SWCP Day 37. Peak Hill, Sidmouth to Stonebarrow Hill, Charmouth

Today’s distance walked – approx 38 kms (23.6 miles).
Ascent – approx 1661m (5449 ft).

I woke at 5.30am and spent a while getting myself together and finishing my blog for the past couple of days. As I was finishing up, a few big fat spots of rain fell on the tent. I got the tent packed away quickly, because I didn’t want to carry it wet, but in my haste I damaged a tent pole a little bit which I mended with the duct tape I keep wrapped around my hiking poles. The rain turned out to be nothing.

My wild camp just before Sidmouth
My wild camp just before Sidmouth

I set off at 7.45am for the walk into Sidmouth, which was thankfully downhill all the way.
Half way down I saw the hills on the other side that I’d be climbing on about an hour… Gulp! But today there was some cloud cover, my pack wasn’t too heavy, and I’d gained lots of ground yesterday, so I was feeling pretty positive.

Into Sidmouth and beyond
Into Sidmouth and beyond

Sidmouth is a beautiful town, and there are couple of grand hotels on the way into town to set the scene. I’d have liked to have the time to stop and look around some more, but alas, not in this trip, onus I wanted to make as much priced as possible before the rain came today.
Along the seafront at 8am there were lots of dog walkers, people exercising and a few swimmers. The seafront doesn’t look like it’s changed much in past 100 years, and I really liked the look of it, nestled in between the cliffs and hills. I bought a hot chocolate in a cafe then left at 9am.

Early morning in Sidmouth
Early morning in Sidmouth

The trail went up and round houses initially, to Salcombe hill. I Stopped at the top for a Museli bar, feeling pretty tired. I was sweating already. By 9.30 I was well under way again, and coping with a second hill and loads of steps. Not many of the steps on the trail have been easily walkable. They’re usually spaced too far apart (so you have to take a step and a half to get up to they next one) or they are too close together, too high, or the wooden bits are falling off, or the infill behind the steep itself has gone… You can’t just walk up/down them easily.

One of this morning's beautiful views
One of this morning’s beautiful views

I was at the top of Higher Dunscombe by 10. It was nice and breezy, which was awesome. By 10.30 I was at the bottom of Weston Mouth on the beach with little flat pebbles. There was a lovely flat stretch at Weston cliff.

The beach at Weston Mouth
The beach at Weston Mouth

Coming into Brandscombe, the track changed to a 4 wheel drive track through some nice woodlands, and there were some great views of the outskirts of village. At 11.45 I arrived Brandscombe Mouth at the beach. The cliffs in front of me were now white chalk, as the geology guide mentioned yesterday.
There were lots of people here, and most of them with their dogs. I stopped into the café for a delicious bacon and egg bap and a ginger beer. The loos were spotless. I left at 12.15 up a really steep slope. Then because of my earlier moaning, the trail have me the best steps of steps so far. Each step was one step, and despite the fact that they were, well.. going up.. it was very walkable. I was treated to incredible views at the top.

Looking back to Brandscombe Mouth
Looking back to Brandscombe Mouth

This was a very popular section, and there were loads of day walkers. It was only 2 miles to Beer, which is probably why. I’d missed a signpost somewhere on the steep slope, so I ended up walking with the masses over the top, instead of lower down the cliffs, but really glad I did. It was breezy at the top, and there were great views of the white cliffs and rock pinnacles.

Rounding Beer Head looking back to Brandscombe
Rounding Beer Head looking back to Brandscombe

The sun came out, and I checked the weather report- rain was no longer predicted.. yay! I came around Beer Head, and there were views to Seaton and beyond. I didn’t find this section to be as bad as the guidebook indicated, and I was really enjoying the day.

The village at Beer
The village at Beer

The walk down into the little village of Beer was nice, with some stone fronted houses to the left and lovingly tended allotments to the right. Beer, had a lovingly groomed pebble beach, with deckchairs…

The beach at Beer
The beach at Beer

After Beer it was more climbing up, then back down to Seaton Hole, a deeply-shelved Pebble beach. The trail was on the pebbles for approximately 500m (although reasonably compact on the top tier) before it became a path again.
A sea mist began blowing in as I got to Seaton. It has a wonderful beach but it seems that again the seafront has been subject to many planning disasters over the years which has left it without much character I thought.

From Seaton Hole around to Seaton
From Seaton Hole around to Seaton

I left Seaton at 3pm. It looked like a storm was coming from the West. I umm’d and ahh’d for a bit then decided I had more in me, and that I could to walk to Lyme Regis. The route takes in the full length of the famed undercliffs.

Lyme Regis undercliff
Lyme Regis undercliff

To be honest I didn’t find it a particularly nice section – I prefer a sweeping view when I’m hiking. The path started narrow and rocky underfoot, with some awful steps again. It became a little tree-rooty as well as rocky, and there were lots of little ups and downs. The path widened about half way through. It was completely covered by trees and foliage, and ferns grew in many places. It was a bit like being back home in NZ n some places. It was humid too, and I was sweating a lot.

The woodlands of the undercliff, near Lyme Regis
The woodlands of the undercliff, near Lyme Regis

There were a couple of 5 minute light rain showers, nothing to get anything very wet. I was glad when I got out of there and got into Lyme Regis at 5.45pm.

The Cobb at Lyme Regis
The Cobb at Lyme Regis

I walked into town via the famous Cobb, remembering my English A-level study of the ‘French Lieutenant’s Woman’. I walked along the beach, past the beach huts, and got some fish n chips and ate them on the sea wall overlooking the beach. If you have the time, Lyme Regis is a beautiful town to visit. I’ve been plenty of times, and was a little sad this time that I wasn’t stopping.

Looking back to Lyme Regis beach
Looking back to Lyme Regis beach

There was a campsite in Upper Lyme, but I didn’t want to backtrack, so I ended up filling up my water and walking out of Lyme Regis. I got a second wind, and all of a sudden I had walked through the tedious to and over, mostly road walk diversion, and was back down on the beach again at Charmouth. There were three huge caravan parks in Charmouth which I thought about going to, but all their offices were closed and I was probably looking at expensive pitches there. So I used the loos on the seafront, and quickly made my way up the huge hill to look for a wild pitch.

Sunset near Charmouth
Sunset near Charmouth

To be honest I was cutting it fine tonight – I usually like to be ensconced well before 9pm. I ended up pitching my tent on Stonebarrow Hill National Trust land above Cain’s Folly, just before Monarch’s Way and West Hay farm at 9.30pm. I was super pleased to get my tent up and rest!
Ooh, I just quietly snuck into Dorset.. my final county on the SWCP!!

Nice pitch late in the evening
Nice pitch late in the evening…

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