Diving in Devon
In 1943 some 3000 people were evacuated from the Slapton Sands area of South Devon in order to provide a training ground for the American army in preparation for the D-Day landings in Normandy, France in June 1944. Slapton Sands was chosen for its resemblance to the Normandy coast.
The training exercises included the ill-fated Exercise Tiger, one of several large-scale rehearsals, which took place in April 1944. Firstly, communication and co-ordination problems during the operation led to injuries and deaths from friendly fire as troops were transferred from landing craft to the beach on 27th April. Then, during the night, a number of fast attack E-boats of the German Kriegsmarine slipped in among the landing craft that had been deployed in Lyme Bay, full of soldiers, tanks and equipment. Two of the landing craft were sunk and a third badly damaged. More than 700 American servicemen died as a result of these two tragic incidents. But although the casualty figures were released in August 1944 Exercise Tiger itself was somehow, whether through circumstances or design, forgotten until comparatively recently.
In 1984, thanks to the efforts of local man, Ken Small, an American Sherman amphibious tank salvaged from the seabed, was set up at Tor Cross, at the southern end of Slapton Sands, as a memorial to the men who lost their lives during Exercise Tiger. In the event, fewer soldiers died during the actual D-Day landings than during Exercise Tiger. Their sacrifice though, as the inscription plaque on the Sherman tank, records was not in vain.
The fact that the local people had been evacuated though was not forgotten. About midway along the beach is another memorial presented by the United States Army in 1945 to all the people who ‘generously left their homes and their lands to provide a battle practice area for the successful assault in Normandy in June 1944’. The inscription continues, ‘their action resulted in the saving of many hundreds of lives and contributed in no small measure to the success of the operation’.
The North Devon coast provided important training grounds for Allied forces during the Second World War. The area also saw the temporary influx of large numbers of American troops using the wide sandy beaches to prepare for the D-Day landings in June 1944, when it became known as the Assault Training Centre. The significance of this role throughout wartime has led to several relics of this era being afforded protection by Historic England as Listed Buildings.
One such site is the former bombing range at Putsborough, established in or before 1942, where the Royal Air Force practiced low altitude air-to-sea bombing runs, primarily to counter the increased threat of attacks on the British coast from the sea. The site consisted of a concrete-built arrow, set into the ground and pointed at a timber and cork target buoy anchored in Morte Bay. Accuracy of bombing was determined by triangulation from associated concrete observation posts, crewed by the Women’s Royal Air Force, one of which stood adjacent to the arrow and two others were positioned further along the bay, at Barricane Beach and Marine Drive, Woolacombe. Both the arrow and observation post at Putsborough survive.
The bombing range was used by Spitfires to practice dive-bombing of which a number crashed into Morte Bay during training. However, the range was mainly used by squadrons based at the nearby RAF Chivenor, including No. 172 anti-submarine squadron who, flying Vickers Wellington bombers, were pioneers in the use of the Leigh Light. The Leigh Light was a high-power searchlight that was used to highlight target U-boats on the surface at night and partially resolved the range limitations of Air-to-Surface Vessel Radar, which could not detect targets within 1km and so gave the enemy time to dive before being seen. The Leigh Light was turned on just as the radar signal was about to be lost, so giving the bombing crews ‘eyes on target’.
HMS Montagu was a steel British Duncan class battleship built at Devonport Dockyard, Plymouth in 1901 in direct response to large French, Russian and German ship-building programmes prior to the First World War. One of six ships in the heavily-armed class, which proved to be superior in their balance of speed, firepower, and armour; they were the fastest battleships in the Royal Navy when completed.
In May 1906 the Montagu was patrolling the entrance of the Bristol Channel on the open side of Lundy and carrying out wireless trials with the Scilly Isles. Visibility was poor and the dense fog and a strong prevailing current drove the ship off course. Soundings were taken at frequent intervals, but became grounded by the bows before any evasive action could be taken. The ship had struck rocks off Shutter Point and the swell had carried the stern onto the rocks with both propellers being carried away. The battleship lay stranded in shallow water with a large hole in the starboard bottom, with water above the torpedo nets, in the engine room, boiler room and stokehold. Distress flares and the minute gun were fired, 2 officers rowed ashore and scaled the cliffs to the North Light. An exchange occurred between the keeper and themselves with the officers eventually believing they were on Lundy Island rather than at Hartland Point as first thought. When news reached the mainland tugs and salvage vessels were sent to the scene along with the battleships Exmouth, Duncan, Dido and Alblemarle. The paymaster, sick men, ledgers and money were taken ashore to Millcombe House. The next day, the crew of the Montagu were employed salving the ships stores and transferring them to the Duncan and Dido with lifesaving equipment being rigged to the cliffs. It was hoped to float her in July using a floating crane from Bermuda on the highest tides of the year, but it soon became obvious this would not happen.
The Montagu was initially salvaged by a Liverpool Salvage Company for the British Navy but was later sold to the Cornish Salvage Company in 1907. In order to aid the salvage operation the Cornish company constructed an aerial walkway suspended from the cliffs to the wreck and steps were cut into the cliff face. The steps are known as the Montagu Steps, some of which are reinforced with iron plates, likely to be parts salvaged from hull of the Montague. The wreck has swiftly deteriorated to an artefact scatter, consisting mainly of metal frames and riveted armour plating with some gun mountings and 12″ shells.
In recent years, dives have been led by Wessex Archaeology in collaboration with Help for Heroes, a charity which helps British service personnel and veterans wounded in the line of duty, and their families. The underwater survey work has resulted in HMS Montagu and the Montagu Steps being protected as scheduled monuments. Recreational divers will still be free to explore the ship but the remains of the wreck will be monitored and managed.
The dives led by Wessex Archaeology form part of Operation Nightingale, a ground-breaking military initiative, controlled by the Ministry of Defence to aid the recovery of wounded, injured and sick servicemen by getting them involved in archaeological investigations.
Exeter’s Quayside situated next to the River Exe and the Exeter Ship Canal is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike. Despite the redevelopments over the years and the recreational attractions on offer, the quay still retains much of its historic character. The splendour of the 17th century buildings, which include the former Custom House, Quay House and the former Wharfinger’s house and office, give a real sense of history and reflect that Exeter was once a lucrative trading centre and one of England’s leading ports.
The Quay, and the river alongside, appears so permanent it is easy to forget that until the late 16th century, obstructions and an unnavigable river made access to Exeter very difficult, apart from using very small craft. The construction of Exeter canal and Exeter Quay in the late 1560s realised the potential of Exeter becoming a successful port. Indeed, within ten years trade grew and the Quay was extended. The wattle revetment which held back reclamation deposits was replaced by a more substantial stone wall made from local Heavitree stone supported on rows of oak piles. Various improvements were made over the years and in 1680 the quay was redesigned and included the construction of the Custom House and associated buildings. In 1701 the canal was deepened to take ships and boats with a greater draught, indicating a real boom in import and export. The quay wall was realigned to its present position and the quay lengthened to the south of this in the late 18th century. In the 1820s-30s and coinciding with the construction of the canal basin on the opposite bank of the river, Kings Wharf and nos 6-11 Warehouse Vaults were constructed and further development to the south introduced 14-25 Quay Vaults, which were tunnelled into the cliff for the storage of goods. The open-sided fish market is dated 1838 and its adjoining enclosed building (currently the Quay Antiques Centre) is shown on the late 19th century Ordnance Survey map.
