CHAPTER VII. EAST DEVON

To go from one Dorset or East Devon coast town to another by rail involves an amount of thought and a consultation of time-tables that would not be required for a journey from London to Aberystwyth, and unless the traveller hits on a particularly lucky set of connexions he will find that he can walk from one town to the other in less time than by taking the train. From Lyme to Seaton by the Landslip is barely seven miles; by rail it is fifteen, involving two changes. From Seaton to Sidmouth is nine miles by road and twenty-four by rail, with two changes and a possible third. Each of these sections can be comfortably tramped by the average good walker in a morning or afternoon with plenty of time for "side issues" and rambling about the towns themselves in the evening. One word of warning to those who adopt this method of seeing their own land, the only effective way in the writer's opinion. Do not be deceived into thinking that a mile on the map is a mile on the road. In this country of hills and valleys the distance can be added to considerably by these "folds in the tablecloth." A contour map in colours such as Bartholomew's "half inch" is a great help in this matter.

From Lyme the walk westwards by the cliff is, of course, the most beautiful way. Our present route, by the high road, passes between Rousdon, the great house of the neighbourhood, and Combpyne, where there is a station, the only one between Lyme and Axminster. This is a pleasant place, lost between hills, and quite out of sight from the railway. It has a church, built about 1250, with a gabled tower and with a hagioscope in the chancel. The communion plate dates from before the Reformation and is said to have been in constant use for more than four hundred years. In the thirteenth century a convent stood here; part of the buildings are now a farmhouse, but the villagers still point out the "Nuns' Walk" close by. A series of lonely and delightful lanes, difficult to follow without a good map (directions given by a rustic require a super-brain to remember their intricate details), lead down to the high road just short of the bridge over the Axe. Here a turn to the right leads to picturesque old Axmouth. The houses climb up a narrow combe down which tumbles a bright stream from the side of Hawksdown, the hill which rises to the north-east and is crowned by an ancient encampment. The church was originally Norman, but only the north door and south aisle remain of this period. In the chancel, which is in the Decorated style, is the effigy of a priest within a recess, and in a chantry chapel a monument to Lady Erle of Bindon. The curious wall paintings were discovered during the restoration of the church some years ago. An old standard measure for corn called the "Lord's Measure" is kept in a recess in the churchyard wall. Turning to the left from the church are some ancient cottages. On one of the chimneys will be seen the date 1570 and a motto: "God giveth all." Not far away is the entrance to Stedcombe, a house designed by Inigo Jones, which replaced an older building destroyed in the Civil War. Bindon, the home of Sir Walter Erle, a famous officer of the Parliamentary army, is about a mile from the village in the direction of the Landslip. It is a fine sixteenth-century mansion, now a farmhouse, a chapel attached to which is more than a hundred years older than the original building.

A road by the east bank of the Axe leads in a mile to Seaton, which is at the actual Axe mouth. This is a town almost without a history, although it still makes the not-proven assertion that it is the site of Moridunum. Some years ago the townsmen, with the idea that the label is the principal thing, stuck the word along the Esplanade wall in letters of black flint. Although the claim is not an impossible one, the probabilities point to the junction of the two great roads, the Fosse Way and the Icknield Way, near Honiton, as being the actual site of the Roman station. The remains of a villa of this period, together with various relics, pottery and coins, were found sometime ago at a place called Hannaditches just outside the town, so that the ubiquitous Latins were at any rate here.

Seaton is quite a different town to Lyme; it has practically no ancient buildings and the few old cob cottages that made up the original village have entirely disappeared. A "restoration" of the church in 1866 destroyed most of the old features, including a beautiful screen. The main fabric belongs to the Decorated period with some Perpendicular additions and very scanty remains of the original Early English building. The hagioscope in the chancel appears as a window in the outer wall. The Perpendicular tower replaces an older erection on the south side, of which the base alone remains. A flat gravestone in the churchyard has the following curious inscription: -

  JOHN STARRE

  Starre on Hie 
  Where should a Starre be 
  But on Hie? 
  Tho underneath 
  He now doth lie 
  Sleepinge in Dust 
  Yet shall he rise 
  More glorious than 
  The Starres in skies

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