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Sunday, 14 September 2014

Walk 121 Lyme Regis to Seaton

Walk 121  Lyme Regis to Seaton (Devon)

(Second leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs to Lands End)

Map: L/R 193
Distance: 8 miles or 12 km approx
Difficulty: Very challenging – care needs to be taken underfoot – there is a warning near the start of the walk
Terrain: coastal path
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: X53 bus goes between the two towns every couple of hours

This walk appears to be easy on paper. However, the uncertainty of the surface underfoot can make it hazardous. I saw two people who had fallen and being treated for cuts. You have to look down and take things slowly. A warning notice alerts walkers to the fact that the walk is only a few miles but may take much longer than expected.

Start the walk on the front at Lyme Regis near the clock tower.  Lyme Regis marks the border between Devon and Dorset. It was a fashionable watering place in the 18th century and was evidently very popular with the citizens of Bath. The buildings surviving from that time means it retains much of its charm. The beach is famous for its fossils and this is reflected in The Fossil Shop on the main street. During the 19th century, Mary Anning, who became a famous fossil hunter, discovered some of the first fossils that has made this area famous and led it to become known as the Jurassic Coast. The huge ammonites and shells were from life here around 180 million years ago. 

Walk along the harbour and to The Cobb which was originally a sea defence built in the 13th century. It has literary and historical associations. For example, it has seen ships set sail to fight in The Hundred Years War and the Spanish Armada. Lyme MP George Summers left from here on a journey which led to the discovery of The Bahamas. In Jane Austen’s Persuasion, Louisa Musgrave took a tumble from The Cobb to blight the prospects of the heroine Anne Elliott. In the film of The French Lieutenant’s Woman, Meryl Streep was filmed looking out to sea – lots of people were seen posing this when I visited!

Continue to Monmouth Beach. In 1685 the Duke of Monmouth landed here and began his ill fated challenge for the throne of his uncle, James 2nd – this ended in bloody fashion at the Battle of Sedgemoor. Twelve of his men were subsequently hanged in Lyme Regis.

The path out of Lyme Regis can be accessed from Monmouth Bay. As explained above this path has a warning notice: ‘The terrain can be difficult and walking arduous and will take around 4 hours’. It also states that there is no access to the sea. Only glimpses of the coast can be seen on this stretch. One landmark in the first half of the walk is a ruined building that was once a freshwater pumping station and an engineer’s house. Water was pumped up from here to a nearby estate and used as drinking water.

Further along, Downland  and Bindon Cliffs are famous for their enormous landslips. On Christmas Eve 1839 an enormous piece of these cliffs tore free from the mainland to form a deep chasm. It carried huge chunks of wheat and turnip fields and became an area known as Goat Island – a Victorian tourist attraction for some time.

At the end of the walk, approaching Seaton, look out for the tree sculpture which is formed into a grabbing hand (complete with fingernails). To get into Seaton you cross The Axmouth Old Bridge which was opened in 1877 but has been closed to traffic since 1990. This is the oldest standing concrete bridge in England. Axmouth Harbour which is to the south of the bridge has existed since Roman times. A tramway runs up the side of The River Axe and it is worthwhile (at another time) taking a tram to look at the river and wildlife.  

Look out for the clock tower which provides a suitable background to some pleasant landscaped gardens. A large holiday camp nearby was once used as an internment camp in World War 2. Large pebbles from the beach have been sent as far afield as New Zealand for paint blending and rubber processing.

Photos show: Beach and clock at Lyme Regis; Main Street and Fossil shop, Lyme Regis; Lyme Harbour; The Cobb; Monmouth Beach; Hand sculpture near Seaton; Seaton front and clock tower.

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