Many of the 19th century warehouses which line the pedestrianised walkways on the quay have been converted into offices, restaurants, pubs, antique and gifts shops. During the summer months particularly, this part of Exeter buzzes with many visitors, mirroring in part the busy atmosphere and activity that began here 500 years ago.
Buckland Abbey, which is now a National Trust property, has a particularly interesting history, transforming from a medieval abbey to a country house owned by 16th century Elizabethan nautical notoriety.
It was founded as a Cistercian Abbey in 1278, a daughter house of Quarr Abbey on the Isle of Wight. It was the last to be built in medieval England and the most westerly institution of its kind. The resident monks not only led an ascetic life but they were also skilled agriculturalists, overseeing five granges as well as the Abbey’s home farm. One of the most striking medieval standing buildings to be seen at Buckland Abbey is the 15th century Tithe Barn, where the Abbot stored the agricultural surplus paid as rents and dues.
The Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII between 1536 and 1541 saw the fortunes of Buckland Abbey shift. In 1541 King Henry sold the abbey to Sir Richard Grenville, who had formerly served as the king’s Marshall of Calais. Sir Richard together with his son, Roger set about converting the remains into a private house, now called Buckland Grenville. Roger Grenville’s place in Tudor history was sealed upon his death. He captained the Mary Rose during battle with the French and sank with the ship in 1545. Richard Grenville died in 1550 and the property was inherited by his grandson, also Richard. Richard spent his early adult life privateering and it wasn’t until 1574, after his plans for an expedition to South America were scuppered that he returned to Buckland to complete its conversion into a country house. The cloisters and other monastic buildings on the north side of the church were demolished and the church itself was converted into a house. Upper floors were inserted, the space beneath the crossing was transformed into the great hall with a decorated plaster ceiling and a kitchen wing with a large open hearth was added at the east end. Despite alterations in the Georgian period and restoration after a fire in 1938 it is Richard Greville’s 16th century mansion that we largely see today.
In 1580 though Richard put the estate up for sale and returned to a life at sea. He led an expedition to Virginia in 1583 and sent five of ships to fight the Spanish Armada in 1588. He finally fell at the battle of Flores off the Azores in 1591, when his ship Renown (Sir Francis Drake’s Armada flagship) was surrounded by a superior Spanish fleet.
By strange coincidence the Buckland estate was bought by Sir Francis Drake (c.1540-1596), perhaps the most famous or infamous Elizabethan naval commander. An explorer, privateer and slave trader, he was nicknamed El Draque (The Dragon) by the Spanish. It is said that King Philip II of Spain offered 20,000 ducats for his capture or death. Drake paid for the Abbey out of wealth amassed from plundering Spanish ships and territories in the Pacific during his circumnavigation of the world onboard The Golden Hind in 1577-1580. Ironically, this was the same expedition that Grenville had hoped to undertake in 1574. Drake was knighted by Queen Elizabeth I in 1581 and went on to become Lord Mayor of Plymouth. He lived at Buckland Abbey until his last, unsuccessful, campaign to Spanish America where he died, of dysentery, after losing the Battle of San Juan. He was buried at sea, off Portabelo, Panama.
Drake does not appear to have made many alterations to the Abbey during the 15 years that he lived there, although in the Tower Room is a fireplace with an ornate overmantel bearing Drake’s personal Coat of Arms and the Latin inscription Sic Parvis Magna (‘thus great things from small’).
Apart from a brief return to Grenville ownership during the English Civil War, Buckland Abbey was to remain in the Drake family ownership until 1946 when it was purchased by Captain Arthur Rod who presented it to the National Trust. The abbey opened to the public in 1951.
The Custom House, a nationally important Grade I listed building is located at Exeter Quayside where thousands of tourists flock every year. It was built in 1680 by Richard Allen and along with other Georgian buildings at the Quay such as the Wharfinger’s house and office, the Quay House and warehouses, contributes to the history of Exeter’s rich and exotic past and reflects the success of trade in Exeter during the Georgian and Victorian eras.
The Custom House is possibly the earliest surviving brick building in Exeter and the earliest purpose-built Custom House in England. It was built to cope with the expansion of Exeter’s port facilities on the back of the rapid growth of the wool trade after the English Civil War (1642-1649). Woollen cloth was exported to places such as Bordeaux and the Canaries and wine and other goods were imported on return.
The building stands proud. With its Renaissance-inspired façade and centralised double-depth plan it is the epitome of the 17th century building style that had arrived in Devon. For its time and use as a civil building it was opulent, no expense was spared in employing the best craftsmen. For example, John Abbot II, a plasterworker from Frithelstock was among some of the employees to work on the Custom House. Abbot was at least a third generation plasterworker, so the family name would have been well known for providing quality pieces such as the finely embellished plaster ceilings he created in the Custom House. The Custom House would have conveyed to merchants that Exeter was a prosperous city and that it considered its import duty serious business.
The Custom House thrived. Its far-reaching jurisdiction to Teignmouth through to the east of the River Axe at the Devon and Dorset boundary ensured Exeter lined its coffers with merchant dues. Coal from South Wales and Sunderland also passed through Exeter as well as the usual goods such as wine, spirits, tobacco and tea. Between 1758 and 1784 the tonnage of coal increased from 4,266 to 17,143. Catching smugglers as well as administrative duties was also included in the job description.
Much of the original splendour is still present including the sump, with its semi barrel vault, thought to be used for the disposal of contraband wine. The ornate plaster ceilings also survive with The Long Room frieze of leaves, flowers, exotic fruits, serpents, scrolled masks and cartouches being the finest.
The cannon that front the building, thought to have been used in the Battle of Waterloo, are two of a batch of English cannon that were sold to Russia in 1789. After Napoleon was defeated the cannons became obsolete and were returned to England. Fifteen were taken to Exeter Quay in 1819 and four were to be placed on the Wellington Memorial in Somerset. When it was discovered that the cannon had not been used at Waterloo they were no longer wanted for the memorial. Several years later Exeter City tried to sell them to pay for the storage costs but were never sold. Four of the cannons were eventually used as bollards at the Quay and the rest buried. The cannon were excavated in the early 1900s, four were taken to Wellington Memorial but during WWII they were melted for scrap leaving only the Exeter cannon remaining and now stand prominently in front of the Custom House.
H.M Customs and Excise used the building until 1989. Since then, it has been used by Exeter City’s Archaeological Unit, traded as a clothes shop and is now in the hands of the Exeter Canal and Quay Trust. The Trust promotes businesses located on the Quayside and Canal Basin as well as cultural events and festivals. It displays a wealth of information about Exeter and the Quayside including an audio-visual presentation about the history of Exeter.
Dartmouth Castle has played a strategic role in protecting the mouth of the Dart Estuary for more than 600 years and the remains surviving today show well the development of coastal defences during that time. The earliest parts of the castle date to the late 14th century when a ‘fortalice’, an enclosure castle with ring-towers and a curtain wall, was built. Its construction was instigated by John Hawley, one of Dartmouth’s most prominent historical figures who was fourteen times its Mayor and twice its MP. Hawley came to run one of the largest fleets of merchant ships along the south coast and became a successful privateer during the Hundred Years War (1337-1453).
In the 15th century a gun tower, the first artillery tower of its type, was built to protect a chain boom that stretched across the estuary to Gomerock Tower. The chains could be raised to prevent passage up river to Dartmouth. The chain tower was adapted to house cannon and musketeers in the late 1500s and additional gun batteries were also constructed at this time. Had the fleet of the Spanish Armada reached shore in 1588 Dartmouth Castle would have been in the front-line of England’s defences.
