This gently down-hill walk or bike ride is our favourite part of Devon’s Tarka Trail to do from Wheatland Farm. Bridges, tunnels, cafes…and it’s off road too.
We think it’s the prettiest part of the trail. It’s a lovely walk for anyone, but especially suitable for walkers with a dog that prefers a gentle pace and even terrain. On bikes it’s a doable and adventurous day out for kids and an easy ride for adults (so long as you can pedal 10 miles, 5 out, 5 back). You can even make this a car free day out, if you can get yourself to the bus stop 1.5 miles from Wheatland Farm. How about making it an independent day out for early teens? Take them to the bus stop, set them off exploring, and hear their adventures at the end of the day.
Puffing Billy to Bideford – Your Devon Day Out
You’ll start at the Puffing Billy cafe, cross the River Torridge at Beam Weir, made famous in Henry Williamson’s book Tarka the Otter (there’s probably a copy in your eco lodge), before meandering along the valley, through the old railway tunnel, across another bridge and into the former station at Bideford, where there’s a (summertime) cafe in an old railway carriage. Bike back again, or if on foot, cross Bideford’s famous long Bridge and come back on the bus if you’ve had enough (the 5B leaves from Bideford Quay and will take you back to Puffing Billy – check the latest times online).
Getting to Puffing Billy from Wheatand Farm
Either drive or take the 5B bus from Winkleigh to the Puffing Billy stop just the far side of Great Torrington. Puffing Billy is the name of the cafe here, once the station buildings. If you don’t have your own bikes, you can hire some from Torrington Cycle Hire, just opposite the cafe (01805 281461).
Whether walking or cycling, set off passing in front of the cafe on the tarmac path that was once the railway track.
What To Watch For
You’ll soon come to the bridge at Beam Weir. Watch out for kingfishers and herons. If you’re there really early and it’s quiet you may see an otter. In the evening, bats hunt for moths along the river bank.
A bit further and you’ll come to a wooden bench, one of 30 pieces of art originally commissioned for the trail as part of Sustrans’ Art in the Travelling Landscape project.
Near here you can detour into the woods on a permissive path that takes you to Weare Giffard. There’s a rack to lock your bikes to.
You’ll go through a tunnel, then down to Landcross (had enough? you’re close to the bus route again here – just come off the trail and cross over the Torridge on the road bridge. A few metres on the bus stop is on the corner)
You’ll cross the Torridge again over the Iron Bridge where people often fish the tidal waters, then pass close to saltmarsh and a reedbed as you approach Bideford. The Tarka Trail takes you right to the old station, where there’s a cafe in an old carriage (summer months and some weekends). If that’s not open, there is a pub close by and plenty of other cafes etc over Bideford Long Bridge in the town itself.
If you walked, you can catch the 5B bus back from Bideford Quay – just cross the bridge, turn right and you’ll find the bus stops.
Puffing Billy is about 15 miles from our eco lodges and cottage at Wheatland Farm, but if you take the bus your day out starts a mile and a half away at the Winkleigh Bus stop. You could borrow a farm bike and lock it up at the bus stop. If you’re car-less and have young children with you we can sometimes run you down there.