Wembury Bay and the River Yealm walk
An ideal walk for any day, with fine views of the Mewstone, Wembury Bay and, most impressively, the Yealm estuary. In summer, you can extend the route by taking the foot ferry over to Noss Mayo.
National Trust car park, grid ref: SX515485
Walk to the far end of the car park and take the steep zig-zag path leading up through the gorse on your left. As you climb between low banks of gorse and blackthorn, pause to look back over the beach, out to the Great Mewstone and Wembury Point. The Blackstone Rocks below were, in November 1824, the setting for an heroic rescue when the brig 'John' from Bideford ran into the reef. Continue up the path (in spring flanked by three cornered leek, alexanders and honesty) to pass between two houses. Another house stood on the right but was bombed during the Second World War; its ruins lie buried beneath the cliff top scrub.
Wembury and the sea
The eerie and mysterious Mewstone looms over Wembury Bay like the back of a huge prehistoric sea monster. No wonder there are so many sea legends about this stretch of coastline. When the brig 'John' ran aground on the Blackstone Rocks, James Cragg from the Yealm coastguard station was responsible for saving the captains wife, half-dead amongst the wreckage after the crew were washed away. In 1909, plans to build a huge passenger port stretching from Wembury Point to Gara Point were put before the House of Lords, fortunately they rejected the scheme.
Go through the gate and continue up the slope. The wall to your left enclosed a 19th-century warren where rabbits were farmed. Follow the path to the summit, passing on your right the quarry which provided the shale stone for the warren wall. Head down through the gate and bear left along the top path, away from the worn path leading towards Season Point.
Rabbits and ponies of Wembury
Look out for 'sheep creeps' in the walls - small gaps through which sheep but not cattle could pass. The pastures here are grazed by ponies, keeping them clear from scrub.
Follow the path eastwards and soon youll see the grey stone farm buildings of New Barton on your left. Go over a footbridge, and before passing through the gate, look for a small pond below on the right. On summer days this pond is often busy with dragonflies, damselflies, frogs and newts. Go through the gate and along the path, through further gates, with views of the River Yealm through the bushes. Keep an eye out for ravens and peregrine falcons which nest in the cliffs. Between monterey pines, half-hidden by scrub, you may spot a Plymouth tramways electric supply box.
New Barton Farm and views of the Yealm
We've owned this historic 450-acre farm since 1996 and, together with the tenant farmer, have been working to preserve the environment. Wide field margins are left around crop fields for skylarks and grey partridges to feed and nest in. Barley stubble is also left for birds in winter. The farm hosts public walks, tractor-trailer rides and dry-stonewalling events and also has a shop selling local produce including its own beef, lamb and pork. In the Second World War the farm acted as decoy site for enemy aircraft.
A further gate brings you to Rocket Cottage, which once stored the Yealm Coastguard horse-drawn lifesaving apparatus. Continue past the cottage (turn right to Warren Point and the seasonal ferry to Gara Point, or turn left for a short cut to Wembury village). Follow the waymarked Thorn Path into Clitters Wood. When the path forks, take the upper route which soon leads out of the trees. Follow the path uphill towards a fence and hedge boundary and into a field. Head across the field towards the stone wall, then turn sharp left and follow the field edge and wall to reach the gates of a stock-handling area. Go through this, turn right and follow the track uphill, then round to the left and out onto Warren Lane. Turn right towards Wembury village.
History and wildlife of the Yealm
The Yealm Coastguard apparatus fired line-carrying rockets onto vessels in distress and pulled survivors ashore in a leg harness 'breeches-buoy'. When travelling through the woods in springtime you'll see campion, bugle and displays of bluebells. Also look for deer hoof-prints in the mud.
Follow the lane, past a barn and some cottages, and where the lane curves to the right to pass the walls of Monckswood, take the unpaved track to the left. The track veers to the right and narrows to a shady path, in spring lined with celandines and the vanilla-scented winter heliotrope. Across the field to your right is Monckswood, built on the site of the stable block of Wembury House, which stands just behind it. Take the path to the left (signposted to church and beach), which skirts the village, running along the backs of houses and through a gate. Turn right through a second gate to cross a field and emerge onto a lane. Turn left, then right onto a track which soon descends through a field towards St Werburgh Church. A gate leads onto the coast path and down to the car park.
St Werburgh's Church
Explore St Werburgh's with its graves of shipwrecked sailors, monuments to local families, carved benchends and stained-glass window depicting the Mewstone.
National Trust car park, grid ref: SX515485
You made it
Following this trail on mobile or tablet? Share your experience.