From the 17th century until 1941, Dartmouth Castle continued to provide defence for the estuary. Its gun batteries were remodelled and modified, firstly in the English Civil War (1642-1651) and then in the 1690s.
West Soar Signal Station is a rare example of a surviving late 18th century Napoleonic signalling station. It was one of a long chain of inter-visible Admiralty coastal stations that were constructed along Britain’s south and east coasts in order to alert ships and naval bases to the presence of enemy ships in the Channel. Whilst Napoleon decided against an invasion attempt, the signal stations continued in use, using a universal flag system to pass messages to ships as well as being lookout posts for Customs Officers in their (often futile) search for west country smugglers.
The surprisingly complete signal station at West Soar now stands on National Trust land above Steeple Cove and is located within a few metres of the South West Coast Path. It comprises a small square, stone-built tower about 3m square, with segmental-arch doorways. The upper floor has a small window facing the sea, so a telescope might scan the coast and observe ships’ movements. The flagpoles on which the signalling flags, pennants and balls were hoisted probably stood outside the building. The next station to the east was at Prawle Point but the location of the station to the west is unknown. The signalling role may have been limited at times by poor visibility in the Channel.
The Napoleonic station continued to have a use 150 years later during World War II, when the surrounding area became an airfield. This significant, maritime historic building is now protected as a Listed Building (Grade II) and has recently undergone archaeological recording and conservation works as part of a South West Coast Path project.
Greenway House, now owned by the National Trust, is a late 18th century mansion set within landscaped and wooded grounds overlooking the River Dart. It is particularly associated with the crime novelist, Dame Agatha Christie who bought the Georgian mansion as a holiday home in 1938. The site, however, has a much longer history with links to the early colonisation of America and the Spanish Armada, for beneath the house are the remains of a 16th century Tudor mansion.
The Tudor mansion, known as Greenway Court, was built by Otho Gilbert circa 1530 and it is here Sir Humphrey Gilbert, founder of the first British colony of Newfoundland in North America, was born in about 1539. Sir Humphrey was a soldier, politician and explorer, and related to fellow adventurers, Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Richard Grenville. One time Member of Parliament for Plymouth and Governor of Ulster, Sir Humphrey was to later live at the Gilbert’s other nearby family home, Compton Castle. However, he spent much of his later life at sea in a series of rather unsuccessful expeditions and died in 1583 when his ship, HMS Squirrel foundered in heavy seas off the Azores.
Meanwhile, Sir Humphrey’s elder brother, Sir John Gilbert lived at Greenway. He was made Sheriff of Devon in 1573 and became very much involved in various maritime issues. His position enabled him to organise local supplies for shipping. He was supportive of his brother’s plans for an expedition to Newfoundland in 1578 and assisted in the supply of victuals for Sir Walter Raleigh’s voyage to the Azores in 1586. Gilbert’s ship, Gabriel, was later to sail with Raleigh’s ship, Roebuck during the Spanish Armada. In 1588 he was made responsible for 160 Spanish prisoners of war who he set to work at Greenway, landscaping the gardens and grounds. Sir John died in 1596 and is buried in Exeter Cathedral. Greenway was inherited by his nephew, another John. The Gilberts continued to live at Greenway until about 1700 when they moved entirely to Compton Castle.
The present house was built 1780-1790 and remodelled and extended in the 19th century. The garden and grounds were laid out in two main phases, 1791-1832 when in the ownership of the Elton family and 1851-1882 under the Harvey family. As mentioned above, it was purchased by Dame Agatha Christie in 1938. She described it as ‘a dream house’ and it features in several of her novels.
It was requisitioned by the US coastguard during the Second World War. Around the walls of the library are 13 murals painted during that time which shows the new landing craft they were sailing and the places they visited en route to Greenway. The final mural depicts Greenway itself with their landing craft on the River Dart below.
The property was given to the National Trust in 2000 and is open to the public. The rooms are set in the 1950s and amongst the many items on display are first editions of Agatha Christies novels and artefacts collected in the Middle East when she accompanied her husband, archaeologist Max Mallowan, on excavations. But some links with the earlier, Greenway Court, also survive. An early 17th century plaster overmantel in one of the rooms is said to have come from the Gilbert’s mansion while down on the shore the remains of a Tudor slipway from the boathouse can be seen at low tide.
Culmstock Beacon provides a stunning viewpoint south to the River Culm valley and the historic village of Culmstock. The Beacon is on Black Down Common, 250 metres above sea level and is marked as ‘Black Down Beacon’ on Benjamin Donn’s map of Devon, 1765. It is thought to have originated as an Armada Beacon, one of a network across Devon built to warn of the Spanish Armada threat in 1588. Once lit the beacon would have been visible along sightlines to other beacons, at Holcombe Rogus, Upottery and Blackborough.
Culmstock Beacon is a designated Listed Building (Grade II). The circular beehive-shaped structure is built of local stone and is possibly the only beacon hut in the country to survive in its original form, although it was rebuilt in 1870 after it collapsed. The central hole for the fire post and beam slots for metal bars are thought to be original beacon features.
Visiting Culmstock Beacon on foot is an excellent day out, using local public footpaths above the town of Culmstock. However, everyone can enjoy this spectacular maritime monument through a virtual tour given by Devon County Archaeologist Bill Horner at Blackdown Hills Natural Futures_Culmstock Beacon
Dartmoor Prison was built in 1806-9 to house French prisoners of war. Its construction was partly prompted by the pressures on the overcrowded prison ships at Plymouth. Originally called the Dartmoor Depot, the name was changed to Dartmoor Prison in 1808. The first prisoners arrived in 1809 and by 1811 numbers had risen to nearly 10,000. The prison was also to take prisoners of war from the American war of 1812. The prison was severely overcrowded and outbreaks of disease claimed the lives of thousands of prisoners. The surviving prisoners were repatriated at the end of the wars, the last leaving in 1816 and the prison was then left largely empty until 1850 when it became a convict prison.
Built of Dartmoor granite, the original prison comprised five prison blocks arranged like spokes of a wheel around a central courtyard known as the Market Place together with a separate block for officers and a hospital. These were surrounded by two high, circular walls with a gateway on the south-western side. The space between the walls was known as the ‘Military Walk’. Two further cell blocks were added in 1811. Most of the buildings were altered or rebuilt in the mid-late 19th century when the prison reopened with further additions and alterations made in the 20th century.
Two of the original cell blocks still stand. The administrative buildings inside the inner gate also date from 1806-9 as do the two larger blocks behind them, which were originally the officers quarters and infirmary.
Adjacent to the prison are two matching, landscaped burial grounds created in the 1860s for the French and American prisoners of war who had died at the prison but who had been buried at the time with little or no ceremony. The focal point of each cemetery is a commemorative granite obelisk made by the convicts.
Most of the prison buildings are statutorily protected, as are the cemeteries and the reservoir located opposite the entrance which was built in 1806-9 as an integral part of the prison’s water supply.
Dartmoor Prison is still operational, now holding low category prisoners. However, the Dartmoor Prison Museum which is housed in the old prison dairy close by provides a vivid insight into the lives of the prisoners over the past 200 years and those who guarded them. Contrast for example the beautiful models and paintings made by the prisoners with the lethal weapons they also made and the methods that were once used to restrain and punish them.
Escorted walks are also available of the French and American cemeteries which lie within the prison perimeter and there is also a walking path around the reservoir, which is due to reopen in 2023.
