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”
Black a Tor Copse and Black Tor make a lovely Dartmoor walk from Meldon Reservoir. We last did it in late March on a sunny day – gorgeous!
Start at the Meldon Reservoir carpark (has loos) and walk over the reservoir dam, enjoying the spectacular views. Turn right and head along the side of the Reservoir until you get to the far end. At the head there’s a charming stone bridge (see pictures). But don’t cross this, instead turn up the valley here towards the copse of trees you can see. This isn’t Black A Tor Copse yet but it’s very picturesque. Walk along the track above the river – it’s the West Okement here.
You’re soon on a wide track. When you get to a walled enclosure skirt around it and from the far side you’ll see Black A Tor Copse, a National Nature Reserve. It’s special because it’s all English Oak (not sessile oak, the more common species on Dartmoor) and few woods are found this high. Because Dartmoor is often damp (it’s true – we have to admit it!) this a a great spot for lichens – they grow on the moss cloaked boulders beneath the trees as well as on the trees themselves. Several nationally-rare species grow here. It’s also one of the best places on Dartmoor to see breeding ring ouzels (a thrush like bird).
OK, the wood itself is not huge, but it’s very pretty – almost hobbit country. Just east of the wood you find Black Tor itself. Well you could hardly miss it. And it’s worth the climb when the views open out for you. At the Tor you’re on the high ground. You could strike out and make it to High Willhays or Yes Tor and so get to the highest bit of Dartmoor. Or you could just follow the track heading northish, which will take you back to the hills above Meldon Reservoir without needing to cross any Dartmoor rivers. It’s more exposed up here, so can be windy.
By the time you get back you’ll have had a proper taste of Dartmoor’s high moor but without any difficult navigation or rivers to cross.
Mostly firm, but uneven and plenty wet if it has been raining. Expect boggy bits, a puff up to the Tor and some wind on the top. As always, remember Dartmoor weather can be very changeable so go dressed for worse conditions than you are hoping for. Come and borrow the Dartmoor map from the farm house before you set out.
You’re probably going to need a car for this one, and parking is at Meldon Reservoir car park. On a Sat Nav the postcode EX20 4LU should get you close enough to follow signs. No car? That would be a challenge from Wheatland Farm Eco Lodges. Anything’s possible if you’re determined, but the start point is about 18 miles away and public transport is not good in that direction.
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.
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.
Here’s a lovely spot for a river-side picnic 6 miles from the cottage and lodges, at Bondleigh.
This little woodland is owned by the Woodland Trust, and as such has public access. That means you can wander off the path – indeed right down to the Taw – without worry. It’s a pretty small wood, but you could combine a picnic with a Bondleigh Walk too. There’s room to park (just) at the second gate (the Bondleigh end) some big trees, and a lovely peaceful atmosphere.
If you want something similar by even closer, try the Big Tree Walk at Haywood Wood, Eggesford, just 4 miles from us (and easier to get to by bike).
This circular Devon dog walk is fairly easy terrain, with wide paths and no styles. But it does have a couple of gates – and a couple of hills in it too, so you’ll get a bit of exercise!
You’ll start about 2 miles from the cottage and lodges. You can borrow a bike, or drive. Turn right out of our drive, and keep going until you get to the Methodist Chapel at Stable Green. Just opposite the chapel take a left, at right angles to the road, steeply downhill into Hollocombe – not the one that almost doubles back on you when you reach the chapel. Head down into Hollocombe and leave your bike or park opposite the house at the bottom of the valley and just before the stream. Take a lead because you may encounter livestock or tractors. OS Explorer map 127.
We set off through Hole Wood. It’s a bridle path, meaning it’s fairly wide and flat, though it can be muddy. You go through conifers, roughly following the stream – Hollocombe Water. When you get to some out buildings turn left, walk downhill and through the gate. There were pigs here! Great hairy things. I was on my guard, ready to warn everyone, but the kids didn’t seem concerned and even scratched the lazy beasts’ bellies through the fence. Hey – that’s my role isn’t it – lying around in the sun and being tickled on the tummy?
So anyway, swiftly on to the footbridge (for me) or the ford (for those who like to splash) and then a right turn and walk up the lane on the other side.
