Blues and folk, cream teas, own bakery, story-telling, art exhibitions, and a perfect setting by the River Otter at the edge of a village of cob and sandstone cottages under thatch.
First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
No wonder Otterton Mill café is as popular in summer as a cold beer on a hot day. We could have squeezed there in for a pre-walk cuppa, but the call of riverbank, estuary and rugged red cliffs was too strong on this beautiful afternoon along the South Devon coast. We crossed the three old arches of Otterton Bridge instead, and walked off downriver along the slow-flowing Otter.
This is flat green river country bounded by low hills, the Otter running shallow and red over ridges of shillets that trailed green hanks of weed, rippling silkily like mermaid hair. ‘Have you seen the grey mullet?’ enquired a fisherman. ‘In the shallows, look.’ There they were, a long shoal sinuating with the stream. ‘I’m going to attempt to catch one – but they’re pretty shy.’ He flicked a lure into the water and drew it wobbling and flashing past the noses of the unmoving mullet.
We crossed the river and went on beside ripe wheatfields glistening in the sun. Down at the river mouth a pebble spit has almost closed off the Otter’s estuary from the sea. Gulls called mournfully over the piled roofs of Budleigh Salterton, wetsuited youngsters shrieked the echoes out of caves, and surf sighed on the stony ridge – essence of the sounds of summer.
The dusty coast path led north along cliffs striated and weather-bitten, their strata dipping eastward in a mighty curve through the white sprinkle of Sidmouth, the tall red triangle of Dunscombe Cliffs and a far white smudge of chalk at distant Beer Head. Fulmars and kittiwakes planed along the line of the cliff edge, and the dark purposeful shape of a peregrine went dashing by at head height. Inland, a bare field of pigs rooted among pink stones, seagulls whirled, and a farmer in a red tractor got his straw bales organised in a newly harvested field.
Above Smallstones Point we pulled up to stare across the great layered rock stacks in Ladram Bay, lambent and crimson in the late sun – a famous view, one that always delivers a pure jolt of delight. One more glance along the pink and white coast, and we headed along green lanes through the stubble fields towards Otterton and that well-earned cream tea.
Start & finish: Otterton Mill, Otterton, S. Devon EX9 7HG (OS ref SY 080851)
Getting there: A3052 (Exeter – Sidmouth); B3178 at Newton Poppleford (‘Budleigh Salterton’). In 3 miles, Otterton signposted at Brick Cross. Park in village.
WALK (6 miles, easy grade, Explorer 115):
From Otterton Mill cross River Otter bridge; left along riverbank footpath. In two thirds of a mile don’t cross Clamour Bridge: continue on right bank to cross next bridge (075830, ‘Ladram Bay, Coast Path’/CP). Don’t turn right immediately along river; keep ahead on road for 100 m, then right (CP) on path to coast. Follow CP arrows to left along cliffs for 2 miles. At ‘Otterton half a mile’ fingerpost (094848), ahead for 50 m to view Ladram Bay; return and follow path (soon green lane) inland. Left at gate of Monk’s Thatch to road (089849). Left for 100 m; right along Lea Lane (‘Unmetalled Road’). Just after right bend, keep ahead (085847; black arrow) to road in Otterton (085852). Left; follow lane past church to village.
LUNCH: Otterton Mill (01395-568521; www.ottertonmill.com)