Sidmouth Holiday - April 2019
A full week of glorious sunshine awaited us on our extended Easter break this year in the seaside town of Sidmouth in East Devon. Set in 9 acres of beautiful grounds, the Christian Guild-owned hotel Sidholme turned out to be an excellent venue, with a particularly high standard of food. 10 members arrived on the Tuesday evening, and as the organiser, Ian, was suffering from a foot problem which restricted his walking, some of us quickly got down to planning some routes.
On Wednesday the ‘A’ party, led by William, drove to East Budleigh, where we saw Sir Walter Raleigh’s birthplace. We walked through Hayes Wood and Colaton Raleigh Common, the first of a number of areas of pebblebed heathland (which is unique to this area) to be encountered, then round to the prehistoric hill fort of Woodbury Castle. We then went down via East Budleigh Common and Leeford to meet the coast, following the coastline into Budleigh Salterton where we found an excellent teashop. After tea, we walked north up the estuary of the River Otter, back to East Budleigh, before returning to Sidmouth, a total distance of 16 miles.
The ‘B’ party, led by Ian, drove to Budleigh Salterton and walked along the sandstone cliffs to Sidmouth, before returning to Budleigh Salterton by bus and ending the walk with a teashop, before driving back to Sidmouth. They also saw Sir Walter Raleigh’s family home, Hays Barton, in East Budleigh and the attractive church in the same village on the way back.
In the evening there were more arrivals, bringing us up to 17, and I organised a quiz which I hope was not too difficult!
On Thursday both parties set off from the hotel up the River Otter, then east through bluebell woods where the parties split. The ‘A’ party, led by Mike A, went on to Salcombe Regis, stopping at the churchyard of St. Mary & St. Peter’s church where we were briefly reunited with the ‘B’ party, then on to the Donkey Sanctuary, which interested some members rather more than others! We then continued east, dropping down to Branscombe where we found a nice teashop on the sea front. We then headed back west along the coastal path, which was very steep and challenging in places, a total distance of 15 miles.
The ‘B’ party, led by Aline, caught up with the ‘A's having elevenses in the churchyard, then took a detour to see the current Salcombe Thorn. A thorn tree has stood on the same spot since Saxon times to mark the parish boundary. They then went on towards the Donkey Sanctuary and headed down towards the coast at Weston Mouth. A few steep uphills and downhills led them back along the South West Coast Path to Sidmouth where they bumped into some new arrivals from the group and stopped for tea and cake before heading back along the river Sid to the hotel, a total distance of approximately 11 miles.
In the evening there were more arrivals, and some people went to the local pub.
On Friday both parties again walked from the hotel, this time heading west. The ‘A’ party, again led by William, went via Mutters Moor up to Northmostown, then headed south to Colaton Raleigh before following the River Otter, stopping for lunch and a paddle, all the way down to the coast just east of Budleigh Salterton. We then followed the South West Coastal Path east back to Sidmouth, bumping into the ‘B’ party on a number of occasions, before having tea and cake (with some of the ‘B’ party) at the Clock Tower tearooms back in Sidmouth. This was followed by some more paddling. Overall, a distance of 15 miles.
The remaining members, again led by Aline, ascended Bulverton Hill where they found the 'A' party having their elevenses. At this point, a 2-person ‘C’ party (Ian and Rosie) split off. The 21-strong 'B' party headed off along Mutter's Moor and descended to follow the river Otter towards the lovely village of Otterton for lunch. On their way westwards to the coast they discovered an 'honesty cafe' in a little shed so a few teas and treats were purchased. 21 walkers then became 22 as they were joined by Herbert from Germany. The group followed the coastal path back to Sidmouth, some stopping for tea and cake in the Clock Tower tearooms at Connaught Gardens while others descended Jacob's Ladder to the beach and ate ice cream followed by a paddle in the icy cold water! The total distance was approximately 10 miles. Martyn discovered that he had acquired a tick which had attached itself to his arm, but fortunately Aline was equipped with the necessary tools and know-how to remove it, and the patient made a full recovery!
The ‘C’ party walked to Peak Hill, a coastal hill fort, via the site of a stone circle called Seven Stones (which had no stones as they had been removed in Victorian times!) on Mutters Moor, then back to Budleigh Salterton via a tea shop!
This was the 4th and final ‘arrival’ day, and our party was now up to full strength with 33 members at Sidholme Hotel, and a further 2, Jonathan and Lynn, at different B&Bs.
