<div style="display:inline;"> <img height="1" width="1" style="border-style:none;" alt="" src="//googleads.g.doubleclick.net/pagead/viewthroughconversion/1028731116/?value=0&amp;guid=ON&amp;script=0">
CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Devon Life today click here

Secrets of the South West Coast Path: 10 spots in Devon with a hidden history

PUBLISHED: 13:39 17 November 2017 | UPDATED: 13:58 17 November 2017

Valley of the Rocks - West Exmoor Coast (c) Natural England, Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Valley of the Rocks - West Exmoor Coast (c) Natural England, Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Archant

Think you are familiar with all the South West Coast Path has to offer? Well think again with these 10 secret places on this iconic trail through Devon, revealed by expert Ruth Luckhurst

1) Blackchurch Rock

During a collision of continental plates in a mountain-building period, the rocks around Hartland were thrust violently upwards into a mountain range whose peaks are thought to have reached 3,000m.

Although the mountains have long since eroded, the towering cliffs from Widemouth to Clovelly consist of almost vertical strata, with dramatic chevrons where the huge forces at work folded the rock like paper. Blackchurch Rock arch is at its most spectacular when viewed from the coast path high above.

2) Hooken cliffs

Slumping at Hooken’s soaring white cliffs has created a terraced landscape that is a haven for wildlife. The Beer coastline is especially prone to landslips, since rainwater passes easily through the porous top strata but is unable to drain away through the clays below.

Instead it spreads sideways, acting as a lubricant between the layers, so that eventually the tilt of the underlying rocks causes the top strata to slide into the sea. A catastrophic landslip in 1790 released nearly 15 million tons of rock onto the beach far below, moving the shoreline some 200m out to sea.

Hooken Cliffs

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Like this? Then give these a click!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

3) Orcombe Point

Cliffs in South and East Devon laid down in a desert environment are vividly red as a result of the hot, dry climate. Because there were no living organisms to use the oxygen, it formed iron oxide instead, giving it this colour.

At Orcombe Point, sandstone boulders piled on a rocky platform at the foot of the cliffs provide a striking introduction to the 185 million years of geological history laid out ahead along the 95-mile Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site.

4) Torbay limestone fossils

Many of the older buildings in Paignton and Torquay were constructed from limestone rich in Devonian fossils, which have enabled geologists to identify five different types of this rock.

Although all were laid down at the same time, scientists can tell from the fossils that it was in five slightly different environments. Another widely-used building stone, formed later, displays fragments of these fossil-rich limestones, embedded in the red sandstone of the younger rock.

Hopes Nose - Torquay

5) Valley of Rocks

The process of freeze and thaw caused by fluctuating temperatures in the Ice Age created dry valleys, cut out by deposits of weathered material swept through by torrents of ice melt. North Devon’s Valley of Rocks is a breathtaking example, with its weathered crags towering over a valley where there is no river.

A favourite haunt of Romantic poets Coleridge and Wordsworth, today the valley is equally popular with a large herd of feral goats.

6) Westward Ho! Pebble ridge

Charles Kingsley wrote of Westward Ho!’s pebble ridge: “The surges of the bay have defeated their own fury, by rolling up in the course of ages a rampart of grey boulder stones [which] protects from the high tides of spring and autumn a fertile sheet of smooth alluvial turf.” Behind the barrier, Northam Burrows provides a habitat for a number of unusual plants, and large numbers of overwintering and migratory birds gather here.

From medieval times, local residents earned their grazing rights on the common by participating in the annual “potwalloping” ceremony, replacing cobbles that had been swept from the ridge by spring tides.

7) Brownstone Battery

One of several batteries built on the south coast in response to Hitler’s 1940 Operation Sealion invasion plan, Brownstone Battery was manned by up to 300 soldiers, and many of its buildings and other structures are still in place, including the miniature railway used to transport ammunition to the lower gun position.

Now owned by the National Trust, it is one of the few surviving World War Two coastal defence positions and since 1981 the Trust have worked tirelessly to keep the encroaching scrub from completely engulfing the site’s remaining buildings.

Devon - Brownstone Battery - CASL No2 - SX903497 - S0006535 - June 2010

8) Wind Hill

Countisbury’s Wind Hill is protected on two sides by steep wooded slopes and on a third by its plunging sea cliff, making it a highly defensible location. The hill fort built by its Iron Age inhabitants was still in use almost a millennium later, when the local Saxons camped within its ramparts after sighting Viking raiders in the Bristol Channel.

