This post follows on from the first part of my Jurassic Coast walk which was from Exmouth to Budleigh Salterton.
With the skies filled with monotonous grey clouds that successfully blocked the sun, I cursed my stubbornness as I stepped out the house and began my walk. Although it was perfect walking weather, neither too hot nor too cold, I knew the bleakness wouldn’t do the views of the Jurassic Coast justice.
Living in the opposite side of town, and therefore the bus stop, I couldn’t justify a 20 minute walk to get the bus to Sidmouth when I knew it was only a couple miles to Budleigh. As such, I decided to walk the 12+ miles from Exmouth to Sidmouth first and get the bus back.
Rather than walking down to the seafront and along the cliffs to Budleigh Salterton like last week, I took a shorter route along a cycle path that starts in Littleham. This shared path is a popular route with cyclists, runners and dog walkers that connects Knowle, Exmouth and Woodbury Common and allows pedestrians to avoid the busy main road. Cutting between fields and forested stretches, it’s clear to see why the picturesque path is so popular.
Getting to Sidmouth from Budleigh via the Jurassic Coast isn’t as straightforward as you’d think – It’s not just one continuous stretch. Budleigh is the mouth of the river Otter and where the river meets the sea the area is impassable, unless you fancy wading through waist high waters and scaling a small cliff face on the other side of course. As such, you have to take a small detour.
Starting in a carpark at the end of Budleigh seafront, the river Otter walk is also the start of the next part of the Jurassic Coastline and, even though it’s only a short walk, it’s popular with families, runners, dog walkers, hikers and bird watchers, who all share the narrow path. It was here that I was approached by an elderly couple and handed a pamphlet about Christianity, which I politely accepted before stuffing in my coat pocket and walking on.
A couple hundred meters along the river Otter path, you meet a bridge that allows you to cross the river and rejoin the Jurassic Coastline. It’s at this point you can decide which route you want to take to Ladram Bay, the point between Budleigh and Sidmouth, as both paths end up at the holiday park. Since my journey revolves around walking the Jurassic Coastline, I crossed the river and started my walk back towards Budleigh on the other side.
Passing beside farmer’s fields, I was finally back on the cliff tops and on route to Ladram Bay along the coast. A 20 meter gap in the coastline equates to roughly an extra mile of walking! But thankfully your efforts, and frustrations, are compensated with a great view over Budleigh and the mouth of the river Otter.
The route to Sidmouth from Budleigh is one the hilliest sections, with a good couple hundred meters of overall ascension across the 6 mile stretch of coastline, and is a popular spot for trail runners. As a fellow runner it’s impressive how easy they make it look and there is an annual Exe to Axe run that follows the Jurassic Coastline from Exmouth to Seaton 22 miles away!
It was when I was passed, somewhat effortlessly I may add, on a steep uphill climb by a trail runner, that I decided to add trail running and the Exe to Axe run to my bucket list. Always open to new experiences it sounds like an exciting and challenging event that will bring with it an immense amount of personal pride and achievement.
The route to Ladram Bay from Budleigh is a scenic 2 mile stretch with verdant fields on one side and unfenced cliff on the other. This part of the route is home to numerous small coves created through a combination of erosion and landslides and is a constant up and down with one hill rolling into the next. I was almost grateful when I saw Ladram in the distance as I knew it was time for a well earned break and a chance to refuel.
Ladram is famous for it’s Sea Stacks. Tall stacks of Otter sandstone stand in the waters just off the shoreline and are a popular spot for tombstoning (jumping off high things into water). Always more cautious than fun, it was never something that interested me, but many youngsters climb the stacks in the summer simply to jump off them and repeat the whole process again and again.
After a nostalgic short break in Ladram, mostly spent reminiscing over childhood memories, I set off once again with hopes to reach Sidmouth within the hour. Walking past caravans and out the park, the route gradually inclines and leads into a small forest. Here the route deteriorates into a muddy uphill struggle which had me gripping onto branches to keep me from loosing my footing.
Once at the top you have the option of climbing further still for views back over the coastline, or you can follow the path down and towards Sidmouth. Conscious of time, now that my phone had died, I elected to head on towards Sidmouth not knowing how long it would take and when the next bus back would be.
Supposedly only a mile away, I came across a small group of walkers that were posing for a photo. With the view of Sidmouth behind them and a small camera perched on a tree with an auto timer, the trio posed and waited. Unsure of the results, I asked whether or not they would like me to take their picture but, not doubting his abilities, the photographer of the group confidently declined. Certain on the outcome of his work he strolled over to branch, picked up the camera and smiled. As if to prove a point, I was shown the picture in question and, surprisingly, it came out well. He’d clearly done this before.
With my services not needed I carried on walking and ended up in vast open field surrounded by a cacophony of roosters crowing and sheep baaing, clearly coming from the farm in the distance. To my surprise however, I soon realised that the open field was also home to said baaing sheep as well as grazing horses. Not knowing what to do in the situation, and whether or not sheep were as protective of their young as cows, I took the cautious approach, skirted the livestock and found the way out of the field in the north east corner.
After a short stepped path down to the road, I was finally on the outskirts of town, but unfortunately I was still just under a mile away from the seafront. Similar to the first view of Budleigh, you catch sight of Sidmouth a lot earlier than you arrive, but after successfully avoiding getting hit by oncoming traffic, I found my way into town. Walking to the end of the seafront, I took a snapshot of the next section to come (the cover photo) and rewarded myself with food from a local bakery.
But with one challenge completed, another presented itself. With a dead phone and no knowledge of Sidmouth, finding the bus home was easier said than done. Residing to the fact that I may have to walk another four hours back to Exmouth, I caught sight of bus heading into town. Following it back to the seafront and behind one of the many hotels, I was led to a line of bus stops and even though the bus wasn’t the one I wanted, at least I knew I was where I needed to be.