First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
The Otter Estuary is a remarkable place. Long and thin, it penetrates the English Channel on the outskirts of Budleigh Salterton. This is a place for binoculars and sharp eyes, where wintering birds in their tens of thousands have arrived just now to feed on the invertebrate life of the muddy tideway and marshes.
On this wild, blustery and sunny day it was easy to see why there’s concern for this East Devon coast on account of climate change and rising sea levels. The sandstone cliffs with their sandwiched layers of ancient pebbles are crumbling, the estuaries of Otter and neighbouring Exe eroding.
The sea, flecked with wind-driven whitecaps, was stained a rich red by the sandy mud and rock it had sucked away. It was an extraordinary sight, and a salutary one.
We followed the coast path inland up the Otter Estuary, where the last of the pale blue sea asters starred the saltmarsh and sandpipers pattered fastidiously on the muddy banks. The path in its tunnel of bushes was spattered scarlet with rosehips, crimson with hawthorn peggles and indigo with over-ripe blackberries. A flock of linnets went skimming up the hedge. Inland the ground rose in those steep green slopes so characteristic of the south Devon landscape.
Bright gold buttons of tansy flanked the path into East Budleigh. You can hardly escape the village’s connection with its most celebrated son, Sir Walter Raleigh, born just down the lane. We found a fine statue of the poet-courtier-colonist in doublet and padded hose outside the church where his parents lie buried, and a fine pint of beer and sandwich in the pub that carries his name.
West of East Budleigh ramifies a network of old-style country lanes, high-banked, stony and thick-hedged. From the gate onto bracken-smothered Shortwood Common we had a superb view east along the red and white cliffs of the Jurassic Coast, round the great curve of Lyme Bay as far as the distant hump of the Isle of Portland.
A ferny stretch of old railway path, the swift transition of a golf course, and we were walking down to Budleigh Salterton in a clifftop tunnel of gorse. Before us the wind whistled on, rocking the gorse, clearing the sky to china blue, and whipping up a lacy surf on the red sea shallows.
Start: Lime Kiln car park, Granary Lane, Budleigh Salterton EX9 6JD (OS ref SY 073820)
Getting there: Bus 58 (Exeter)
Road: Budleigh Salterton is signed from A3052 (Exeter-Sidmouth)
Walk (9 miles, easy, OS Explorer 115): Up Otter Estuary on Coast Path. In ⅔ mile pass bridge (075830); in ½ mile, ahead at fork (075839, ‘Otterton’); in 250m through left-hand gate (077841, yellow arrow/YA) on raised path. In 450m cross track (074844, YA); on to road (072844). Left; in 300m cross B3178 (070844); up Lower Budleigh – Middle Street – High Street. Opposite Sir Walter Raleigh PH, down Hayes Lane (066848). In 450m, opposite electricity substation, left (062849) up stony lane. In 200m, on over crossroads (061846); downhill to Hayeswood Lane (062845). Right for ½ mile. 150m beyond right bend, left (054842, kissing gate, fingerpost) on path; in 200m, stile/YA (053840) onto Shortwood Common.
Turn right; don’t go further right, but keep ahead (YA) south across common for 300m, descending to Shortwood Lane (052837, ‘Country Road’). In 250m, at gate on left (052835), sharp right downhill. At road, left (049833). In 100m, right (049832, ‘Permissive Cycleway’). In 250m, right along old railway (047830). In 600m, pass below B3178 (045825); in 300m, under next bridge (043823); in 200m hairpin back left (042821, ‘Castles Lane’) to road (043823). Right; in 200m, fork left (044821); follow lane (‘West Down Beacon’). At golf course, keep ahead (white sticks, YAs, ‘Coastal Path’) for ⅓ mile to coast (045811). Left to Budleigh Salterton.
Lunch: Sir Walter Raleigh PH, East Budleigh (01395-442510)
Accommodation: The Long Range, Vales Rd, Budleigh Salterton EX9 6HS (01395-443321, thelongrangehotel.co.uk)