Walk - Sherrycombe and Girt Down
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.
- From the car park turn left onto the road and stay with it for about a quarter of a mile, until you come to the footpath on the left.
- Turn onto the footpath and follow it for a couple of hundred yards, to where it meets the Coast Path.
- Go left onto the Coast Path and follow it around above Red Cleave.
The track between Holdstone Down and Trentishoe was to be “Sea View Road”, the main artery of an ambitious nineteenth-century housing estate scheme masterminded by a private individual from Surrey. 143 houses were scheduled to be built; but in the event only 50 plots were sold, and only two remain today (see the Holdstone Down Walk).
The eroded nature of the Hangman Grits bedrock along here made for a stepped or terraced hillside which was inhabited by as long ago as the Bronze Age (730 – 2500 BC). There are the remnants of hut circles in the area from this time, as well as barrows and cairns and stone settings.
There is evidence of early field systems, possibly from prehistoric times, including slight traces of fossilised hedge banks, although much of this was obliterated later by mediaeval agricultural traditions, when it may have been farmed as common land. The Parliamentary Inclosure of the nineteenth century, which aimed to consolidate the process of turning open common land into fields (which had been happening throughout Britain for several centuries by then), appears to have been no more than a paper exercise here, with “field” boundaries being marked by no more than the occasional marker stone, some of which can still be seen, although in a state of disrepair.
Holdstone Down itself, the heathland above and to your left as you walk along Sea View Road, was designated as the first, and thus most important, “holy mountain”, by the Aetherius Society, when the society's founder was visited on its summit by “The Master Jesus”, who came to him in a radiant form and told him that he was to become the mouthpiece of the “interplanetary parliament” (see the Holdstone Down Walk).
The society sends regular pilgrimages to Holdstone, and the area is a very popular venue for UFO-spotters.
- The path drops gently downhill for some distance and then pulls back up again as it curves around to the south above Sherrycombe.
Local legend has it that German U-Boats used to put in at Sherrycombe for fresh water, and traces have been found of mortar positions here from World War II, as well as the remains of a tank and an armoured vehicle, and spent ammunition cartridges.
- Ignore the path to your left, heading uphill, and carry on southwards.
The western flank of Sherrycombe was part of the Girt Down Mine (see the Hangman Hills Walk), and evidence of the iron mining activity can be seen in the gully on this hillside, where a stream flows from a suspected adit, and in the two surface hollows which follow the lode uphill from it. Manganese, lead and – more famously – silver were also mined in the district.
- When the path forks, stay right and pass through a hunting gate to drop steeply down into Sherrycombe, zigzagging equally steeply up the other side on the Coast Path.
- Hitting the open access land, do not carry on up Great Hangman, but turn left off the coastpath to walk through between fields to Girt Down Farm.
- At the farm exit, follow the vehicle track downhill to the road.
- Turn left onto the road and walk for about a kilometre, until you come to a footpath on the left, off Vellacott Lane.
- Take the footpath through fields and past the campsite, to the road to the south of Holdstone Hill (and the entrance to Holdstone Farm).
- Turn left onto the road.
- Ignore the footpath to the left, and stay with the road back to the car park and the start of the walk.
In Combe Martin or at Hunter's Inn in Heddon Valley, a little way to the east.