“ National Trust location in Lynmouth, Devon. „
Walking along the East Lyn river from the small coastal town of Lynmouth in North Devon to Watersmeet has to be one of my favourite walks in England. Not only is the walk through beautiful surroundings but there is also the added bonus of a quaint typical English tearoom at the point where the East Lyn and Hoar Oak water meet at Watersmeet House.
Watersmeet House can only be accessed by the general public, by participating in this riverside walk, although there is a track which is used by staff and deliveries to reach the tearooms. Prior arrangements can be made by people with disabilities to use this track and the limited parking at the tearooms by calling 01598 753348 during the opening hours of 10 - 5.
The starting point that we normally take when walking to Watersmeet is to park in Lynmouth, either in the public pay and display car park or the National Trust free parking area which is sign posted from the Countisbury Hill side of the bridge. This parking area at the start of the footpath to Watersmeet however is tiny with only 7 spaces so the public one may be a safer bet, although we struck lucky on our latest visit so saved ourselves a few pounds.
The East Lyn is a beautiful river with numerous large boulders in it which the river courses over. After some heavy rain recently the river was roaring through at quite a pace and with great energy. In 1952 the rivers that converge at Watersmeet as well as another that also enters the sea at Lynmouth causes horrendous devastation after storms destroying buildings and killing 38 people, so it is wise to be cautious of the power of these waters, but normally they are safe and pretty to walk alongside.
The walk starts on the left bank of the river, so from the public carpark you will need to cross the bridge and follow the bank - you'll see a map of the country side that is managed by the National Trust when you reach the national Trust carpark and this shows the route to the tearoom as well as numerous other paths that can also be taken. Watersmeet is well sign posted from this point as you follow the path along the left bank and then over a pretty wooden bridge to reach the right bank. As you reach the tearoom another bridge will need to be crossed to enable you to either take a break here or continue on to further destinations.
The path splits at one point allowing you to take either the riverside route or the woodland route and this also means that it is easy to turn this into a circular walk which is always preferable for me as I like to see a variety of surroundings. There isn't much difference in distance whichever route you take, both being signed as 1.75 miles, but there is quite a difference in terrain. I would recommend that the riverside route is not only the less strenuous route but it is also the prettiest and most interesting. Having said it is less strenuous, it is certainly not a flat easy walk and sturdy shoes are a necessity in my opinion. Better still are wellies as like us you will then also be able to paddle at some of the quieter points on the river and stroll out to a rock to sit on and sunbathe. This is one of the things that we love best about this walk and we spent ages playing in the water on our latest trek. We did see some people walking in flip flops and open sandals but this must have been quite hard going as there are numerous steps, steep slopes, rocky and uneven surfaces not to mention mud and puddles. On the woodland walk I would even go as far as saying that adventuring with this type of footwear could be extremely dangerous. This part of the route has very steep climbs up and down with treacherous sheer drops to the side. I am not very sure footed and struggled a bit managing some of the downhill slopes needing a helping hand to ensure that I stayed upright. Needless to say this route is totally unsuitable for anyone with mobility difficulties and I would have been concerned to walk here with young children as I would have been terrified of them falling over the edge. The riverside route however is perfect for a walk with children, and it's a fun route with lots to see along the way. I remember doing this walk many years ago with a buggy; we must have been insane and had to carry the buggy for quite a bit of the time. A back carrier would be a sensible bit of kit to have unless you want to make life really hard for yourself.
Watersmeet can also be walked to from Countisbury Hill and along the Hoar Oak river from the village of Rocksford, but I've never tried these so cannot comment. We have however continued up the East Lyn to Hillsford Bridge which is signed from the tearoom and this is well worth doing for the outstanding views of waterfalls; they really are impressive. This again is a reasonably heavy going stretch of walk uphill with sheer drops down a long long way, but perfectly manageable for anyone with average fitness. It is a further ¼ mile to the viewpoint and ½ mile to the bridge - best done to work up an appetite for the tearoom rather than on a stomach full of cream tea!
Watersmeet House is a picturesque cottage and is run as tearoom by the National Trust and also includes a small shop selling the normal National Trust things such as books, outdoor clothing, sweets and biscuits, tea towels etc. There is only a small indoor eating area with three tables. This whole outing is really only recommended in fine weather as the footpaths become treacherous in the rain, so I doubt if there is much custom on a rainy day. Outdoor seating however is plentiful on a patio and a large lawn with round wooden tables, some with umbrellas.
The food is as you would expect from an English tearoom with Devon cream teas of freshly baked scones, local clotted cream and strawberry jam. Three of us had these and they were delicious. The surroundings always contribute to the taste of a cream tea and sitting overlooking the river on a sunny day was just about perfect. As neither my daughter nor I drink tea we had to request soft drinks instead to be included in the £4.95 price. That was not a problem, but the lady did seem to get very confused about the numbers with and without tea and I overheard another customer struggling to make her wishes clear as well. Hospitality was perhaps not quite as good as it might have been, but it was busy and a queue was building so I think the staff were under a bit of pressure.
I loved the look of Cornish pasties and salad that were brought out to other customers as we arrived. Sadly though they had run out when we tried to order these. My other daughter had a hot sausage roll which she really enjoyed. Toasties for £3.80, sandwiches for 3.00, soup for £3.50, ploughmans for £7.50 and delicious looking quiches for £5.90 all looked good too and the cakes looked amazing and huge ranging from £1.50. I don't think I'd have been disappointed with anything that I had ordered from here.
There were three toilets in the ladies which aside from muddy floors from the countless walking boots that had passed through were clean.
**To finish off the walk**
A day out at Watersmeet can be nicely finished off with a wander around Lynmouth. This is a tiny town with a pretty little harbour. Shops are of the gift type with lots selling icecreams and boxes of Devonshire toffees to take back home for gifts. I enjoyed looking around a couple of galleries and most moving of all is the memorial hall which contains photographs, newspaper articles and film of the 1952 flood. You then can't help trying to match the photos to the current landscape and see what is missing. Fortunately the flood defences are now improved so you should feel in no danger of being the victim of flash floods again in the town.
This is a beautiful walk that I always look forward to doing if we visit Exmoor. The babbling river makes an idyllic setting for photographs especially where there are waterfalls and rapids and the tearoom makes a perfect end point.
This review also appears on Ciao under my same user name - MelissaRuth.
Watersmeet House and tea garden, close to Lynton and Lynmouth on the North Devon coast of Exmoor, is a must-visit destination. Set in a deep river valley, full of lush greenery and with walks to enjoy in every direction, it really cannot be rivaled for a perfect rest spot.
Whether you park close by on the A39, and take the short but steep 10 minute walk down to the house, or you start from Lynmouth and amble alongside the stunning East Lyn River (45 minutes - 1 hour), the riverside setting is fantastic, with a beautiful waterfall to stand and admire.
The tea garden is great, friendly staff, and a great selection of light bites like pasties, toasted sandwiches, a massive selection of cakes and my personal favourite - the cream tea! And what a cream tea it is - at £4.95, its not the cheapest BUT you get two huge scones - mine were still slightly warm, and perfectly moist and loads of clotted cream and Jam. You get a choice of jam - Strawberry or Whortleberry - Whortleberry is a local Exmoor speciality - its somewhat like blackberry - a rich red colour, with a tart flavour - really great to cut through the taste of the clotted cream.
Its run by the National Trust so has all the usual things you'd expect like very clean toilets and a small gift shop. Their website is really useful www.nationaltrust.org.uk/watersmeet and you can also download free walking trails to explore the area (and earn that cream tea!)