Walk - Avocet Line: Explore Exmouth to Orcombe Point
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.
- Leave Exmouth Station and head for the bus station. At the bus station cross the main road by the roundabout towards the town centre. At the next roundabout keep left along the Parade. At the end turn left along Exeter Road as far as the United Reformed Church.
Exeter Road once marked the edge of the estuary, the flat land west of it being reclaimed later. The small raised area with the seats in front of the church marks the site of Mona Island from which a ferry ran across the River Exe to Starcross in 1240.
- At the United Reformed Church turn right along Meeting Street and at its end turn left along Clarence Road to North Street. Here turn right and pass Christ Church on the left and the police station on the right.
- At the next crossroads with Windsor Square go straight across along Ryll Grove. Where this veers up to the right turn left and then right onto a footpath (Fair View Terrace). At the end of this path three steps down lead on to Marpool Hill. Turn left down the hill for 80 metres (90 yards) and cross where safe to reach the foot and cycle path signposted to “Littleham 1 1⁄2” alongside Phear Park.
Phear Park takes its name from Sir John Phear, a well known Victorian philanthropist who owned Marpool Hall and the extensive land that went with it, now the public park.
- Follow this shared use path along the old railway line for 1 kilometre (0.6 miles). It is joined by another path at the corner of Phear Park and from there becomes part of the National Cycle Network route 2. The path passes through wooded cuttings and under a brick railway bridge before emerging on Bradham Lane. Turn right at this road and at the junction ahead cross Salterton Road at the pedestrian lights and then turn left.
The Exmouth to Budleigh Salterton railway opened on 1 June 1903, but was closed as part of the “Beeching cuts” in the 1960s. The last passenger train ran along here on 4 March 1967, leaving Budleigh Salterton on time at 7.23 pm.
- Turn right on the first path (signposted Budleigh Salterton and back on the line of the former railway) between gardens through to Cranford Avenue opposite Jarvis Close. Turn right and cross over Cranford Avenue and turn left down Douglas Avenue for a short distance, then first left into Buckingham Close.
Jarvis Close is on the site of Littleham railway station, demolished in the 1960s. The Littleham Cross shops and post office are just to the left along Cranford Avenue.
- At the end of Buckingham Close turn right along the public footpath. This unsurfaced lane takes you downhill for 300 metres (330 yards) to a kissing gate into a grazed pasture. Turn right along the hedge and then left down the side of the field to another kissing gate. Through this gate is a footpath between hedges along to another kissing gate. Here turn left down a permissive path (Randall’s Green) which leads you down to and across Littleham Brook on a concrete footbridge (or through the shallow ford) then up to Maer Lane.
This is a good place to listen and watch for buzzards circling overhead.
- Continue up Randall’s Green to the road ahead, Maer Lane. Turn right along Maer Lane for 180 metres (200 yards) with care; this road can be busy at times and is narrow.
- Turn left at the first junction up Gore Lane. Follow this road uphill for 650 metres (710 yards) watching out for vehicles. After passing the entrance to the City of Bristol camp site enter the next kissing gate on the right into a field. Follow the curving track across this field (often cattle grazing), with good views out to sea to the right. Go through the gap straight ahead into the next field and alongside the hedge on the left to another kissing gate out onto the coastal footpath by a seat.
This is the High Land of Orcombe, 60 metres / 200 feet above sea level. From this seat there is a good view to the west along the coast to Exmouth, the mouth of the Exe Estuary and Dawlish Warren beyond. Further round you can see Dawlish and in the distance Berry Head in Torbay.
- Turn right from the gate and down the South West Coast Path towards Exmouth. After 500 metres (550 yards) you pass the Geoneedle monument.
The 5 metre high Geoneedle was unveiled by HRH the Prince of Wales in 2002 to mark the western end of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site famous for its geology of Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous strata, stretching from here to Studland Bay near Poole. The monument is made from various rocks found along this coast including the famous Portland and Purbeck limestones. You can see rocks here dating from the Triassic period laid down about 252 million years ago. The dramatic red mudstone and sandstone reveal evidence of a previous desert environment crossed with seasonal life-giving rivers similar to Namibia today!
- From the Geoneedle continue along a surfaced path against the hedge until a green area with seats is reached. There is a path down to the seafront on the left but your route continues on the Coast Path ahead.A footpath passes between bushes along the cliff top for the next 600 metres (660 yards), with occasional seats and view points towards the sea.
- It emerges onto Foxholes Hill where you turn left and go down to the roundabout (café and toilets here). Cross over one road from the left and up the left hand side of Maer Road.
- After crossing the Littleham Brook take the first footpath to the left across the green space of the Maer to the path at the bottom of the slope (Madeira Walk). Continue to the tennis courts and then take the path sloping up to the right.
The steep slope to your right would have originally been the sea cliff and the green to your left a coastal lagoon behind the beach and sand dunes, frequently flooded before sea defences and drainage were put in. The Maer itself is a Local Nature Reserve.
- At the top of the wooded slope go left along the top path to join the road ahead after another 130 metres (140 yards) (Trefusis Terrace). Continue straight ahead on this road and at the next crossroads go straight across along Louisa Terrace and then straight ahead again along The Beacon.
The Beacon contains an imposing and mixed style late 18th century terrace which has a number of interesting properties (look out for the blue plaques) including the Assembly Rooms of the time and houses where Lady Nelson and Lady Byron each lived, in the first part of the 19th century. Lady Nelson died here in 1829 and is buried in Littleham churchyard.
- At the end of The Beacon cross Chapel Hill towards Manor Gardens, with the roundabout to your right. Once across, turn right and walk around the outside of this well kept public park, which contains the Tourist Information Centre and public toilets. Pass in front of the Town Hall on your left, cross the end of St Andrew’s Road to the Strand and continue along the left hand side past the shops.
The first shop in this row is Thomas Tucker’s, built in the 1790s as West End House and converted to a shop as early as 1801 by Richard Webber. Some of the original frontage remains.
Return to the station by walking along The Strand, turn left at the roundabout. Cross the road at the next roundabout to the bus station. The railway station is on your right.