The Tarka Trail between Puffing Billy Cafe and East Yarde is a lovely woodland walk or cycle crossing the Torridge.
While the surface isn’t as good as other parts of the trail it’s still fairly easy going. Bear in mind you’re following the Torridge upstream now, so that means gently uphill almost all the way, but a much easier coast back, and there’s excellent coffee and cake at the Puffing Billy Station Cafe!
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 pub here, once the station buildings. Cycling is a good option because there’s no bus back from Yarde to Winkleigh, so you’d be looking at a fairly long out and back walk. If you don’t have your own bikes, you can hire some from Torrington Cycle Hire, just opposite the cafe (01805 281461).
From here to East Yarde is about 4 miles. In early spring you’ll find masses of wild garlic growing along the route – which makes a tasty addition to a cheese sandwich consumed at the picnic benches along the way. Whether walking or cycling, set off leaving the cafe behind you and passing under an archway. You’ll soon come to a bridge over the Torridge (look back and see the stone bridge in the picture). 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 banks here.
Along this stretch of the trail there is a series of 3 benches comissioned as part of Sustran’s Art in the Travelling Landscape initiative. The ‘courtship bench’ will make you smile even if the ‘bereavement bench’ seems a bit morbid…
There’s another set of ‘chairs’, formed from concrete and mosaic decorated, at the top of the hill just before it descends into East Yarde. You could stop here before heading back for a refreshingly down hill return. There used to be a cafe at East Yarde, but these days it seems to be mostly closed. That’s a shame, but perhaps it’s swings and roundabouts – the old Puffing Billy Pub was pretty terrible, but the replacement cafe is a gem, so there should be refreshments waiting for you on your return. Failing that, the bike shop has a well stocked ice cream freezer.