East Devon/Dorset

Otterton to Sidmouth along the River Otter and the South West Coast Path - By Alan Garner

Start point is Otterton Mill, Otterton Village

Start in the carpark and turn left over the River Otter bridge, you are now on a footpath with the river on the left, Walk for a mile, along a flat broad footpath, reach a small road over the river, then left back over the river- sometimes when the tide is coming in or out – many fish under the bridge. In 100 metres – take right hand footpath into a field system. Follow the well-defined path – it is the South West Coast path – and eventually you reach a viewing point with Budleigh Salterton on your right across the River mouth.

Here the path turns to the left and ascends to the cliff edge. The path is easy to follow now, and undulates close to the cliff edge, with good views over to the right beyond Budleigh and in front towards the Jurassic coast.

Eventually reach The Brandy Head Observation Post.

It was opened in July 1940 and an information board at the site details its history.

The area had a history of weapons testing and development and formed an important part of the role the RAF played in World War Two.
The Gunnery Research Unit based out of Exeter tested turret-mounted guns and wing and nose-mounted cannons.

Targets were based out in the bay and period aircraft including Spitfires flew from Exeter over East Budleigh to test their weapons on the range.

Later, targets were developed and placed in the fields behind. The building was occupied by a team who then observed the testing on the targets.
After Brandy Head, continue along the South West coast path until you reach Ladram Bay- the path skirts the holiday park here- keep to the right. However, there is excellent refreshment stop here- lunch and drinks.

You must take a good look the rock formations in the sea- reminiscent to the author like the sandstone features in the sea off the Algarve coast.
Option at Ladram Bay to return to Otterton- there is a footpath half a mile back along the coast path, clearly marked Otterton and across fields and lovely lanes back to your start.

Now the hard work begins- a long slog uphill to Peak Hill – aptly named – opportunity from the path to scale to the very top and view the wide span of sea scape.
From here the South West coast path descends through woodland towards Sidmouth. The long sweep of lovely grass land greets you as Sidmouth promenade comes into view. Many seats here for a short rest and view the magnificence of the regency town.

At the bottom of the hill you reach Connaught gardens with its lovely flowers and excellent café – the biggest cake slices in the world!!
From here make your way to the promenade stroll along or turn left into the town for many cafes, shops and more gardens,
End the walk where you will now. Buses can be taken back to Otterton from Sidmouth bus station.

Sidmouth – see https://visitsidmouth.co.uk/

 History of Connaught Gardens

The formal use of this land dates back to around 1820 when Emmanuel Lousada, owner of nearby Peak House, started the construction of a detached marina villa called Cliff Cottage. The cottage, which was on the headland at the western end of the Esplanade was renamed 'Sea View' in the late 19th century, was occupied by private owners until 1930 when the owner placed it on the market. The owner, a Mr Jemmett, was considered an eccentric recluse.

There was much controversy when Sidmouth Urban District Council decided to buy the gardens for £3,500. The council decided at the outset that the gardens needed different treatment to other local authority parks of their day - which consisted of wide paths with massed flower beds and a children's playground. The council therefore contacted the gardens department of Dartington Hall Ltd, based at Dartington Hall, Totnes, to design a scheme and carry out construction works.

The house was demolished because it was in such poor condition and served no useful purpose to the proposed layout. Some of the walls of the house were retained and incorporated into the overall design. The main lawn was modified slightly and remains the focus today of activities in the gardens. The high walls were considered essential to provide shelter and the old entrance drive was also retained. It is these features that still survive today and provide the main backbone to the structure of the garden and areas such as the jungle remain much as they were then.

The gardens now contain a fine range of plants that thrive in the temperate climate including a new herbaceous bed by the main lawn.
Otterton Mill.

Set beside the River Otter in one of Devon's most beautiful coastal valleys, a warm welcome awaits you at Otterton Mill - the place in Devon to experience the ancient traditions of flour milling, bread baking and much more.

The idyllic setting of our historic working watermill and the stunning surrounding countryside attracts visitors year-round from all over the world. They come to enjoy our mill, bakery, cafe-restaurant, local food shop, gift and craft shop, art gallery, live music, and other events.


Well known for its beautifully thatched roofs and quaint cob and brick cottages, Otterton is sheltered by the idyllic Otter valley. It boasts one of the oldest working Water Mills in the country and a mostly Victorian built church with a distinctive tower. The tower at the East end of the present nave is believed to be a remnant of the monks’ priory that was pulled down during the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

Although Otterton has been inhabited since the Stone Age, its name came from the Saxons who arrived circa 700AD. “Oetre” meant water and “ton” meant farmstead or settlement, so those eminently practical people ran the two words together to make Otterton. Over the next 300 years they made Otterton one of the most successful rural communities in the South West of England. However, as the river filled with silt, the port of Otterton began to rely more on Agriculture. It was even mentioned in the famous Doomsday Book of 1084AD.

The River Otter also provided valuable salt marshes and Limestone was burnt in the Lime Kilns at Ladram Bay to make mortar for building. Nowadays, the shingle beach at Ladram Bay is used by locals and tourists for leisure purposes as it is a holiday resort, but the red sandstone stacks in the bay have seen many changes over the years. Smugglers were active in the 18th Century. In order to avoid the Excise Men, they sailed to France, bringing back barrels of brandy and other contraband into the Bay. They became very clever at hiding it in caves and tunnels and on the roof of Salem Chapel at East Budleigh. Thankfully, nowadays drinks are not so hard to come by. The Kings Arms is well placed in the centre of the village and Otterton Mill is now a famous restaurant with Artisans’ workshops and an Art Gallery.

Ladram Bay

This is a secluded bay with pebble beach, between the coastal towns of Budleigh Salterton and Sidmouth, on the south coast of Devon, England. It is about 11 miles (18 km) southeast of Exeter, just under 2 miles (3.2 km) southwest of Sidmouth and about 2.5 miles (4.0 km) northeast of Budleigh Salterton.
Directly southwest of Ladram Bay are Smallstones Point and Chiselbury Bay. To the east is a hill called High Peak and below the hill are the Hern Point and Big Picket Rocks.

Among the most impressive sights along the Jurassic Coast are the sea stacks at Ladram Bay. The sandstones contain numerous vertical fractures and joints that were formed deep in the Earth's crust during past mountain building periods. The sea picked out these planes of weakness to form caves and natural arches that have since collapsed to produce sea stacks. The “Otter Sandstone” that forms the cliffs and sea stacks were deposited in a hot dry climates in the Triassic Period about 220 Million years ago. The stacks are composed of the same rock, which is relatively soft, but they have a harder band of sandstone at their base which prevents their rapid erosion by the sea. The striking red colour of the rock is caused by iron oxide, which indicate that the layers were formed in a desert. The presence of ripple marks and channels in the sandstones, together with the remains of the long-extinct plants, insects, fish, amphibians and reptiles, show that the desert was crossed by fertile river valleys.

The Otter Sandstone Formation is the richest source of Triassic reptile remains in Britain and one of the most important in the world. At the south-west end of the bay, the most common fossils in the sandstone are networks of vertical, tube-like carbonate petrifactions (rhizocretions): these represent the roots of plants that were able to survive in the harsh dry climate of the Triassic Period.

The bay is sited on the same band of sandstone that forms the oil reservoir at the Wytch Farm oilfield on the Isle of Purbeck.