Beer Head, Devon

★★★

Hooken Beach
The Hall

Headland along the south Devon coast, bordered by the white Hooken Cliffs, above a wide, stony beach. Other features include the Hooken Undercliffs (an old landslide area), the hard-to-reach Pounds Pool Beach and the sea caves of The Hall. Also many summer wildflowers
Location
Beer, 2 miles south of Seaton
Hike
1.8 miles, from Beer to Branscombe Mouth, and a 1 mile spur to the caves
Photo Tour (39 images)
Beer Head is a vertical-walled headland along the Jurassic Coast of south Devon, where the usual west-east course of the shoreline is briefly interrupted as the land bends to the north. Nearby are several interesting landscapes including, to one side, several isolated beaches linked by sea caves and sprinkled with nicely eroded rocks, and to the other, a longer, wider beach beneath the Hooken Cliffs, a white, 400 foot high wall of chalk and limestone, noted as one of the best locations in Devon for fossil collecting.

In 1790, a section of the cliffs slipped seawards, dropping by up to 250 feet, forming a jumbled, ten acre expense of gullies and pinnacles known as the Hooken Undercliffs. Most of the slide is now overgrown, home to a good variety of plants, in contrast to the open, grassy aspect of the surrounding cliff tops, and the whole area may be toured by a popular, two mile trail (a section of the Coast Path), which runs along the cliffs, down across the slide area then through low woodland close to the beach. A loop can be made by returning along another path more inland, over fields and grassy bluffs. The much less visited area directly beneath Beer Head, leading to the narrower beaches with the sea caves, can be reached by walking along the main beach in the other direction (east). A little climbing is necessary to see the best caves, and this off-trail section of the route is only accessible at low tide.



Parking


The usual parking area for the hike, near Beer Head, is on a large field along Common Lane, a dead-end road to a caravan park, half a mile from Beer and two miles from the larger town of Seaton. An hourly fee is charged. The area is very popular, with a hundred or more vehicles often here at weekends. The west end of the trail can be accessed via a narrow road from Branscombe.

Beer to Branscombe


The sea is visible from the car park, though the Coast Path initially stays a little way from the edge of the cliffs, winding around a small valley and climbing gently through a field, approaching the edge of the headland for the first time after a quarter of a mile, and continuing southwards to a better viewpoint, on the brink of the south-facing cliffs above the head, where the trail turns west, now running right along the cliff rim, to a junction; the right fork stays high while the other branch descends into the slide. This path leads steeply down an open slope, past a particularly fine viewpoint, of the slide ahead and the cliffs in the opposite direction, then descends further via many steps, entering quite thick woodland, which is separated from the ocean by a ridge topped by a line of inaccessible pinnacles. The trail later drops down more gently, past the end of the ridge, and a short spur connects with the adjacent beach, here up to 200 feet wide and covered by large whitish pebbles. The main path proceeds west, still through dense, bushy terrain, then meets a narrow residential street that connects with a road to the nearby village of Branscombe. Another path goes a little further to the mouth of a valley, site of a caravan park and a cafe; the beach here is wider, sandier, and crossed by a small stream, hence this is a popular location. There are several options for the return route, including along the cliff rim, or on another path further inland.

Pounds Pool Beach and The Hall


Perhaps the most interesting scenery in this varied region is directly beneath Beer Head, reached by walking eastwards along the main beach. Big, isolated boulders start to appear as the headland approaches, followed by some larger, flattish outcrops, split at one point by a narrow gully, pounded by waves at its base. As the land bends round to the north, the band of exposed rocks narrows further, necessitating some minor climbing, but then leading to a wider section where the seaweed-covered boulders are mixed with white pebbles. This is Pounds Pool Beach, which to the north becomes partly sandy and free of rocks, before the most scenic section - a group of small promontories separating tiny coves, linked by sea caves, the most cavernous of which is known as The Hall. At low tide it is possible to continue another 0.4 miles to Beer, along the foot of more sheer white cliffs.