30 Days Wild No. 3. OK, we admit we didn’t actually do this today, because it’s change over day for the eco lodges and we were far too busy cleaning. Our random act of wildness today was a cup of coffee while watching the bumble bees. George put the video together of our cycle trip last Thursday. Continue reading “Exe Estuary Trail 30 Days Wild 2017 No. 3”
Here’s a lovely and moderately strenuous ride that takes you to one of the best chocolate brownie cafes in Devon, and gives you the chance to work it off again afterwards. This ride is 26km, according to George’s bike computer (16 miles). There’s only about 200m on a main road and the rest is back lanes. You don’t need a fancy bike – borrow one of ours if you don’t have your own. And if the hills are too much you can get off and walk at a leisurely pace. This ride took us 2 hours 30 mins in October 2016, and that included half an hour for the calorie intake. Read on below the images for more information and an outline map.
You’ll pass the Lymington Arms (great for a final watering hole on your return leg), head on to Partridge Walls and down to the main road. Turn left, and then first right. You’re now on a round route to North Tawton (just follow the signs), coming into the town on the road where Sylvia Plath’s old house stands, just behind the churchyard. Kirsty’s Kitchen is in the square (open most days until 4pm, but closing earlier on Wednesdays- ring to check). Or if you need more than cake, try the fish and chips at Graylings or venture into one of the village pubs.
When it’s time to head back, leave the bottom of the square along North Street, which will take you to Bondleigh. Cross the bridge over the Taw and head towards the church, but turn right along the minor road that will eventually take you back to the main road. This time turn right, then first left, and you’re back on the road towards Partridge Walls. Consider a drink at the Lymie (the Lymington Arms) on your way back – when you reach the pub you’re only 2 miles and 1 climb away from the eco lodges at Wheatland Farm.
Another mighty bike ride – this time from Wheatland Farm to Ilfracombe
[Maggie] Ok, so this was more of a challenge ride for George, who wanted something to beat the 40 miles he did 2 years ago (Barnstaple and back). This one had much the same North Devon route, and was about 50 miles, but unlike Barnstaple and Back it’s one way – so we needed Ian to pick us up from Ilfracombe (I’m not up for 100 miles yet… but it’s not 50 miles by car. More like 30).
It would suit some of the families we’ve had staying recently who’ve come equipped to carry their own bikes but didn’t all want to cycle. The route took us from Wheatland Farm to the nearest point on the traffic-free Tarka Trail. That was Petrockstowe for us – it could have been Meeth Quarry but that meant another 5 mins on a main road and we were aiming for minor lanes. We followed the trail via the lovely Yarde Orchard Cafe, the Puffing Billy to Bideford section, Instow to Fremington, Barnstaple (for a massive fry up at the Station Master’s Cafe) and on to Braunton.
There we picked up the National Cycle Route 27 to Ilfracombe – including a green lane section that might have been a bit of a surprise for anyone with touring panniers. When we found the roads again the tourist traffic was quite a shock.
The last bit is a glorious downhill swoop on another traffic free trail into Ilfracombe itself, with only a short ride through the town before you get to the harbour, fish and chips, and Damien Hirst’s statue Verity.
Many thanks to George for putting together the video.
NOTE: CLOSED UNTIL EASTER 2017
We didn’t ask, but I imagine that’s either bread or pizza dough Simeon is making. He’s one of the owners of Yarde Orchard Cafe, the fairly hippy tea cake and lunch stop on the Tarka Trail between Petrockstowe and Watergate. Our favourite route is to start at Puffing Billy, just north of Torrington, and bike there for cake. It’s about 5 miles to East Yarde, where the cafe is found just as the trail crosses the road. Going out it’s gently uphill, but coming back it’s legs out and sing all the way!
But if you need a rest, here’s a pic of one of the benches by the trail…
You can get there directly by road to of course, and the Cafe often has live music and other events in the summer months. It’s about 15 miles from the eco lodges here at Wheatland Farm, but can be tricky to find so don’t hesitate to ask for directions. The simplest car route is to get on the A386 Torrington to Hatherleigh road and take the turning 4 miles south of Torrington called the Gribble Inn junction. Go towards Petrockstowe and follow the brown signs for the Tarka Trail (or type in EX38 8QA to your sat nav).
But if you want to bike all the way from us, head to Meeth along the back roads, pick up the Trail there and cycle past Ash Moor nature reserve and the Petrockstowe Halt, ending up at the Cafe.
Yarde Orchard Cafe is open most summer days 10 until 4 (and later on Fridays and Saturdays), but closed on Mondays. Check winter opening times before setting out.
Here’s a local pub whose sign outside actively welcomes muddy boots and paws. It’s the New Inn in Roborough, about 7 miles from the eco lodges. It makes a fun expedition down the back lanes on the electric bikes (that’s how we found it), or you can drive the slightly more direct route and miss out the exercise! The atmosphere is a traditional Devon pub serving good food, mostly locally sourced. On a sunny day sit outside and watch village life go by! Park neatly if you’ve driven though, or the tractors won’t be able to squeeze through.
