Coleridge Way Extension - Extra day walking in Lynmouth
Climb out through dark brooding forest plantations to Exmoor’s heights on the open moor over Dure Down and onto Exe Head. The source of this river is just a trickle from the mire here but one flowing back behind you, retracing your steps to empty all the way over to the other side of the land mass as a huge estuary in South Devon.
The landscape is simply breathtaking and you feel yourself on the top of the world up here, watch out for birds of prey, hare, herds of wild ponies and of course grazing deer as you join the route of the Tarka Trail which follows the habitat and wandering of Gavin Maxwell and his otters.
The final and dramatic descent to the coast starts here down a deep V shaped heather valley following the tiny gushing Hoar Oak Water which quickly picks up volume from the marsh and starts to bound with intensity seaward passing ruined sheep shelters and occasional standing stones.
The lonely Hoar Oak Tree still serves as your guidepost off the moor today as it has since the 13C when it marked the ancient boundary of old Exmoor Forest and it now stands in solitary guard of your re-entry to Devon from the moor. In a final brief burst of upward effort you now ascend the line of Cheriton ridge an ancient highway which opens up vast panoramic views now across the sea to Wales. Drawing you past ancient hut circles and cairns that peer out of the purple heather and bracken the ridge takes a steady descent down the moorland flank to reach the first habitation for many miles at the houses of Cheriton.
The Two Moors way now climaxes at Gorge Country on the superb woodland trails around Coombe Park high above the Waters Meet waterfalls where the now bounding Hoar oak Water and East Lyn River meet at the head of the gorge. The forest here is another protected site of special scientific interest recognised as one of the most varied and largest natural areas of Woodland in the region. Its an assault on the senses in Spring, with an abundance of wild flowers, bluebells and primroses poking out from beneath rare sessile oaks all surrounded by the heady aroma of wild garlic and living forest. After the Iron Age Hill Fort at Myrlteberry South the trail finally releases you and you drop dramatically through a series of switchbacks as the coastline beckons. In this area known as the Cleaves, you hang high above the steep sided drop of the main river gorge 1000ft below you.
Finally, the fascinating Cliffside towns of Lynmouth and Lynton – north Devon’s “Little Switzerland” emerge to greet you as you almost tumble down the hillside off the trail. Here, the foot of the breathtaking gorge collides with the ocean where it empties from a small harbour into the Bristol Channel, surrounded to the left and right by huge imposing cliffs and coastline. It’s a fitting spectacle for the end of a superb walk, or for those heading off along the South West Coast Path an impressive starting point for the next leg of your adventure.