Walk - Otterton Park

5.0 miles (8.0 km)

The western end of South Farm Road - EX9 7AY The western end of South Farm Road

Moderate - Paths and tracks, with a short stretch of a quiet country lane. A certain amount of steep ascent and descent.

Featuring extensive sea views with a wartime history, a smugglers' bay and the story of a rural dynasty, this is a walk along coast and river, returning overland along some of the many old lanes travelling between the open strips of farmland first set out in Saxon times. A good walk in autumn, when birds and small mammals rummage through the fallen leaves in search of winter supplies.

Interactive Elevation

Route Description

  1. From the eastern side of South Farm Road (nearest South Farm), take the track heading north towards Otterton and follow this above the eastern bank of the river.
  2. When Colliver Lane joins from the right, after about three quarters of a mile, at Otterton Park, turn onto it and follow it for about half a mile to Colliver Cross.

The pillars are from the mid nineteenth century and formed the entrance to Otterton Park. This was part of the Rolle Estate, at the time the largest land holding in Devon, covering nearly 56,000 acres.

The estate was established in 1519 by London merchant George Rolle, who bought up land in North Devon to start with. As a result of astuteness in both land purchase and matrimony the Rolle empire expanded during the next century, and by the beginning of the seventeenth century the family had moved into south east Devon. The acquisition of Bicton and Beer was followed by that of Exmouth (known at the time as Littleham Manor), as well as Otterton, East Budleigh, Colaton Raleigh, Harpford and a lot of other local properties.

Meanwhile the lands of the second oldest Barony in Britain, belonging to the Baron of Clinton (a title bestowed in 1299), were also beginning to expand by the seventeenth century, as the family started acquiring more local acreage. The male line died out at around the same time, and the Barony passed into the Trefusis family.

In 1822, Lord Rolle married Lady Louisa Trefusis, daughter of the seventeenth Baron of Clinton, and when he died twenty years later he left the Rolle Estate to his widow and her nephew, the Hon Mark Trefusis, who changed his name to Rolle and continued the family tradition of the continuing development of the estate. When he died in 1907, the whole estate passed to the twenty first Baron Clinton (a Trefusis in all but name), and the Clinton and Rolle Estates were merged, later being taken over as a commercial enterprise by Clinton Devon Estates Ltd.

This did nothing to diminish the vastness of the estate, however. Even as late as 1945, 95% of Otterton, for example, was still owned by the Clinton family, with the majority of the tenants being employees of the estate (see the Passaford and Pavers Walk).

  1. Turn left onto Colliver Lane and walk downhill towards Otterton.

  2. After a little less than half a mile, turn right onto Lea Lane, forking right shortly afterwards.

  3. Turn left on Stantyway Road, forking right a moment later to turn right again down Stantyway Close, and carry on along the footpath until you come to the Coast Path.
  4. On the Coast Path turn right and stay with it for the next two and a half miles as it heads down to the point and then turns back on itself to follow the River Otter back to South Farm Road and the start of the walk.

Halfway down this coastline is Brandy Head. As its name suggests, this was a popular place for local smugglers to land their contraband. It was an even busier place a century or two later, during World War II, when it was used to test new aircraft-mounted cannon and gun sights.

Opened in July 1940, the Brandy Head range was used by the RAF Gunnery Research Unit, based at Exeter Airport, to test turret-mounted guns, as well as wing-mounted cannon and later nose-mounted ones. Targets such as flags and steel structures were placed out in the bay, and aircraft such as Typhoons, Hurricanes and Spitfires used them to test their weapons. Later, an armour-plated target was placed in the fields behind the Observation Hut, which is still visible beside the Coast Path.

As you round the point above Otterton Ledge you will be able to see below you a small headland of the red Triassic sandstone for which the East Devon coast is noted (see the Colaton Raleigh and the West Down Beacon walks). Look ahead, across the mouth of the river, and see the red sandstone face of West Cliff through the trees.

As you walk back up above the River Otter, you will see large flocks of wildfowl fishing around the sandbanks. A little way along this path there is a hide, for those interested in staying to watch awhile. The Otter Estuary is managed as a nature reserve, and the saltmarsh habitat attracts a wide variety of birds (see the Otter Valley Wildlife Walk).

    Nearby refreshments

    In Budleigh Salterton, East Budleigh, Otterton

    Public transport

    Stagecoach bus 157 runs regularly between Exmouth and Sidmouth, stopping at East Budleigh Road, just west of the start of the walk. For timetable information, zoom in on the interactive map and click on the bus stops, visit Traveline or phone 0871 200 22 33.

    Parking

    There are places to park on the road to the west of South Farm Road, or park at the Lime Kiln pay-and-display car park in Budleigh Salterton, a short walk away from the start, along the beautiful lower reaches of the River Otter. Alternatively, start from Otterton and begin the walk from 4.

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