« ElőzőTovább »
EXMOUTH AND SIDMOUTH.
XMOUTH and its sister watering-place, Sidmouth,
are no longer the remote regions that they used to be, when it required a month's preparation to think about a metropolitan visit to Devon's delightful coast, and
nearly half that time to reach it. Vi solo. Now a cab to Paddington, a flight over the trams of the Great Western, a short sojourn in that pleasantest of provincial cities, Exeter, and the thing is done. Eight hours will comprise the whole time occupied on the
journey, and even in the dark dismal days of a London winter will change the climate from one of fog, snow, and drizzle, to a bright, warm, sunny atmosphere, where myrtles thrive luxuriantly in the open air all the year round, and you may bathe in the sparkling channel as comfortably as though the summer had just set in, and stroll over the sands or through the bye-lanes, with a perfect contempt for great coats, railway wrappers, or other ingenious devices for enshrining the human form divine. This simple expedient for giving winter the slip, and retreating from its dreary concomitants, is o no slight value to invalids, and it is in this light that we view the places named above as being most worthy of a full and graphic description.
Exmouth is ten miles from Exeter, and is reached through Topsham by a very agreeable and picturesque road, stadded with those charming old-fashioned villages that still linger in all their primitive simplicity along the western coast. From a hill called Beacon Hill, encountered in the progress, the eye is presented with a line of coast extending from Exeter to the southern boundary of Torbay, Berry Head, a distance of about twenty miles. This line is broken by several hills that ascend gradually from the opposite side of the river, clad with verdure to the summit, and sheltering the little village of Starcross in a wooded enclosure beneath. Mainhead and Powderham Castle, the seat of the Earl of Devon, heighten the beauty of the prospect, which is additionally embellished by the noble buildings connected with those estates.
In the reign of King John—a tolerably fair allowance of antiquity-Exmouth was one of the principal ports in Devonshire, and is said in the time of Edward III. to have furnished ten ships and nearly 200 mariners towards the Calais expe
dition. It must not be, however, concluded from this that the town was then either extensive, or the population great. A few scattered houses along the east side of the hill, and a dozen straggling tenements along the strand, sufficed to provide sufficient accommodation for the inhabitants, and the town is said only to have been brought into repute as a wateringplace by one of the judges of the circuit bathing here, and who, from being an infirm invalid, became in consequence a hearty, sturdy centenarian. However this may be, it is certain that Exmouth has, within the last few years, made rapid strides in the march of improvement. The Beacon Hill is covered with buildings, and the Parade is stretching away right and left, with no visible signs, hitherto, of limitation. To the late Lord Rolle the modern public improvements are justly due, and to him the fine capacious church, erected in 1824, and the market-house, built in 1830, owe their completion. The inundations from the sea, in severe storms, with high tides, have also been prevented by an embankment, which has likewise converted about sixty acres of what were formerly banks of mud into green meadows and pleasant promenades. A further extension is, however, desirable, from its southern end to the extremity of the point, by which that wide surface of sand now visible at low water would be effectually prevented. Situated on the eastern side of the river Exe, two projecting sand banks form a partial enclosure, leaving an opening of about one-third the width of the harbour. The Exe is here about a mile and a half across, and though the entrance is somewhat difficult, the harbour is very convenient, and will admit the passage of ships of more than 300 tons burden,
There are two good inns, numerous boarding-bonses and
apartments, and a good subscription library and reading-room, but the visitor must create his own amusement, chiefly in the rides or pedestrian excursions, which the beauty of the surrounding country will so well afford the opportunity of enjoying. The proper time for bathing here is at high water, but there are hot and cold baths, that can be taken at any hour, conveniently situated under the Beacon-terrace. Like many other maritime towns in Devonshire, Exmouth has in its immediate neighbourhood a valley sheltered on all sides from the winds, and capable of affording a genial retreat to those affected with complaints in the lungs. This will be found at Salterton, four miles to the east, and here the romantic caverns of the secluded bay, the rough but richly-pebbled beach, and the continuous marine prospect, will form irresistible temptations to explore the way thither. Dr. Clarke says, in speaking of the climate—“Exmouth is decidedly a healthy place, and, notwithstanding the whole of this coast is rather humid, agues are almost unknown." Invalids often experience the greatest benefit from a residence here, more particularly on the Beacon Hill, the most elevated and finest situation in the neighbourhood, and which, as some compensation for the south-west gales, commands one of the most magnificent views in Devonshire. Along the southern base of this hill there is also a road of considerable extent, protected from north and north-east winds, and well suited for exercise when they prevail; and here it may be remarked, that between the summer climate of North and South Devon there is as marked a difference as between the cast of their scenery, the air of the former being keen and bracing, and its features romantic and picturesque, while in the latter the rich softness of the landscape harmonizes with the soft and soothing qualities of the climate.
Between Exmouth and Exeter there are several conveyances daily, and an omnibus goes twice a-week to Sidmouth. The postal arrangements are:- Letters delivered 7h. 45m. a.m.; box closes 5h. 45m. p.m.
About a mile from Exmouth is the secluded and picturesque village of Withycombe, and two miles further a fine old ruin, known as the Church of St. John in the Wilderness, will attract attention. It was built probably in the reign of Henry VII., but only the tower, one of the aisles, and part of the pulpit, now remain.
Sidmouth, eleven miles from Exmouth, and fifteen from Exeter, is one of the most agreeably-situated little wateringplaces that can be imagined. It lies nestled in the bottom of a valley, opening to the sea between two lofty hills, 500 feet high, whence a most extensive and varied prospect of a beautiful part of the country is afforded on one side, and on the other a view of the open sea, bounded by a line of coast which stretches from Portland Isle, on the east, to Torbay, on the west. The summit of Peak Hill, on the west, is a lofty ridge, extending from north to south ; that of Salcombe Hill, on the east, is much broader, and affords room for a racecourse: both are highest towards the sea, where they terminate abruptly, forming a precipice of great depth, on the very verge of which the labourer may be seen guiding the plough several hundred feet perpendicular above the sea.
Although Sidmouth is irregularly built, its appearance is generally neat, occasionally highly picturesque, and in some parts positively handsome. The magnificent villas and cottages on the slopes are, almost without exception, surrounded with gardens; they command pleasing prospects, and are delightfully accessible by shady lanes, which wind up the hills, and