Creeping out at night, they slaughtered the Danes sleeping on the narrow neck of land below, winning an important victory for King Alfred, who was holed up on the Somerset Levels.

Iron Age fort on Wind Hill Countisbury.

9) Mutters Moor

Mutter’s Moor – a unique habitat for many species of wildlife – was densely populated in prehistoric times. It is named after Abraham Mutter, an 18th century log merchant and turf-cutter.

A member of the infamous Jack Rattenbury gang of smugglers, Mutter distributed the contraband in his donkey cart, under the very noses of the customs men based on the moor to keep an eye on the coast.

View from Mutters Moor #landscape #landscapephotography #clouds #fog #sidmouth #devon

10) Parson’s Tunnel

Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s inventive but dramatically unsuccessful “atmospheric railway”, designed in 1843, used suction to power the trains. With no communication system, the pumping stations had to operate to a strict timetable, which relied on the trains arriving on time.

However, technical hitches due to rats and salt spray caused frequent breakdowns, when the third-class passengers had to get out and push. Parson’s Tunnel is one of the five built by Brunel as part of the scheme.

Parsons Tunnel

Hidden Landscapes of the South West Coast Path by Ruth Luckhurst tells the tale of England’s South West coastline and highlights some of the fascinating features to be found along its 630-mile length. It is published by Halsgrove.

_________________________________

For more follow Devon Life on Facebook and Twitter

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Devon Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Devon Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Devon Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & About

Wed, 17:13

Devon is a joy to explore with its beautiful beaches, pretty woodland and charming towns and villages. Made even more magical under a blanket of glistening frost, we pick 12 walks to blow away the cobwebs in the county this winter

Read more
Tuesday, November 28, 2017

It’s been a year since one of the largest fires Exeter has ever known destroyed one of its most iconic landmarks. But the Royal Clarence Hotel is slowly coming back to life, as Chrissy Harris discovers

Read more
Friday, November 24, 2017

Every year local families vote for their favourite Devon family-friendly attraction as part of the Primary Times Reader Star Awards - here are 11 places they have chosen as some of their favourites

Read more
Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Sprinkled throughout Devon’s cities, towns and villages are some of the most picture-perfect roads and lanes you could ever wish to see. Those of you who are fortunate enough to live on one of these 11 streets will know exactly what we’re talking about

Read more
Friday, November 17, 2017

Think you are familiar with all the South West Coast Path has to offer? Well think again with these 10 secret places on this iconic trail through Devon, revealed by expert Ruth Luckhurst

Read more
Tuesday, November 14, 2017

From cosy pubs galore to winter beach walks, there’s plenty to enjoy in Devon at Christmas. We list 19 reasons you should come visit us this December.

Read more
Friday, November 10, 2017

Villages in Devon are some of the prettiest in the South West. From beautiful little hamlets on the outskirts of the moors to seaside communities, we pick 10 villages in Devon you need to visit

Read more
Tuesday, October 24, 2017

From angry spirits to headless horses and ghoulish monks, Devon has more than a few supernatural stories to get your skin crawling. We have picked 11 haunted places in the county

Read more
Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Plan a day out exploring some of Devon’s prettiest flowers, lakes and sculptures at these gardens...

Read more
Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Gather family and friends, wrap up warm and enjoy spectacular Bonfire Night celebrations across the county. We have chosen 10 of the best firework displays across Devon for you to enjoy

Read more
Friday, September 1, 2017

One of the best ways to explore Devon is on foot, so here’s a round-up of 7 pretty circular strolls…

Read more
Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Here are 5 things you need to know about beautiful East Devon

Read more
Tuesday, August 22, 2017

From sandy beaches and lighthouse-topped cliffs to views of the Jurassic Coast, the Devon coastline offers many perfect locations for a seaside walk. We pick 10 of the prettiest routes to take

Read more
Monday, August 14, 2017

Devon Life’s Lydia Tewkesbury was invited to take a VIP tour of the National Marine Aquarium. This is what she found...

Read more
 
Its Christmas advert link
 
Pure Weddings advert link
 
South West Life advert link
 
A+ South & South West
 
Great British Holidays advert link

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today


subscription ad
Devon Life Application Link


Local Business Directory

Devon's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area



Property Search