8. *Devon Coast: Sidmouth to Ladram Bay (Circular) – 6.5 miles - OS Explorer 115
A few steep climbs but relatively easy going. Links to walk 9 if you want to make a full day of it.
For ease of parking start this walk at Mutter’s Moor NT car park at the top of Peak Hill west of Sidmouth. If you decide to add a trip into Sidmouth itself, this can easily done at the end by continuing along the coast path another mile, then climbing steep old Peak Hill back to Mutter's Moor car park, making the walk 8.5 miles.
From the car park, walk west down the lane about 300 metres to where it turns sharp left. There, take the path on your right signposted Seven Stone.
Follow this to the top. Passing through a gate, the path divides. Go left and left again when it joins a track. You’re now on Mutter’s Moor, named after the smuggler Abraham Mutter.
This is so-called low heathland and the remains of human settlements going back 5000 years have been found here.
Go left when the track divides again, right at the next divide (lots of paths crisscross the moor) and right again. Now keep an eye to your left for a signpost marked Coleton and, almost obscured, Pasaford Lane. Follow that.
Here the scenery changes from heathland to lush grass and tall pines with lovely views over to Newton Poppleford. When the path joins another, go left, and where it divides follow the yellow way-marker right.
A little further along there’s another way-marker. Turn right to follow it down to a stile and over. This is Pasaford Lane. Really it's a track that turns to a magical high-banked holloway as you descend.
Eventually you reach a proper lane. Go left here and follow for about three-quarters of a mile to pretty Burnthouse Farm.
Opposite the farm there’s a footpath sign to Colaton Raleigh. That’s for you.
Follow it down to a field, then onto the Otter River, crossing at a footbridge.
Over the footbridge go left and enjoy the river and the dog walkers for almost a mile.
There are a few spots with a gritty pretense of a beach which appear suitable for a dip - or at least a paddle - if you’re in the mood. Or a picnic. Fingers crossed an otter or a kingfisher might reveal themselves. We saw a kingfisher's shimmering blue-flash. Stunning bird.
Cross and leave the river when you reach another footbridge. Go left, through a metal gate just over it, and then right up another track that also turns into a holloway.
When the light's right, these high banked ancient ways take you back in a romantic haze to a time when pack horses were the only way of getting around this county. It wasn't until the 18th century, with the introduction tolls for road improvements, did wheels become practical.
Follow the track then path to rejoin the lane you left at Burnthouse Farm.
Over the lane to your right the path continues. A little way in, go left where the track divides.
From here, follow the red waymarkers through high edged trails to another lane. Here, turn toward Sea View Farm on your left, going right where the lane splits in front of the farmhouse.
The lane turns to a path that takes you to a caravan park. Through this you reach delightful Ladram Bay.
For all the caravans and the paraphernalia of these places, the bay is remarkably unspoilt and a credit to whoever runs it.
There’s a café and fishmongers on the approach. I’d suggest a takeaway to enjoy on the the pebbled beach, with it's sandstone stacks for company.
Once you've done skimming pebbles and shooing seagulls from your pastie, rise up and join the coast path heading east, passing the caravan site's pub (they do local ales!) pool and playpark.
As you climb, look over the fence and down. There you'll see more sandstone stacks stranded by erosion. If you’re lucky enough to have a low sun, they glow a rich terracotta .
Through fields you entering woodland before emerging to scrubby low pine with a steep hill to your right.
Take the path that leads to the top. On the way there's an information board telling you about Stone Age, and then, around CE 400, another Celtic settlement by the Dumnonii tribe. Marvelous views along the coast from here but what a fag to go get the Daily Mail every morning.
These Celts gave Devon its name and they hung around until Anglo-Saxons pushed them further west.
Returning back down the hill, continue east.
Soon the stunted plantation pine gives way to natural woodland. Along here there's a break in the trees and a glorious view down to Sidmouth and, on a clear day, along the coast as far as Portland Bill. A bench here deserves your backside for five minutes.
Further along through a gate, you join a path beside fields. This is soft undulating Devon farmland at its best. Enjoy until a little further along it returns to heathland.
If you’re not intending to walk into Sidmouth, once the path starts to rise, take the path that leads away from the coast path diagonally up the hill. Where heath meets wood in the far corner, the path joins the road with the car park directly opposite.
For those doing the longer walk to Sidmouth, keep to the coast path. This leads into attractive woodland and down onto Peak Hill Road.
As you descend, look out for curious white steps on your right leading to a castellated tower. This is Jacob’s Ladder. Unfortunately, not the biblical one that led to heaven, or so Jacob dreamed, but to a heavenly tea house and gardens.
Beneath and beyond the ladder, it’s possible to walk the rest of the way into Sidmouth under a sandstone cliff overhang. According to an information board up Jacob’s ladder, this sandstone is what’s left of a great desert in prehistoric times. I’ve checked: none of the messages of love and I-wuz-here carved into the stone go back that far.
Now for the bad news: Once you've explored the town, you'll have to climb back up Peak hill to get back to your car. But look at that view!