Baggy Point to Woolacombe circular walk
A circular walk around Baggy Point, the sand dunes of Woolacombe Warren and back along the beach with breathtaking coastal, sea and farmland views. An excellent route for wild flowers and bird watching. The area is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for its geological features.
Baggy Point car park, grid ref: SS430398
Go out of car park by the kiosk and turn right up the asphalted lane, signed Baggy Point 1 mile. Be careful as there can be traffic on this section. Go through gate posts to the fingerpost at the fork in the path, go left here. On your left at this point is the only dog waste bin in this area. Follow the asphalted track past the houses. Watch out for peregrines flying overhead here. Follow the track, keeping to your left at the next fork to your right here is a driveway to a modern house. 28yd (25m) along here stop and look at the whale bones on the right side of the path - remains of a whale washed up on Croyde Beach in 1915. They were preserved here for the benefit of visitors by the Hyde family who gave Baggy Point to us in 1939.
Baggy Point is designated a SSSI because of its geological formations, particularly the Devonian sandstone formed here between 417-354 million years ago. Overlying the Devonian rocks are raised beach and periglacial deposits from the Quarternary period. North Devon is famous for a number of large glacial erratics - boulders made from rock that is not found in the area. One of the most well-known is nearby on Saunton Beach - a pink granite boulder that weighs 12 tons; the nearest outcrop of similar rocks occurs in western Scotland.
Follow this mostly level, graded track along to the end of the headland; look out to your left across the bays to Hartland in the far distance. We also have downloadable trails for this area - please see our website for details. In spring and summer the cliff slopes are carpeted in wild flowers, and in autumn you'll see gorse and funghi. As the path curves slightly to your left, look for three steps up to your right where you'll find a pond that's been restored to create a valuable wildlife habitat. It was built by the Hyde family who were keen conservationists and protectors of Baggy Point. The water here is deep so please keep your children and dogs under close supervision. Return to the path, passing through the gorse to the gate. Stop a while here and look at the memorial stone set into the wall to Henry Williamson (1895-1977), an English naturalist, farmer and prolific author who won the Hawthornden Prize for literature in 1928 for his book, Tarka the Otter.
33yd (30m) past the gate you'll come to a fingerpost. Carry on straight here, signposted Baggy Point ½ mile. On the day this trail was walked there was a rare bird visitor to Baggy an Iceland gull that had brought a number of birders to have a look. There's a detour off this path that leads down to the rock pools if you do decide to take a look please be careful as the path and the rocks can be slippery. Look out for grey seals along the shoreline, especially in the summer. On a clear day you can see Lundy Island, 20 miles due west across the Atlantic Ocean. Lundy is owned by us and managed by the Landmark Trust. It can be reached by boat in season and by helicopter all year. The waters around the island are world famous for scuba diving and, unusually, Lundy has licence to issue its own postage stamps. There are a number of holiday cottages and a renowned pub. Please see www.nationaltrust.org.uk/lundy for details.
When you reach the headland take time to stop and absorb the view. On clear days, and when the sea birds aren't nesting, you may see the many rock climbers that come to Baggy Point to take advantage of the variety of routes it offers. You can also see the headland at Morte Point from here, also owned by us - please visit our website for walks from Mortehoe. At the headland the path makes a sharp hairpin turn up to your right to a gate. Go through the gate and take the grassy path immediately to your left, following it along the fence line. It widens out into a grassy track that goes across a field at the top of the cliff past an old coastguard wreck post, once used for training and the only one surviving in North Devon. Please do not go to the edge of the cliff and ensure you keep your dogs on a lead. As you walk across this field look to you right at Hoe Wall - a traditional North Devon dry stone wall that straddles the spine of the promontory. Many types of lichen and moss thrive here, testament to the wonderful air quality we have in this part of the country. How many types can you see?
Follow the grassy track as it passes out onto the eastern side of Baggy Point, where the panoramic vista across Woolacombe Bay comes into view. Stay on the path along the cliff top. In the spring and the summer listen out for the characteristic song of the stone chats, usually found sitting on the tops of the gorse and bramble bushes; in the winter you might hear robins. Go through the next gate and at the finger post follow the grassy path to your left. As you walk along this section look up to your right at the concrete bunker this is one of several dummy pillboxes on Baggy Point that were built in the Second World War and used as part of the D-Day Normandy landing training that took place here.
Second World War
During the Second World War, much of the North Devon coast was used for military training in preparation for the D-Day landings as its similarity to the Normandy coast made it an ideal location. The entire coastal area, from Braunton Burrows to Morte Point, was assigned to the US Army as an assault training centre. The exercises that took place on the plateau fields of Baggy Point were intended to stimulate assaults on enemy beaches, and dummy pillboxes were built to represent enemy gun emplacements. We have a Second World War themed walk through Woolacombe Warren; please check our website for details.