Compton Castle is a 14th century fortified manor house set amidst rolling hills a short way inland from Torquay. Houses such as this, with its high curtain wall, towers and portcullis gateway, were built and lived in by some of the wealthiest members of late medieval society. With the marriage of Joan de Compton to Geoffrey Gilbert in 1329, Compton entered a family lineage that continues to this day. The property was enlarged in the 1450s, with fortifications added in the 1520s when Plymouth was raided by the French.
During the 16th and 17th centuries the Gilbert family were at the forefront of exploration, particularly in the Americas. In 1583 Sir Humphrey Gilbert claimed Newfoundland in the name of Elizabeth I, and two years later his half-brother, Sir Walter Raleigh, began planning the Roanoke Colony in North Carolina as the first permanent English settlement in North America. Raleigh’s colony failed, as did later attempts to settle Roanoke Island. When John White returned to assess the state of the settlement and its inhabitants in 1590 he found it abandoned, with the fate of over one hundred colonists remaining a mystery to this day.
Exploration remained a family interest, and in 1607 Sir Humphrey Gilbert’s son Raleigh Gilbert landed in Maine and established the Popham Colony, though this lasted only 14 months.
By 1750 the Gilbert family had established itself in Bodmin and Compton Castle fell into ruin and was sold. Two hundred years later, in 1931, descendent, Commander Walter Raleigh Gilbert bought back the house and began its restoration. In 1951 it was passed to the National Trust. Compton Castle remains the private residence of the Gilbert family, who administer the estate for the National Trust. The property is open to the public on certain days of the year.
The village of East Budleigh, and the parish church of All Saints in particular, is very much connected with the Elizabethan statesman, Sir Walter Raleigh (1552-1618) who was born at nearby Hayes Barton (not open to the public) and whose father, Walter Raleigh senior was a Church Warden. Sir Walter, a statue of whom stands at the top of the village High Street, funded expeditions to North America and led two expeditions to South America in search of El Dorado. He also took part in the Spanish Armada campaign of 1588. A ship that he had commissioned, Ark Raleigh, was purchased by the crown and became Lord High Admiral Howard’s flagship, Ark Royal.
The church, which stands high above the road, is mainly 15th century in origin; it retains a good set of 15th century roof bosses in the nave and a much-restored 15th century oak screen. However, parts of the chancel may date from an earlier 13th century church on the site. The church was restored in 1884 at which time the chancel was lengthened and a new vestry added. A piscina in the south wall of the chancel marks the former position of the altar. The stairs to a former rood loft survive within the buttress between the chancel and the north aisle. The nave has a flagstone floor within which are set grave slabs. The oldest, in a prime position at the front of the nave, is to the memory of Joan Raleigh, who was the first wife of Walter Raleigh senior. The pride of the church though is its set of Elizabethan carved oak bench ends including one with the Raleigh family coat of arms (now defaced), dated 1537, at the front of the nave. On the north wall is a copy of a portrait of Sir Walter Raleigh; the original dated 1588 hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in London. Sir Walter Raleigh’s tomb (he was executed in 1618 on the orders of James I) is in St Margaret’s, Westminster.
The Devon coastline not only played a strategic role in the active defence of Britain and the Allied invasion of Normandy, it also served to provide a training ground, particularly for the Royal Air Force. Anyone walking the South West Coast Path between Budleigh Salterton and Sidmouth would be hard-pressed to miss a simple, single-storey brick-built structure at Brandy Head. Today this building offers the passer-by a place to sit in peace, perhaps picnic, and look out over the English Channel, but its origins are less serene.
Constructed in July 1940, this was a bombing range observation post, monitoring the gunnery training range of Lyme Bay. The range was used for both air-to-air, and ship-to-air combat training, including by Navy fighters from Yeovilton firing at flying target tugs put out from Haldon Airfield. Brandy Head was also reputedly used for the testing of rocket artillery fired by planes stationed at RAF Exeter at steel land-based targets and at sea-based buoys.
The observation post is now holiday accommodation but the benches outside are available to anyone walking along the South West Coast Path.
The beginning of the 19th century was a tense time in Britain, with a fear of invasion caused by political upheaval in France, the Napoleonic Wars and the American War of Independence. The result was an increasing number of fortifications along the coastline. One such site is that of a Napoleonic-era ten-gun battery at Beer Head in East Devon.
Unfortunately, the battery is suffering due to the gradual collapse of the cliff. It was relatively insubstantial and comprised a simple hut for shelter but no defensive breastwork or redoubt.
The guns never saw active service and, whilst unmanned at night, are said to have plunged into the sea along with part of the hut during a cliff collapse.
It is thought that the battery was established after 1806, as it is not mentioned in a book of that year written to describe navigation through the English Channel.
Dartmouth, and the Dart Estuary, has long been an important coastal port and as such has been variously afforded a range of defences. Dartmouth and Kingswear Castles, as well as Gomerock Tower, provided substantial protection for the mouth of the river for over 600 years. Bayard’s Cove Fort, also known as Bearscore or Bearscave was the ‘last line’ of defence, built in Tudor times and completed by 1537, by the people of Dartmouth to house heavy artillery. It is small, only about 10 metres across internally, but was protected with thick walls that originally had a parapet from which musketeers could fire. It had lower gunports which enabled heavy guns to be fired against enemy vessels at water level. In 1575, the fort was leased by the town to Thomas Carne, a shipwright, subject to it being returned to the town authorities if necessary for the defence of the town. During the 1598 Spanish invasion scare, the town authorities took over control of the fort in accordance with the agreement. Bayard’s Cove Fort figured in the English Civil War (1642–1646), when Dartmouth was captured and held by Royalists who had built new gun forts on the hills surrounding the town. In 1646 the Parliamentarian New Model Army took Dartmouth during a night-time attack, and it is said that Bayard’s Cove then housed five iron guns which protected the river. After the Civil War it is thought that the fort was used for storage and in the 18th century fell into disrepair as Dartmouth’s prosperity declined. The opening of the Royal Naval College in 1863, and the growth of tourism, afforded much-needed uplift to the town’s economy and Bayard’s Cove Fort was restored. In 1940 it served temporarily as a machine gun emplacement but since then has served as a visitor attraction. It has been in the care of English Heritage since 1984.
Beer Quarry Caves provide a fascinating insight into the geology of East Devon, where a unique limestone was formed on the seabed 92 million years ago from a mixture of pulverised shells, fine sand and clay.
Beer Stone is ideally suited for fine detail carvings but hardens on exposure to the air. It was used in the construction of 24 cathedrals including Exeter, Winchester and St Pauls, as well as Hampton Court and Windsor Castle.
This route takes you from Exeter (Pennsylvania and University Campus) to Killerton. The distance shown is for one way; there is a return option via bus (No. 1 Service), or you can retrace the route (for a total of 12 miles).
There is lots to see including: nature, wildlife, history and archaeology. There are views over Exe, Culm and Clyst Valleys and the walk ends at historic Killerton House and Park (National Trust) where refreshments are available.
This is a very varied route with some sections on surfaced paths and tracks; some on unsurfaced footpaths and some sections on quiet country roads. There is one short section on a busier minor road and several moderate hills. A few sections can be muddy following wet weather, so stout footwear is advised.
