Branscombe is one of East Devon’s most picturesque villages and claims to be England’s longest village. It is situated at the foot of two branching valleys. Narrow roads lead down a steep sided valley to Branscombe Mouth, which forms part of the Jurassic Coast. There is also a footpath across the fields. At this shingle beach is a car park and thatched café. This is an ideal place to relax.
A short walk along the beach, is the Hooken Landslip, (also called the Undercliff) a spectacular area of cliff collapse which occurred in 1789/1790. There are good walks east to Beer, either over the top of the cliffs overlooking Lyme Bay, or along the beach and then ascending the cliffs from the Undercliff.
The village, which only has approximately five hundred residents, has a Post Office, a school and two excellent pubs – the fourteenth century Masons Arms Hotel and The Fountain Head. Saint Winifred’s Church, in the upper part of the village, was built between 1133 and 1160. This Norman structure has commanding views to the coast. Just along from the church, are rows of thatched cottages, which are bedecked with flowers in the summer.
The National Trust, as well as preserving the beach and the cliffs, owns The Old Bakery, which serves excellent lunches and teas and the water-powered Manor Mill and thatched forge – a lovely two hundred year old settlement containing a working forge. Branscombe was a well kept secret until 20th January 2007, when the MSC Napoli was forced to beach at Branscombe, after being structurally damaged in a storm. It was not thought that the Napoli, a container ship, could reach Portland before sinking. Beaching allowed the salvage of the Napoli’s 2,394 containers. News spread rapidly and Branscombe was soon inundated by “scavengers” from all over the United Kingdom, who seized the opportunity to plunder such items as, BMW motorbikes and cat food from the wreck. Fortunately, there is no sign that the wreck took place at Branscombe, apart from Napoli’s anchor, which was presented to the people of Branscombe by the ship owners.