. My current goal is to plug the gaps in the SWCP before the year is out.
    I’ve still got Portland to Lyme Regis, and Dartmouth to Bigbury to tackle….pity I live in Sussex.

  2. To have walked along so many beaches with no company other than your own… It must be have been worth the pain of treading over so many stones and pebbles. 🙂

  3. William Thorogood says:

    Have only just read your blog which I found quite inspirational. I live only a few miles from Lyme Regis and have done the Underciffs walk to Seaton, via the Coast Path, several times (quite hard going). I had wondered whether it was possible to walk along the shoreline but have been somewhat reluctant to try because this is quite an undertaking with, as you have pointed out, little room for error in places. You have proved that, with planning, it can be very rewarding.
    Many thanks

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