Explore Braunton - The Most Biodiverse Parish in England

Braunton Beacon

Watching over the village is West Hill, which is also known as Braunton Beacon. This local landmark and spectacular viewpoint is found at the top of North Street.

The Summit

View of Braunton from West Hill, 2005Access to the summit is gained via a sunken path, which extends from Beacon Cottage on West Hill Road. Sailor’s wives used to climb this path and watch from the vantage point at the top of the hill for their husband’s return. When the ship was sighted, they would scurry back down the hill and through the village to meet their husbands – not necessarily to give their husbands a home-coming kiss but to relieve them of most of their wages before they could spend the lot in the Mariner’s Arms!  

Signal Beacon

The hill has traditionally been used as the site of a signal beacon which, when used as part of a chain of such beacons, could convey messages from the coast to London as swiftly as possible. It has been used in this way since Roman times and could well have been employed during the Spanish Armada in the 16th Century. Codden Hill near Barnstaple was probably the main link for the area but the watchmen at Braunton could probably see the beacons at Hartland, Monkleigh, Hewish and, if the weather allowed, Dunkery on Exmoor. The watchmen must have been reluctant to use the beacon and must have guarded heavily against false alarms, since the cost of rebuilding it was £3 – a seventh of the total parish income! 

The Beacon was also used during the war, when a Bofor gun was positioned on the top to allow troops to practice their firing. Nowadays it is, by contrast, a peaceful haven for woodland birds such as tits, jays, and, in summer, warblers. Buzzards soar above and sparrow hawk and tawny owl make an occasional appearance.

explore braunton, the most biodiverse parish in england - a north devon aonb project