This historic coastal Fort provides a stunning viewpoint of the Kingsbridge Estuary and Salcombe Harbour. Fort Charles (also known as Salcombe Castle) was constructed in AD 1544, following a French invasion scare in the reign of King Henry VIII. A century later, the semi-circular gun battery and drum tower were re-occupied during the English Civil War (AD 1641 – 46). The renamed ‘Fort Charles’ was commanded by a local royalist Sir Edmund Fortescue and contemporary sources record an artillery garrison of 65 men and 2 ‘laundresses’. Now that’s a lot of washing! In AD 1644 the fort surrendered to parliamentary forces and was partially demolished. A single surviving stone pier of the battery was modified into a look-out turret during the later Napoleonic period, showing that Fort Charles has had a long and valiant history defending the mouth of the estuary.
Created to commemorate the 60th anniversary in 2012 of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the throne. This 6km (3¾mile) way-marked circular walk, in the shape of a diamond, takes you through some of the most glorious coastal countryside in the West Country.
Along the walk you can enjoy stunning views up the river and towards Britannia Royal Naval College (BRNC) and in the other direction along the estuary and out to sea. The walk also passes Dartmouth Castle and close to Warfleet Creek.
This 38 mile/60km path takes you from Exmouth in the west to Lyme Regis, Dorset in the east, and follows footpaths, bridleways and stretches of quiet lanes. The route passes through the heart of the East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), linking to the South West Coast Path, the beautiful Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site and the Exe Estuary. You can pick up short sections of the trail from a number of easily accessible points.
Along the way you will find the traditional Devon thatched cob cottages, villages dating back to Saxon times, ancient churches, prehistoric hill forts, oak beamed pubs, leafy lanes and glorious vistas of rolling green hills.
The route forms a parallel alternative to the South West Coast Path and is comprehensively way-marked; just follow the sign of the foxglove.
This 7 mile (11km) multi-use trail is a mainly traffic-free route from Bovey Tracey to Moretonhampstead. It follows the disused Moretonhampstead branch line for the majority of its length and travels through the National Trust Parke Estate and past the picturesque village of Lustleigh. There is an on-road section in Lustleigh, which is narrow and hilly, so please take extra care and consider others.
Enjoy the quiet beauty of the Wray Valley Trail. By using the trail you will be travelling in the footsteps of the Victorians. If you look carefully you can see the remnants of the railway.
View from the Wray Valley Trail.
Credit: Dartmoor National Park
This is a shared trail and is open to walkers, cyclist and horse riders. Please be considerate and friendly to everyone along the trail.
Three Walks using the South West Coast Path that are likely to be suitable for people with impaired mobility or a pushchair, wheelchair, or mobility scooter.
A selection of short easy walks from the Lime Kiln car park in Budleigh Salterton offering excellent views and bird watching opportunities. The first walk (¼ mile) is along the seafront to the town centre. The second (½ mile each way) is along a sea wall alongside the Otter estuary, which now provides a level path from which to watch the birds of the estuary. The final walk (¼ mile) is along a spit of shingle between the sea and the estuary.
Explore Seaton Wetlands and enjoy beautiful marshland and reedbeds alongside the River Axe. There are five bird hides and nearly 4km of level trails and boardwalks suitable for wheelchair, bike and pushchairs.
Download a map of the site and a description of the route from the East Devon District Council website.
Information and images provided by East Devon District Council.
Explore Seaton Wetlands and enjoy beautiful marshland and reedbeds alongside the River Axe. There are five bird hides and nearly 4km of level trails and boardwalks suitable for wheelchair, bike and pushchairs. A countryside haven, home to an abundance of wildlife, Seaton Wetlands is made up of four main sites – Seaton Marshes, Black Hole Marsh, Colyford Common and Stafford Marsh.
Information and images provided by East Devon District Council.
Lundy is an island in the Bristol Channel, lying only 18km from mainland Devon. It is just 5.5km long and less than a kilometre wide, and has been designated England’s first Marine Nature Reserve (MNR). A visit to the island is a unique and worthwhile experience.
Lundy is also protected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Area of Conservation (SAC) designations. It lies within the North Devon UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
The coastline from Hope’s Nose north to Walls Hill shows the connection between geology and wildlife and is of national importance for its limestone woodlands and species-rich grassland. It also comprises coastal cliffs, foreshore, a disused quarry, mineral veins and a raised beach. The site is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), includes a County Geological Site feature and lies within the English Riviera Geopark.
The main rock here is Devonian limestone and this can be seen in some excellent exposures. Some of these display abundant collections of fossil animals, including well preserved corals – evidence of times when Torbay was located south of the equator and bathed in shallow tropical seas. Other notable features of the site, particularly on the eastern side of Hope’s Nose, are a number of distinct mineral-rich veins. It is the only known location in Britain for the assemblage of minerals present, including native gold and rarities such as palladium (a metallic element that resembles platinum).
Codden Hill provides an excellent vantage point from which to see the surrounding features in the landscape that are related to the underlying geology. Rising to over 190 metres, there are views of both the granite massif of Dartmoor, to the south, and the sandstone and shale landscape of Exmoor to the north.
Perhaps the most impressive feature of the landscape, however, is the series of ‘whale-backed’ hills (of which Codden Hill is a fine example) which stretch west to east across the landscape and are visible as far as Swimbridge. They are the dramatic result of Earth movements of tremendous force resulting from the collision of tectonic plates.
The coastal headland comprises impressive coves, cliffs, foreshore and quarry exposures. Daddyhole Cove, together with a small quarry at Triangle Point to the north-east (accessed via Meadfoot Beach), shows a superb example of limestone from the Devonian period. Underlying the limestone are fine-grained sedimentary rocks known as shales. Two features of the site are of particular interest. Firstly, it exhibits dramatic arch-shaped folding of the rocks. Secondly, the site has yielded many fossils, particularly at the transition between the limestone and the shales. These include fossilised corals and brachiopod shells (marine invertebrates) important in interpreting the palaeoecology of the Middle Devonian period.
At the western end of the cove there is a good example of landslip and rockfalls but please be careful when exploring and follow this safety guidance and the safety information found at the start of this Geology in Devon booklet.
The Coleridge Way is a 51 mile route following the footsteps of the romantic poet Samuel Coleridge, from Lynmouth in Devon to Nether Stowey in Somerset and crosses both Exmoor and the Quantocks. The first 7 miles from Lynmouth to the county boundary near Oare are in Devon.
The route is waymarked with Quill signs and can be followed in either direction by using the detailed route guides and maps. The route can be extended to the Valley of Rocks near Lynton using the South West Coast Path, to visit the Poets Shelter. Details of this are included in the route directions.
This long and easy circular route meanders through the pretty borderlands of Devon and Cornwall. Its first half takes you from the Tamar Lakes, crossing Devon’s gently rolling landscape the winding course of the old Bude tub-boat Canal. The return journey follows the tow-path alongside the ‘feeder arm’ of the Canal, known as the Bude Aqueduct, which runs north from Brendon Bridge for 4.5 miles back to the Tamar Lakes. There are optional detours to visit two of Devon Wildlife Trust’s Reserves in this area at Dunsdon and Vealand.
This newly created walking, mountain-biking and horse-riding trail takes advantage mostly of quiet lanes and public bridleways will eventually link the Granite Way with the Ruby Way.
The waymarked trail takes you from Dartmoor National Park at Meldon through West Devon and into Ruby Country, along a dismantled railway track and into Cookworthy Forest. It also affords excellent links to some exceptional bridleway networks and waymarked ‘Ruby Rides’.
NOTE: the Trail is not yet complete as negotiations continue to complete the route in the vicinity of Ashbury Station. Check the map to see where the Trail currently starts and end (currently Meldon to Broadbury Castle Farm and Beamsworthy to Cookworthy Forest are open).