Here’s another of our ‘big bike out’ videos. Actually, this one is not all that big: it’s the first half of the Wheatland Farm to Belstone route that we did last year on our push bikes. This time we’ve done it on the electric bikes, which made it more of a ‘pub run’ and less of an expedition.
Given the state of the lanes (the grass on the ‘central reservation’ could do with trimming in places) this is probably a day time ride rather than an evening jaunt. That way you see the potholes coming as well as the amazing scenery. At 9 miles one way it’s a more energetic ride than to the Lymington Arms in Wembworthy (2 miles), but very doable. In early spring you’ll get the cow parsley flowers waving wildly in the hedgerows – cheering you on like you’re a tour de France hero. Later in the summer you get a posse of butterfly outriders – and of course swallows doing low fly-bys.
We have two electric bikes to rent at Wheatland Farm, costing £20 each for a full day, or sometimes included in off peak short break cycling packages.
One of our nearest pubs is the Lymington Arms in Wembworthy. It has a great reputation for food and is open Weds through Saturday form lunch and evenings, and Sunday lunch. There should be a menu in your accommodation but if not just ask at the house. Ring and book a table on 01837 83572.
Here’s a video of our trip there by electric bike. You can rent these bikes while you’re here, or if your strong enough for the hills just borrow a free farm bike!
At Wheatland Farm eco lodges we have a sizeable and growing collection of ‘farm bikes’, which are all free for you to use on your holiday. We have kids’ and adults’ sizes. They’ve all been rescued from the local recycling centre and refurbished. So they may not be sparkly new, but they are serviceable and fun.
You can’t book them, but we’ve never run out (we have more bikes than we have bed spaces on the farm, though of course if everyone wants the same size we’ll have difficulty).
Children absolutely love borrowing them and riding around the farm. Adults find them a good way to get to the village, local shops, the pub, or just to the start of lovely walks.
But if you want something a bit more bling and (and less brawn) we also have two adult size electric bikes that you can hire out. They take the edge off our Devon hills if you’re thinking about a cycling day out. You can even book a package weekend with the bikes and accommodation and full route notes for a choice of trips.
Borrowing a farm bike means you agree to some simple house rules – here they are:
Please return bikes to the bike store each day when you’re done, so others can borrow them. If you want a bike all week, we can arrange good value hire for you.
Bring your own helmet if you want to wear one. We have a few to lend out, but not all sizes.
You ride at your own risk. Before you ride off, please check the bike over, including the brakes, the chain and the tyres. We fix problems we know about, but someone else may have forgotten to tell us what went wrong. If something goes wrong when you’re out, let Ian know. He can fix most things.
There are a couple of light-weight deterrent padlocks you can borrow, and we’re assuming you won’t be leaving the bike where it’s an obvious target. If your borrowed bike does get stolen, we’ll ask you to pay £30 so we can replace it.
Please don’t ride the bikes after dark. They don’t have lights, so you wouldn’t be legal on the road. If you want to ride after dark, please hire a bike or use your own lights and safety equipment.
If you want a really local brew, and a taste of Devon, try the cider made at the Winkleigh Cider Factory. You’ll find it in the local pubs, and the factory has a shop too, where you can try the different varieties and buy some to take home. Looking for a cat sitting present? This could be it!
Find Winkleigh Cider on the road going out of Winkleigh village towards Hatherleigh. They’re open 9-5 Mon-Sat and 10am-1pm on Sundays. 01837 83560
Great news! The Devon Wildlife Trust has bought the old clay pits at Meeth and turned them into a massive nature reserve, which it opened in 2013. It makes a lovely day out with a real feel of space – 150 ha!
Meeth Nature Reserve incorporates six threatened wildlife habitats, supports 18 species of national importance, and offers a haven for a huge range of bird life, making it an excellent winter wildlife-watching destination. There’s lots to explore. And you can combine it with a bike ride as it can be reached via the car free Tarka Trail.
How to get there:
Perfectly doable for an active adult. It’s about 10 miles from Wheatland Farm and we’ll give you detailed route notes and lend you bikes and a map if you’re up for it. Or rent out our electric bikes to take the edge off those hills!
Or, you could start out at car parks at either Petrockstowe (4 miles) or East Yarde (7 miles) on the Tarka trail and arrive by bike. Great for younger riders, and if you start at Yarde there’ll be the lovely Yarde Orchard cafe waiting for your return!
You can drive to the village of Meeth, near Hatherleigh, and park at the reserve itself. Follow the old quarry road to the new car park. From here you can explore on foot, or carry on on your bike (make sure it has fairly robust tyres!). There are trails suitable for push chairs and any reasonably intrepid wheelchair user. If you follow the path from the car park you’ll soon come upon the Tarka Trail, which bisects the reserve. On the far side you’ll find bike parking, ponds with lovely benches, and a track leading up hill which takes you to a much larger lake.
We’ve been out and about testing the new electric bikes. Reckon if we go up and down this hill until the battery runs down we’ll have a good idea of a minimum range.