Don’t get side-tracked here by the diverted footpath sign looking like it wants to send you up a steep hill. Not that I mind hills but there are others coming… No, just stay on the lane, which is still a bridle path, and go through the farm buildings and on. Where the lane divides, ignore the track curving uphill and stay on the concrete driveway.
You’ll soon come to a hairpin turning, almost back on yourself that takes you down to the water again.
Enjoy the flowers in the hedgerow, but when you reach the footbridge watch out for rotten planks!
You’ll come across a pretty pink thatched cottage – turn right alongside it and follow the path that takes you up the hill. You walk through conifers first, then broadleaved woodland with speckled wood butterflies and dappled sunshine, and eventually come out at a gate. Pause for a pant if you like, then go through the gate, shutting it behind you and follow the edge of the field.
You come to the farm buildings at Redland and another pretty Devon thatched cottage. Walk with the farmhouse on your right, following the track through a gate and around the buildings until you get to the lane. This will take you back to the public road, but both are pretty much as quiet and grassy as each other. When you do get to the road turn right and head back, downhill, to where you started. It’s a steep and windy Devon lane, so be ready for cars but you probably won’t even get a sniff of one.
This Devon walk, good for dogs, adults and kids, starts at Speke Cross in Wembworthy, just a couple of miles from Wheatland Farm.
To get there:
Right out of the drive, right at the first cross roads (Tinker’s post), bear right at Lane End – a Thatched farmhouse. Carry on over and down the hill, and up into Wembworthy on the other side. Turn left through the village, until you see the playground on your left. Leave your bikes, or car, near the playground, then cross the road at the junction and follow the footpath sign towards Wembworthy Down.
You’ll go past the houses that front onto the road and along a lane until you get to a new barn on your left. Just past the barn the footpath has been redirected – take the kissing gate into the field and follow the signs. It’s a bit different from the OS map here, but clear enough.
When you go through a metal gate, and the path no-longer seems to go straight on, head downhill to the gate in the middle of the hedge at the bottom of the field. It seems to have lost it’s waymarker, but you can’t get too confused – there aren’t any other options!
Through the gate (don’t forget to shut it) turn left, along the field margin, heading towards another gate. On this one you can just glimpse the yellow waymarker badge.
Go through this gate and follow the hedge line. The field falls steeply away from you down into the valley.
Here there’s a stile into a steep corner field. The dogs (2 labradors and Muttley) managed to wriggle a way through. On our March walk there were daffodils flowering in the grass here – not the native ones though.
Follow the old hedgerow into the corner of the field where the stream is. Snow drops flower here early in the year. Look for hedgerow flowers and spring turns to summer.
You’re in amongst trees here, and it’s a good place to stop for a coffee – if you’re that way inclined! Watch out for woodland flowers – wood sorrel and wild garlic in spring. When you’re rested, follow the well-marked path to a stile into Stone Wood plantation – forestry commission land and therefore open access.
The path brings you out onto a forestry commission track. Turn right, downhill. You’ll soon come across a large wooden gate, which you go through.
You’re temporarily leaving open access forestry land and crossing farmland again. But the public footpath follows the river valley – to another gate.
Once back in the plantation the forestry track takes you uphill through conifers. Bear right when you meet the next track, roughly following the stream below you.
Just follow the track, keeping the stream closeby, and you’ll come across a stone bridge crossing the stream. Your path heads downhill to cross it.
As you start to head uphill after the bridge (and small gate), look to your right. In the field (and unfortunately off the public right of way), is the trunk of an enormous tree, now sadly toppled. It’s still an awesome sight though.
You walk uphill here through trees until you come to a gate in the corner of the field and near the main house. That gate takes you back onto the farm drive. The footpath now skirts the property, returning you past the the new barn seen at the start of your walk, to the start point.
This Devon walk starts about a mile from the cottage and lodges. You can borrow a bike, walk or drive – just take care not to park blocking the gates where the walk starts. Turn left out of our drive, go past the farm shop, then right, down towards Hollocombe (before you reach the main road). Enjoy the flowers in the hedges! You’ll see a footpath sign on your right. There’s room to park a car opposite it – you set off through the gate. If you’re taking a dog, take a lead too, because you’ll be going across pasture where there may be livestock. OS Explorer map 127.
