The Undercliff Path - Jurassic Coast
SEATON to LYME REGIS - South West Coast Path Walking Holidays
Distance: 8.5 miles - Grade: Moderate - What this grade means.
Highlights - Totally unique section of path through a jungle like undercliff with its own ecosystem
A short transfer this morning to the town of Seaton sees you start this section of The South West Coast Path at the serene River Axe Estuary, flanked by flocks of curlew, sandpipers and egret. You cross by the Old Toll Bridge, the former Toll Gates no more - burnt on the beaches by the fed up locals at the turn of the 20th century. The bulk of today’s walk then is truly unique through one of the most unusual terrains of the entire South West Coast Path as it enters the Downlands Undercliff.
A National Nature Reserve since 1955 of over 800 acres, this is a jungle-like untouched land where the geology and the scrub vegetation has literally run riot following the Christmas Day landslip of 1839 when the land slipped towards the sea after storms. For those living here at the time a huge section of coastline literally fell off the end of their world, apparently leaving a “terrible devil like stench of brimstone in its wake (!)”.
Overnight an 800m long abyss appeared, so dramatic that a new island was formed by it which the terrified locals named Goat Island. The death throes of The Devon Coast Path twist and turn through the maze like tunnels of undergrowth beside the chasm, in a land home to over 80 species of bird and unique in the fauna found here. Virtually untouched by man for over 150 years, badgers, foxes and roe deer roam free through ivy covered ash, sycamore and hazel which in turn fight with areas of thick fern and gorse. It’s a bizarre walk with periodic views from the jungle opening out onto a twisted, contorted and untouched coastline that is all but impossible to get down to.
Eventually you exit the dark undercliff to emerge above the coastline with views now of the new challenges ahead on the horizon towards the mountainous “Golden Cap” and panoramas as far as the Isle of Portland. A final descent brings you back to Lyme Regis and The Cob Harbour Wall and your entry into Dorset on the South West Coast Path.