Walk - Baggy Point
Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2020. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
- Coming out of the National Trust Baggy Point car park, turn right and walk to the gate at the end of the road.
- Going through the gate, bear left to follow the South West Coast Path along the tarmac path above the rocks, past the houses on the right.
Baggy House was built in 1995 for former BBC Chairman Gavyn Davies. Its dramatic location and its striking architecture have made it one of the country's best-known modern houses.
- When a path on the right heads off uphill you have a choice of route: take the high one for tremendous sea views, or carry on ahead for a more gentle ascent towards the point.
As you head out towards the point, you can see Lundy Island ahead, twelve miles from the coast and the only land between here and America! Lundy's permanent population is around 30, but this number increases dramatically in the summer as visitors are ferried across several times a week on the island's own ship, the MS Oldenburg. Just three and a half miles long and half a mile wide, the island is of granite, formed about 60 million years ago. This makes it 240 million years younger than Dartmoor, also granite. It is thought that Lundy is associated with rocks found in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Its human history dates back to Stone Age times, with traces of prehistoric settlements on the island, and throughout the ages it has been used as a base by pirates, wreckers and smugglers.
The name 'Lundy' comes from a Norse word meaning 'puffin', and in 1939 there were 3000 pairs of puffins on the island. By 2003 this was down to 10 breeding pairs, after an invasion by rats, thought to have arrived from wrecked ships; but an intensive two-year cull of these nest-robbers by conservationists wiped out the 40,000-strong population of the rodents within two years. Now the puffin colonies are flourishing again, as are those of the equally rare Manx Shearwater. The sea surrounding Lundy is England's only statutory Marine Nature Reserve. This protects a range of species which is especially diverse as a result of the mix of warm Mediterranean waters from the gulf Stream in the colder Atlantic currents.
Baggy Point is a favourite of both geologists and climbers for its rugged formations of sandstone and shale. The rocks on the beach below are popular with scramblers, rockpoolers and anglers. In summer the headland is alight with vivid wildflowers, including speckled white sea campion, clumps of pink thrift and carpets of brilliant yellow and pink Hottentot figs. This is an exotic species brought to the south west by Victorian gardeners who had no idea that it would run riot around the coastline, suffocating more delicate native plants. A hundred years later, Hottentot fig is one of a number of decorative but invasive species that conservationists are having to take steps to bring under control, along with others such as rhododendron, Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam.
Above the plunging cliffs at the end of the point there is a grassy plateau high above the water: a good place to sit and watch for the seals that can sometimes be seen on the rocks at low tide. Occasionally in the summer you might catch a glimpse of dolphins and porpoises. Seabirds such as cormorants and shags nest here too, and black curly-horned Hebridean sheep graze on the hillside above, brought in as part of a conservation strategy to keep the scrub at bay.
Baggy Point was one of local author Henry Williamson's favourite places. It features more than once in his most famous book, 'Tarka the Otter'. The novel tells the tale of an otter's life in various waterways throughout North Devon. The celebrated Tarka Trail travels 180 miles over footpaths and cycleways linking some of these locations. The route around Baggy Point is part of the Tarka Trail as well as the South West Coast Path. Williamson did much of his writing in a hut he built himself of elm boards, planting a grove pine trees around it. The hut is preserved just a few miles away at Ox's Cross, perched on a hill above the tranquil thatched village of Georgeham. In Georgeham itself the thatched cottage near the church that he rented for £5 a year in the 1920s still bears the name that he gave it, Skirr Cottage.
- Reaching the point from either route, follow the path around to the right, climbing past the white post to carry on along the path towards Putsborough Sands, ignoring the small paths leading away in both directions. Coming to the path down to Putsborough Sands, detour to visit the beach but otherwise carry on ahead to the road.
The white post beside the path is a wreck post, once used as a substitute mast in practice rescues. When the sea was too rough to launch a lifeboat to save the passengers and crew of a ship going down, a small cannon was used to fire a rocket across the water to it, carrying a double line and pulley. With the landward end of the rope anchored to a frame in the ground, the ship's crew tied their end to the mast, and a harness (‘breeches buoy’) was sent to the ship to enable rescuers to haul the men ashore, one by one.
- Turn right on the road above Putsborough Beach to pick up the footpath on the right, heading gently uphill through the fields to where it forks, just after a sharp left-hand bend.
- Fork right to follow the path downhill to where it comes out on Moor Lane beside Ruda Holiday Park. Turn right on the road to return to the car park at start of the walk.
Croyde (all facilities); Putsborough (seasonal refreshments); Croyde Bay (refreshments).