You’ll set off across glorious grassland, rich with clover, and campion, sometimes awash with a snow of white dandelion clocks and in late spring dotted with stichtwort in the hedgerows. The path is well-marked though there are a couple of heavy farm gates.
Follow the map and the signs, passing a fallen down cob barn and another building that now seems to be just a chimney stack. You go down a lane between these 2 buildings and out onto another, turning right before strking off across another field.
In spring the flowers are like a garden border here in the hedgerows and fill them up with vibrant colours. Need a bit of garlic? Ransomes grow along one side of the track.
Look out for the laid hedges too – with young hedgerow trees left standing. Managing hedges this way is much better for wildlife, particularly blossom and the insects that depend on it.
You’ll come to a gate into woodland. There’s a lovely barrel of a path through a deep-sided track overhung with trees. And this is where the bluebells start in May. These are the beautiful delicate native bluebells, not the larger more robust Spanish incomers.
You’ll soon hit a path running close to the stream, Hollocombe Water. Turn left for a bit, continuing through woodland.
Then there’s another well-marked track heading back up the wooded hillside. It comes out on the road, past patches of primroses lighting up the bank.
On the road, turn left and head back up hill to the start point. A bit of a slog at the end here, but you’re nearly there. And you can always call in at Fiona’s farm shop for refreshments on the way home.
Here’s a beach trip for a day when the walk is part of the fun. This one won’t offer you miles of sand, and there are no ice cream stalls, but then there aren’t many people either (and you can always get refreshments at the pub on the way back).
Start your walk at Horn’s Cross, on the A39 between Bideford and Buck’s Cross. You can get the bus (more instructions at the end). Or you can drive. If driving, park considerately – this is a small hamlet. You can park at the pub if you’re a customer.
You’ll be heading off past the pub anyway, down to the beach through Peppercombe, owned by the National Trust. Where the track forks just past the pub, stay left (not through the 5 bar gate) and follow the path. In spring it’s alive with wild garlic, wood anemones, primroses and celandines. Later in the year you’ll find red campion and other woodland plants and butterflies.
The path takes you alongside a stream, past a couple of quaint little cottages, then across a field, down another wooded section and so to the beach. It’s about half a mile, and well signed at every turn.
The island you see on the horizon is Lundy, also part of the North Devon Biosphere Reserve.
The beach itself is stony, except for patches of sand at low water, so this is a walk and picnic lunch rather than a bucket and spade excercise. When you’ve had enough of building encampments with the cobbles, you can wander north east along the beach until you find a bit were the cliffs dip down and a brick-built dam holds back a small pond. From here you can pick up the coast path back up the other side of the combe. You’ll take a narrow, sometimes very muddy path along the top of the cliffs this time, coming out about half way up the combe. When you reach the main track turn left and head up hill.
If you don’t want to retrace your steps, keep left where the track forks and you’ll walk back to the start point along the other side of the combe.
Horn’s Cross is about 25 miles from your Devon self catering accommodation – you can drive or go by bus.
Car free Devon day out
Get the early 5B bus from Winkleigh to Bideford, then get the 319 service to Horn’s Cross (usually about 11.30 – check up to date timetables). These are both stagecoach services, so get a day rider ticket for North Devon that lets you get on and off stagecoach buses all day. Walk down to the beach for a picnic, but make sure you know the time of the last bus back! And for a really good car free day out, make Peppercombe the start of a lovely 2-3 hour one-way walk along the south west coast path to Westward Ho, then pick up a bus from Westward Ho back to Bideford in time for the last bus back to Winkleigh (about 16:30). This is a great day out – we’ve done it ourselves.
You can get a good taste of Dartmoor around Meldon Reservoir, yet choose how adventurous you want to be. Walk around the reservoir, head for the High Willhayes (the highest point in southern England), walk down to the viaduct or explore the geology of the valley.
The area around Meldon is a SSSI. There’s a hazel wood with bluebells in spring (and a good population of dormice) just north of the Meldon Viaduct.
