Walk - Seatown to Bridport Walk from Golden Gap Holiday Park
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 Golden Cap Holiday Park exit, head down the road towards Seatown and turn left onto the South West Coast Path. Ignoring the various small paths joining and leaving on the left, stay on the path nearest the sea as you climb steeply up to Ridge Cliff.
- Several paths and bridleways lead away at the top of Ridge Cliff, but bear right every time, to stay on the Coast Path as it continues to climb steeply up Doghouse Hill.
In 2009, archaeologists working for the National Trust found evidence that suggests that Doghouse Hill was West Dorset's oldest human settlement. Finds here include a stone hearth and a fire pit, as well as pot shards, from the Bronze Age (2500 - 1000 BC); but there were also traces found of human habitation here during the Mesolithic Age (10000 - 4000 BC). At that time the hill would have been over a mile inland, before the continual wash of the sea eroded the cliffs on its southern side, but it would still have afforded far-reaching and strategically important views across the surrounding landscape.
- Once again bear right when the path forks on Doghouse Hill, and carry on along the Coast Path as it continues to rise towards Thorncombe Beacon.
There are four burial mounds on the northern side of Thorncombe Beacon, also from the Bronze Age, which appear to be lined up towards Colmer's Hill, the highest hill in the district and a couple of miles north. A fifth barrow on Eype Down, also to the north, straddles the line between these ancient sites.
According to local legend, the various mounds around here and neighbouring Langdon Hill were made by the devil as he bounced around when the Abbot of Forde Abbey kicked him out to sea. They are sometimes known as the "Devil's Jumps" for this reason.
In 1588, a chain of beacons was built along the south coast to warn of the approach of the Spanish Armada, which had been sighted off Plymouth, and Thorncombe Beacon was one of these.
- The Coast Path carries straight on ahead, descending steeply. The path to the left is a (longer) more gentle descent, if you keep forking right afterwards to return to the Coast Path.
- This is the last steep hill of the walk, with just one much lower hill ahead. After Thorncombe Beacon the path flattens out and drops gently down to Eype Mouth.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Eype gets its name from the Old English, meaning “a steep place”.
The coast to the west of the rivermouth at Eype is noted for its rare beetles, including two species that are not found anywhere else in Britain.
Thorncombe Beacon Mouth and Eype Mouth are also both popular places for fossil-hunting, and frequent finds here include starfish, and ammonites. If you go fossil hunting on these beaches, you need to do it as the tide is falling, so that you are not cut off at high tide.
- At Eype Mouth cross at the stepping stones to carry straight on along the Coast Path as it pulls slowly up towards West Cliff, which overlooks West Bay and heralds some easier walking at last!
- Follow the Coast Path around the old Forest Marble quarry workings on West Cliff and along the coastal edge of the common, to head downhill towards the harbour.
- Coming to the first of the houses, carry on downhill along the path and then the esplanade, until you come to the quay.
- Turning left at the bottom to skirt the harbour and walking to the roundabout, cross the road beyond and go into West Bay Holiday Park, immediately opposite. Walk through the holiday park to the end of the drive, where waymarkers lead you onwards, along the footpath running through the meadows beside the river.
West Bay was originally known as Bridport Harbour, but its name was changed to West Bay towards the end of the nineteenth century, when the arrival of the railway brought the promise of tourists. In 1857 Bridport itself had been linked to the main line at Maiden Newton; and in 1884 it was extended to the harbour, which was renamed then.
The railway (and thus tourism) arrived at a good time for Bridport, in economic terms. With ships being built increasingly of steel, the river's shipyards found their wooden vessels were no longer wanted, and the local crop of hemp also declined as cheaper supplies were brought in from Italy and Russia.
The fields around Bridport had been used for growing flax and hemp for rope-making since the thirteenth century, and as well as the wool trade, much of the town's wealth came from making ropes and nets. Later sails, too, were made from the flax.
With the decline in sailing ships adding to the economic downturn by the start of the twentieth century, Bridport embraced new technologies and continued to specialise in making ropes and nets using man-made fibres. Right up to the end of the twentieth century, the town was a major producer of nets of all descriptions, from football nets to those used in fishing trawlers.
- Ignoring the paths leading uphill towards the mast to your left, carry on ahead until you reach the main A35 road.
- Crossing the road via the underpass, carry on in the same direction, ignoring the first path on your left. Go through the gate by the cottage, carrying on along the same path when another path forks off to the right a moment later. Before long you will arrive at Skilling Hill Road.
- Cross the road and carry on along the path opposite as it skirts the football ground and then crosses the green space beyond, to come out at the far end beside the allotments.
- Fork left here, and then right at the end of this patch of grass to carry on along the riverbank until you come to the footbridge.
- Turn right and cross the bridge to carry straight on to the next bridge on the right. Cross this one too to reach the coach station. From here you can catch the bus back to Chideock Bridge and walk down Sea Hill Lane to Golden Cap Holiday Park.
There are numerous restaurants, pubs and tea shops in Bridport and West Bay.