Go over the stile and stay on the grassy track along the top of the cliffs. Cross over the next stile, looking back at the view down Baggy Point. Carrying on, the path winds its way through shoulder-high gorse bushes which, in late summer and autumn, will be ablaze with bright yellow flowers.
At the fingerpost continue ahead, signed Woolacombe 3 miles. Go over the next stile and follow the path down between the dry stone wall and the gorse. At the next fingerpost, follow the coast path sign along the grassy track off to your right across the field (dont follow the path down into the private campsite). Walk over the field to the fingerpost by the hedgerow. Turn left following the South West Coast Path (SWCP) sign down towards the road, keeping the hedge bank on your right. Go through the gate, turn left along path and then out onto the road, still walking to left; beware of traffic. (At the yellow sign for Putsborough beach, you can make a detour to the seasonal café and, if you like, walk along the beach to Woolacombe instead of following this trail through the sand dunes of Woolacombe Warren along SWCP). Walk along the road straight ahead of you, following SWCP, signed Public Bridleway. The road narrows into a level track. Follow the fingerposts, signed Coast Path and Bridleway; dont take any of the footpaths signed off to your left and right. Carry on until the path widens out slightly, where you'll see a fingerpost on your left signed: Putsborough ½ mile (the way you've come), Woolacombe 1½ miles (straight ahead along Marine Drive car park at back of sand dunes), or left along SWCP into the dunes. Turn left and follow the path down the steps and up the path to the signpost marker in the dunes.
Turn right here and follow this track through the dunes all the way to Woolacombe, passing several fingerposts along the way. Follow the path as it climbs up the dunes, staying on the main path as it bends slightly to your left. As the path nears Woolacombe, you'll pass a National Trust donation box and a dog waste bin on your left. Follow the path along the edge of the wooden fence and down onto the road. Turn left here and follow the road into Woolacombe. Please be aware of traffic as this is a public road.
Erosion is a major problem in these sand dunes. Prior to the Second World War they were used as a golf course and during the war they were devastated by defensive works and invasion training. Nowadays, constant use of the paths adds to erosion. In the 1970s, marram grass was planted to stabilise the sand - to great success and grazing by rabbits encourages the growth of plants such as thyme, eyebright and yellow stonecrop. Bee orchids and pyramidal orchids can also be seen, as well as mats of lichens. Rare plants such as Portland spurge, sea holly and sea spurge grow at the Woolacombe end of the sand dunes.
There are many places to eat in Woolacombe and plenty of shops and activities for the whole family to enjoy. To return to Putsborough you can either retrace your steps back through the sand dunes, or walk back along the beach. When you arrive back at Putsborough, return onto the road, turn right and retrace your steps back to the gate you came through earlier on in your walk. Turn right through the gate and follow the footpath back to the fingerpost in the hedge bank.
Woolacombe's Blue Flag award-winning beach, with its golden sands stretching for 3 miles (5km), is one of the finest in the country. The waves that break on its shores attract surfers from around the world, and the hill behind the beach is a popular launch site for paragliders and hangliders. The history of Woolacombe goes all the way back to the Stone Age. Mentioned in the Domesday Book, its historic name - Wolmecoma - means Wolves Valley, presumably because the forests that used to surround the settlement were populated by wolves. In the early 19th century, tourists began to visit and to this day it remains a popular holiday destination.
Carry on straight, following the footpath, keeping the fence and hedgebank to your left. Where the fence turns to your left, follow the yellow footpath arrow diagonally across the field to the hedgerow to the far left corner. There's a sweeping view across Croyde village and its world-famous surf beach. To your right there's a standing stone - one of three found on this part of the north coast that are thought to be of prehistoric origin. The use and significance of these stones is unknown but they're likely to be of ritual significance. Nowadays they serve as ideal rubbing stones for livestock.
Go through the gate in the dry stone wall and follow the narrow path between the hedgerows. You can see the remains of the stepping stones set into the dry stone wall that, until recently, you had to climb over. When you reach the end of the path take the route signed straight ahead of you along the farm track. Follow the track to the end, where you follow the fingerpost down to your left signed Public Footpath. Go straight ahead of you, over the stile and down the hill along the narrow path sandwiched between the hedgerows. These hedge banks are filled with wild flowers in the spring and summer. Follow the yellow arrow down the farm track, past the farm on your right and down to the public road.
Turn right, cross the road and follow the path back to the car park. Please be aware of traffic and ensure dogs are on leads. You'll pass the Sandleigh Tea Rooms and Garden, a collaborative partnership between ourselves and our tenants (seasonal opening please check our website for details). We hope that you enjoyed this walk. The National Trust looks after some of the most spectacular areas of coastline for the enjoyment of all. We need your support to help us continue our work to cherish the countryside and provide access to our beautiful landscapes. To find out more about how you can help our work as a volunteer, member or donor please go to www.nationaltrust.org.uk/northdevon
Baggy Point car park, grid ref: SS430398
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