With some of the lockdown restrictions having been lifted in the last couple of months Chris and I finally ventured away and enjoyed our first trip since March! We had a lovely weekend in Devon and trekked a 10 mile section of the Jurassic Coast, part of the 632 mile South West Coast Path. There is a handy suggested itinerary which breaks the entire SWCP walk down into sections.
The Jurassic Coast is a 95 mile stretch of England’s south coast which runs between Exmouth and Old Harry Rocks, near Swanage. Having arrived on a Friday evening, we spent Saturday walking a 10 mile section of the coast from Sidmouth and back to Seaton and on Sunday morning we drove the short distance to Lyme Regis to explore the fossils covering the beach.
DAY 1: 10 mile hike from Sidmouth to Seaton
We stayed in the Premier Inn which is located in the centre of Seaton and only 2 minutes’ walk from a handy bus stop. Seaton is a small and quiet town with a handful of pubs and restaurants and an expansive pebbly beach! We got bus 9A (towards Exeter), an hourly service which departed at 09:02. We paid by credit card and brought 2 x singles to Sidmouth (£7.60) to begin our hike.
Sidmouth is a larger tourist town than Seaton and with a seafront lined with pubs and cafes it seemed a good idea to begin our trek with a coffee and a treat! Here you can also purchase enough food and supplies to last you for a full day of hiking.
Follow that sea! Keeping the sea to the right, our plan for the day was simply to walk back to Seaton following the signs of the official South West Coast Path (SWCP) route.
5 minutes later as we thought we were beginning the trek we immediately came up to a diversion… a bridge was being rebuilt which meant we had to follow the temporary signs and pick up the path at the back of Sidmouth…
However we did pass a couple of interesting features. Above is a section of a large seascape mural which children helped to create for the Keith Owen Fund. Brought up in Devon, Keith Owen was a British RAF squadron leader who later settled in Canada with a career as a financial advisor. He regularly visited Sidmouth to visit his mother. Sadly just before retirement he found he had a terminal illness so donated his retirement savings to local projects; this mural was created to remind everyone to conserve sea-life for future generations.
Following the temporary SWCP signs we came to an attractive wooden bridge which took pedestrials across a ford! Cars need to drive through although large gates close it off when its too deep!
We found our way onto the SWCP proper and a bit of a climb as we approached Salcombe Hill. From the top we could make out views of the coastline although today wasn’t the clearest… in fact it was foggy for much of the day…
And humid… we trekked across grassy slopes and into woodland areas…
Despite the fog we still had incredible views of the coastline… this was a tough trek which involved several steep climbs up and down the cliffs.
We continued to head east along the pebbly Salcombe Beach which apart from a couple of families, was empty!
We came to some rocks and boulders to climb over and around the headland… thankfully the tide seemed to be out… I’m not sure how far the tide comes in or whether there are any alternative options. The SWCP seemed to take us across these boulders and onto another beach around the corner.
The next beach just past the boulders… and we were surprised to see nobody else on this part of the walk. We had anticipated the SWCP to be busy on a Saturday in August.
Halfway along this beach we spotted the above sign which took us back up the cliff and onto the path.
By now the mist had turned to light rain which was actually OK… it cooled us down and wasn’t heavy enough to mean digging our waterproof jackets out of the backpack.
We headed slightly inland and in the humidity and mist, bizarrely it reminded us of one of our Sri Lanka cloud forest treks!
It wasn’t long before we were back on the cliff top with spectacular coastal views. And thankfully the misty rain had now stopped.
Just before Branscombe we came to the Berry Cliff Camp & Lime Burning site, previously the site of a 2000 year old iron-age hill fort.
We continued towards Branscombe and began to descend towards sea level once more. As we passed through the woods we saw a sign towards Branscombe church, to the left. We assume this would have taken us to the village. Instead, we made our way towards the beach where we were hoping to get a coffee and some lunch.
Unfortunately thanks to covid restrictions the above beach cafe was only serving limited takeaway and there was a massive queue… pah… making do with our water and snack bars we skipped on lunch and continued towards Beer.
While Beer was only 2 miles away, this was a steep 2 miles up and over these huge cliffs which make the people walking on the path along the top look tiny!
Thankfully Beer contained several pubs and cafes and although we were now 8 miles into our 10 mile trek we were pleased to be offered an outside table in the Anchor Inn where we were able to order some nachos and a drink using the Green King app 🙂
Beer is a pretty and picturesque village and with quaint old buildings and an abundance of flowers.
Finally after one last climb and one last descent, we could see Seaton in the distance!
DAY 2: LYME REGIS
After breakfast we checked out of the Premier Inn and drove for about 15 minutes across the border from Devon to Dorset and into Lyme Regis. This is a town which is famous for its fossils!
The rocks of Lyme Regis were formed in the Jurassic Period between 200 and 164 million years ago and many of the round ammonites can be found embedded into the grey rocks on the beach.
If you are lucky you can find a ‘separate’ fossil which is loose and not part of a huge rock! Chris found the above small fossil after having a little dig around in the pebbles.
There are many restaurants and pubs and we treated ourselves to lunch in the Oyster and Fish House (above) before our 3.5 hour drive home!
As this was our first post-Covid trip we were unsure what to expect. As part of a big national chain, Premier Inn has around 800 hotels in the UK. Presumably they will have the same regulations in all of their establishments. This included:
- Must wear a mask in all public areas
- Several hand sanitiser stations
- Limited menu choice in the restaurant
- No breakfast buffet
- One-way signage marked on the floor
This wasn’t a deal-breaker but post covid travel and its restrictions certainly wasn’t quite the same carefree experience we are used to… remembering to wear your mask, check the floor to ensure you were not ‘going the wrong way’ and being slightly irritated at the increased use of plastic… even the bread at breakfast was individually wrapped (well 2 slices) in plastic bags.
How will this pan out in the future? People may have their Covid risk reduced and as a bonus have less colds and flu but what happens when the mask regulations are dropped and we are allowed to mix again like ‘normal people’? Will nobody have any immunity so will have to endure a sudden overload of illnesses? And what about burdening our poor planet with even more plastic? This is something that really concerns Chris and I. Charles Eisenstein also shares some interesting views in ‘numb‘.