• With Kids in the Westcountry

Branscombe buggy friendly walk to the beach and the Sea Shanty café

Updated: Jul 9

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I think I’ve just discovered a new favourite ‘Sunday family day out’! It’s a pleasant 1-mile sort-of-circular walk through the Devon countryside – buggy/wheel/dog friendly – that also takes in a working forge, water mill, gorgeous sea-view café, rugged beach, secret orchard, tearoom and an adventure playground…. not bad for a simple Sunday jaunt!

If this sort of itinerary floats your boat, head to the pretty coastal village of Branscombe, not far from Seaton and Sidmouth. I always imagine Branscombe to be further away than it actually is, probably down to the fact that access to the village is via steep and narrow lanes (best avoided on the busiest of summer days unless you enjoy a lot of stressful reversing), but in fact it’s only 20mins from me in Axminster.

After a half-assed search of the National Trust website to find directions for our walk we decided that the map (actually a vague drawing) was indecipherable and we’d just wing it when we got there – thankfully it’s really easy so stick with me and I’ll tell you the route.

Park at Branoc Village Hall in the heart of Branscombe, next the UK’s oldest working forge – payment is by donation dropped into the wishing well! Here you’ll find some handy loos, and also the entrance to a great adventure playground, which we thought we’d save until the end of our excursion to tempt the children when they inevitably started moaning about the walk. Tactics.

From the front of the village hall, turn left and then almost immediately on your right you’ll see the blue sign for Manor Mill next to a surfaced path – that’s the path you want to take. The path trundles through some really nice countryside alongside the mill stream, past the watermill (we had a look at it on our route back so continued on the tarmac past the mill through the gate) and through some woodland as you head towards the sea.

Eventually after an easy 30-minute walk or so you pop out right on the rugged seafront at Branscombe beach, where the kids can clamber on the giant anchor from the container ship ‘MSC Napoli’ that grounded off Branscombe a few years ago, leading to all sorts of treasure and junk being washed up on the shore. Things can still be found from time to time so you could build a little treasure hunt into your visit!

After a bracing wander on the shingle beach and some impressive-wave watching we retreated into the Sea Shanty café, which must’ve had a major makeover since I last visited as it’s SO nice I barely recognised it from the last time I popped in years ago– a really good find!

With its log burning stove and cosy tables I think the Sea Shanty will be an awesome place to stop off on a winter’s day, and in summer there’s outdoor seating options in the enclosed rear courtyard and tables out the front that make the most of the Jurassic cliff views. Throughout the summer the cafe is open 7 days a week but from 27th October (2019) the cafe will drop down to winter hours, opening on Saturday and Sunday only until Christmas. Check out their Facebook page to keep up to date with the details.

To our eternal delight we discovered the café’s well-stocked toy box which kept the girls entertained while we waited for our order – there’s also changing facilities, high chairs and a kids’ menu giving this café a high rating on my child-friendliness scale. It’s also fully accessible so buggies and wheelchairs are easily accommodated.

With a milkshake and a pasty down the hatch (more nutritious lunch options are available..!) we headed back to explore the mill, forge and finally the playground. The route advertised on the National Trust website was a true circular but we couldn’t work out how to join up to the return path and had no signal to look it up on our phones (will have to figure it out another time) - so we headed back the way we came all the way back to the watermill.

If you climb up the grassy steps to the right of the mill you can see the waterwheel at the back which made for an interesting little stop off, until disaster stuck and my daughter’s comforter (that she’s had since birth) took an unexpected swim and was swept off in the mill stream, only just rescued from certain death in the waterwheel by a lightning-quick Daddy! Highly traumatising for the daughter (but actually quite amusing for us. Suzy needed a wash anyway.)

From the watermill building we noticed an alternative route for the last section of the walk back to the forge, tea room and car park. It’s not overly buggy friendly as it’s grassy and initially up a steep slope, but if you are without wheels it’s a really nice little diversion that took us past some chickens, through a beautiful little orchard (complete with picnic table if you’re looking for a place to stop) and into the picturesque Old Bakery tea rooms for a nosey around. Great place for a slab of cake or a cream tea if you’ve not filled up at the beach.

We nipped into the forge and showed the girls the workings of the fire and the anvil but the adventure playground was calling so off we went to sit on a bench in the rain while the girls had fun on the tower, climbing frame and swings – really good park actually with plenty to do for all ‘playground age’ kids.

All in all a surprisingly full day out with lots to see on the way, refreshment stops at either end, and a manageable walk for little legs being only about half/three-quarters of a mile in each direction with a playground to round things off nicely at the end. Loved the Sea Shanty café down at the beach and currently thinking of excuses to return!