This is a splendid ramble through some fascinating scenery, with lots of historical and literary sites along the way. Enjoy!
Start: Holmbush car park, Lyme Regis. Grid reference: SY337921. Walk is just under 7 miles and gives you the opportunity to explore the town of Lyme Regis, immortalised in Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion and John Fowles, The French Lieutenant’s Woman. For more details of things seen on the walk, see the descriptions at the end of the walk details. Well worth reading these two novels before you go!
1. With your back to the road, walk to the right-hand foot of the car park and take the signposted Pine Walk, marked “Coast Path, Ware”. The little lane soon becomes a path as it winds to the right and passes through a gate. Then take the middle of the three paths facing you. Cross the stream and head up the slight ascent, then left along a path signposted “Coast Path, Seaton”. Follow the coast path for a quarter mile, passing in front of the little house called Crow’s Nest. Another quarter of a mile of track brings you to a footpath going steeply off to the right, signposted “Ware Lane”. The path veers to the left after the first rise and then right across a footbridge before making a very steep climb up earthen steps alongside Chimney Rock. Take care as the path is narrow, with quite an incline!
2. Cross the stile above Chimney Rock and follow the path across the field beyond, hedge on your right. After another stile, the path veers to the right and then left, exiting over a stile on to a country lane. Turn left up lane and follow until the main Lyme to Exeter road is reached. Cross here, taking the lane opposite, Gore Lane. Continue for a quarter mile. Just by a bend, watch for a footpath going off to the left. Take this for another quarter mile, crossing three stiles on the way. After the third stile you are in a larger field, full of flints. Turn right along the field edge, the hedge on your right. This is Horseman’s Hill. Cross the stile in the bottom corner of the field, and descend through woodland until a lane is reached, just by a pair of red-bricked cottages.
3. Turn left along the lane. Just past the cottages it becomes a bridleway. Follow this for just over a quarter mile. The path narrows to the right over a pair of cottages. Continue down, through a gate, and then across the field beyond and out through a gate to the right of a house. Nearby is the impressive Cannington Viaduct. Turn right along the lane for half a mile. Ignore the left turning to Holcombe, but take the following turning to the left, by a cottage. Cross the lane a few yards above and take the track opposite, looking out for a footpath to the right.
4. Cross the stile and walk across the next field, heading towards the sports field at Uplyme. Pass through a kissing gate and keep round the left hand side of the sports field, exiting through a gate into its car park and on to the main road. Turn right and follow the main road for a hundred yards. Cross carefully into the car park below the pub. Here you will see a gate leading into a footpath. Take this and follow until a lane is reached. (You can divert left here if you wish to visit Uplyme Church). Otherwise cross the lane and take public footpath nearly opposite – it looks almost like the driveway to a private house, but it is a right of way.
5. A quarter of a mile further on, another lane is reached. Cross this and take the track opposite. Follow for a quarter mile. Ignore the first footpath off to the right, but take the second, just past a thatched cottage. This path is much narrower, running above the River Lim. Another quarter mile brings you down by an ancient thatched mill. Take the next path on the right, across a footbridge and through a gate. You are now back in Dorset, after a few Devon miles.
6. Cross the field and pass through the far gate. A footbridge soon crosses the little River Lim. Continue along the track and keep downriver until a lane is reached, near to a road bridge. Cross the road and continue downriver for a mile until you are in the heart of Lyme Regis. Along the way watch out for the Leper’s Well, reached by a footbridge over the river, and the medieval town mill. After exploring the town, head out to the sea front and follow the promenade round to the Cobb, famous from the novels of Jane Austen and John Fowles. Then take the steep Cobb Road uphill to the Holmbush car park and the end of the walk.
The great landslip beyond Lyme occurred in 1839. Chimney Rock, named after its obvious shape, gives some idea of the unstable geology of the district. Cannington Viaduct was opened for trains in 1903 and closed in 1965. The walk to Uplyme was a favourite ramble of Jane Austen. Wordsworth and Henry Fielding loved walking the parish as well. Some of this walk follows parts of the East Devon Way, a lovely route between Exmouth and Lyme Regis. Lyme was besieged during the Civil War, when it held out for Parliament. In 1685, the Duke of Monmouth landed there at the start of his ill-fated rebellion. The Victorian fossil-hunter Mary Anning was born in the town. Thousands of fossils are still found in the district every year. More on walking the Lyme Regis district later in the week.