Here’s another lovely day-long ride from Wheatland Farm. It’s a 17 miles round trip down quiet lanes, through friendly villages to the River Torridge and the Devon Wildlife Trust’s nature reserve at Halsdon. Have lunch at the river beach (immortalized in James Ravilious’ Beaford Collection photo of 2 boys playing) then bike up the hill to Iddesleigh and the Duke of York pub, where Michael Morpurgo is a local. Try a taste of a local brew, then make your way back to Winkleigh – if you chose cider you’ll pass the company where it was made.
And if this video makes it look too much like hard work (OK, there were some inclines), then rent out our electric bikes and feel like a superhero on the hills!
Fancy a road biking challenge? If you’re inspired to get out on a bike here’s an idea: Wheatland Farm to Belstone, on the edge of Dartmoor, and back. Yes really, you could do it for lunch at the Tors Pub. Don’t be daunted! You can borrow our free farm bikes. Or how about hiring the electric bikes to take the edge off those Devon hills?
It’s a day trip – about 3 hours each way of easy going cycling. But you don’t need to be super fit (walking up the hills just gives more time for butterfly spotting) and you don’t need fancy gear.
Bikes really are the best way to see Devon’s country lanes. You can hear what’s coming (and most of the day nothing will be) and unlike walking you go fast enough to really get somewhere. Stick to the back roads where the grass ‘central reservation’ is almost as wide as the two tarmac strips the weeds have left you.
You’ll find gorgeous villages, friendly people, good pubs and amazing countryside.
To prove how doable it is, we did it ourselves in July 2012, and here’s the video…
Volunteer Veronica arrived and left on her bike, and while she was here took a day out and did a full circuit from Wheatland Farm to Barnstaple and back. Bike to the station, Tarka Line to Barnstaple, Tarka Trail to Fremington, to Instow, to Bideford, to Puffing Billy at Torrington, on to East Yarde and then nearly to Meeth, and finally back on Devon country lanes to the farm. About 40 miles cycling in all, so suitable for fit adults! But we’ve also done it with an eleven year old, as a challenge.
Here’s what Veronica said about it (and a few pics along the way from other posts on sections of this circuit):
Two Wheels at Wheatland
Not owning a car, I am used to getting about by public transport, bicycle and on foot – very easy if you live in the city. So, I was interested to see whether I could make my own way whilst staying in rural Devon and had a great weekend touring the countryside finding out.
Saturday had the better weather forecast so I decided to try a cycle route, setting off from Wheatland Farm in the morning sunshine for Eggesford Station to catch the train to Barnstaple. It’s only 5 miles and mostly downhill on quiet country lanes. The train has enough space for about 4 bikes and fortunately weren’t any others on there, but it may be a problem on a busy summer’s day. The 20 minute train ride to Barnstaple follows the Taw valley criss-crossing the river here and there.
On arrival in Barnstaple you can’t miss the signs for the cycle routes and the cycle lanes are really clear and keep you well away from traffic. National Cycle Routes 3 and 27 both pass by here.
Route 3 takes you along some of the Tarka Trail and is a really lovely bike ride on which you can see many different aspects of Devon’s natural environment. From Barnstaple to Bideford the smooth flat route runs along the Taw estuary with views out over the mud flats and a host of birdlife. After and hour’s gentle ride, I stopped for a morning cuppa at an old railway carriage turned tea-room right on the trail in Bideford before the route moved further inland. The trail follows an old railway track, so it is lovely and flat and suitable for any level of cyclist and pretty much any kind of bike.
After Bideford, it rolls through the Devonshire countryside passing pastures, woods and river. Interpretation boards and info points that correspond to an audio trail tell you about the varied wildlife and other points of interest. There are plenty of tempting places to stop – picnic spots or cafes – I had a tasty lunch at the cafe at East Yarde, about 18 miles from Barnstaple.
After that it was only another 4 miles on the Tarka Trail before I left it to find my way back to Wheatland through lanes and villages. Having cycled almost 40 miles by now, my legs were a little weary for the Devon hills – there was a fair bit of uphill and I was grateful for the lowest of my 24 gears, but the views and the speeding downhill were reward enough for the added effort.
The return ride took me through Dowland, Iddesleigh, without a stop at the Duke of York sadly, and Winkleigh, without a stop at the Kings Arms either! It was about 15 miles and took a couple of hours taking all those hills quite slowly, but a really enjoyable ride and very satisfying to make it back on my own two wheels.
This tag along bike will be available for loan to guests at Wheatland Farm Eco Lodges on an ‘ask us first’ basis. It should help younger families get out and about. Euan has already test driven it up to the farm shop for a cake!
Like all the bikes we have for guests to borrow, this one came from the council recycling centre (previously known as the dump), where we picked it up for a couple of quid, together with some good advice about getting a new hitch and chain. It was in a pretty sorry state, but a bit of TLC fixed that. All in all it probably cost about £20 in parts – and of course there’s Ian’s work to factor in. But best of all it’s been saved from the skip and will get lots more use.
We’ll certainly be taking it out on Devon’s Tarka Trail as soon as the weather is warm enough again. With an energetic 7 year old and a shorter-legged 4 year old it will substantially extend our range.
