Every time I drive past the mud flats on the way into Seaton I think “I must come back here with my kayak one day”. Well, I still haven’t! I did stop for a look around Axmouth, though, as friends have been telling me to for years, and I’ve always just passed through.
Axmouth is a small village which, as its name would suggest, is at the mouth of the River Axe, in East Devon. It is in an AONB, and boasts a National Nature Reserve and two SSSIs, so punches above its weight in terms of landscape and ecological variety. The patch at ‘Coronation Corner’ is a favourite spot for bird-watchers who are attracted by the wide variety of waders, waterfowl and seabirds which feed on the mudflats at low tide, and there are views across the water to the Seaton Wetlands and Seaton Tramway, with regular trams zipping alongside the water’s edge.
The village is lucky enough to have two pubs, helped I’m sure by the riverside campsite and the flow of visitors to Seaton. I can’t claim to have tried either, but the menu of The Harbour looks very good, and The Ship boasts fresh fish, so I’d be happy to give either a try!
While in the village I decided to practice what I preached in ‘Cathedral of the Vale’ and take a quick look inside the church, and it’s fantastic. There are some really charming stained glass windows depicting pastoral scenes of swallows, hens, a ploughman, donkeys and other rural scenes, and there are three medieval paintings on the pillars.
If you park in one of the spaces on the main road, you can walk down to the harbour, which is very much a working harbour used by local fishermen, albeit on a small scale these days. There is a long harbour wall walk down to the beach, which is now overlooked by a brilliant, very stylish viewing platform called ‘The Prow’, part of the redevelopments made by Seaton Jurassic. I’d never seen the funny spit of land at the end of Seaton Beach before – it’s a kind of club-shaped shingle knob, for want of a better description! (My A-Level Geography teacher would not be impressed). At any one time, I reckon there was about 3 or 4 Labradors taking full advantage of the expanse of flat, sheltered water behind the spit, and I must say I regretted not taking mine along, she would have loved it.
From Axmouth you can easily link up with the coastal path which takes you along the Seaton end of the Undercliff, which can take you all the way along to Lyme Regis. Judging by the almost vertical start, this is not a walk for the faint-hearted, and it’s 7 miles of quite rough terrain with no opt-out paths until you get all the way to Lyme, so if you fancy it, make sure you are ready for changes in the weather and some eroded paths. However, the Undercliff is often described as a unique micro-climate, with some very specialised fauna & flora. I’m not going to go into detail about the Undercliff, as I fancy exploring it properly one day, with more time, a waterproof and a dog (maybe as part of the East Devon Walking Festival?)
There is a little cafe at Axmouth Harbour, and a pretty comprehensive tackle shop, selling fishing gear and live bait, but otherwise there is not really anything there, which is exactly its charm. There are no attractions, kiosks or activities, just a beach, a harbour (great for crabbing) and the wildlife of the mudflats and cliffs, so it’s a free, easy and relaxing place to visit.
If you want a bit more from a day out, it is still well worth popping into Axmouth on your way to or from Seaton, Lyme or Colyton, and if you have a dog, a child or a wildlife-spotter in the family, they will definitely thank you for it.