Walk - Wester Wood
Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2021. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
- From the tarmac layby on the inland side of the road, cross the road and walk about 125 yards down the hill and find a path opposite a small pull in which drops a little way down the hillside to join the Coast Path. Turn right onto the Coast Path and stay with it for about a mile as it travels between the sea and the road.
The path to the left en route leads to Sillery Sands, now rather more shingle than sand. However due to tidal damage this is now permanently closed.
The building ahead and above, on Butter Hill, is a former maritime lookout post, used to observe commercial shipping in the Bristol Channel.
The church below the lookout post is the St John the Evangelist Church at Countisbury. In 1086 the settlement of Countisbury was recorded in the Domesday Book as having a population of about 75, with a sizeable acreage of woodland and pasture land, putting it in the middle range of wealth at the time. Just over a century later, around 1200, Henry III gave the manor, along with that of Lynton, to Ford Abbey.
- About 300 yards after the Coast Path starts to pull seawards away from the road, at the corner of a stone wall, take an unmarked path leading sharply uphill to your right. Follow the wall to go through a field gate then turn left following the sign down to the road.
The name Countisbury is thought to derive from a Saxon word meaning 'camp on the headland', referring to the Iron Age hillfort which was on Wind Hill. You will notice the marker to your right on the Coast Path. Its enormous ramparts extend from below you on the path all the way up the hill to the mound at the top, and it was a prominent site during the Iron Age. In addition, there are two smaller Iron Age sites on the far side of the hill (see below).
Wind Hill is also said to be the location for a battle in AD 878, when a Saxon army led by Odda defeated a party of Viking invaders led by Hubba the Dane. This was a battle of some consequence, being a notable defeat of Danish invaders by an army led by someone other than King Alfred. However, other places also claim the battle as their own, including Northam, further down the coast near Appledore (see the Appledore & Northam Burrows Walk).
- Cross the road and pick up the left-hand one of two paths. At a junction of paths by a pond take the path down the valley signposted towards Watersmeet.
- When you come to a T-junction at Chiselcombe turn right and continue on this path (The Coleridge Way) above the river for about two miles following the direction signs for Lynmouth, ignoring all the paths heading away on both sides (although there are wonderful spots for a picnic beside the river if you want to do a detour to the left for this purpose).
The thickly-wooded hills shadowing the river here on the opposite bank are known as 'The Cleaves', cleave being a steep-sided valley whose name is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word 'cleof' meaning cliff. There is another Iron Age fort on Myrtle Cleave, and a dramatic summit with spectacular views at Oxen Tor, between this and Lyn Tor (see the Two Cleaves Walk).
This is the East Lyn River, notorious for the part it played in the tragic flooding of Lynmouth in 1952, when 34 people lost their lives (see the Two Cleaves Walk).
- About 250 yards after the path runs onto the road, take the road to your right pulling sharply uphill and turning two hairpins before passing the drive to Countisbury Lodge on your left. Continue on up the road turning another hairpin and keep going to the top, where you turn right above Countisbury Lodge and then go straight on along a tarmac driveway to emerge once more on the A39 on Countisbury Hill.
- Cross the road and join the Coast Path as it snakes along the bank at the side of the road and then between the road and the sea until you reach the path back up to the road and the layby at the start of the walk.
There are numerous restaurants, cafés and tearooms in Lynmouth, or try the 13th century Blue Ball Inn at Countisbury.
During the walk in Lynmouth the Rising Sun and the Rock House Hotel are recommended by users of www.doggiepubs.org.uk as serving good food and being dog-friendly.