On Saturday there were 2 equal walks rather than an ‘A’ and ‘B’, which made choosing difficult for some of us! A number of people also did their ‘own thing’ including visiting National Trust properties or railways. William once again led one of the parties, starting from the hotel and heading west, then north to Beacon Hill for elevenses. They then picked up the “East Devon Way” to Sudbury, where they had lunch and a drink stop in the pub. After lunch they headed up to Buckton Hill, then Orleigh’s Hill, before returning to Sidmouth via Fortescue and the River Sid, and having tea in a garden open for the National Garden Week, a total distance of 11 miles.
Greg’s party took the bus to Lyme Regis for the classic walk along the coast through the Undercliff National Nature Reserve to Seaton. This was like trekking through the jungle, and it was as well to be out of the sun on such a hot day. The total distance was 7 miles. At Seaton, several members bought ice creams, and some then took the next bus back to Sidmouth, while others opted to spend some more time there before travelling back.
In the evening we had our first departures, and Ian gave us a slide show featuring previous Footprints breaks, where there was much interest in identifying the more youthful versions of current and past members!
Sunday was Easter Day, and we came down to breakfast to find not only baskets full of Easter eggs provided by the hotel on the tables, but Debbie had also knitted an Easter chick for everyone!
Both the ‘A’ and ‘B’ parties travelled by car to Lyme Regis. The ‘A’ party, led by Richard, and including Herbert who had been invited to join us again, set off inland along the Wessex Ridgeway, through the bluebell woodland of Hole Common, via Penn and up to Wootton Hill. Heather found that she had brought her little chick along in her rucksack, which shared in the adventures of the day, and was photographed in a number of different locations! While crossing a picturesque and seemingly deserted field of yellow gorse, bluebells and magnificent mature trees, there was an agonised shriek from the rear of the party, and we turned to see an entire herd of frisky cows almost on top of the backmarkers! It seemed they had been hiding earlier in order to jump us! Although keenly pursued, however, we were luckily able to escape! After lunch, we headed south again, via Higher Coombe and Wootton Fitzpaine to join the coast at Charmouth, famous for its fossils. We had a pleasant walk along the beach (including some paddling) back to Lyme Regis, where we found a teashop and met up with the ‘B’ party, a total distance of 12 miles.
The ‘B’ party, led by Ian, walked west along the coast path, then north over the disused railway line and uphill through acres of bluebell woods to Yawl Hill for lunch. They then went south to Uplyme to look at the Church and a pub stop, before returning to Lyme Regis, where they spent half an hour on The Cobb in the sun before returning to Sidmouth.
On Monday, the ‘A’ party, again joined by Herbert, drove to our starting point by the RSPB reserve on the main road west of Newton Poppleford. This was one of the few parts of the country where the rare Darford Warbler is found, and I was particularly hoping to spot one, but of course we didn’t! Led by Heather, we crossed the pebble heathland of Harpford Common, and headed north via Venn Ottery Common to Higher Metcombe. We then went east along a bridleway to Fluxton, before heading south along the River Otter, where we had our lunch, before continuing down to Colaton Raleigh. There we found a rather unusual pub where the landlord insisted on his junior employee writing each drink order down separately on pieces of notepad which were then put in the till! We then headed north west via Hawkerland back to the cars, a total distance of 11 miles, followed by tea and cake back at the hotel.
The ‘B’ party, again led by Ian, went on a similar route to the one covered on Thursday by Aline’s party: heading east from Sidmouth to Salcombe Regis, a beautiful village in a secluded valley, where they saw a gravestone for a village resident who had emigrated to America and died there in the 1920s, aged 111! Elaine also saw a gravestone which recorded the death of a resident, long ago, from her home village in Cheshire.
After the walks, more people left, including our organiser Ian with a full car (Martyn, Paul and Mike A), and after dinner most of the 16 of us remaining played Uno or Contract Whist. After breakfast on Tuesday morning, with the sun still shining brightly, as it had all week, the remainder of us went on our way.
Many thanks to Ian for organising a lovely weekend and for arranging the weather so well! It was particularly good allowing the break to be extended up to 7 nights, so encouraging more members, since it made the long journey more worthwhile. Also thanks to everyone who led walks or provided evening entertainment during the week: William, Aline, Ian, Mike A, Greg, Richard, Heather and Colin.