Lynmouth to Ash Bridge circular walk
An interesting circular walk from the historic seaside village of Lynmouth via Watersmeet House Tea Garden to Ash Bridge, along the beautiful wooded banks of the East Lyn River.
Enjoy a sea of bluebells in Barton Wood in spring
Rich in wildlife and birds, you may see otters if you're very lucky. In early spring, the woods near Ash Bridge are filled with bluebells.
Lynmouth public car park, Countisbury Hill, grid ref: SS724494
Before you leave the car park, look at Lynmouth Church to your right. Dating from 1870, the church houses an exhibition of photographs, donated to the church by us, taken after the 1952 flood. It hosts a memorial flower festival each August. When you're ready, walk out of the car park at the top left corner towards the white metal bridge that crosses the river just ahead of you, keeping the East Lyn River on your left. Cross the bridge and turn immediately right. Continue walking upstream, with the river now on your right. Please be careful crossing the road - it's a public highway. Follow the public footpath upstream towards Watersmeet.
The 1952 Lynmouth Flood
Following a day of torrential rain on August 15, 1952, the East and West Lyn rivers thundered down to the sea, leaving in their wake devastation and death. Lives were lost in Lynmouth and other villages in the area. The tiny hamlet of Middleham was completely washed away.
Follow the green public footpath signed: 'Watersmeet 1¾ miles'. Keep an eye out for dippers, they can be seen on the rocks in the centre of the river. Across the water you can see the Middleham Memorial Gardens.
Walk past the bridge across the river, carrying on upstream with the river on your right. As you do, breathe in deeply and smell the wonderful freshness of the river water as it cascades over rocks and rapids.
At the next fingerpost, the path forks. Turn right here, signed 'Watersmeet Riverside Walk'. Follow the path down towards the river, cross over the bridge and turn left. You're now walking upstream with the river on your left. Stay on this path, following signs to Watersmeet.
You'll pass a new wooden bridge on your left. This was recently replaced with funds provided by grant from Bovril. Getting the bridge into place was extremely challenging and had us holding our breath at times.
Just before you come to seven stone steps in the path, stop and look to your right where you will see a natural spring called the Lynrock Fountain. A pottery ginger beer bottle and an information panel set into the rock face nearby designate the site of the Lynrock Mineral Water Factory - destroyed in the 1952 flood. A fireplace and mantelpiece are all that remain.
When you come to Watersmeet (where the East Lyn River and Hoar Oak Water meet), pause a while on the first bridge to look at the waterfalls. In the holiday season, stop at our tea garden and try our famous Devon cream teas. There's also a gift shop and toilets.
Watersmeet House was built in 1832 as a fishing lodge by Reverend W S Halliday, son of a rich businessman. Stone for the house was quarried at Watersmeet, above the East Lyn River. A tea garden since 1901, it still buzzes with activity, especially in summer.
If you don't stop at Watersmeet House, cross the first bridge and then turn right, upstream, just before the second bridge signed 'Rockford'. If you do stop at the tea garden, retrace your steps over the bridge closest to Watersmeet House and turn left upstream. The East Lyn river is on your left. You will notice a mine adit in the rock face to your right, just by the bridge. This is a remnant of speculative mineral exploration by wealthy Victorian local landowners.
At the next fingerpost stay left, signed 'Rockford 1.5 miles'. Just past here is the partially restored remains of an old lime kiln on the riverbank.
At the fork in the track is a three-finger sign post for Barton Wood. Follow Footpath Rockford to your left, down through Barton Wood towards the river.
This beech wood is beautiful in autumn when copper-coloured leaves cover its floor; in spring it's carpeted with bluebells. Over the past 15 years, we've removed the larch and thinned the beech, so that it looks less like the commercial woodland it was planted as in the 1950s. Over the next 30 years, we'll thin more beech trees to create a glade that will be left to re-seed with native oaks.
When you reach Ash Bridge, cross over the river and turn left at the fingerpost on the other side, signed 'Watersmeet'. Walk downstream with the river on your left. Stay on the path back to Watersmeet House.
When you reach Watersmeet House, stop for tea and cake if the House is open. Follow the gravel track from the house towards Lynmouth, keeping the river on your left. Just past the house you'll pass an information board about Glenthorne Fisheries, showing the permitted fishing pools and contact information.
Fishing on the East Lyn
Public fishing rights on the East Lyn are leased to the Environment Agency by us. Excellent fishing opportunities can be had in the pools on the river between Watersmeet House and Woodside Bridge. Salmon season runs from 1 March to 30 September; sea trout and brown trout from 15 March to 30 September. Daily and weekly permits available - details on our main page.
Carry on past the stone bridge that you passed earlier on the opposite bank. Follow the footpath straight ahead of you signed 'Woodland Walk Lynmouth'. As you walk along this section of the path, look up to your right at the scree on the hillside - it formed as the ground thawed at the end of the last Ice Age.
Stay on this footpath all the way back to Lynmouth. Where the path opens out, just before the small car park to your right, cross over the wooden bridge and walk back to the car park with the river on your right, past the Middleham Memorial Gardens located on the hillside to your left. If you have time, walk up into the gardens to admire the flowers and stop on the benches.
This walk can also be started from Watersmeet - direction point 6. Car parking is available in the public car park on the A39 above Watersmeet House, located on the left before the road drops down into Lynmouth.
Lynmouth public car park, Countisbury Hill, grid ref: SS724494
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