A walk at Fingle Bridge

Fingle Bridge woods makes a lovely walk with a great pub for lunch or a snack. It’s about 19 miles from the eco lodges and combines well with Castle Drogo. In fact, the National Trust’s Castle Drogo land goes all the way to Fingle Bridge, and meets up with Woodland Trust land. It’s now under joint management. Continue reading “A walk at Fingle Bridge”

The Grove at Kings Nympton

Lunch at the Grove at Kings Nympton! Yay, we reached escape velocity and got out for a lovely Devon pub lunch. True, we did combine it with a shopping trip for the garden at Otter Cottage, but even that was fun. The Grove has a very traditional feel and lovely atmosphere. And just look at the beams in the bar – someone’s been collecting book marks!
This is a Devon pub where you get good service the food is made by people who care. There’s much more choice than you’d get in a pub grub pub and there’s lots of local ingredients used. My favourite pub lunch is usually a salad or fish followed by a very chocolatey thing. And the Grove didn’t disappoint. Bear in mind though that the hot chocolate pub (pictured) takes 20 mins to prepare. Still – what’s the rush?

Kings Nympton is about 8 miles from the eco lodges and Otter Cottage. If you’re feeling energetic you could cycle it. (You need the energetic bit for the hills – this is Devon after all!)

Other pubs we love for lunch include the New Inn at Roborough, also about 8 miles from the accommodation; the Lymington Arms in Wembworthy (2 miles from Wheatland Farm and also bikeable if you can stand the odd hill); and the New Inn at Sampford Courtney (now that is a nice ride… still hilly in places though). Of course, you can always drive (we have to say, most people do, and we did this time), but then you don’t get to enjoy the Devon beers do you?!

Big bike out: To North Tawton for cake at Kirsty’s Kitchen

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.

Real Devon icecream!

Hockings icecream
Even on a grey day you can’t beat a Hocking’s Ice Cream! Made in Appledore, they are an integral part of a Devon holiday. There are almost always vans on the Torrington Commons, on Bideford Quay (car park end) and at Northam Burrows Country Park, among many other places.

The Copper Key Pub, North Tawton

The Copper Key, North TawtonHere’s another local pub: the Copper Key in North Tawton. The pub does Sunday lunches and sandwiches in a traditional setting. There’s a beer garden out the back, and a pool table. More ‘local pub’ than the New Inn at nearby Sampford Courtney, but less ‘restauranty’. Other places to eat in North Tawton include Kirsty’s Kitchen in the centre of the town. North Tawton is about 8 miles from the farm.

Copper Key, North Tawton Sign

Yarde Orchard Cafe, 15-miles from the eco lodges and on the Tarka Trail

Ssimeon Day at Yarde Orchard Cafe
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…

The bereavement bench on the Tarka Trail between Puffing Billy and East Yarde
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.
Yarde Orchard on the Tarka Trail

Eggesford Gardens Restaurant, open on a Monday when many pubs are shut

Eggesford garden centre restaurant nr Wheatland Farm Eco LodgesEggesford Garden Centre makes a colourful place to visit at any time of year and is well placed for good walks on nearby forestry land. Its lovely restaurant has seating inside and out (where dogs are welcome on leads) and offers a menu to rival any other local venue. What’s more, it’s open on a Monday, when many other pubs are shut at lunchtime, or are not doing food. Ask and we’ll give you directions, or from the station at Eggesford head up the hill (Winkleigh side, not Chawleigh direction) and take the first left. You’ll find it!

Here’s a pic of the plant side too.
Eggesford garden centre nr Wheatland Farms eco lodges

The New Inn at Roborough, another lovely pub serving good food

The New Inn at Roborough, North Devon
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.

The New Inn at Roborough, North Devon

Cakes and Coffee at Kirsty’s Kitchen, North Tawton

Kirty's Kitchen, North TawtonKirsty’s Kitchen in North Tawton: a lovely place for a reviving coffee. The lunches looked pretty good too. This cafe, where Kirsty also offers cake baking and decorating courses, is in the middle of the town. Footpaths on the Tarka Trail pass close by North Tawton and Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes once lived around the corner. You can still see the yew tree in the churchyard Plath wrote about in one of her most famous poems. But if that’s not your thing, it’s likely the cake will be. Watch out for the sign that says ‘a balanced diet is a cake in both hands’. This was the best chocolate brownie I’d had in a long time.
Kirstys' Kitchen North Tawtoncoffee

Cycle to the New Inn, Sampford Courtney, for lunch

New Inn, Sampford CourtneyHere’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.

Lunch at the Lymington Arms, 2 miles from the eco lodges

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!

Belstone Cleave and the Tors Pub

Belstone Cleave, DartmoorBelstone Cleave, on the edge of Dartmoor, is beautiful even when it’s raining or cold. And unlike the moor itself, is sheltered from the worst of the wind. Belstone by bike is a great adventure if you have the time and energy, but you can also drive, leaving your car in the car park just outside the village in summer, on in the village itself in the shoulder seasons. Belstone is about 14 miles from the eco lodges at Wheatland Farm.