Halsdon Nature Reserve is one of the nearest of the Devon Wildlife Trust’s reserves to Wheatland Farm. Otters are sometimes to be seen from the hide overlooking the River Torridge, and orchids and bluebells abound in the woods in spring.
The 57 hectare reserve is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, with mixed deciduous river valley woodland, riverside meadows, marsh and including 2.4km of the River Torridge.
It’s mostly oak woodland, but rarer trees, including the Devon whitebeam (Sorbus devoniensis) and the wild service tree (an unusual-looking tree with greyish brown, flaky bark) are also here.
In 2009 the Trust started an ambitious programme to improve access an manage the woodland more actively.
You can do a circular walk from either of the two car parks – of if you’re car free, take the 5B bus to Dolton and walk along part of the Tarka Trail (local lanes here) to the bottom end of the reserve, up through the woodland, then back to Dolton on a footpath. There are a couple of pubs in Dolton if you need refreshments.
There are a few fields at the valley bottom that you’re asked not to go through in the summer without a permit, but that’s a relatively small part of the reserve. In the winter you don’t need a permit – but please don’t take your dogs into this area.
The paths a pretty variable – sometimes steep and muddy. But from the car park at the southern end of the reserve there’s a fairly flat smooth section with a well-made surface for nearly a kilometre, as far as the riverside.
Halsdon is about 8 miles from our eco lodges and cottage.
There are sometimes events and workparties at Halsdon – check out our events listing for details…
The Tarka Trail between Puffing Billy pub and Yarde Cafe 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 once you’ve had a coffee and cake at the 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 pub (01805 281461).
From here to Yarde Cafe is about 4 miles. Whether walking or cycling, set off leaving the pub 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…
The cafe is a lovely low key place with plenty of character. It is normally open everyday 10.00am to 5.00pm during July and August, bank holiday weekends and during half term weeks. Outside the summer season, weather permitting, the cafe is open on Saturdays and Sundays – and sometimes other days if fine! Telephone 01805 601778 to check.
This gently down-hill walk or ride crosses the Torridge at Beam Weir, made famous in Henry Williamson’s book Tarka the Otter, before meandering along the valley, through a long tunnel, across another bridge and into the former station at Bideford, where there’s a cafe in an old railway carriage. Cross Bideford’s famous long Bridge and come back on the bus…
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. If you walk you can get the bus back. If you want to cycle you’ll have to go out and back again. If you don’t have your own bikes, you can hire some from Torrington Cycle Hire, just opposite the pub (01805 281461).
From here to Bideford is about 5 miles. Whether walking or cycling, set off passing in front of the pub on the tarmac path that was once the railway track. Watch out for the Giants in the Forest, put up in the trees in 2013.
You’ll soon come to the bridge at Beam Weir. 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 commissioned for the trail as part of Sustrans’ Art in the Travelling Landscape project.
Near hear 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 a bridge where people often fish the tidal waters, than pass close to saltmarsh and a reedbed as you approach Bideford. The trail takes you right to the old station, where there’s a cafe in an old carriage. If that’s not open, the 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, but if you take the bus your day out starts a mile and a half away at the Winkleigh Bus stop. If you’re car-less and have young children with you we can sometimes run you down there.
This is an easy going walk (or cycle) with options to explore part of the South West Coast Path and detour around a Devon nature reserve. You’ll end up at Fremington Quay cafe, a thriving cafes.
Getting there (for a walk):
Either take the 5B bus from Winkleigh, or drive to Instow and use the pay and display car park.
Getting there (cycle):
Take your own bikes or do the route in reverse, hiring bikes at Fremington Quay. You’ll have to retrace your steps though, as no-one seems to do one-way cycle hire. And you’ll need to stick to the Tarka Trail as bikes aren’t allowed on the Coast Path.
We recommend getting there by bus. Tickets are really reasonable and you get a unique trip through the transition zone of North Devon’s Biosphere reserve, with fabulous views of the countryside – the 5B is almost always a double decker, giving you unparalleled views over the hedges. And the view as you go over Bideford Bridge is spectacular.
Instow is the first village stop after you leave Bideford. Ask the driver to let you off at the east end of Marine Parade – easiest to be on the lower floor now and smile nicely as there isn’t a formal stop there (if s/he insists on going on to the formal stop you just walk back down the hill until you get back to here).
The walk proper…
You’ll see the old railway line, now the Tarka Trail. You can start walking here. (If you take the straightforward route along the Tarka Trail and amble, you’ll be at Fremington in under 2 hours.) Alternatively, walk along marine parade and the sea front, enjoying the clinking of stays on the moored boats and the view across the water to Appledore. Follow the coast until you get to the far side of Instow.
Here, you’ll have another choice. If unencumbered by buggies etc, follow the South West Coast Path through dunes topped with marram grass and along the coastline. You can rejoin the Tarka Trail fairly shortly after the cricket ground, or say on the Coast Path until you loop back just before the RSPB’s Isley Marsh Nature Reserve.
If you need smoother going, join up with the Tarka Trail now – turn left off the road where you see a beach cafe. Stay on the road side and shortly on your right you’ll see a pedestrian gateway onto the Trail. If you miss that, carry on along the road (it may be a private road, but it’s a public footpath as well)and join the trail where a road crosses it just before the cricket ground.
