Walk - Cofton - Exmouth Loop
Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2022. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
From Reception walk along Cofton Lane past St Mary's Church into the village of Cockwood. Pass the Ship Inn and Cofton Parish Hall before turning left at the harbour. Follow Church Road out to the main Dawlish-Exeter road. This road can be very busy so take care. Cross at the pedestrian lights and with the golf course on your left follow the wide pavement alongside the railway, river, coast path and road northwards into Starcross.
- Starcross Pier is accessed by steps via the railway station bridge at Starcross Station. Take the ferry across the River Exe to Exmouth. No pre-booking is available. Well behaved dogs on leads are welcome. Telephone 01626 774770 for further information or visit www.exe2sea.co.uk
The ferry runs hourly every day from the end of March to the end of October. Depending upon tides, the journey takes 15-20 minutes arriving at Exmouth marina.
Exmouth has been a popular tourist resort since the eighteenth century, when its Assembly rooms and seafront houses with stables and views attracted some illustrious members of fashionable Georgian society, including Lady Byron and Lady Nelson. In 1861, the arrival of the railway, linking the town with Exeter, brought with it a dramatic population explosion, and many of the buildings in Exmouth date from this time. In the first five days after the railway opened 10,000 people travelled on it, and by the 1880s there was a substantial volume of commuter traffic between here and Exeter. In 1903 the line was extended eastwards to Budleigh Salterton, where it joined the main London and South Western Railway Line.
- From the landing Stage of the Ferry, turn right towards the seafront and turn left up Victoria Road. With Lloyds Bank on your left at the town centre turn right along The Strand. Continue along the Strand bearing left onto Chapel Hill. Cross at the pedestrian crossing and keep on the main road. Follow the pavement past the roundabout onto Beacon Hill with the park on your right. Cross the road at the pedestrian crossing and follow the path to the left of the Imperial Hotel. This path continues parallel to the seafront coming out at the bottom of Carlton Hill. Turn left and almost immediately cross the road to turn right into Trefusis Terrace. Follow the road until it comes to a Y junction.
- Turn right into Douglas Avenue and continue past the hotels.
- Opposite Mayfield Drive on your left, take the signposted footpath on your right. Follow this footpath (ignoring the footpath almost immediately on your right), through Green Farm, until you come out onto Elm Lane. This leads onto Littleham Road in Littleham Village.
The Parish Church of St Margaret & St Andrew, Littleham dates back to the 13th century and was the original parish church for Exmouth, before the town developed. Lady Nelson is buried in the churchyard and there is a memorial to her on the east wall of the chantry.
- Turn right and continue up the right hand side of the road, West Down Lane, for 750 metres arriving at the archway entrance of Devon Cliffs caravan holiday park. Follow the public footpath into the park and then cross the road near the traffic barrier. The footpath is on the left of this road, round to the left and then straight ahead at the next cross roads. At the next junction fork left (look for the public footpath sign) and at the following one the path goes straight ahead on the grass, through a narrow gap between caravans and a hedge.
- This path brings you out on a grass strip next to the cliff top where you join the South West Coast Path and turn right. Follow the grass coastal path down to a small car park area.
The view from here along the red Triassic cliffs and pebble beach to the east shows the seaside town of Budleigh Salterton in the distance. The highest point on the cliffs is West Down Beacon at 129 metres / 425 feet above sea level. On a clear day it is possible to see as far as the Isle of Portland about 65 kilometres (40 miles) to the east!
Walk up the grass slope straight ahead following the SWCP signs, turning right at the top and then down the path between the wire fence and caravans to the car park overlooking the beach.
Devon Cliffs caravan holiday park is set in a valley between high cliffs to each side and behind the headland of Straight Point, used as an army rifle firing range by the Royal Marines. The beach is Sandy Bay and is indeed sandy in contrast to the pebble beach to the east.
Follow the public footpath from the Beachcomber Café in Devon Cliffs as it heads towards Exmouth and follow it through the holiday park.
- Go through the gate out of the holiday park, to carry on along the Coast path through the High Land of Orcombe, ignoring the footpath to your right, until you come to Orcombe Point.
Here the path splits. Carry on along the Coast Path to the left, or take the higher path to the right: they join up again a little way ahead. The lower path has an optional detour down a rough path to an astonishing sandstone plateau. This forms the beach at Rodney Point when the tide is out.
The beach at Rodney Point is a part of the Exmouth Sandstone Formation, laid down during the Triassic period, when Devon and Dorset were south of the equator in a hot, dry desert. The vivid colour of this striking platform of red rock is due to the presence of iron oxides, which tell geologists that there was no life in the desert at the time. The platform some distance above the beach is a marine abrasion platform, or a raised beach, formed by wave action on the rocks after the last Ice Age.
The Geoneedle is constructed of the various rock types found along the Jurassic Coast World Heritage coastline and represents the sequence of rocks deposited along it. Celebrating 95 miles of internationally important rocks displaying 185 million years of the Earth's history, the Jurassic Coast is a geological walk through time, spanning the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. The rocks used in the Geoneedle include sandstone and the several different kinds of limestone that make this part of England a famous source of building stone. This stone was used over many centuries for the construction of some of England's most famous buildings.
- The two paths meet above the start of the seafront. Just after this, descend to beach level and then continue along Queen's Drive.
There are tremendous views from the seafront across the Exe Estuary, which is an important place for wildlife. The vast mudflats are home to many invertebrate species such as clams, worms and snails, which feed on the wealth of microscopic algae and bacteria living in the mud. Each cubic metre of estuary mud here is said to have the same number of calories as 14 Mars bars!
The invertebrates are themselves a valuable food source for the thousands of wading birds which flock here in the winter. Bird species feeding and roosting on the mudflats include avocets, with their blue legs and curved bills.
Another important food source for the estuary's birds are its beds of eel grass, Britain's only flowering plant capable of growing in saltwater. 1% of the world's population of dark bellied Brent geese feeds on the eel grass and the wetland areas around the Exe Estuary through the winter, as do large flocks of wigeons.
Carry on along Queen's Drive, continuing ahead along the seafront when it turns into the Esplanade. Keep going across the roundabout, still on the Esplanade, to pass the clock tower before reaching the Marina. From there catch the ferry back to Starcross.
The Diamond Jubilee Memorial Clock Tower was built in 1897 for Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee. When it was first erected it was wound by hand by a Council employee. The original mechanism has since been replaced, and can now be seen working in the Exmouth Museum.
Be aware that the last ferry back from Exmouth is at 4.40pm. There is a ferry at 5.40pm from mid-May to mid-September. If you miss the ferry then Exmouth Station can be located back up Victoria Road, then turn left into Imperial Road. Cross the roundabout to the station. Trains run on the Avocet line to Exeter. From Starcross retrace your steps through Cockwood and back to Cofton.
Cofton Country Holidays