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Published June 13th 2017
Come and meet lovely Watersmeet: land of water and walking
A five minute drive from the lovely twin towns of Lynton and Lynmouth in North Devon is Watersmeet. At the confluence of two stunning tumbling streams, it is a valley full of vibrant green trees and bracken, alive with the sound of tumbling, falling water. This pure water flows down from the hills of Exmoor National Park, carving deep pools and leaping waterfalls as it travels. Walking along the well-maintained paths and streambanks is like going back in time to a more serene and gentle time. On a misty morning, one could almost imagine being in a South American Rainforest, so fiercely wild and green are the surroundings. It makes you feel like an adventurer.
There are two convenient ways to access Watersmeet. Either park at the council carpark (tucked just off the road above the valley), or park in the beautiful seaside village of Lynmouth and track the water uphill. Whichever route you choose, BE PREPARED FOR SOME STEEP WALKING, via well maintained but narrow walking paths. There are well-signposted paths on each bank, although I would head for watersmeet itself, to cross the wooden bridge there and drink in the tiered waterfall that thunders down from the hills. With its unspoilt wildness and vibrant greenery, this must be one of the most hauntingly beautiful places to walk in the South West of England.
For the more aquatic-minded, the area is absolutely perfect for wild swimming (even if just a paddle). The water is extremely pure and peaty and feels delightful against the skin (even if it is fiercely cold). Whatever the degree of water exposure you wish, I thoroughly recommend footwear due to the sharp and at times jagged stones of the streambed. The water is generally shallow but fast-moving, so curl those toes to keep footwear in place! I went for a dip in the benchmarked and signposted 'Crooks pool', which is a wide horseshoe pool beneath imposing cliff sides (see photographs). A swift 2 kilometres uphill from Watersmeet itself, the journey there offers a gentle warm-up to get the blood pumping (and a warm down after the swim itself.
For my family and I, no trip to Watersmeet is complete without a visit to the National Trust tearooms, situated in a wonderful Edwardian Fishing Lodge with idyllic garden views of the waters. The Devonshire Cream Teas there are rightly famous, but there is also a fine array of locally sourced cakes and snacks there, with hot and cold drinks available. The shop is a delight, and there are spotless comfort facilities towards the back of the building. If possible, aim to get there at eleven, when it will be quiet and the scones freshly baked. The gardens have a wonderful suntrap, but there is something very romantic about sitting under the eaves of the building, listening to the rain. Whatever the weather, the place is very dog-friendly, and songbirds swoop down to the lawns for some cheeky crumbs. I hope this has whetted a few appetites. Enjoy.