The Cleave is a narrow valley through which the Taw river usually gurgles, but sometimes rushes after heavy rains. Like much of the North Devon Biosphere Reserve (which extends to the catchments of the Taw and Torridge rivers), this is ‘Tarka the otter’ country – from the Henry Williamson book. The Taw rises on Dartmoor and is usually a gentle stream here.

You can walk down into the valley from Belstone village and cross the footbridge at the river. Then head east along the cleave on the southern bank. Alternatively, take the higher path, over the flanks of the moor. If you’ve kept high, then head down into the valley along side a gully and stream just before a conspicuous house (on the far side of the valley) with two white triangular eves. When you reach the river turn right. Almost immediately here there’s a large rock in an open patch of ground, and in the stream a pool deep enough for a summer swim (but even in August it will be cold).

The swimming spot in Belstone Cleave

Turn right (east) along the bank of the Taw and you will soon find a second footbridge. Cross, and return to Belstone. This is a short walk – maybe a mile or so, but includes rough ground and potentially slippery surfaces. With dogs, take a lead as you may encouter livestock.

Alternately, continue along the riverside and you will eventually come out behind Finch Foundry, the National Trust property in the village of Sticklepath.

Belstone boasts a welcoming pub serving 50 kinds of whiskeys – should you need re-warming after your walk. Dogs are welcome at the bar. The village has a couple of other interesting sights too – the old pound, now a garden, and the village stocks.

Belstone also offers a good ‘first Dartmoor Tor’ – easy enough for a gentle stroll. For that walk, head out from the far side of the village.

Winkleigh Cider Factory

Winkleigh Cider Shop 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

Climb the hill to Torrington for tea and cakes

Torrington WallsClimb the hill to Torrington and reward yourself with a coffee or a cake…

This is a pretty gentle stroll, though with a hill to climb. But you get to reward yourself, maybe with a coffeee at the Plough Arts Centre or a sticky bun from the hugely popular bakery in Great Torrington.

But before you get there, here’s the walk. You can do this walk from the stagecoach 5B bus or by car. If taking the bus, catch it in Winkleigh (you can bike to the bus stop, there are four or five buses a day, check traveline for the latest timetables) and ask the bus driver to let you off at the bottom of the hill past Rosemoor, just before Torrington. If going by car, park at the junction of the A386 and the A3124 in the layby just on the corner.

You take the path along by the River Torridge. In a minute or so you’re away from the noise of the road and walking along a wide path by the river. Or you can dip down to the river bank itself. The path leads right along the river valley to the far side of Torrington, then there’s a switch back turn taking you back up the hill. The sign at the bottom says Millenium Path, and you just keep on it until you reach the town at the top.

Just past the car park you’ll find the Torrington Pannier Market. Lots of little boutique shops, including an old fashioned sweet shop with the jars.

Or go right through and out the other side into the town square, where you’ll find colourful greengrocers shops, a cake shop, the Plough Arts Centre just around the corner, and Sandford’s bakery where we always have to stop for a cake.

When you’re finished exploring Torrington, head back through the Pannier Market to the escarpment, but this time turn left and take George’s Path back down the hill, past the monument.

When you come close to the road just head down alongside the stream and you’ll find yourself back on the riverside path where you began – and close to your start point.

Alternatively, you can catch the bus back from Torrington. From the main square take the path to the church, go through the churchyard, and the bus stop is on the road on the other side. You’ll want to cross over for the bus back to Winkleigh.

broomhill sculpture gardens

Sculpted face at Broomhill sculpture gardens, North Devon
Broomhill Sculpture Gardens Broomhill Sculpture Gardens, a great place for a bit of peace and quiet in beautiful and thought provoking surroundings. The gardens are at Muddiford, a few minutes drive North of Barnstaple (or for non drivers take the 315 bus to Barnstaple then the 301 to Muddiford).

Have a ‘slow food’ lunch in the lovely Terra Madre restaurant. We had tapas for about a tenner per head (2012), read the paper, and took about an hour to wander around the gardens. Could have taken a book and spent longer, but sadly real life called us back.
Broomhill Sculpture Gardens

If you’re just looking for something different and some time to properly relax this could be a day out for you. Or you could combine it with a trip to the beach or maybe shopping in Barnstaple’s famous pannier market.
Entrance to the garden cost something like 4.50 for adults (2012).
Broomhill Sculpture Gardens, woman resting

RHS Rosemoor gardens

RHS Rosemoor, hot garden

RHS Rosemoor is just 11 miles from our cottage and lodges, and makes a relaxing day out, or you can combine it with other attractions in nearby Torrington (walks, Dartington crystal, The Plough Arts Centre). You can get there by bus from Winkleigh – the stagecoach 5B service stops right at the gate.

See formal and rose gardens, a potager, the vegetable plot, a foliage and a plantsman’s garden, and even a winter garden.

Open every day of the year except Christmas day. Hours are 10:00 until 17:00 from September to March and 10:00 until 18:00 in the summer months. Last admission one hour before closing. There’s a cafe, shop, loos etc.

Free to RHS members, otherwise adults cost £6, kids under 6 go free, ages 6-16 cost £2.

Guide dogs only

We liked the vegetable garden best!
RHS Rosemoor Gardens