Berry Head is a prominent feature on the South Devon coast, marking the southern end of the great coastal feature of Tor Bay. Across the Bay it gives views as far as the East Devon coast, while in the opposite direction the coastline heads off towards the Dart Estuary and the South Hams.
The walk starts and finishes in Buckland Monachorum, the village at the centre of this very scenic and historically interesting parish. It descends the valley of the River Walkham, flowing off high Dartmoor, follows the river until it reaches the Tavy past a variety of old mining sites and then climbs back to the village. The walk crosses and re-crosses the West Devon Way, one of Devon’s long-distance walks which links Okehampton with Plymouth and which also passes through Drake’s Dartmoor.
This walk links two museums on the northern edge of Dartmoor. It starts at the Finch Foundry Museum in Sticklepath, a working museum owned and operated by the National Trust, and ends at Okehampton’s Museum of Dartmoor Life. For much if its route the walk follows the line of the Tarka Trail. The Two Museums Walk follows the southern extremity of the Tarka Trail, giving a good sample of what may be found along the Trail.
The Bere Peninsula is the triangle of land between the Tamar and Tavy rivers, in the south west corner of Devon just north of Plymouth. Despite the geographical proximity to Plymouth, the peninsula is surprisingly remote by reason of its poor road access. The Bere Peninsula has part of one of Devon’s long-distance walking routes, the Tamar Valley Discovery Trail. The walk described here uses the train and the Discovery Trail to look at one of Devon’s unknown corners.
The private Dartmoor Railway line between Okehampton and Meldon, a little way to the west, provides a pleasant and easy way to access this part of Dartmoor. The railway line is accompanied the whole way by a cycle route, the Granite Way, and by using this easy access route to Meldon and walking back along a slightly more circuitous route over the edge of the moor, an attractive and interesting walk can be followed.
The south west corner of Dartmoor has many associations with Sir Francis Drake, and this has led to the promotion of this area, its history, facilities and walks, as Drake’s Dartmoor. This walk starts and finishes in Yelverton, one of the main centres of Drake’s Dartmoor, taking in historic leats and an old tramway. There is a shorter version of the walk available.
The Trail follows the Tavy rather than the Tamar to the edge of Plymouth. The walk crosses the quiet countryside just north of Plymouth as far as the tidal limit of the Tavy, then follows the Tamar Valley Discovery Trail back to Tamerton Foliot. Two lengths of the route are on permitted paths, rather than rights of way, are available to the public only from February to September inclusive. In addition, one of the public tracks used tends to get very wet in winter and can often only be negotiated in Wellingtons.
The West Devon Way follows the western edge of Dartmoor between Okehampton and Plymouth, offering some of the most attractive walking in Devon. Because the Granite Way is a cycleway it is also suitable for use by wheelchairs and buggies. In addition, this part of the West Devon Way is generally well surfaced and has no stiles and is also suitable for the more robust buggies.
The West Devon Way walking route links Plymouth and Okehampton, much of the route following the western edge of Dartmoor. This walk follows a length of the West Devon Way between Yelverton and Tavistock. This length begins on a route parallel to the valley of the River Walkham as it descends off Dartmoor. This walk is designed as a one-way trip along the West Devon Way, using the regular bus service between Tavistock and Yelverton to reach the start.
For most of its length, Devon’s western frontier with Cornwall is marked by the River Tamar. One of Devon’s long-distance walking routes, the Tamar Valley Discovery Trail, follows the valley between Plymouth and Launceston. This walk follows a length of that Trail and then doubles back to form a circuit. The walk is based on the village of Bere Alston, in the heart of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
This walk is based around Dawlish, a small picturesque Victorian town with an interesting seaside history. The town dates back to Saxon times and all time periods have left their mark with a variety of buildings from different eras.
The total length of the Coast Path through Plymouth is a perhaps surprising 10 miles or 16 km between Jennycliff and the Cremyll Ferry, which forms the Coast Path link to Cornwall. The walk has an accompanying booklet, available locally, which points out not only some of the historic associations but also some of the features that have been specially erected to enhance the walker’s experience on the route.
The walk is circular, so can be joined anywhere. If using public transport a good starting point is Churston Station, which is served by a frequent bus service and also by the Paignton and Dartmouth Steam Railway during the summer. If arriving by car a good starting point is Broadsands beach, which has a large car park, and that is the start used in this description. The route is waymarked – look out for the colourful little waymark plaques featuring a boathouse.
This walk offers a sample of the route, using the very frequent and convenient bus service which links Torbay to Newton Abbot. This sample starts at Kingskerswell, just north of Torquay, and winds through the countryside on this edge of the town to the little gem of Cockington. The walk description begins and ends at Cockington, but there is also a description for those arriving at Torquay by train. The walk is well waymarked throughout.
Kingswear is an attractive village overlooking the Dart Estuary, just across the river from Dartmouth. No fewer than three ferries cross the river at or near Kingswear, so it is an important location on the South West Coast Path in South Devon. In addition, the Dart Valley Trail route from Totnes passes along the estuary, with one of its seaward termini at Kingswear. There is a shorter version of the walk available.
This circular walk uses the Erme-Plym Trail from Wembury, then follows the Trail’s other arm towards Plymouth. It branches off this route to meet the coast at one of Devon’s short lengths of west-facing coast, at Bovisand. The walk then follows the South West Coast Path back to Wembury.
Start Bay forms an important and attractive element of the South Devon coast. The major east-facing coastline in Devon, it occupies the great sweep between the Dart Estuary in the north and the jagged headland of Start Point in the south. As with the rest of Devon’s coast, it is followed faithfully by the South West Coast Path. This walk explores part of the inland landscape behind Start Bay, using the Coast Path to return to the starting point. It is based on the village of Torcross, at the southern end of one of the features which makes Start Bay so unusual, the freshwater lake of Slapton Ley, separated from the sea by a narrow strip of shingle.
The town of Totnes has a superb location at the limit of navigation of the River Dart. It also provides the inland end of the Dart Valley Trail, a scenic walking route following the lower valley of the Dart to its estuary at Dartmouth. Shorter walks are also available.
This walk is based on the Harbour at Torquay. It winds its way eastward through a quiet area of surprisingly rural aspect before returning to the Harbour along the Coast Path, which here offers splendid views over the bay.
This walk makes use of the new opportunity of taking the train from Okehampton to Sampford Courtenay, following an extended route back to Okehampton over the edge of Dartmoor. It follows for a short way the line of the Devonshire Heartland Way long-distance walk linking the Exe Valley and Okehampton.
The River Dart, its valley and estuary go together to form one of Devon’s scenic highlights. An ideal way of exploring this outstanding landscape is to use the Dart Valley Trail. This footpath route follows both banks of the estuary and also goes upriver on the western side to link the estuary with Totnes.
This walk offers a superb means of enjoying the countryside between the well-known coastline of Torbay and the beauty of the Dart Valley. Most of the route is waymarked; look out for the Greenway waymarks.
This is a lovely peaceful route. Often along the towpath, beside this tranquil stretch of waterway through the heart of Devon between Tiverton and the Somerset border. This is a flat, easy, mainly off road route, and ideal for families with children. There are open views of superb landscape on the way, varying between sheltered woodland and sweeping views of the Blackdown Hills. This route is a one-way walk with the return to Tiverton Parkway station via a bus from Tiverton centre. The Grand Western Canal forms part of the West Country Way Cycle Route which runs from Padstow in Cornwall to Bristol, making it possible to also cycle this route.