Here’s a link to a circular walk from Okehampton to Meldon and back.
Meldon Viaduct now carries the Granite Way cyclepath (going from Okehampton to near Lydford).
Anglers can fish for brown trout during the season. It’s free, but you need an Environment Agency rod licence for anyone over 12.
Meldon Reservoir is about 17 miles from our Devon cottage and eco lodges. There’s a car park, which has public loos.
This is a good one way walk through a wooded combe and along a fabulous stretch of the South West Coast Path. Take the bus out and walk back….
You start this day out from either the bus stop at Winkleigh or the bus stop on the Quay at Bideford (there’s a car park nearby). After a short journey you’ll walk along wooded paths, see Lundy Island out to sea, dip down to a beach, and catch cliff top views. The walk is narrow and steep at times. You can’t get lost though – just keep going and you’ll arrive in Westward Ho! feeling smug about not just lounging around on the beach. Allow 2-3 hours.
Bus: Get a morning bus – the 5B – usually around 9am, but do check the timetable! If you don’t already have a weekly route ticket buy a North Devon dayrider ticket so you can get on and off stagecoach buses all day. Get off at Bideford Quay. You’ll probably arrive with some time to kill, so enjoy the Quayside, admire the long bridge, or visit the Burton Art Gallery (free entry, interesting history of the bridge upstairs, plus cafe and loos.) It’s in the park just beyond the Quay.
Be back on the Quay (on the river side) to get the 319 stagecoach bus to Horn’s Cross (approx 11:25 from the Quay in summer). If you stay on the LHS of the lower deck you’ll see the sign for Horn’s Cross in time to ting the bell. The bus stop is by the pub. Walk through the pub car park, down the lane, then turn right through a gate signed Peppercombe. Follow the path downhill until you reach signs for the coast path, then branch off. From here you can’t go wrong!
There are glorious cliff top scenes, wonderful butterflies and flowers in summer, and views of Lundy out to sea. You’ll dip down to a beach (good for lunch) before heading up and down quite a few times more…
You’ll come out by the colourful beach huts – this will feel like a different culture after your walk!
If you walk along the front, then turn up towards the church, you’ll come to Nelson Road where you can catch the First 1 bus back to Bideford Quay. Because this is a different service, you’ll have to buy a ticket. The last bus back from Bideford to Winkleigh is usually about 16:50 (again – check the current timetable).
Bude offers some of the closest beaches to us. You can enjoy the sand, go surfing or pick up the South West Coast path for a lovely walk. It’s just over the border in Cornwall, but they won’t ask for your passport…
If you drive to Bude you’ll probably end up at Summerleaze Beach, the closest to the town. There’s level access from Summerleaze car park. At low tide you can also get here from the Canal. There’s lots of sand when the tide is out, but take care swimming near the sailing channels into the Canal. You might prefer the sea-washed swimming pool near the cliffs. Crooklets is the other town beach, also popular with surfers. (No dogs allowed on Crooklets beach between Easter and 1st October).
At Widemouth Bay, (turning off the A39 a mile or two south of Bude) there is a large beach with over 2 miles of sand at low tide. Good for families and surfers – plenty of room for all. Dogs are allowed on the southern part all year.
A canal joins the sea at Bude. It was built to transport sea sand, rich in lime, to farms inland. The lock gates near the sea suffered storm damage in 1997 but have now been repaired (and if you wonder whether rebuilding the gates in such fabulous-looking hardwood was really sustainable, it’s because the gates are ‘listed’, and English Heritage insisted they be replaced by green oak). You can walk or ride along the tow path to Helebridge, passing a nature reserve on the way. Just across the A39 at Helebridge you can see the old wharf area and restored barge workshop. There’s also a picnic site here.
Cliff top walks
Alternatively, walk along the cliffs from Bude for spectacular views on the South West Coast Path. You’re standing on 300 million years of geological history!
Bude is about 30 miles from our cottage and eco lodges.
If you want to see more, check out the Bude webcams.
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.
