Walk - Two Cleaves
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.
- Starting out on the seafront, pick up the South West Coast Path and follow it around to where it joins the A39 on Countisbury Hill, and then follow it beside the road as it starts to head towards the point.
A small wooden marker by the path marks the earthwork ramparts of an important Iron Age hillfort (see below). The more modern-looking remains were a World War I gun emplacement, and the concrete building nearby is thought to have been an ammunition store or shelter.
- Ignore the path leading downhill to your left at the halfway point, staying with the Coast Path until a path leads off to your right towards Countisbury.Turn onto this path and follow it past the church and down to the road, by the pub.
- Cross the road and pick up the path a few yards to the east on the opposite side. Stay with the path between fields until it goes into Horner's Neck Wood and drops downhill to the riverside path. (Ignore the smaller paths leading off to right and left on the way down). Turn right onto the riverside path and follow it around to Watersmeet.
Watersmeet was built as a fishing lodge in 1832 by the Reverend Halliday of Glenthorne (see the Glenthorne Walk). Halliday was a big fan of the Romantic poets (who were themselves big fans of the Exmoor coast – see the Porlock Woodland Walk), and he had part of a Wordsworth poem quoted over the door of his fishing lodge.
Rev Halliday was also a tree-lover, and the species he planted around his fishing lodge included exotic conifers (note the huge Monterey Pine on the lawn). With its lush gardens in such a dramatic setting, the fishing lodge was an ideal place for the Edwardian tea-room it subsequently became: an atmosphere which continues in its current role as a National Trust shop, tea-room and information point.
Watersmeet is one of the largest areas of ancient oak woodland in south west England, and is home to a rich diversity of wildlife, including otters, salmon, kingfishers, silver fritillary butterflies and numerous wildflowers (see the Lynton and Lynmouth Hike). It is also an important place for various types of whitebeam, for which the Exmoor coast is particularly known (see the Foreland Point Adventurous Walk).
- Cross the river, and turn right onto the path zigzagging steeply uphill to the road.
- Cross the road, and find the path opposite, again heading steeply uphill into woodland. After a while it takes a sharp left turn and pulls out into the open, through the remains of an Iron Age hillfort.
This is one of several Iron Age hillforts around the area, including one just across the river, on Trilly Ridge in Horners’ Neck Wood above Watersmeet. On Wind Hill, between here and the coast, are the remains of a particularly noteworthy Iron Age fort, (the one you passed through at the start of the walk), with massive ramparts and a history to match (see the Wester Wood walk).
- Ignoring the paths to left and right at the bottom of the hillside beyond, take the steps directly up it, turning right with it above Myrtleberry Cleave.
A cleave is a steep-sided valley whose name is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word cleof meaning cliff.
- When the Two Moors Way/Tarka Trail path comes in from the left, turn right onto it and drop gently downhill with it and around the combe down below, and then climb with it, once more rising high above the East Lyn river.
Watersmeet is so named because the East Lyn and Hoar Oak Water both flow down from Exmoor, high above the valley, and meet down here in the woodland. Heavy rainfall on the moor in August 1952 gushed torrentially down these two rivers, when nine inches of rain fell in just 24 hours, and in the resulting floods, houses and bridges were swept away and 34 people lost their lives (see the Lynton and Lynmouth Hike).
- Ignore the path away to your left at the top, staying with the Two Moors Way/Tarka Trail towards Lynmouth.
The next path off to your left, and the next offshoot, to your left a short way beyond, is the Samaritans Way South West. The fact that there are three other long-distance walking paths besides the South West Coast Path along this route is a good indication that it is a special place to walk – one that is particularly appreciated by those people on the Two Moors Way, whose 102-mile journey from Ivybridge, on Dartmoor, comes to an end in Lynmouth.
- Ignore the path to the left, however, staying with your original path as it falls gently down through Lyn Cleave and into Lynmouth, past the hydroelectric power station in the gorge.
- Reaching the main road through Lynmouth, turn left and return to the seafront.
The Watersmeet tea-room, en route. There are also numerous inns, cafés, restaurants and tea-rooms in Lynmouth