Walk - Valley of Rocks Woodland Walk
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.
- Start the walk at the little car park on the left (just past the cattle grid and next to the toilets!)as you enter the Valley of Rocks. Pick up the lower tarmac path on the other side of the road (not the one leading away uphill), and follow it to the cliffs high above the sea.
- Turn left onto the Coast Path, and wind with it around all the spectacular rock formations, until you come to the very appropriately-named Castle Rock. Take a detour here for breathtaking views – or save your energy for later, when your climb up South Cleave will give you another chance to savour this amazing landscape.
Other rock formations here include Ragged Jack, the White Lady, and the Devil's Cheesewring, where a group of druids was caught by the devil dancing on a Sunday, and they were all turned to stone (see the Lynton and the Valley of Rocks Walk). According to RD Blackmore in his novel Lorna Doone, beneath the Cheesewring was Mother Meldrum's Kitchen, a witch's cave, although no such cave exists today.
- Reaching the road below Castle Rock, turn right, around the roundabout, and stay with the road past Lee Abbey, and beyond it, to the cove at Lee Bay. Ignoring the path down to the cove, as well as the one up into the woods, stay with the road as it turns abruptly right and starts to climb.
- Pick up the footpath to your right shortly afterwards, which will take you off the road and through the trees for a little way. When the path splits, a little way beyond, take the right-hand turn, to follow the coast out around Crock Point, curving back via Crock Pits to return to the road in Croscombe Wood.
Looking back at the hillside beyond the little cove, you will see Duty Point Tower, a Victorian folly said to have been used by Customs men to watch out for smugglers. It is apparently the Lonely Tower which features in Samuel Palmer's painting of the same name, Palmer having visited the area in 1835, when Lynmouth's popularity as a tourist resort was beginning to take hold.
- Turn left onto the road, and follow it back a little way through Croscombe Wood until you come to a bridleway on the right, heading into Bonhill Wood.
- Turn right onto the bridleway and follow it into Bonhill Wood. This climbs up through the wood, to bring you to a track which heads south-west, along the banks of the tumbling stream, some way below. Turn right onto this track and stay on it until you come to Bonhill Bridge, about half a mile away.
- Shortly after crossing Bonhill Bridge leave the bridleway on a track to the left. Cross a stile and, immediately after a derelict building, climb steeply up rocks to the right and then continue on a footpath to cross a footbridge and up steps. Head back downstream again, on the footpath which leads gently downhill through Caffyns Heanton Wood.
- When the path forks, take the upper path, curving around into the combe. Keep on the main track eventually crossing the stream by means of a little bridge and then turn left heading slightly downhill again.
- Your path joins the bridleway through Six Acre Wood as the bridleway doubles back on itself. Take the upper fork, to the right, and pull gently uphill with it as it travels through the woods above Lee Abbey.
- When the bridleway doubles back on itself again, just as you are coming out of the woods, leave it, and take the path leading straight ahead, onto the open hillside. Zigzag up the hillside to the heathland high above the Valley of Rocks, and follow the path along the top of the hill.
In the valley below are various remnants of prehistoric habitation, including the stone walls of a Celtic type field system, circular relics that may have been settlements or stock pounds, and fragments of hut circles (see the South Cleave - Valley of Rocks Walk).
In the valley, too, you can often see some of the feral goats which have also inhabited the area, on and off, since prehistoric times. Over the centuries they have been killed off by the cold, or else culled or moved elsewhere in response to their nuisance value to local farmers and gardeners, but the current herd of Cheviots was introduced from Northumberland in 1976.
- The path starts to descend above the car park where the walk started, turning sharply left and then dropping down to meet another track above the cemetery. Turn left onto this new track and follow it down to the road at the start of the walk.
Mother Meldrum's Tea Room in the Valley of Rocks, and (in summer) Lee Abbey Tea Cottage.