Walk - Colaton Raleigh to Budleigh Salterton
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.
- Take the footpath at the end of Church Road in Colaton Raleigh and follow it across the field to where the path forks.
The Saxons settled in the Otter valley during the eighth century, and it is thought that Colaton Raleigh's original name was Ceola's Tun, tun being a large enclosed farm and Ceola being its owner or group elder. Over the centuries the name went through numerous variations of this, with the Raleigh being added during the reign of Henry III, in the thirteenth century, when Robert de Chilton left part of the manor to his daughter, wife of Sir Wymond de Raleghe.
At the time of the Domesday Book, in the eleventh century, Colaton was part of the Royal Estate held by William I. In 1124, Henry I gave Colaton to the Somerset family, the de Meriets, in exchange for Topsham; and at the end of the same century, Henry II paid 100 shillings from the manor to the Nunnery of Polsloe as part of his penance for the murder of Thomas à Beckett.
Shortly after this, the manor passed through marriage to William le Brewere, founder of Torre and Dunkeswell Abbeys, and thence to the Raleighs, who continued to hold it until 1603, when Sir Walter Raleigh was imprisoned by James I for suspected treason and his lands were confiscated (see the East Budleigh walk).
In 1785 the manor of Colaton Raleigh was bought by Dennis Rolle for £72,000 and became part of the Rolle and then the Clinton Estate (see the Otterton Park walk).
- Turn right, staying on this side of the river, and follow the path beside the water for about a mile and a quarter, until you come to the road.
To your left here is the picturesque thatched village of Otterton. Make time in your itinerary to visit, maybe stop here for lunch, or have a browse around Otterton Mill.
The mill was mentioned in the Domesday Book, which confirmed it as the largest and most productive of the seventy water mills in the Otter Valley at the time, but it is thought that there may have been a mill here even in Roman times, a thousand years before. Although it had fallen into disrepair by the middle of the last century, when it was used as a cattle market and slaughterhouse, it was restored as a watermill in 1977, producing wholemeal flour, and as a working mill today is open to visitors free of charge.
- Cross the road and pick up the footpath again on the other side, once more staying beside the river.
- When paths branch off at either side, a mile or so beyond the Otterton road, ignore them, to stay on your path near the river (although it draws away from the water here, to wander back soon after).
- At South Farm Road, again cross over and carry on in the same direction beside the river, this time joining the Coast Path as it approaches from your left.
The Otter Estuary is managed as a nature reserve, and is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (see the Otter Valley Nature walk). Various different species of fish swim through its clear bubbling waters, including trout and sometimes salmon, and kingfishers and dragonflies hover above. Thorn bushes and willows grow along its banks, and butterflies and other insects flit through the brilliant abundance of wildflowers lining the path.
Further downstream, the salt marsh is edged with rushes and reeds and is home to a huge variety of different species of birds. Pause at one of the hides or viewing platforms and check out the lists as long as your arm of the birds recently spotted here.
- Follow the Coast Path down to the Lime Kiln car park at the seafront.
The beach here is one of the best places to view a landscape formed 240 million years ago, during the Triassic period, when this part of the world was in the centre of a hot and arid desert, with a huge mountain chain to the west. Violent storms led to flash flooding, and the rivers swept through southern England, leaving a trail of pebbles and sand in their wake.
Over time the mountains eroded, forming what are now Dartmoor and Brittany, and the sand and pebbles left by the floodwater were compressed to form the red sandstones and conglomerates so strikingly displayed along the East Devon coast today. The vivid colouring is a result of the red oxides formed by iron in the barren deserts, a process made possible by the scarcity of organic material. There was life here in the Triassic period, however. Fossils found on this part of the coast include reptiles, amphibians and fish.
West Cliff, on your right as you look at the sea, is a famous geological landmark which gives a splendid view of the Budleigh Pebble Beds. If you examine the cliff face, you will see that there are large round pebbles embedded in the rock. These are gradually falling from the cliff face as the sandstone is eroded, and they form the bulk of the beach, where they are polished smooth by the endless wash of the waves.
Cream teas and snacks in Woods village shop, bar snacks in the Otter Inn, both in Colaton Raleigh; or various places in Budleigh Salterton.