Watersmeet is one of the largest remaining ancient woodlands in the south-west. Although it is dominated by Oak this woodland also has other species including some rare Whitebeams.
The East Lyn River runs through Watersmeet supporting heathland and wildlife. From salmon, trout and otters in the river. To redstarts, ravens, pied flycatchers and all three woodpeckers. And bilberry, sweet woodruff and dog’s mercury, not to mention the many lichens, mosses and fungi.
We weren’t lucky enough to spot any salmon or otters. And disappointingly we also didn’t see any of the above-mentioned birds. We did, however, spots tadpoles in the water on several occasions and a Song thrush. Who thoughtfully posed while Nik took his photo, for quite some time.
We could have started our walk at Lynmouth but we knew the chances were high that we’d get distracted by the town. So instead we started our day at Watersmeet House. A National Trust property, just under 2 miles east of Lynmouth. The house dates back to 1832 and was a former fishing lodge owned by Rev. Walter Halliday. Today the house is a tea room, shop and information centre.
Sitting at the bottom of a deep gorge, Watersmeet House was built on the east bank of the East Lyn River. It is at this point that the East Lyn River and Hoar Oak Water meet. The site has been a tea garden since 1901 and owned by the National Trust since 1934.
There are two places you can park from this end of the river. A layby just after the turning for the B3223, not very big, it is, however, free. From here you walk to the B3223, over the bridge and follow the woodland path all the way to Lynmouth if you so wish.
Alternatively, just above the site of Watersmeet House is the official parking space. A good percentage of people start their walk here. It is a pay & display but it’s then a short walk down the gorge to the house and where the two rivers converge.
We knew it was going to be a very hot day, so walking beside a river, under the trees seemed a very clever idea. As it turned out, the day was so hot, (the hottest this year), that being under the trees really didn’t make any difference. Thankfully, we took a lot of drinking water with us.
We had chosen to park in the pay and display car park and the walk down to the bottom of the gorge is fairly steep. Those that have trouble walking may find this quite a challenge and I definitely don’t recommend it for wheelchairs. Once we reached the bottom we decided that the first thing we should do is go and look at the waterfall which is signposted back along the river.
We walked past it and all the way back to the road without seeing the waterfall. The reason for this is that at present the trees have grown so far over the river that the viewing point obscures it. We were slightly disappointed, but only slightly.
Watersmeet has roughly 40 miles of countryside and woodland walks. So it would be impossible to do it all in one day. Especially given the terrain on this coastline. Some highly fit person will prove me wrong, I’m sure. After thoroughly exploring the house and its surround we chose to take a path on the east bank of the Lyn. Also signposted for Countisbury.
This isn’t the quickest or flattest route to Lynmouth but it did seem to be the least trodden. Not for the standard daywalker as you have to put a little more energy into it. It looked like it might be the most shaded and prettiest route, to us.
This path followed a more curved route uphill, through the trees and we were often quite far above the river. We weren’t wrong though, it was very scenic and along the way, we spotted several money trees. There was also a lovely little area to stop in the shade for a picnic. We did wonder, at one point, if walking to Lynmouth was such a good idea as it was amazingly hot. In the end, though we promised ourselves an ice-cream when we got there, which gave us the incentive to carry on.
By the time we reached Lynmouth the heat was really starting to affect me, so an ice-cream and sit down was a very welcome reward. There were only food places open on this occasion. In more normal times, you will find galleries, gift shops and the like. You would normally be able to visit the Glen Lyn Gorge and ride on the funicular Cliff Railway to Lynton.
We have seen all there is to see in both towns on other occasions and weren’t, therefore, disappointed. Besides, we had a hot walk back to Watersmeet House to achieve, so it was a bit of luck these places weren’t open to distract us. Especially as we were planning to walk back via the other bank. This would hopefully mean many stops for photos of, as yet, unseen things.
This route is found by walking back on ourselves a little way and then following the first signpost to the house. Initially, we were just trudging along the east bank of the river until we came to a bridge. This side of the river was actually more in the shade. Which made for a far more comfortable walk. Flatter and far less winding, this path was also closer to the river. Giving Nik far more water opportunities with his camera.
Not far from our starting point we came across the site of the Lynrock mineral water factory. Opened in 1911, it was a popular watering hole for the Edwardians. The water was reputed to be the most palatable in the world with radio-active qualities that could cure gout!
The factory closed in 1939 due to lack of demand and was destroyed in the devastating 1952 flood. Today all that remains are a few outer walls, a bottle in the wall with a plaque and possibly part of a fireplace.
We had hoped that when we arrived back at the house there would be fewer people about. Nik wanted a people-free photograph of the point that the East Lyn River and Hoar Oak Water meet. Unfortunately, it was such a nice afternoon that people were still sitting and playing in the river.
In all, we calculated our circular walk to be roughly 3½ miles from the car and back. It was such a hot day it seemed much longer. As we seem to be doing a lot more walking blogs we are considering investing in a proper app. so that we can give our readers an much more exact length.
There are a few photos of Nik getting his photos. For some reason, I have more fun documenting his day than taking photos of the scenery. We have joked that I should write a blog about going on a day out with a photographer. Maybe. One day.
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The days’ Photos
Click the images below to enlarge