The 7 mile (11 km) walk between Lyme Regis and Axmouth through the Undercliffs National Nature Reserve forms part of the South West Coast Path. This section of the path will take you on a journey through a unique and fascinating natural habitat.
The Undercliff is a sheltered wooded wilderness by the sea situated on one of the most active coastal landslide systems in Western Europe with a band of folds and troughs constantly evolving and being shaped and reshaped by landslips.
The Undercliff has a reputation for being the closest thing you’ll get to a rainforest in the UK with a warm and humid microclimate nurturing a carpet of ferns, fungi, wild clematis and orchids beneath a dense leafy canopy of self-sown Ash and Field Maple. It’s also home to a variety of birds and wildlife including ravens, peregrine falcons and owls as well as reptiles and amphibians such as grass snake, common lizard and great crested newt.
One of the many highlights of the route is Goat Island, famous for being the first ever scientifically described and recorded landslip. On Christmas Eve 1839, several fields slipped seaward which caused a chasm to form behind the landslide block, now known as Goat Island. The landslip became very famous and was visited by Queen Victoria.
This walk is challenging as the journey takes you on a steeply undulating and winding path through a maze of rock cavities, landslips and woodland. The terrain is uneven with several steps to climb and sections of the path can be muddy and slippery after wet weather.
The route follows the contours of landslips along the edge of the coast. There are some coastal views, but mostly you're in a lost world of tangled green vegetation. There are many fallen trees, often crusted in various fungi, ferns and lichens.
At the halfway point you’ll encounter the ruin of a pumping station and engineer’s house on the edge of the Rousdon Estate.
It’s important to note that once you have entered the Undercliff there are no paths leading inland (or seaward) and it takes around 3½ to 4 hours to reach Axmouth.
There are several information boards along the route explaining the history of the Undercliff, its flora, fauna and archaeology to help you enjoy this unique landscape.
The walk takes longer than you may expect, so allow plenty of time, particularly if catching a bus at the other end.
You can choose to start your walk from either Axmouth or Lyme Regis with relatively frequent bus services between the two enabling you to take a trip to the start or return at the end.
If you’re planning to start the walk from Lyme Regis, follow the signs from either the western end of Holmbush car park or from the steps near Lyme Regis Bowling Club. The walk will end at Axmouth harbour and you can walk a further few minutes into Seaton for refreshments.