Assuming you’re on the trail…
Just outside Instow you’ll come across Instow Pond – a picnic site with a shelter made of traditional cob, and a wetland area where swallows hunt insects during the summer.
Before you get to Fremington, look out for a set of steel kissing gates and an information board on your left. This is the start of a permissive path around Home Farm Marsh, owned by the Gia Trust and managed primarily for wildlife. The walk takes you back to the coast, then along and finally back to the Tarka Trail again at another set of steel kissing gates ( and probably adds a kilometre to the overall walk).
From there, keep on the Tarka trail until you reach Fremington Quay, once the busiest port between Lands End and Bristol.
Now the buildings are a cafe with fascinating displays and photographs from times gone by, incluidng pennyfarthing and other early bicycles (suspended from the ceiling).
The cafe is open most days in the summer, most weekends in the winter, and closed most Mondays outside peak season. Ring them on 01271 378783 to be sure.
To get there, cross the bridge over Fremington Pill (the river here). Even if you don’t want a coffee, go in and look at the pictures of how things use to be. The cafe doesn’t like you using the loo or eating at the tables unless you’re a customer, but there’s a picnic site a few metres further on (on the left) and a public loo at the base of the tower.
Getting home again:
If you’re catching the bus back from Fremington, go back over the Pill and take the footpath up the hill (not along the side of the Pill) on the left hand side. We’ve done this bit with a pushchair and it was fine. If you walk up the West side (the side the cafe is on) you end up with a longish walk through modern housing before you reach the bus stop. A brisk 10 minute walk should cover it, so if you set off with 30 before the bus leaves you’ll be able to amble and still have loads of time to hail the bus.
Follow the path through beech trees and past a few houses until it narrows and runs alongside an unmade up road. Go through the gap in the fence and walk on the road (much easier) over a small bridge up to the main road.
The bus-stop is called the New Inn on the timetable, and this pub is almost opposite where your road joins the main road. Actually the bus goes from outside the Fox and Hounds pub a bit further to the left and across the road.
How far is it?
If you take the bus, your day out starts just a mile and a half from our eco lodges and cottage! If you’ve got young children with you do ask, and we’ll see if we can run you to the bus stop…
By car, Fremington is about 22 miles from us, and counter intuitively Instow is about 23. The last bus back is usually about 16.20 from Fremington – but please check online.
Walk or cycle from Barnstaple to Fremington Quay on the Tarka Trail, and enjoy an ice cream at the cafe. You get fabulous views out over the mouth of the Taw River, see beautiful butterflies and flowers in summer, enjoy easy walking and a lovely cafe at the end.
You can hire bikes at Barnstaple Station or at Fremington, and this level tarmac path is ideal for anyone who wants to take it easy. The down side is that nobody seems to do one way cycle hire so you’ll have to retrace your route. The alternative is to walk and get the bus back home from Fremington or even Instow.
We recommend getting there by bus (train or car also possible). Tickets are really reasonable and you get a unique view of the North Devon countryside from the top of a double decker. Catch the 5B from Winkleigh and get off at Sticklepath Hill just before you come down to the roundabout at the edge of Barnstaple (ask the driver). Get an all day ticket if you plan to come back from Fremington. Cross over the road, head down the hill and down a side street to footpaths under the main road. Follow the signs for the Tarka Trail and enjoy the scenery. You’re following the path of the old railway line that served Fremington Quay.
Fremington Quay was once the busiest port between Bristol and Lands End. Now it’s a cafe and has fascinating displays and photographs from times gone by, incluidng pennyfarthing and other early bicycles (suspended from the ceiling).
The cafe is open most days in the summer, most weekends in the winter, and closed most Mondays. Ring them on 01271 378783 to be sure.
You have to walk up to the main road to get the bus back – ask us and we’ll show you on the map and describe the bus stop.
But why stop there? Why not go on and walk around Home Marsh Farm, or follow the South West Coast Path for a stretch before rejoining the Tarka Trail in Instow (also on the 5B bus route)?
Barnstaple is about 25 miles from the eco lodges and cottage at Wheatland Farm, and Fremington about 22. The last bus back is usually about 16:20 – but please check online.
Braunton Burrows, the core of the North Devon UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, is quite unlike anywhere else in the region. It’s a weird dune landscape carpeted with flowers in summer and with a uniquely wild atmosphere in winter.
And at the other side of the dune system you’ll find the far reaches of Saunton Sands – a huge, and here largely deserted, beach – if you get that far.
About 477 plants have been found here over the years – that’s roughly a quarter of the total for the UK. The best time to see them is from early June through July (though other times are still definitely worth a visit). And the best way to see them is with a guide who can make the ecology of this amazing place come to life. A guide will also help you through what can be a confusing landscape (last time we went, armed with a map and a GPS, it was remarkable how many people stopped us with no idea where they were).
There are sometimes guided walks and other events during the summer. You can also check out the Braunton Burrows Countryside Centre website to find out what’s on.
