Access Info for teachers

River Lynn Catchment Access Advice for Teachers

Prayway Head

The B3223 goes North from Simonsbath to Prayway Head to Brendon 2 Gates to Hillsford Bridge to Watersmeet and Lynton; Prayway Head is a mile North of Simonsbath as the road levels out you cross the watershed between the Exe and the Lyn. There is a pull in on the right and large coach pull in on the left (West).

The pull in on the right gives access an open flat area of wet grassy moorland. Skirting this initial wet patch and heading NE brings you to a grassy edge with a steep grassy drop to the young river Exe. Flowing from West to East the river is small and largely in a straight line within the valley; its headwaters at Exe Head can just be seen in the NW. Excluding the steep drop to the river this is good place for children to let off some energy.

Close examination of a 1:25000 map will make route finding much easier.

Exe Head

From Simonsbath going North the biggest coach park is on the left at Prayway Head. Exe Head is accessed via a large expanse of a grassy ‘dome’ known as Dure Down.

At Prayway Head go through the main gate and then another small hunting gate to your right some 50 m away. Follow this hedge boundary West. Dure Down is a largely featureless rounded lump; it is an easy walk but one that you never quite see the other side of the hill from, its main asset is its safety and views on a good day. This hedge bank ends and turns into a wire fence; keep following it as it gradually curves Northwards. As the fence ends follow a definite raised mound that continues on the contour of the hill. The middle distance views open up of the ‘young’ river Barle tributaries flowing South and East. Following the bank the route will become wetter and wetter as you veer North and appear to come to a boggy ‘saddle’ with muddy gateway in an East –West fence line. It is highly likely that you have wet feet by now and are at Exe Head. Facing North the ‘young’ river Lyn flows ahead and in the boggy area some 800m in front of you the rivers Lyn and Exe divide West and East respectively. If you feel adventurous one of Exmoor’s most spectacular combes is in front of you as the young Hoar Oak water (Lyn) descends to the bottom of Long Chains Combe. This leads down below Hoar Oak Cottage and can be followed to Hillsford Bridge and ultimately Lynmouth. This is not a typical school group walk but can be done in sections with experienced staff; knowing exit points and the safety of the road a mile to your East at all times. Advice happily given from ENPA education staff.

The return walk from Exe Head to Prayway Head needs to turn East and follow the quad bike track on the Northern contour of Dure Down. The rushes gradually are replaced by green grass and views emerge of the river Exe heading East towards Exford. Without loosing height the route should bring you back to the East – West hedge bank that you started on. The total walk is about 2 miles but will feel further because of the exposure and the fact that you never quite see where you are headed; in essence it is like walking round a sweating, bald monk’s head!

This route is exposed and can be very wet and cold. The leader needs to make sure he or she is comfortable to lead such routes. Advice is available from ENPA 01398323665.

A shorter but wetter route does exist to Exe Head: drop off from the coach at Exe head bridge beyond Prayway Head is possible with careful child management. Follow path sign west to Exe head. This is not an easy 1000m; gradually climbing, very wet and uneven. The Exe, Lyn and Barle all have headwaters in the boggy saddle at Exe head; all in the area of a rugby pitch. Circular return walk goes back over Dure Down which is largely a ‘green lumpy’ hill to meet transport at Prayway Head. Collection is much easier than drop off due to the large parking area.

Close examination of a 1:25000 map will make route finding much easier.

Exe Plain Mire site

North of Exe Head Bridge the next access point to the moorland is the ‘re-wetting’ mires site, the pull in is possible for a coach giving a quick exit in poor weather. This is on the West side of the road and some 500 m North of the Exe. ‘Mires and re-wetting’ are exactly what one might expect; damming the post war drains to retain the water, to re-establish the blanket bog (sphagnum), to ‘lock up’ the carbon within a balanced eco-system instead of letting it into our atmosphere. Waterproof boots or trainers to get wet in (in the summer) make for a lot of fun as short circular walks are possible along with scientific experiments. This flattish area adjacent to the road is again a ‘watershed’ for Farley Water (tributary of the Lyn) going North and the Exe going east before South.

