Things to do

A Jurassic Coast dog walk

No sounds of worldly toil ascending there
Mar the full burst of prayer

High above Sidmouth, with breathtaking views along the red cliffs of the Jurassic Coast as far as Portland Bill in Dorset, Salcombe Hill is a spectacular vantage point, and one that invokes the spirit of the Romantic poets, feeling insignificant in the face of wondrous nature.

View from Salcombe HillSouth Combe Farm entrance stoneSteps down to Salcombe Mouth beach

Following the coast path eastwards from Salcombe Hill, we came across this stone, dedicating South Combe Farm and the surrounding cliff top as a permanent public space. It ended with the following words:

No sounds of worldly toil ascending there
Mar the full burst of prayer

On the blustery hill top where begins a steep descent to the near-deserted shingle beach below, I thought these words – no sounds of worldly toil ascending there – perfectly apt for our bank holiday Monday walk, specifically chosen to avoid crowds and take in some some unspoilt nature.

A path of many steps zig-zags down to the beach at Salcombe Mouth. It has been described as ‘calf-clenching’, but that probably refers to the reverse climb, which we avoided by doing a gentler loop back to the car park by heading north from the beach. But however arduous, the steps down are worth the effort, as you are rewarded with beautiful and quiet beach, spectacularly so for a bank holiday Monday.

Salcombe Mouth Beach

Lying on the shingle beach, with just the sounds of the sea lapping the shore, and hardly another soul in sight, I felt my spirit refreshing, like I was plugged in to some soul-recharging device. Though not religious, the sheer force of nature still moves me, as it did the writer of the words on the stone.

On returning home, I was intrigued to find out the source of the quotation, and found it comes from a Victorian book of religious verse by John Keble. The full verses that contain the lines quoted are just perfect for summing up Salcombe Hill, and I wondered if they had indeed been written on that very spot:

No sounds of worldly toil ascending there
Mar the full burst of prayer
Lone Nature feels that she may freely breathe,
And round us and beneath
Are heard her sacred tones: the fitful sweep
Of winds across the steep,
Through wither'd bents--romantic note and clear,
Meet for a hermit's ear,--
The wheeling kite's wild solitary cry,
And, scarcely heard so high,
The dashing waters when the air is still
From many a torrent rill
That winds unseen beneath the shaggy fell,
Tracked by the blue mist well:
Such sounds as make deep silence in the heart
For Thought to do her part.

We all need time out from the hustle and bustle of everyday life to allow for quiet contemplation and for thought to do her part, and a holiday in Devon can certainly provide that.

The woodland walk back to the car park

But not just the soul needs feeding – after a walk back to the car via the woodland, we drove into the seaside town of Sidmouth for the best ice cream in Devon – the perfect end to a perfect day!

 

Click here for a map of our full walk


 

By Mary Costello (of Molly and the Princess blog
All image credits to Mary

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