Walk - Ringmore and Bigbury
Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2019. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
- From the entrance to the seafront car park in Bigbury-on-Sea turn right onto Marine Drive and walk to where the South West Coast Path leaves on the right. Turn onto the Coast Path and follow it around Sharpland Point, crossing the road with it afterwards to take the permissive path alongside Folly Hill.
The Avon estuary is tidal as far as the weir at Aveton Gifford and is an important site for feeding and roosting birds. Swans are often seen here, and there is a heronry near Cockleridge, just ahead. Seabirds and shelduck breed in the inlet, and during autumn and winter many migrating birds and waders can be seen (see the Avon Estuary Walk).
- Turn right on the track at the top to return to the road. Turning left, walk a short distance up the road to where a footpath heads off through a field to the right. Turning onto this footpath to join the Avon Estuary Way, follow the right-hand hedge to the road beyond.
- Turn left on the road and walk to the turning bay. Turn right here to cross the cattle grid and walk down the drive. Carry on past the houses at Hexdown, bearing right along the footpath beyond.
- Turn left at the bottom, to follow the private drive above the estuary. The drive climbs gently around the hillside, curving to the left as it heads inland to Lincombe. From here it turns sharply right and heads towards the road.
- Just before you reach the road, turn right into the field to follow the permissive footpath along the hedge. Ignore the footpath to the right halfway across the second field, signed to Milburn Orchard, instead carry on along the footpath beside the left-hand hedge. Stay with the footpath as it turns right and then left around Bigbury and follow it down the steps to the road on the left before the barns.
- Turn left on the road and right on the bigger road beyond. Carry on out of the village and take the footpath on the left, down the lane by the speed limit sign. Turn right at the end of the first field and then turn left to follow the path through the trees. Carry on ahead along the hedge to the bottom of the long field.
- Turn right to go into the right-hand field, turning left once inside to follow the footpath along the left-hand hedge to head for the far right-hand corner of the next field. Turn left here to follow the right-hand hedge down to the lane, turning right on it to walk into Ringmore.
Ringmore was first documented in the 1086 Domesday Book, which listed it as the manor of Reimora, but there is thought to have been a Saxon settlement here before it. The present All Hallows church dates from 1240, but there is evidence that it was built on a Saxon church. The village pub, the Journey’s End, was built to accommodate the labourers working on the new church in the thirteenth century. The inn was named after a play by R.C. Sherriff about life in the trenches during the First World War, written when the playwright was staying here. Like the Pilchard Inn on Burgh Island, it is said to have been used by smugglers, who stored their contraband behind a false wall, also hiding behind the fact that the very respectable town council held its meetings here.
- At the first junction turn left, walking past the 'no through road' to the National Trust sign for Ayrmer Cove.
- Bear right through the gate to follow the National Trust path to the cove.
Ringmore's rector took it upon himself to defend the bridge at Aveton Gifford during the English Civil War, and in 1643 he built himself a small fort from which to fire upon Cromwell's men as they marched through (see the Avon Estuary Walk). It was too far from the bridge to be effective, however, and his efforts were in vain. The Roundheads later landed at Ayrmer Cove, seeking revenge, and the vicar was forced to hide in the church tower for more than three months before escaping to France.
- Turn left on the South West Coast Path and follow it above the cliffs to Challaborough.
Challaborough's small sandy bay was once Ringmore’s port. The fishing fleet set out from here, returning with its catch of pilchards, and coal was later brought in on cargo vessels to be delivered around the parish.
- In Challaborough bear right on the road around the beach, carrying on ahead along the Coast Path at the end to return to the seafront car park in Bigbury-on-Sea.
Just offshore and linked to the mainland by a sea tractor when the tide is too high to walk, Burgh Island was a monastery in medieval times. The Pilchard Inn, on the island, is thought to have been built as guest accommodation for the monastery. In later centuries the tiny chapel on the island's summit was a huer's hut, where the fishing fleet's lookout would watch for pilchard shoals. The art deco hotel on the island was built in the 1930s and its past guest list is said to have included Churchill and Eisenhower (see the Burgh Island Walk).
Bigbury Bay has been designated an area of geological importance for its rock formations, which demonstrate the way earth movements once compressed the rocks and thrust the layers into dramatic formations. Here the slates and shales of the Meadfoot Beds meet the Dartmouth Beds from the Devonian period, and the folds and faults in the rocks are visible around Sharpland Point. The pink rocks are the Meadfoot Beds, stained that colour by the younger red sandstone rocks of the Permian period, also found in the area.
At the start and finish of the walk, the award winning Venus Cafe, overlooking Bigbury Beach serves food sourced from local and organic producers. Midway along the route you can also get a range of local food and real ales from the Journey's End Inn, in Ringmore.