If you want to go on your own, ask us and we’ll probably be able to loan you a large scale map – the ordnance survey landranger one really won’t give you the detail you need.
What to see…
If you’re interested in the flowers we can lend you Mary Breed’s colour guide to the flowers of the Burrows – ask at the house. There are some real treasures here.
If you set out from the Sandy Lane car park, eastern end, a good track quickly brings you within sight of flag pole dune – the largest moving dune on the Burrows. It’s not going anywhere fast though – it’s been roughly where it is now for about 20 years, slowly moving inland as the wind blows the sand. Because there’s not much in the way of mobile dunes and most of the burrows are pretty stable it’s OK to climb it – you’re not committing an act of ecological vandalism. And that’s according to John Breeds, who has about 30 years of experience of this special place.
But don’t be fooled into thinking that all that sand means you’re near the sea – it’s probably a kilometre or so of ‘up and down’ from flag pole dune to the beach. If you’re going for a real walk, a GPS, or at least a compass, is very handy.
You’re likely to find pools, or wet ‘slacks’ in some of the dune hollows. They’re fresh, not brackish, and support important plants and animals. Please take care not to spoil them.
You can have a fabulous time exploring, but if you want to see something really unexpected, try to get to Venner’s pond. Ask us and we’ll give you a grid reference – you’re pretty unlikely to find it any other way if you go on your own as it’s surrounded by vegetation and tricky to spot.
Water lilies – not exactly what you’d expect to find at the centre of a dune system. Not exactly natural either – apparently introduced many years ago by someone who just liked them. And then there are the goldfish too – perhaps they got too big for their bowl…
The Burrows are about 26 miles from our eco lodges and cottage.
by train and bike (for fit adults)
If you don’t have a car, the best way to get to the Burrows is to bike to Eggesford Station (4 miles) and take your bike on the train to Barnstaple. There, you’ll find the Tarka Trail right outside the station, and it will take you out to Crow Point and the Burrows. It’s 7 miles out, so you’re looking at roughly 22 miles cycling in your day: one for the more energetic!
To get there by car, head up to Barnstaple, and at the roundabout just outside Bishop’s Tawton where the A377 joins the A39, turn left, crossing the Taw. At the next roundabout turn right and just keep on the A361 until you get to the village of Braunton. Go through Braunton following signs for Croyde. Just after two sets of traffic lights turn left onto Caen Road. Keep going out of the village centre. On the right there will still be houses, but on the left you’re back to countryside. There’s a small turning, marked only with a brown tourist sign for a nursery. Go down here, until you come to a T junction at a white building. Go left here and continue until you reach Sandy Lane car park. It’s usually open and has plenty of room but no facilities (nearest loos are back in Braunton, in Caen Street car park – you’ll pass it as you go through Braunton. The Braunton Countryside Centre is there too). If Sandy Lane car park is shut you can park on the verge, but take care not to obstruct access.
Who owns the Burrows?
The Braunton Burrows are owned by the Christie Estate (the same family to own Glyndebourne opera house in Sussex) but are leased to the army for training. You’ll probably see plenty of soldiers and cadets dressed rather more formally than yourselves. You may also come across empty bullet cases etc. It’s best to leave well alone, although the army very rarely have live firing here now (there would be red flags flying to warn you if there was any going on), and if they do they are extremely careful to account for their ammunition.
You can take your dog, but please spare a thought for the low-nutrient dune ecology and pick up after your dog! So many dogs are walked here that parts of the dune system, particularly around the car parks, show signs of nutrient enrichment with changing species, more stinging nettles etc. Please take dog poo away and dispose of it properly.
More about the Biosphere Reserve
If you want to know more about the North Devon Biosphere Reserve, of which the dunes are the core and most important part, see the reserve’s website.
This is an out and back cycle ride described in our Sampford Courtney for lunch and Belstone and Back videos. It’ll probably take the best part of a day (about 3 hours each way on ordinary bikes) but coming back of course it’s mostly downhill… and you’ll have a real sense of achievement when you look back at Dartmoor from the lodges and think ‘I biked there for lunch’.
Wheatland Farm | Winkleigh | Four Ways Cross | Ingleigh Green | Middlecott | Broadwood Kelly | Corstone | Honeychurch | Sampford Courtney | Belstone Corner Cross | Church Hill Cross | Crosslands | A30 flyover | Tongue End Cross | Belstone
30 miles round trip
Things to see or visit
The wonderful church at Honeychurch; the village stocks at Belstone and the old pound; Belstone Cleave river walk; the pub at Belstone with its 50 types of whiskey; the pigs at Middlecott Farm, usually visible from the road; the New Inn at Sampford Courtney, Winkleigh Cider shop or Ten Acres Vineyard on your return.
