The ‘Needs to Know’
Distance: 3.3 miles (5.3km)
Time to walk: It’s not the walk that will take up your time here…it’s the length of time you’ll want to sit on the beautiful, hidden, cobbled beach
Difficulty: Slightly undulating gravel track. If you want to go on the beach this will involve walking over large stones, some of which may be loose
Parking: In the National Trust car park at Heddon’s mouth, postcode EX31 4PY
Public toilets: In the car park at the start & end of the walk
Map of the route:
This is a short, but spectacular walk &, depending which road you descend the valley on, it’s a bit of a narrow & hairy drive too!
Heddon’s Mouth is a rocky cove on the coast of North Devon, which used to be a popular venue for smugglers. In 1885 a Mr E.D. Weedon was awarded the Royal Humane Society’s Bronze Medal for saving the life of Mr T. Groves. In 1923 a pleasure steamer that had just left Ilfracombe broke its rudder & began to drift out to sea, but was towed to the cove & its 400 passengers saved
The cove is so isolated that during World War II, a German U-Boat captain was able to allow his men ashore in search of fresh water supplies & relaxation without fear of detection!!
Shall we go & have a look?
1. This walk starts in the National Trust car park – don’t forget it’s a Pay & Display. If you’re a member you still need to get a ticket by scanning your membership card. The shop serves some very good Devonshire ice cream!
2. Walk down to the impressive Hunter’s Inn…
This area has been popular for many years, especially with Oxbridge students. A local family used to serve them beer from their cottage, but this burnt down in 1895, to be replaced by the hotel / inn we see today
3. Take the little gravel track, with the footpath sign, to the right of the inn…
The route is really easy to follow as it’s straight all the way, ignoring any paths which may deviate off, such as the one in the picture below
4. Even though it’s easy to follow, there’s ample signage & also butterflies!
The other thing that you’ll always be following is the babbling River Heddon which is only 5.5 miles long…
5. Another thing the Heddon Valley is known for is its wonderful stone bridges, one of which you’ll arrive at shortly…
Continue along the same side of the river, when suddenly the tree canopy opens up & the landscape changes to steep scree slopes
6. At the final bridge before the beach, initially keep straight ahead…
This is because if the river’s low, it’s possible to walk across to the other side. Shortly you get your first view of the cove
When we visited we didn’t risk it, unlike some…
7. So we retraced our steps & crossed the last bridge & turned right along the path on the other side…
By the steps down to the beach is an old lime kiln, which dates back to Victorian times. There were many in the area & limestone was brought by boat from Wales, along with coal. It was burnt & spread on agricultural land
8. If you can cross the stones & chill on the beach. We were there late afternoon & had it to ourselves…
It was so good we even got the ‘Northamptonshire Walks’ flag out!
9. Once it’s time for the return journey, the path’s really easy to follow again…it’s the one on the opposite side of the river to which you walked on…
Again ignore any paths going off to the sides. However…on reaching the split in paths in the picture below, take the higher one
10. Eventually the path arrives at a road. Turn left over the bridge & follow the road, which is quiet, but be careful…
The road bends right & there, ahead of you once more is Hunter’s Inn once ore & the car park at the start of this walk
So that’s it…short, sweet, but spectacular
It probably gets busy at the most popular times of the day, but it’s an easy walk to do say late evening
Just watch out for those U-boats!!