CAVES AT LADRAM BAY

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Ladram Bay is on the southern coast of Devonshire, and lies between
Sidmouth and the mouth of the river Otter. It is of small extent, and is neither noticed
by any of the historians of the country, nor described in any guidebook. The Lade rock
forms its eastern extremity; and to the westward it is bounded by a similar promontory,
near to which are the caves represented in the engraving. The bay is only accessible
to pedestrians proceeding from Sidmouth at low water through a cave at its eastern
point; and its approach from the westward is also through a perforated rock. This
small and secluded bay is extremely romantic, and the cliffs between its extreme
points are lofty and nearly perpendicular. It is frequently visited in summer by picnic
parties from Sidmouth, Otterton, and Budleigh Salterton; and it is said that smugglers,
availing themselves of its retired situation, occasionally manage to land a cargo there,
notwithstanding the vigilance of the preventive men who have a look-out near the bay,
but not a regular station. The only house in its immediate vicinity is a fisherman’s
cottage, near the end of the road leading to it from Otterton.

There are several curious caverns and perforated rocks on the southern coast
of Devon. Just within the promontory called the Bolt-head, at the western end of
Salcomb-bar, is a cavern called the Bull-hole, which is believed by many persons of
the neighbourhood to extend for about three miles to a similar cavern in a creek near
Sewer-mill. The tradition is that a bull entered at one cavern, and came out at the other;
and hence the name of the Bull-hole. Nearly at the top of the cliff of Bolberry Down,
about a mile to the eastward of the Bolt-tail, is a cavern called Ralph’s-hole, which is
about twenty feet long, seven feet wide, and eight feet high. It is nearly four hundred
feet above the sea; and the rock by which it is approached is within three feet of the
precipice, and only admits of one person passing at a time. It is said that a man named
Ralph made this cave his abode for many years in order to avoid being arrested, and
that with a hay-fork as a weapon to defend the entrance he set the bailiffs at defiance;
his residence, how- ever, was more remarkable for its security than its convenience;
and if the blessing of freedom is not included in the balance of advantages and evils,
Ralph would probably have found a more comfortable home in any of her Majesty’s
gaols than in his sea beaten fortress. A few miles further westward, directly off Thurlston
sands, in Bigberry bay, is a perforated rock, about thirty feet high, called Thurlston rock.
At very low ebb tides it is left dry, but as the flood increases, the sea washes over it,
making a noise in stormy weather that is heard at a great distance.

The village of Otterton, in the immediate vicinity of these caves, is remarkable
for the peculiarity of possessing a church with a tower at the eastern end. At this place
there was formerly an alien priory subject to St. Michael’s, in Normandy. The river Otter
is a fine trout stream, and affords much amusement to the patrons of the rod and line;
but it is navigable for boats only at high-water, when small craft can ascend as far as
Otterton, about two and a half miles from its mouth. A view from Peak-hill, an eminence
in this neighbourhood, frequently excites the admiration of visitors, commanding as it
does the beautiful vale of Sidmouth, with the village and beach on the east, the vale of
the Otter on the west, bordered by Haldon and other hills, and extending to the sea on
the south.

Bicton House, on the banks of the Otter, is the seat of Lord Rolle; it is a spacious
edifice, standing in a park plentifully stocked with beach, elm, and oak, and abounding
in deer. At the time of Domesday survey, this manor was held by the somewhat
burdensome tenure of maintaining the county gaol; but from this service it has been
many years relieved by Act of Parliament. Sir Walter Raleigh was born at Hayes, in the
parish of East Budleigh, a small village about four miles from Sidmouth; and much of his
love for maritime enterprise was probably derived from his early associations with this
romantic coast, so well calculated to impress the youthful mind with a passion for the
sea and its wonders.

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