Turn LEFT at WHEATLAND FARM DRIVEWAY
At the MAIN ROAD turn LEFT
At the SPORTS CENTRE / CEMETERY cross over and take the cycle lane up the hill
At top of hill bear RIGHT through bollards
Turn RIGHT into WINKLEIGH VILLAGE SQUARE
OPTIONAL DIVERSION: You’ll find shops and pubs here
Leave VILLAGE SQUARE on CASTLE STREET by the Post Office
Turn RIGHT onto Exeter Road
Turn SECOND LEFT onto HATHERLEIGH ROAD
Continue to FOURWAYS CROSS and go STRAIGHT
At INGLEIGH GREEN turn LEFT (south) heading for Dartmoor
At MIDDLECOTT FARM go STRAIGHT over the cross roads
At T junction on outskirts of BROADWOOD KELLY turn RIGHT
At CORSTONE go RIGHT and then promptly LEFT through CORSTONE CROSS
At VENN COPSE CROSS turn RIGHT
Bike through the hamlet of HONEYCHURCH
OPTIONAL DIVERSION: this is a really wonderful and tiny church and the door is almost always open. Admire the faded paintings on the walls and take a well earned breather
Continue, then turn RIGHT at the edge of HONEYCHURCH
At REDPOST CROSS bear LEFT for SAMPFORD COURTNEY
OPTIONAL DIVERSION: in the village stop to read the historical plaque about the Prayer Book Rebellion and maybe visit the church. At the end of the village you’ll find the NEW INN at the junction with the main road – a lovely traditional pub.
At the NEW INN go STRAIGHT over the mini round about
Continue until you reach the B3215
Go LEFT over the railway bridge then immediately RIGHT at BELSTONE CORNER CROSS
At CHURCH HILL CROSS go STRAIGHT
Continue to CROSSLANDS where you bear LEFT
Cross the bridge over the A30 – don’t forget to wave to the car drivers!
At TONGUE END CROSS go STRAIGHT (you’ll see the National Park sign)
Continue to BELSTONE and bear RIGHT into the village where you’ll find THE TORS PUB
OPTIONAL DIVERSIONS: If you’ve got any energy left, then Belstone Cleave makes a lovely riverside walk and there’s even a pool that’s deep enough to cool off in (but, as always on Dartmoor, be wary of ticks in the grass). The pub is a great place for lunch – the tables on the village green are theirs. If you want a taste of they high moor walk further uphill through the village (not directly out in front of the green) until you find a gate onto the moor. From there it’s a fairly short walk to Belstone Tor. Or just explore the village – don’t miss the stocks and the old village pound.
Retrace your route for the return journey – it’ll be easier going!
OPTIONAL DIVERSION: Well, there’s the New Inn at Sampford Courtney or the Kings Arms in Winkleigh…
This is a 20 mile circular ride through Devon lanes to North Tawton, once home to poets Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes and now home to delicious brownies at Kirsty’s Kitchen. You can see a more general description and some images here, but the route described on this page is a bit longer and retraces less of itself.
Wheatland Farm | Winkleigh | Wembworthy | Lymington Arms | Partridge Walls | Taw Bridge| North Tawton |Bondleigh | Taw Green | Partridge Walls | Lymington Arms | Wembworthy | Lane End | Tinkers Post | Wheatland Farm
About 20 miles
Things to see or visit
In North Tawton church yard you can see the yew tree Sylvia Plath wrote about in her famous poem. The house where she once lived with Ted Hughes is just beyond the church. On your return via Bondleigh visit Clapper Wood for a rest by the River Taw.
At the end of WHEATLAND FARM DRIVEWAY turn RIGHT
At the first cross road, TINKERS POST, turn RIGHT
At LANE END thatched cottages bear RIGHT
Continue to WEMBWORTHY
At the junction at the edge of the village, turn RIGHT
At LAMA CROSS (you’ll see the LYMINGTON ARMS) go STRAIGHT
Continue to the crossroads at PARTRIDGE WALLS where you go STRAIGHT OVER
Continue on this road, going STRAIGHT at HOLM CROSS, BURROWPLOT CROSS and CHURCH LANE CROSS.
When you reach a T junction turn RIGHT and you’ll soon come to the main road (B3220).
Turn LEFT and then take the first RIGHT at ALLER BRIDGE
At CHILVERTON CROSS go LEFT
At EAST LEIGH turn LEFT and then RIGHT
At LEIGH CROSS turn RIGHT
At NEWTON CROSS go STRAIGHT OVER
At ASHRIDGE MOOR CROSS go bear LEFT, and follow this road into NORTH TAWTON
OPTIONAL DIVERSIONS: In North Tawton itself, Kirsty’s Kitchen is in the village square and does wonderful brownies. Graylings Fish and Chips is nearby on the same street, or there are two pubs in North TawtonL the Fountain, near the churchyard, and the Copper Key, a bit further out on the road towards Sampford Courtney. Alternatively, buy an icecream in the village shop and eat it in the church yard (you’ll have seen it as you arrived).
Start your return leg by leaving the square on NORTH STREET (at the downhill end).
Continue until you reach a river and a T junction.
Turn LEFT across the River Taw and then FIRST RIGHT
OPTIONAL DIVERSION: Instead of the right turn, continue straight and go to BONDLEIGH – the pretty church is at the end of the next right hand turn. It’s also possible to plot an alternate route home from here – carry on through Bondleigh until you reach the A3124, cross straight over, and bike to Corstone, and then head for Broadwood Kelly, Middlecott, Ingleigh Green and back to Winkleigh. These roads are described more fully in other rides.