This is why we call it the big tree walk! This douglas fir was planted around 1840 and is to be found in the Heywood Forestry Commission woodland about 4 miles from Wheatland Farm. This is an easy going walk which you can do with a push chair. But it’s better if you can cope with a scramble because then you can get down to the River Taw and climb to the top of a Norman Motte and Bailey castle.
Heywood is between Eggesford Station and Wembworthy – about 4 miles from the eco lodges. Just ask us to point it out on the map. You can cycle there on our free bikes. If you take the car there’s easy parking. Trails are marked. The Forestry Commission say their circular walk takes 1.5 hours, and it might at an amble. Follow the red posts, turning right at one by a downhill woodland path off the main track. You’ll soon come across the ‘big tree’. Hard to miss it! It was part of the Egggesford estate and was planted around 1840.
Push chairs and anyone with limited mobility should go straight on after the tree to the motte and bailey….
If you take the tiny path just beside the tree and head downhill some more you’ll come to a steep scramble or slide through bushes and rhododendrons. It takes you to the bank of the Taw. There’s a little river-shingle beach – a fabulous picnic spot in the summer and an essential ‘stone chucking’ spot. It’s not deep enough to swim, but suitably attired you can certainly cool off!
Then either retrace your steps or walk down stream along another path that goes alongside the river until you come almost to a stone bridge. This bit can be muddy. Zig zag back up hill on another well trodden path, and when you rejoin the main track, turn right and walk on to the motte and bailey castle. There are steps up to the top and you get some good views of the surrouning countryside.
There are 3 paths back from here – the one you came on, the next one which will take you back to where you turned off to get to the big tree (and then back to the car par), or one the other side of the mound which goes on through woodland and ends up on a quiet stretch of road. From here you walk for a couple of hundred metres back uphill along the road until you get back to the car park.
Lydford Gorge is the deepest gorge in the south west of England, with the White Lady waterfall tumbling 30m (90ft). It’s been voted the No. 1 most romantic spot in Devon and Cornwall and is about 21 miles from Wheatland Farm’s eco lodges.
The main attraction of this National Trusts property is its grounds and a spectacular walk that takes you through woodland trails to the famous While Lady waterfall, then follows a deep-cut ravine alongside the river Lyd.
Legend says anyone falling into the Lyd who sees a woman in white with long flowing tresses standing in the waterfall will not drown! Presumably if you do drown you don’t get to say whether or not you saw her…
You’ll need proper footwear – it’s narrow in places and can be slippery, especially after rain. The full walk is not suitable for people with severely limited mobility, although there is a gentler path from the second entry to the waterfall. The return path takes you alongside crystal clear fast flowing water – look out for baby trout in the stream. At the end you’ll find the Devil’s Cauldron – a shorter but booming waterfall that has cut itself a cauldron shape cavern in the rock. You can go to a viewing platform along a walk way – it’s fabulous! The walls are covered with moss and liverworts, and the whole thing is quite an experience. There’s a bit where the National Trust have (courageously?) not included a fence – so you’ll be pleased of the handrail!
You can take your dog to Lydford Gorge, but an infirm or elderly pet might struggle with the narrow slippery paths. You’ll definitely need a lead.
During school holidays there will often be family activities running, such as woodland sculpture workshops.
Lydford Gorge is on the north western edge of Dartmoor. You could easily spend a day here, or combine a visit with other Dartmoor attractions. You could even bike it from Okehampton along the Granite Way.
Free entry to National Trust members. Day ticket for a family was about £23 in 2017. There are loos at the entrance, and a teashop.
Postcode: EX20 4BH
Telephone: 01822 820320
Lydford Gorge is also close to the Black a Tor Copse walk on Dartmoor – you don’t have to approach it from the Meldon Reservoir.
This walk starts in Bondleigh, crosses fields to a bridge over the Taw, follows the river, then returns to the village along Devon lanes crowded only with wildflowers.
You start near the church and set off along a footpath weaving between the houses and then crossing fields to the River Taw. There are some lovely country views, an old stone bridge, and winding lanes. This walk has a couple of stiles and some gentle hills but is not particularly challenging.
Bondleigh is about 5 miles from our cottage and lodges. This charming walk might make a good 1.5 hour dawdle.