I first climbed High Peak last year, and was eager to see the place again. Keeping a weather eye on the forecast (pun intended) and another on my fuel tank (yes, the UK is in the middle of yet another crisis), I decided to make the most of what I suspected might be the last sunny day for a while and took a hike.
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I set off from Lime Kiln car park in Budleigh Salterton, following the path along the River Otter until I got to White Bridge. Here I joined the South West Coast Path by the turn-off to Pynes Farm Shop. The forecast was for sunshine from sunrise till sunset. Obviously the first rain shower hit as soon as I reached the coast path. Thankfully I had had the sense to pack my ‘proper rain coat‘ from Mountain Equipment. It protected me both from the rain and the strong wind. Nina 1 – Weather 0.
After a few more unexpected but thankfully brief showers, I was treated to a glorious view of the staggeringly beautiful and fascinating sea stacks at Ladram Bay. To quote Wikipedia; “a stack or sea stack is a geological landform consisting of a steep and often vertical column or columns of rock in the sea near a coast, formed by wave erosion”. The sea stacks at Ladram Bay are Triassic and roughly 220 million years old. That sounds unfathomably ancient, but they are actually 130 million years younger than the volcanic stack better known as Brent Tor on Dartmoor. So I guess it is a matter of perspective.
I took a quick break enjoying the view of Ladram Bay before hiking onwards to High Peak. It is just a short distance from Ladram Bay, but that hill is quite the pulse raiser! I kept nipping up and down the final few steps up to High Peak, insistent on getting some nice photos, but petrified of losing my footing on the wet ground in the strong offshore wind.
Yup, that’s right. I’m not only terrified of heights, crumbling cliffs, steep hills and my own clumsiness, I am also scared of wind. I was once blown right across the street in a storm that became a hurricane. It has given me a very healthy respect for wind.
What with all my fears (I’m also scared of water, as I’m an appalling swimmer), hiking the South West Coast Path along the Jurassic Coast ought to be the last thing I’d ever want to do, but I love it. I guess I just get a bit of a rush from conquering so many fears all at once! Feel the fear and do it anyway, isn’t that how the saying goes? Doing it in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty doesn’t exactly hurt, either.
High Peak Camp
High Peak doesn’t just offer nice views, it is also about as historic as it gets. People have been living here since Neolithic times! (I’m hoping for their sake the hill wasn’t as high and steep and windy back then.) High Peak Camp is a scheduled monument, thanks to its Early Neolithic causewayed enclosure and Early Medieval fortified settlement. (That is Early Medieval as in just after the Romans withdrew from Britain.) Sadly, there is nothing to see here, except for the spectacular view, that is. Archeological digs were carried out during the 1960s, and a topological survey took place in 2012. This has all been covered up and replanted, though. But there is an information board!
From High Peak you can keep going to Jacob’s Ladder and Sidmouth if you fancy a longer hike. I had a personal training session booked at the gym the next day though, so I though it best to avoid the additional climb from Jacob’s Ladder back up to High Peak.
Once I was somewhat satisfied with my photos, I gingerly climbed back down to the main path. There I turned right towards Otterton on the signposted Bars Lane. This takes you past the main entrance of Ladram Bay Holiday Park and straight into Otterton village. I was tempted to follow a footpath that takes you from Bars Lane and down to the River Otter, as I haven’t been to that part of the river for a year or so. However, the thought of the freshly baked goods at Otterton Mill was even more tempting.
Otterton is a beautiful village that reminds me a little of Branscombe. Just like Branscombe, Otterton has a pub and a working mill, gorgeous thatched cottages and a beautiful beach nearby. However, Branscombe is steep and long. Otterton is level and short. And while the cottages in Branscombe are mostly yellow, in Otterton they are white.
At the mill I treated myself to some well-deserved carbs and settled down on a picnic bench where I befriended a curious hen. Well, I say befriended – she pecked my calves when she wanted crumbs, so maybe I was just being used…?
Back to Budleigh
Being a mill, Otterton Mill lies right on the River Otter, so from there the route is very straightforward. Just follow the river back to White Bridge and then on to Budleigh Salterton. Simples!
The hike from Budleigh Salterton to High Peak via the coast path is just over 8 km. The inland route is a little shorter, so the entire hike came to 14.86 km. The total elevation gain was 309 metres, which isn’t that much, really. Oddly, the elevation max was 156 metres, not 157. Either the official measurement of High Peak or my Apple Watch is a metre off. (My watch was spot on at Golden Cap, though. Just sayin’.)
As much as I love the coast path, it was nice to head inland on a windy day like this. I do love circular hikes, because you are always seeing something new!
In June last year I hiked from Budleigh Salterton to Jacob’s Ladder in Sidmouth. I followed the coast path there and back, which was 21.35 km in total. Now I know I can shorten that a little if need be by going inland from High Peak. And the option of taking a break in beautiful Otterton is definitely an added bonus!
Unfortunately it looks like the autumn rain is here to stay, but never say never.
My hiking shoes are waterproof… 😉