Assuming you did not take a detour into BONDLEIGH, continue from the RIGHT TURN northwards. You’ll pass a small Woodland Trust wood on your RIGHT.
OPTIONAL DIVERSION: This wood goes right down to the Taw, it’s only small, but it’s a lovely place to take a break and there are some benches.
You are on part of Devon’s TARKA TRAIL here – continue until the houses at TAW GREEN, where you turn RIGHT
At the main road turn RIGHT and then take the FIRST LEFT
Head up this admittedly long hill until you reach PARTRIDGE WALLS cross roads, where you’ll turn LEFT.
Continue to LAMA CROSS
OPTIONAL DIVERSION: If you’ve not stopped already you may find the Lymington Arms calling you.
Go STRAIGHT OVER at LAMA CROSS
Take a LEFT TURN just as you’re coming into the village of WEMBWORTHY
Go down the dip and up the other side (last major hill).
At LANE END THATCHED COTTAGES bear left
At TINKERS POST cross roads turn LEFT
Continue until you reach Wheatland Farm’s driveway
This is a full day ride through lovely villages with great views, some pubs / cafes and a pottery. It’s a circular route with plenty of manageable hills.
Wheatland Farm |Winkleigh |Ingleigh Green | Monkeokehampton | Hatherleigh | Hatherleigh Moor | Exbourne | Splatt | Middlecott |Ingleigh Green | Winkleigh | Wheatland Farm
Things to see or visit
Charming villages of Winkleigh, Monkokehampton, Exbourne. Hatherleigh town for lunch at The George or a cafe; Hatherleigh Pottery; Hatherleigh Moor; a section of the Tarka Trail (on road); Exbourne’s real ale pub and community shop/cafe; see the pigs at Middlecott Farm; visit Winkleigh cider factory or Ten Acres Vineyard on your return!
At the end of Wheatland Farm’s driveway, turn LEFT and continue (about a mile) to the main road.
Turn LEFT onto the main road
At sports centre and cemetery CROSS and take the cycle track uphill
At top of hill, turn RIGHT and go through bollards onto small road
Turn RIGHT into the VILLAGE SQUARE, past the Seven Stars, Kings Arms and village shops
Leave Winkleigh square on CASTLE STREET, by the post office
Turn RIGHT onto Exeter Road and then SECOND LEFT onto HATHERLEIGH ROAD
Continue STRAIGHT ON at FOUR WAYS CROSS
Continue through INGLEIGH GREEN towards MONKOKEHMAPTON
At a T junction turn LEFT and follow the road around into MONKOKEHMAPTON
Take the RIGHT turn to HATHERLEIGH (signed)
Continue to HATHERLEIGH, crossing HATHERLEIGH MOOR
On entering HATHERLEIGH turn RIGHT on PARK ROAD
Follow around into the town centre
OPTIONAL DIVERSIONS: The POTTERY is well worth a visit. THE GEORGE should be open for lunch or try the low key and popular CORNUCOPIA CAFE just down the road.
Retrace route, leaving Hatherleigh along the top of HATHERLEIGH MOOR
Turn RIGHT at DECKPORT CROSS, heading downhill and slanting across the moor (this is a section of Devon’s Tarka Trail)
Follow road through UPCOTT then turn LEFT for WOODHALL BRIDGE AND HIGHER WOODHALL
At a T junction turn RIGHT for EXBOURNE
The pub and shop are on HIGH STREET
OPTIONAL DIVERSIONS: The Red Lion pub prides itself on it’s beer, and just across the road the community shop is built into the hill, and offers a cafe and other supplies. EXBOURNE itself is very pretty – well worth exploring.
Leaving Exbourne, go back up HIGH STREET and turn RIGHT on FORE STREET
Go STRAIGHT onto HAYFIELD ROAD and continue out of town through countryside a good way until you come to a T
Turn LEFT at the T then next RIGHT at SPLATT CROSS
Continue through Splatt hamlet
At junction, turn LEFT and continue on the road until MIDDLECOTT FARM (there’s usually pigs to see from the road!).
Turn LEFT at the MIDDLECOTT FARM junction
Continue to INGLEIGH GREEN
At INGLEIGH GREEN turn RIGHT onto the road back to WINKLEIGH
Continue STRIAGHT at FOUR WAYS CROSS
OPTIONAL DETOUR: Consider a detour to the cider shop just before Winkleigh, or one of the Winkleigh pubs (the Kings Arms or the Seven Stars)
When reaching WINKLEIGH on the HATHERLEIGH ROAD turn LEFT
Turn LEFT at the next junction and follow the road away from the village to the junction with the main road – you’ll see ZUKI’S PIZZA CAFE.
OPTIONAL DETOUR: Ten Acres Vineyard and shop is down the lane on your left, just before you reach the junction
At the junction, turn RIGHT
Take the next LEFT, leaving the main road at Berner’s Cross
You should recognise the road now, but if unsure follow the signs towards Chulmleigh and Fiona’s Farm Shop
Continue until you reach WHEATLAND FARM.