Walk - Victoria Hotel - Salcombe Hill
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.
There are two ways to get to the start of this walk.
Leave the Victoria Hotel and turn left – eastwards- down Peak Hill Road towards the seafront. Carry on along the seafront – you are now on the South West Coast Path. When you reach the Lifeboat Station you have reached Point 10 on the walk. Follow the walk in an anti-clockwise direction to Point 11 and you will then reach the start of the walk at Salcombe Hill National Trust Car Park. Follow the walk as written below until you reach Point 10. From there you can retrace your steps along the seafront back to the hotel.
By Car to Salcombe Hill National Trust Car Park
From the Victoria Hotel, turn left down Peak Hill Road onto the seafront. By the car park turn left at the Bedford Hotel. Follow Station Road until you reach a roundabout. Turn right down All Saints Road. At the end, turn left and then almost immediately right down Salcombe Road. As soon as the road branches left, take the next turning on the right – Salcombe Hill Road. Follow this steep road up Salcombe Hill. The car park is at the top on your right, just before you pass the Norman Lockyer Observatory. The car park is only free to National Trust members.
- From the National Trust car park on Salcombe Hill (this is the car park on the right-hand side of the road if you are driving up from Sidmouth) turn left on the road and drop downhill a little way until you come to the bridleway on the right-hand side of the road, signed to Sidmouth via Milltown Lane.
- Turning onto the bridleway, follow it along the edge of the woods, forking right when you come to the link path to Soldiers Hill.
- In the woodland bear right, to continue in the same direction. Stay with this track as it turns to the right around the trees and comes out on the road a couple of hundred yards later.
- Turn left on the road and walk about 300 yards up it, until you come to the footpath on your left.
- Taking this path, follow it over Soldier's Hill, dropping steeply downhill through the trees on the other side. Coming out onto Griggs Lane, beyond the trees, carry on along it in the same direction down past the buildings and along the road to Fortescue.
The Sidmouth Arboretum Database of Trees includes an oak in Soldier's Hill Field in its list of trees nominated by locals as being noteworthy. The database has been set up as part of a scheme to make Sidmouth the world's first civic arboretum. As well as identifying and promoting the interesting, rare or old trees which already grow in the town, the intention is to plant many more.
- Turn left onto Sid Road beyond, turning right onto the footpath between the houses shortly afterwards and following this down to the stream. Cross the stream and follow the path to the left, turning right into the next field and keeping the hedge on your left as you make your way to the path at the far end.
- Turn left here and follow the path to where it meets the River Sid. Carry along beside the river until you come to the footbridge.
- Take the bridge across the river, and then carry on in the same direction as before, this time on the east bank of the river until you come to Salcombe Road.
Mammoths' teeth have been found in the riverbed here, and more were found downstream at Sidmouth Beach. Elsewhere around the local coastline, from the Exe to Lyme Regis, tusks, bones and teeth of elephant and rhinoceros have been found.
- Cross the road and carry on along Milford Road. When you come to the ford, take the footbridge over the river onto Mill Street, and at the bottom of the steps carry on in the same direction. Take the next road on the left, Riverside Road, to go behind the car park, and continue down it, past the park, to come out on the Esplanade.
Sidmouth, like West Bay to the east, is a low, naturally-reclaimed estuary separated from the sea by a shingle beach. In 1824 the town was devastated by a hurricane. A family living in one of a row of fishermen's cottages on the seafront took fright and fled up the cliff with their pig. Just as well, as it turned out: shortly afterwards the cottages were washed away, and in the morning their gardens were laid bare, apart from a layer of shingle swept in by the sea.
A hundred years later, another great storm washed away much of the shingle from the beach, going on to breach the sea wall and flood the town once more. Both here and at West Bay the beach has been replenished with additional shingle, to restore protection to the town behind it.
Heavy gales some years before this second great storm revealed a submerged forest on the foreshore, with stumps of trees found some eight feet below the high watermark. This is one of a number of submarine 'fossil forests' around the coastline which were drowned by the rise in sea levels sometime after the last Ice Age.
- Here turn left onto the Coast Path, crossing the river on the Alma Bridge and following the footpath steeply up the hillside. At the top, follow the Coast Path waymarkers through the houses and around the diversion until you come to the top of the hill.
The original Alma Bridge (named after the 1854 Crimean Battle of Alma) was built by the Sid Vale Association in 1855, at a cost of £26/10s. It was constructed of timbers from the vessel Laurel which had been wrecked on the beach below, and steps cut into the hillside linked it to the cliff path. The bridge was repaired in 1877 after it had suffered storm damage, but in 1900 a new bridge was commissioned, and this time a zigzag path was laid up the hillside, at a cost of £150.
The Coast Path was diverted slightly following a series of rockfalls throughout February and March of 2009. This part of the coast is particularly susceptible to landslips. The famous Axmouth to Lyme Regis Undercliff, just to the east, was formed entirely from ancient landslides.
The possibility of falling rocks makes it dangerous to stand beneath the cliffs below the hill, but take a look at them from the pier and see how the spectacularly coloured stripes of red Mercia Mudstone tower dramatically above the shingle.
This part of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site is famous for its 'unconformity'. The rocks from the Cretaceous geological period lie 'unconformably' on top of these red rocks from the Triassic period, with a whole geological period missing from in between them: here the rock laid down in the Jurassic period was completely eroded before the Cretaceous white Chalk and yellow Upper Greensand rocks formed on top.
- Here a path leads to your left, inland. Turn onto it, ignoring the paths off to right and left, and it will lead you back to the car park at the start of the walk.