This walk explores an inland section of the Bude Canal on the Devon- Cornwall border. Follow this short circular walk by doing a simple “there and back” walk. Or perhaps try a slightly longer walk which passes more of the Tamar Lakes.
This walk follows the middle length of the West Devon Way between the villages of Mary Tavy and Lydford, and is designed to be used in conjunction with the regular bus service which runs parallel to the West Devon Way between Plymouth and Okehampton.
Torrington is positioned on the Tarka Trail. The Tarka Trail is a long-distance footpath route which forms a figure-of-eight through northern Devon of some 180 miles, following the route taken by Tarka the Otter in the book of that name. Tarka was born and died near Torrington, so in one sense this is the beginning and end of the Trail. This walk starts with a short bus ride to form a circuit based on the town, crossing various parts of the Torrington Commons and using a length of the Tarka Trail.
The village of Wembury is on the south coast of Devon, not far from Plymouth. As well as being situated on the South West Coast Path, it is also the southern end of Devon’s own Coast to Coast walk. This walk between the County’s north and south coast follows the Two Moors Way from Lynmouth to Ivybridge. This is a circular walk which follows the southern most end of the Erme- Plym Trail before doubling back across country to finish with a length of the Coast Path.
Wembury Beach is within a voluntary Marine Conservation Area and has a Code of Conduct for recreational users of the area.
The Templer Way is a long-distance walk of 18 miles, tracing the historic line of granite being taken from the quarries at Haytor to the docks at Teignmouth. Where possible, it follows the Haytor Granite Tramway and Stover Canal, and then the Teign Estuary from Newton Abbot to the mouth of the river.
Salcombe is perhaps Devon’s best-known yachting centre, but it can also serve as a centre for a variety of attractive walks. This one explores the mouth of Salcombe’s estuary and the area around and inland of Bolt Head, one of South Devon’s most prominent headlands. At its furthest extent the walk reaches the well-named high point of Soar, before descending to the nearby charming inlet of Soar Mill Cove.
For the wetter conditions of winter, this walk uses surfaced paths and lanes between Totnes and Dartington. It features one of Devon’s most historic towns, a rebuilt medieval hall, classic 20th Century architecture and a craft centre. For enthusiastic long-distance walkers, the Dart Valley Trail is a waymarked route linking Totnes and Dartmouth. The walk described here gives the possibility of adding this middle part of the Dart Valley to the Dart Valley Trail. Dogs are not permitted on part of this walk.
This walk has a bit of everything. It skirts the magnificent estuary of the River Dart and also explores part of Dartmouth, one of Devon’s most attractive towns as well as one of its most historic and interesting. Much of the walk follows part of the South West Coast Path and gives superb views of both sea and estuary. Those who wish to explore a little further may wish to know that Dartmouth is also the terminus of the Dart Valley Trail which gives the opportunity to delve into the attractions of the valley as far upstream as Totnes.
The Exeter suburb of Countess Wear is linked to the city by both the River Exe and the Exeter Canal. This walk goes out to Countess Wear along the Canal, returning via the river, taking in a number of historic features on the way.
The outward leg of the walk, along the Exeter Canal, also follows the line of the Exe Valley Way, a long-distance walker’s route which explores some 45 miles of the valley between Exmoor and the Exe Estuary. This part of the walk is waymarked with the Exe Valley Way logo.
The walk is virtually flat the whole way, and there are no stiles. It is therefore also usable by those pushing buggies or pushchairs. In addition, because there is generally a good surface over the entire length, it makes a good walk in the winter or early spring when walks in the countryside can be muddy.
On the south eastern coast of Devon lies the village of Beer. This part of the County is characterised by high plateaux cut by steep valleys leading to the sea. Along the shore below the high cliffs are large-scale landslips known as “undercliffs”. These are a result of the unstable geology and have great value as havens for wildlife. Beer is at the mouth of one of the narrow valleys leading to the coast. This walk climbs up to the plateau west of the village and crosses to the next valley westward, at Branscombe. It returns to Beer along the South West Coast Path over the cliff tops, immediately above one of the undercliffs.
This walk is based around a bus ride and a stride around Newton Poppleford along the route of the East Devon Way. It offers a pleasant walk through quiet countryside as well as some good views over the valley of the River Otter, one of East Devon’s characteristic landscape features.
This walk is based on the Dart Estuary in South Devon. It includes the attraction of two ferry crossings of the Dart and is a relatively short and gentle walk.
The Templer Way is a walk of 18 miles tracing the historic line of granite being taken from the quarries at Haytor to the docks at Teignmouth. Where possible it follows the Haytor Granite Tramway and Stover Canal, the means by which the granite was moved. The Heritage Trail is a circuit in the centre of the Templer Way, based on the Templers’ Stover Estate; it starts and finishes in Stover Country Park. Most of the route is signposted or waymarked. Look out for brown arrows.
Plymouth has been an important naval port for many centuries, which has led to the building of a variety of defences to protect the port. This walk passes a number of these defences as it circles around the eastern side of Plymouth Sound; it also offers superb views over the Sound and its shipping.
Sidmouth is an attractive seaside town on the coast of East Devon. Situated on the floor of the valley of the River Sid where it meets the sea, it is flanked on both sides by high ridges which both contain the town and give it its scenic backdrop. In addition, the coastline of East Devon is part of the Dorset and East Devon Coast World Heritage Site. This is England’s first World Heritage Site, putting it on a par with features such as the Great Barrier Reef and the Grand Canyon as one of the wonders of the natural world. The World Heritage Site as a whole stretches from Studland Bay in Dorset to Orcombe Point near Exmouth, and is often referred to as the “Jurassic Coast”.
The coastline of East Devon is part of the Dorset and East Devon Coast World Heritage Site. This is England’s first natural World Heritage Site, putting it on a par with the Great Barrier Reef and the Grand Canyon as one of the wonders of the natural world. The World Heritage Site stretches from Studland Bay in Dorset to Orcombe Point near Exmouth, and is often referred to as the “Jurassic Coast”. Its importance is that it shows the natural geological progression over 185 million years of earth history in just 95 miles. However, this progression includes geological eras older and younger than the Jurassic period. In the west of the site the geological era shown is the older Triassic, and it is in this part of the World Heritage Site that this walk is found.
Otterton sits near the mouth of the river which gives it its name. Between the towns of Budleigh Salterton and Sidmouth, it is just inland of the renowned Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. An attractive village in its own right, the parish surrounding it also boasts some fine scenery. This walk explores much of the splendid local landscape, ranging from the prominent point of High Peak over 100m/330 feet above the English Channel to the floor of the valley of the River Otter. In between, the walk explores a series of quiet, remote and almost forgotten green lanes as well as the magnificent Jurassic Coast.
An Exeter attraction that should perhaps be better known is the Exeter Green Circle. This is a twelve-mile walk around the city with something for everyone, and a walk which includes some surprisingly rural stretches. Because of its location there are always many cut-out points from where it is possible to get a bus back to the city centre. In addition, it provides a fascinating diversion for long distance walkers on the Exe Valley Way, the 45-mile trail which links the Exe Estuary with the river’s headwaters high on Exmoor, and which passes through the city.