Brendon 2 Gates to the Lyn tributaries

A mile beyond the Mire site is the county boundary, known as Brendon 2 Gates. There is ample parking here. The river Lyn headwaters of Farley Water and Hoar Oak Water are in parallel combes to the West, and are accessible with careful preparation and consideration for the weather. Both combes have steep descents and climbs and children need strong management to prevent them ‘over-running’ downhill and falling. Given a school day and good preparation the route can go West to Hoar Oak Water and return via the same route following the East West Wall. Alternatively for the well prepared, Hoar Oak Water can be followed to Hillsford Bridge for a coach pick up. In good conditions this will be a most memorable walk as the stream gradually gets bigger descending to the sea.

Close examination of a 1:25000 map will make route finding much easier.

Brendon 2 Gates to Hoccombe Combe

Hoccombe Combe to the East of Brendon 2 Gates holds Hoccombe Water, and the ‘springs’ that make this tributary of the River Lyn can be found within 1 km of this coach parking. The road does need crossing but careful positioning of adults makes this possible to the North of the cattle grid. From here there is a wide expanse of moorland that gradually drops away. Following the line of ‘worn’ moorland the path drops to cross its first tributary; in the winter this will be wet, in the summer dry. If no water is found here the shallow combe can be followed to find signs of water further down. Some 2 km in the distance to the East, Hoccombe Combe meets Badgworthy Water and turns North to meet the East Lyn at Malmsmead. The top of Hoccombe Combe is a relatively safe and open place with wet feet in the winter and ticks in the summer being the main precautions to take. Further interest within 500 m of the road can be found by searching for the Bronze age standing stones that are hidden knee high and on the south facing side of the combe.

Close examination of a 1:25000 map will make route finding much easier.

Dry Bridge Parking to Little Hill

From 2 gates continue North for 2 km until a large square parking area on the right. Crossing the road with children needs careful management but after this, wet feet in the winter and ticks in the summer are the main safety precautions. Middle Hill, Little Hill and Farley Hill are all bisected by tributaries of Farley Water and are accessible combes with some steep drops into the streams. Following the combes down to Farley water is possible with the same return, or alternatively climbing Cheriton Ridge and following the 2 Moors Way to Cheriton, Hoar Oak Water and Hillsford Bridge. The coach would then meet you at the bridge.

Close examination of a 1:25000 map will make route finding much easier.

Lynmouth to Watersmeet…..Watersmeet to Lynmouth

Outlined below are suggestions for a day’s fieldwork in Lynmouth, the East Lyn Valley, Watersmeet and Myrtleberry Cleave.  Taken together all of the activities and the walking constitute about 2 to 4 hours of work (if they are all attempted) and the total distance covered will vary according to the route. 

At Lynmouth begin at the main car park with toilets by Lyndale Bridge on the A39 which is large enough to accommodate coaches.  Heading South follow the river; the path crosses and re-crosses the river at various points as it gradually climbs to Watersmeet through the gorge. When in spate the walk is spectacular and noisy when not tranquil and peaceful.

Safe access to the river needs particular care and every teacher or leader needs to make their own assessment on the day of activity. However, just East of The Lodge at Myrtleburry is a particularly wide area of shallow water that in good weather can be a delight to work with and in easy distance of Watersmeet. Watersmeet itself can be used as a measuring site but the leader needs to be assured as to the safe state of the river; below knee height wading can be possible here.

The field work can be done on a linear walk alongside the river, finishing with a bus pick up at the Watersmeet coach park. The route can be easily reversed if preferred with a drop off at Watersmeet and down hill walk to Lynmouth. Toilets are available at Watersmeet but a courtesy call is welcomed if taking a group of children in.

Myrtleberry Hill fort is above the Watersmeet car park and can be accessed by a short sharp steep climb on a path some 50 m below the car park. Myrtleberry can also be accessed form the higher Two Moors Way path linking Hillsford Bridge with Lynton.

The Watersmeet to Lynmouth route can be extended by a ‘drop off’ at Hillsford Bridge a further mile upstream from Watersmeet. The river can be followed on its eastern bank and some care is needed where the path is narrow. Alternatively the Two Moors Way can be followed  by walking up the road from Hillsford Bridge for some 50 m before taking the footpath on the right on the steep bend. This path is above the Lyn gorge and contours the combes firstly to Myrtleberry and then on to Oxon Tor before steeply dropping to Lynmouth or carrying on to Lynbridge on the Barbrook road. From the Two Moors Way above Myrtleberry it is possible to drop down through the enclosure and join the path to Watersmeet.

This higher route around the Cleaves has some of the most spectacular views of any walk on Exmoor and with care and good management is perfectly usable.

Close examination of a 1:25000 map will make route finding much easier.