The Undercliff Nature Reserve, Axmouth, Devon
If you want a seriously good walk when you’re on your holiday in the West Country, The Undercliff really ought to be on your list. This nature reserve forms part of the South West Coast Path from Axmouth to Lyme Regis, though actually it’s best to start the 7.5 mile trek from Lyme because that way you avoid the initial steep climb up the hill – downhill at the end of your walk is so much better.
The Undercliff takes you through fields and woodlands on one of the biggest coastal landslips in Western Europe; once you get into the thick of it it’s incredible, like a lost world where everything has been left to its own devices and twisty-turny paths take you through dense growths of laurel, rhododendron, ash, field maple and fern; amongst it are the ruins of centuries old cottages and the tall chimney that was once part of a pumping station. A quite spectacular part of the reserve is when it opens out at Goat Island and the Great Chasm, formed by a huge landslip of clifftop farmland on Christmas Day in 1839. This area of chalk grassland is particularly rich in flora and fauna, notable for rare orchids and common blue butterflies.
It's a fascinating and beautiful place with incredible coastal views; more about the history of The Undercliff can be found in the Town Museum at Lyme Regis, which is well worth a look round anyway. Bear in mind that parts of the route can get a bit unstable after heavy rainfall so care must be taken and of course, you should always stick to the paths.
Plan your walk well if you don’t want to do the 15 mile hike there and back; either have a car at each end or use the bus to get back to your starting point. There are good pubs, cafes and tea shops at both ends for well deserved refreshments.
All information correct at the time of writing