Walk - Otterton & Mutter's Moor
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 cross the road and go through the gate and onto the area of open grassland, heading towards the sea. When you meet the Coast Path, turn right and drop downhill with it to Windgate.
- The path starts to rise again towards High Peak, and goes into woodland. Ignore the track which bears away to the right, instead staying on the South West Coast Path as it makes its way through the woodland. Dropping downhill, it comes out of the trees and heads towards the caravan park.
High Peak is an important site geologically, its towering cliff revealing the full history of 180 million years in several different layers. Its strategic position also made it a key site in prehistoric times.
- Carry on along the Coast Path, past the caravan park and across the field beyond, staying above the sea as the path pulls out around Smallstones Point.
- Turn right on the permissive path on the far side of the second field, and follow it inland, going straight ahead onto the lane when you arrive at the buildings on your right, to where it comes out on the road by Stantyway Farm.
- Ignoring Piscombe Lane, on your right just before you reach Stantyway Farm, turn right onto the road a few yards further on, Stantyway Lane, and follow it in a roughly north-westerly direction into Otterton, going straight on in the same direction at the first junction and then turning left at the next, onto Bell Street.
- At the next junction, when Bell Street turns into Fore Street, turn right and walk up Ottery Street for about a mile, ignoring Chockenhole Lane, on your right a little way up.
- At Pinn Lane Corner fork left and continue along the road past Burnthouse Farm until you come to Pavers and Passaford.
Passaford and Pavers both date back to the sixteenth or even the fifteenth century, and they are listed buildings (see the Passaford and Pavers Walk).
- Turn right onto the footpath just beyond Passaford and follow it steeply uphill and into the woods.
This is Passaford Lane, one of the many sunken tracks or “hollow ways” to be found in areas like this, where people have been walking and driving their animals for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years. Over that time the passage of feet, hooves and wheels have worn these tracks into deep grooves across the landscape. The origins of an ancient trackway have usually been lost in the mists of time; but many date back to Mesolithic (or middle stone age) times. It is possible that the ones around Peak Hill do, since other archaeological finds here suggest that people have lived here for as long as 5000 years.
Trackways linked settlements, farmsteads and fields, as well as meeting places and tombs. In places like Wiltshire, where there were many henges and other religious sites, they were also thought to be used as processional ways. Later the Romans used ancient trackways as the foundations for many of their roads.
- In the woods turn left onto the track, and then sharp right, to reach the track on the open ground at the top. Turn left here and follow the track to the far end of Mutter's Moor.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century, Abraham Mutter was often to be found up around High Peak, cutting wood and turf, which he then sold around the nearby towns and houses. Who would have suspected that under his logs and turves he also carried kegs of contraband through the neighbourhood?
He worked closely with the famous smuggler Jack Rattenbury. The business was so profitable than when Rattenbury eventually retired, Abraham's seafaring brother Sam stepped into his shoes and the Mutter family took control of this thriving industry, with a third brother, John, also joining the gang. Local legend tells of Sam being imprisoned for his activities in 1843; but undeterred, on his release he continued to ply his trade. It was twenty years before the arrival of the railway brought cheap coal to the area and blew the Mutters' cover as log merchants, also finishing the lucrative brandy rounds.
- Ignoring the path which doubles back to your right, take the track to the right which drops downhill along the edge of the forest, turning right again about 150 yards later to pull back uphill along the far edge of Mutter's Moor.
- Stay on this track as it runs along the edge of the moor, beside the forest, all the way back to the car park.
The moor was an important place in Bronze Age times. The Seven Stones signposted halfway down this track is the site of a former Bronze Age stone circle, consisting of a ring of six stones with a seventh in the centre. The Victorian landscapers of nearby Bicton gardens removed them for their Fern garden. Leading downhill from the site is Seven Stones Lane, another ancient lane with an atmosphere of a tale to tell (though who knows what it is?). It is well worth diverting your route to follow it, although it will mean a short haul up a steep road to return to the car park.
In Sidmouth, Budleigh Salterton, Otterton.