Walk - Caffyns Heanton 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.
- Leaving the car park above the cove, take the lane back up to the road from the Valley of Rocks to Woody Bay, and turn right onto it, towards Woody Bay. After the sharp right turn, it will head uphill and follow the curve of the coastline.
- Pick up the footpath to your right shortly afterwards, which will take you off the road and through the trees for a little way. When the path splits, take the right-hand turn, to follow the coast out around Crock Point, curving back via Crock Pits to return to the road.
- Turn left onto the road, and follow it back a little way through Croscombe Wood until you come to a footpath on the right, heading into Bonhill Wood.
- Turn onto the footpath on the other side of the road, and follow it into Bonhill Wood. This climbs up through the wood, to bring you to a track which heads south-west, along the banks of the tumbling stream, some way below. Stay on the track until you come to Bonhill Bridge, about half a mile away.
- Ignore the footpath that leads away over the bridge to your left, instead continue along the track for a few hundred yards, until it reaches Croscombe Barton.
- Picking up the lane which runs uphill to your left from Croscombe Barton, follow it uphill past The Bungalow to the road at the top of the hill.
- Turn left onto the road and take it gently downhill for a mile or so, until you reach the turning at Caffyns Cross, just after the house on your left.
The farm downhill to your left as you walk along this lane is Caffyns Heanton Farm, associated with the Domesday manor of Hantona (“At the High Farm”). In the thirteenth century, the manor of Countisbury and Lynton (of which this was a part) was granted to Forde Abbey a Somerset Cistercian monastery. Shortly afterwards, Richard le Pronte of Forde Abbey confiscated Heanton from William Coffin, although the subsequent court hearing declared Coffin the rightful owner and returned it to him, together with compensation.
- Turning left onto the lane, climb gradually uphill with it until you come to the lane to Six Acre Farm, on your left just before the campsite.
- Follow the lane downhill, past the farm on your left, and go through the gate to the footpath beyond, with stunning views down to the sea once you curve around the hillside.
Six Acre Farm, too, was part of the Domesday manor Hantona, but its history goes much further back, possibly to Roman times. In 1913 a stone serving as a gatepost at the time was discovered to bear the Latin inscription “CAVUDI FILIUS CIVILIS” (Cavudus, son of Civilis) which dated from the sixth century AD and is one of a number of post-Roman memorial stones in the south-west. The stone is now on private land at Six Acre Farm.
Elsewhere on Six Acre Farm, however, a previous owner was ploughing a field when he turned up what appeared to be a shallow grave lined with seashells – a Roman custom. There is little evidence of an extensive Roman presence around Exmoor, other than a little iron mining and smelting (possibly); but there are two Roman fortlets along this part of the coastline, the nearest being just a few miles away at Martinhoe (see the Martinhoe Roman Fortlet Walk).
Jumping forward a few centuries, archaeological exploration on the farm also uncovered a mediaeval cornditch – an ovoid enclosure, with other fields radiating from it, used for coralling sheep – and a nearby “sheep-creep”: a stone-lined tunnel between two fields which allows sheep to pass through but not larger livestock (a device common on Dartmoor).
Ignore the path through the gate to your left halfway down the hill (unless you want a shortcut).
You are now on land belonging to Lee Abbey (see the Crock Point Walk), and this gate bears one of the abbey's welcoming inscriptions: “Your gates will always stand open, they will never be shut, day or night“ (Isaiah, 60:11).
- Carry on downhill, taking an abrupt right with the footpath when it turns in order to flatten out the gradient. Turn sharply left with it a few hundred yards beyond when it doubles back on itself through the woods below until you come to the junction of paths in Six Acre Wood. Take the right-hand path and follow it downhill to where it meets the road, outside Lee Abbey.
- Turn left onto the road, and return to the car park.
Mother Meldrum's Tea Room in the Valley of Rocks, and (in summer) Lee Abbey Tea Cottage.