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Caves At Branscombe

Rob & Helen Harper

Branscombe, which is between Seaton and Sidmouth in Southeast Devon, is the most westerly place that chalk sea-cliffs occur in England.  In the chalk and the calcareous sandstone of these cliffs there are a number of short sea caves.  Most of these are the result of enlargement of faults or fissures and none is of any great length, at least so far!  This article is the result of a spare afternoon during a week's break last May.


Although these caves may have local names we have just numbered them from west to east.  These are just the caves at beach level, there is another small rift system on the cliff above as well as numerous extensive stone mines in Beer.


NGR SY225879

The first obvious cave at beach level when walking west from Branscombe Mouth.   Large oval entrance followed by an inclined shingle floored rift which quickly becomes too narrow for further progress.



NGR SY225879

Low entrance approx.1.0 x 0.5m about 50m west of Beer Head leads to a shingle floored rift with dimensions approx. 0.6 x 1.8m quickly narrowing to end after 20m.  All level and on a bearing of 005 deg.


NGR SY226879

20m west of Beer Head an obvious large entrance at the top of a 3m rubble slope next to a sewage pipe. Sandy floored chamber with two rift passages leading off both of which quickly narrow.


NGR SY228879

An oval opening in the cliff face on the point of Beer Head approx. 1m above the high water mark. The 1.5 x 2m entrance leads into a small chamber with another smaller entrance on the right.  Straight ahead is a 'T-junction' at a rift approx. 1m x 4m. To the left a short climb goes up to another entrance and to the right a scramble down leads to yet another entrance with or without a pool depending on the state of the tide.


NGR SY228880

A large rift approx. 50m east of Beer Head.  The impressive entrance soon lowers to a crawl after 10m and becomes too narrow after a further 4m.  Shingle floor throughout.


NGR SY228884

The most interesting of all these caves.  About 80m east of Beer Head next to an obvious cliff fall a slightly inclined shingle floored rift about 2m high and between 0.5 and 1m wide leads after 10m to a boulder pile in a small breakdown chamber.  The passage continues beyond this boulder pile as a crawl with a very strong draught.  This has not been pushed to a conclusion.


NGR SY229884

Walking east along the beach from Cave 6 pass through an obvious rock arch and the entrance to Cave 7 is easily seen at beach level in the next point.  A short section of shingle floored rift (another low entrance on right) leads into a rock floored walking sized passage with a pool in the floor. Just beyond the pool a short (2.25m) aven leads to daylight.  Straight ahead is a three-way junction.  Right leads out to the beach through a low shingle floored arch and straight ahead leads via a constriction to a small shingle floored chamber with no way on.


NGR SY229886

Obvious entrance about 3m above beach in cliff approx. 40m east of cave 7.  A level tubular passage in rock initially 1.0 x 1.0m becomes too narrow after 8m all on a bearing of 349 deg.



Surveys have been attempted of all of the caves whose termination could NOT be seen from the entrance.  A grade of 2b has been claimed for the surveys.  Compass bearings were measured using a hand held "Silva" walking compass measured to the nearest two degrees.  Distance was measured to the nearest 5 cms. using a fibron tape. Inclination was estimated.  The notes were written at the time of surveying. Subsequently centre line and passage wall plots were drawn using "COMPASS" survey software. These plots were then imported to Corel Draw and the detail added.