A Coastal Walk from Otterton
One of my favourite shorter walks is the several miles of coastline between Ladram Bay and the mouth of the River Otter in east Devon, returning along the banks of the Otter to the attractive village of Otterton. Probably no more than seven miles in total, but with some glorious changes of scenery. If you are driving you can park free by Otterton village green if you get there first thing in the morning, which happens to be the best time to do this cracking ramble.
Walking up the village street, you fork left at the top – the lane leading to Sidmouth – and just past the bus turning bay a footpath heads uphill to the right. This used to be quite a wide green lane, but is now a narrower path. At the top of the first slope, it turns briefly to the left, then hard right uphill along the edge of a field. This is a good viewpoint, offering wide vistas over the east Devon heathlands, with the Iron Age hill fort of Woodbury Castle in the distance in one direction, and Mutter’s Moor and Peak Hill above Sidmouth in the other. At the head of the field, the path becomes enclosed again, exiting on to a country lane. Turn left along this for just a few yards, then right on to an unsurfaced track. Head along this, past a couple of modern houses to the next road junction, with some farm cottages nearby.
Turn left here and follow the lane and then path until the South West Coastal Path is reached. Then it is just a question of turning right through a shooting gate and following the coast path until the estuary of the River Otter is reached, with the genteel resort of Budleigh Salterton on the far bank. Along the way you pass the ruins of a World War II weapons training building, an evocative reminder of Britain in the front line. Brandy Head itself tells us that this was very much a smuggling coast, used by the famous smuggler Jack Rattenbury of Beer, and Ambrose Stapleton, the smuggling vicar of nearby East Budleigh.
The coast path winds inland above the estuary of the River Otter, before coming out on to a lane, by the entrance to a farm. Keep left, crossing the river at White Bridge. There are usually fish to see in its waters, and a great deal of water fowl at the right times of the year. Just after the bridge, turn right through a gate and follow the river upstream all the way to Otterton.
Not many centuries ago, the Otter was navigable all the way up to the old port of Budley Haven, below the present East Budleigh. The young Walter Raleigh, who was born not far away, probably encountered his first-going ships here.
I always find this a delightful walk and have completed it in all seasons of the year and even at night. It is best done on windless days as otherwise you will battle in exposed places against prevailing south westerly’s. There is usually a lot of birds to see and there is a hide by the Otter estuary. Enjoy!