Seascapes & sky
PUBLISHED: 09:00 03 July 2014
SIMONE STANBROOK-BYRNE enjoys the spectacular North Devon scenery on a walk around Mortehoe and Lee
North Devon is renowned for its superb panorama and this relatively challenging walk enjoys superb seascapes and big skies. Add verdant woodland, delightful villages and an excellent, dog-friendly pub en route and you have the ingredients for a wonderful day out.
Bull Point Lighthouse is an interesting feature; it was built in 1879 after many wrecks off the coast but in 1972 the headland subsided, rendering some of the buildings unsafe. For two years after the subsidence Trinity House used an old lighthouse tower, imported from Braunton, while another lighthouse was constructed further back from the cliff edge.
Trinity House is the charity that administers lighthouses, its remit being to aid the safety of shipping. It originates from a fraternity of seafarers called The Guild of the Holy Trinity who regulated the pilotage of shipping in waters used by Henry VIII. The charity received a Royal Charter in 1514. Times change, and in 1988 the foghorn fell quiet for ever. The lighthouse is now fully automated, its associated buildings finding a new lease of life as holiday cottages.
From the car park turn left along the lane, towards the church. As the road swings left go right towards the village hall and cemetery, passing the church on your left and heading for the coast path. Keep ahead at the cemetery, following a dirt track to pass through gates into Morte Point Memorial Park. You will find an information board not far from the gates with a nearby fingerpost pointing uphill to an elevated viewpoint.
Head for this viewpoint, winding your way up in the direction of the pointer to the top of the hill, about 300m away from the information board. The paths are well-trodden although there are only occasional arrows, but keep heading up until you find the site of the former lookout, built at the start of the Second World War but demolished in 1932. The men who kept watch are commemorated on a plaque here. The spot was well-chosen; Morte Point juts out into the sea to the west, north east of it along the coast is the lighthouse at Bull Point and looking south is the vast expanse of Morte Bay and Woolacombe Beach. Relish it.
From here you can see the path out to the end of Morte Point. Descend from the lookout walking west towards the point, a fabulous stretch which abounds with enticing paths. Your route keeps heading west, dropping down towards the sea until, just above the end of the headland, you meet a clear, hard-trodden, earth crossing path, the South West Coast Path. At this point it is also the Tarka Trail, a long distance route crossing the countryside which is so well celebrated in Henry Williamson’s book Tarka the Otter. Turn right along the coast path, with the Atlantic to your left.
You now follow the coast path, passing Rockham Bay, all the way to Bull Point Lighthouse almost two rugged miles away. Ignore footpaths heading inland back to Mortehoe, unless you’re tiring and want an escape route. When you reach the lighthouse look for the three-way fingerpost and continue on the coast path to Lee, 1½ miles away. Eventually you reach a footbridge spanning a stream – enjoy the seaward view then keep going.
The coast path crosses a second footbridge some way on and when you reach a three-way fingerpost denoting ‘steep path to sandy cove’ to the left, ignore it unless you wish to explore. Your way continues up steps on the coast path above Lee Bay and Damage Cliffs.
The path reaches a lane on the outskirts of Lee, turn left and follow it for about 300m as it swings right past the gates of Lee Manor. A little way beyond you find a right turn with a multiple-fingered post set against the wall. Leave the coast path, turning right along this lane signed for the car park, toilets and footpath to Lee village.
Pass the car park on your left, followed by the loos. The lane becomes stony, keep ahead to reach a footpath fingerpost on the right. This is your onward way but first we suggest you continue into the village for a short detour to the lovely Grampus Inn before returning to this fingerpost.
Back at the fingerpost cross the stile and walk through the field, wall on your left. At the end of the field cross another stile followed by a footbridge into woodland near a three-way fingerpost. Your route follows the path beside the stream through the refreshing, sylvan area of Borough Valley. In just over ½ mile you reach a crossing path. When we were here a three-way fingerpost reposed drunkenly against the bank. Left goes down to a footbridge but your way lies to the right (sorry!) steeply uphill through the trees towards Damage Barton.
Emerge from the woodland and cross the stile a short distance away, walking through the field beyond in the direction of the yellow arrow. You reach a stile, followed by a lane with a high stile on the far side. The post adjacent to this high stile is misleading. From the stile look diagonally right across the field to glimpse another fingerpost in the distance, beyond the field corner and set high up. Follow this line to a gate set back in the corner and beyond this bear right up the bank to the elevated fingerpost.
From here the route varies slightly to that shown on the OS map. Take the right-hand option from the post across the field to an obvious gate in the far right-hand boundary. You may spot a well-engorsed fingerpost to the right of this gate. After the gate follow the track through the field – it’s sometimes clear, sometimes indistinct. You may notice a pond beyond the fence to the left if you veer over. Keep going on the track as it winds between gorse bushes. You reach a two-way fingerpost 250m from the gate, which has both pointers going back. Keep ahead to a yellow-topped post within 100m.
At this post go almost 90˚ left to descend past a few trees and gorse bushes to a well-concealed gate about 100m from the post. Through the gate you’ll find another yellow-arrow directing you down to a clear path along which turn right, approaching the buildings of Damage Barton.
Within 50m you reach a track and two-way fingerpost. Go left down the track and at the buildings turn right, still on the track with a stone barn on your left. At the end of the wall you enter a yard area, and now you need to ensure you get the correct route through the farm. Bear diagonally left across the yard – you’ll see a sign pointing you towards Mortehoe. Follow its direction passing the attractive house on your left and along the drive past a pond.
Keep going up the drive past occasional benches. About 250m from the house take a footpath going right as the drive bends left. An arrow points you through the field, boundary to your right. At the end of the field are two gateways. Go through the left-hand one, continuing with the boundary on your right. This rises to another gate, beyond which keep going in the same direction, boundary to your right.
At the end of the field cross the stile and descend the path beyond, down steps, to reach Yarde Farm. A two-way fingerpost directs you ahead on the track to a three-way fingerpost in 50m. Go through the gateway, walking diagonally left through the field, still towards Mortehoe. In the far bottom corner of the field a gate leads to a path past a pond.
Walk between buildings, following arrows, to reach the business area of a holiday site. Pass the various facilities and keep ahead away from the buildings, following the drive heading west (the least uphill exit route) to reach gates onto North Morte Road. Go left on the lane and follow it for about 1/3 mile, back to the centre of the village.
From Favourite Walks in Devon: one of a selection of Culm Valley Publishing’s Walking Guides. Titles include Circular Walks in East Devon, Circular Walks in North Devon, Circular Walks in Central Devon, A Dozen Dramatic Walks in Devon, Town Walks in Devon. culmvalleypublishing.co.uk / 01884 849085
Look out for...
Myriad birds, including peregrines, the fastest creature on earth
Seals, dolphins if you’re very lucky – and a hint of Tarka the Otter
Second World War lookout point
Bull Point Lighthouse