With its gorgeous hilltop setting and nearby beaches, at Bideford Bay you can enjoy the most…
Much of the 11.25-mile (18km) stretch of South West Coast Path on Devon’s north coast between Westward Ho! and Clovelly is clothed with pretty oak woodland. This walk explores delightful Worthygate Wood, to the east of the little hamlet of Buck’s Mills, which is the only settlement encountered on the route.
Visitors familiar with the tourist hot spot of Clovelly further west – an old fishing village that clings to the steep cliffs above a 14th-century quay – may be surprised at the contrast with the peace and quiet of Buck’s Mills, today simply a collection of white-painted cottages above a rocky beach. Enjoy exploring the lovely Woodland Trust woods that clothe the steep-sided valleys above the hamlet, awash with wild daffodils in March and bluebells in May.
Buck’s Mills was always a close-knit community – a fishing village with its own quay and lime kilns, and remarkably self-sufficient. In days gone by some of the inhabitants travelled across the waters to Lundy Island to work in the granite quarries there.
A local benefactress
Before the consecration of St Anne’s Church, which sits shrouded in trees halfway up the valley, the inhabitants of Buck’s Mills had to carry their dead inland to Parkham or Woolfardisworthy along a route that became known as the ‘Coffin Road’. In 1860 the philanthropic Mrs Jane Marianne Elwes had a house built here, and sponsored the construction of the church. Old noticeboards found inside record the fact that 140 seats were to be retained ‘for free and exclusive use of the poor forever’.
From the bottom left corner of the car park, by the information board, take a narrow path to meet the lane on a corner.
Ignore a small footpath sharp right, and instead turn 90 degrees right on a footpath to cross the stream via a railed footbridge and pass behind a derelict cottage. This path – the Coffin Road – ascends through ancient broadleaved woodland, following the stream. The Woodland Trust is gradually clearing stands of planted Sitka spruce and larch to encourage regeneration of broadleaved species.
Cross a tributary on a wooden plank, then ascend more steeply out of the valley and through a gate into a field. Follow the right edge, to pass by a stile at the end of a barn and go through a small gate. Cross the yard at Lower Worthygate and through a gate, then pass the farmhouse to reach a footpath junction.
Turn left up the drive to meet a lane, and turn left here to pass Higher Worthygate. Where the lane bears sharp right, turn left on a footpath. After a few paces, turn right over a stile onto an uneven and rocky, hedged path, signed to the Coast Path. Cross two stiles and descend past the tucked-away Gauter Pool (left) to meet the Coast Path.
Turn left along the narrow (and at times slippery and muddy) path through oak woodland – Worthygate Wood. This undulating path eventually emerges into grass and bracken before re-entering woodland and dropping to a path junction.
Turn right to descend steeply, at times rockily underfoot, eventually zig-zagging downhill and descending steps to reach the lane among a cluster of white cottages at Buck’s Mills.
Turn left and follow the lane uphill. As it bears right, keep ahead up the narrow path to regain the car park.
Woodland paths, fields, undulating Coast Path; several stiles
Wooded valley, farmland, wooded coast
On lead through farmland
OS Explorer 126 Clovelly & Hartland
Car park above Buck’s Mills (free)
None on route
WALKING IN SAFETY
Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.
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About the area
With magnificent coastlines, two historic cities and the world-famous Dartmoor National Park, Devon sums up all that is best about the British landscape. For centuries it has been a fashionable and much loved holiday destination – especially south Devon’s glorious English Riviera.
Close to the English Riviera lies Dartmoor, one of the south-west’s most spectacular landscapes. The National Park, which contains Dartmoor, covers 365 square miles and includes many fascinating geological features – isolated granite tors and two summits exceeding 2,000 feet among them.
Not surprisingly, in Dartmoor the walking opportunities are enormous. Cycling in the two National Parks is also extremely popular and there is a good choice of off-road routes taking you to the heart of Dartmoor and Exmoor. Devon’s towns and cities offer stimulating alternatives to the rigours of the countryside.
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