This extensive estuary has a typical range of saltmarsh communities, with plants such as glasswort, sea aster and sea rush all present. However, it is the large areas of mudflats and sandbanks that are revealed at low tide which are the major interest. Together with the saltmarsh, these provide a rich source of food for overwintering and migratory waders. These include important numbers of curlew, golden plover and lapwing, with other species including redshank and oystercatcher also abundant. The total number of waders present at any one time can reach over 20,000.
The estuary is flanked by the Tarka Trail, from which a wide variety of habitats can be seen, including sand dunes, saltmarsh, woodland, grazing marsh and meadows.
Eggesford Forest is a great place to visit. It has a network of trails and paths that link the different woodlands and also connect to the Tarka rail line at Eggesford Station, All Saints Church and a Garden Centre.
The East Devon Way runs parallel to the coast and a few miles inland between Exmouth and Lyme Regis. Part of its route is something of a roller coaster, as it crosses a number of parallel valleys which run north-south to the sea, as well as the ridge lines in between. This walk is based on the attractive village of Sidbury, in the valley of the River Sid.
The Exe Valley Way is a long-distance route for walkers exploring some 45 miles of the valley. At its lower end the eight miles between Exeter and the coast follow the flat valley floor, partly alongside the historic Exeter Canal and partly alongside the estuary of the Exe. The walk starts on the Quay at Exeter and ends at Starcross, on the western bank of the estuary. From here a bus or train can be taken back to Exeter. Starcross is on the South West Coast Path and in summer a ferry operates across the estuary to Exmouth.
The East Devon Way runs for some 40 miles between Exmouth and the county boundary at Lyme Regis, inland of and parallel to the South West Coast Path. In a variety of places there are walks which link the two, creating a series of long distance circular routes throughout East Devon. This walk links the two routes along the valley of the River Sid. Although a short river, its valley forms a distinctive attractive landscape feature as it nears the sea. Linking the village of Sidbury on the East Devon Way with Sidmouth on the coast, the route uses quiet lanes and then a surfaced footpath. It is therefore a good walk for the winter months, since it is unaffected by wet or mud, and can also be used by wheelchairs or pushchairs.
This walk is based on Barnstaple and uses both old bridge and new to form a circuit. The two bridges are linked by using the line of the South West Coast Path on either side of the river; this path has traditionally come upriver to Barnstaple to use the crossing. This part of the Coast Path is also used by the Tarka Trail, a 180 mile figure of eight route throughout northern Devon with Barnstaple at its hub which follows the wanderings of Tarka the Otter in the book of that name. This part of the Tarka Trail is also well surfaced and gradients are gentle, so this walk is usable by wheelchairs, buggies and pushchairs.
This walk forms a circular based on Torrington Station, which is about 1 mile/1.5km out of the town. It follows a level, former railway element of the Tarka Trail at the beginning and end of the walk, joining the two with a slightly more taxing cross-country section through a series of locations with historic religious connections. Those who do not wish to follow the cross-country route can still sample some superb Tarka country landscape by following the Tarka Trail in either direction, from the station for many miles.
Hartland Point is Devon’s north westerly extreme. It marks where the Bristol Channel effectively becomes the open sea and the change in the nature of the coast at this sharp “corner”, from relatively sheltered north facing cliffs to a jagged coastline facing the Atlantic Ocean, is quite dramatic. The Point marks the end of what is sometimes referred to as the Hartland Peninsula, Devon’s own Land’s End. In the centre of this “last” part of Devon sits the village of Hartland, the ideal centre for exploring this remote corner of the County. This walk starts and finishes at Hartland.
Lynton and Lynmouth are situated, one above the other, in some of the most dramatic landscapes in Devon, with deep wooded valleys, or “cleaves”, cutting through the high land of Exmoor to meet the sea at Lynmouth. The two towns are, not surprisingly, the centre of many local walks. They are also situated on the South West Coast Path and on the Tarka Trail, a 180 mile walk following the wanderings of Tarka the Otter in the book of that name. If you happen to notice walkers being photographed dipping their boots in the sea at Lynmouth, this is because the town is the northern end of Devon’s Coast to Coast walk formed primarily by the Two Moors Way with an additional link to the south coast.
North of Bideford a peninsula of land juts out between the sea and the estuary of the River Torridge. Being something of a cul-de-sac, the area has a real character of its own. In addition, being almost surrounded by water, half of the peninsula is edged by the South West Coast Path. Within this relatively small area are two historic towns, Appledore and Northam, and the vast expanse of open sandy land known as Northam Burrows. This walk uses the Coast Path to explore the edge of the Torridge estuary from Appledore upstream, then crosses the inland neck of the peninsula through Northam and across the Burrows to the seaward edge. It then follows the Coast Path back to Appledore. It is a walk of changing vistas, including estuary views and wide open seaward panoramas, as well as features of historic interest.
The area passes through by the South West Coast Path, which skirts the edges of all three features as well as Braunton itself. Over this length the line of the Coast Path is also followed by the Tarka Trail. This is a 180 mile/290 km figure-of-eight walking route following as closely as possible the wanderings of Tarka the Otter in the famous book of that name. Braunton, and especially the Marsh, features quite prominently in the story and the walk gives the opportunity to see some of the places referred to.
Ernest Basset was an Okehampton man and a lover of Dartmoor. He appreciated it in all its moods, but also realised that it had its dangers. As a result, in 1971 he became a founder member of the Dartmoor Rescue Group, a body of volunteers for whom many have had cause to give thanks.
He also encouraged people to visit and appreciate the moor and its surroundings and as such devised three fairly easy walks based on Okehampton as an introduction to the area’s attractions. He was an active member of the Okehampton Rotary Club and, when he died, the Club dedicated the walks to him as a memorial, naming them the Ernest Bassett Walks. The walks are 2.5, 3 and 4 miles in length; this is the 3 mile walk slightly lengthened at the Okehampton end to take in more of the town centre.
The East Devon Commons cover an area of heathland east of Exeter and inland of the coast. Extremely important as a wildlife habitat, they also provide an area of superb walking. The open spaciousness of the terrain and the views afforded from their relatively high elevation over the surrounding lowlands to the Exe Estuary and the sea mean that they are deservedly popular as a destination for walkers.
The walk uses a length of the East Devon Way as it passes over the Commons. It is based on the village of East Budleigh and follows a circular route which includes not only the open heathland of the Commons but also woodland and quiet country lanes, not to mention the historical highlight of the birthplace of Sir Walter Raleigh.
The North Devon Coast is characterised by high cliffs and deep valleys, or combes. Combe Martin, a long, narrow village which straggles for some two miles up one of these coastal combes, and the sinisterly named Great Hangman, at 318m or 1,044 feet one of the highest points on the Devon coast, with one of the most wide-ranging views. The high point and the combe are linked by a length of the South West Coast Path, which here is also followed by the Tarka Trail, which traces the journey by Tarka the Otter in the book of that name. The return part of the walk follows that path, while the outward leg uses historic inland lanes. Not surprisingly, since the walk has to get to the top of Great Hangman from sea level, this is a walk which perhaps should best be attempted by the relatively fit. Although not the whole 1,044 feet is climbed in one length, there is a long, steady climb of 200m or 650 feet which has to be tackled. Although not exceptionally steep, it is somewhat unrelenting, although the views from Great Hangman are worth it.
Saunton Down is a prominent ridge of high land forming a backdrop to the coast in North Devon. It overlooks two very scenic coastal features, Croyde Bay on one side and Saunton Sands on the other, and around much of its base there passes the South West Coast Path. This walk explores Croyde Bay and passes close to Saunton Sands, joining the two features by crossing the top of Saunton Down and then returning to the start along the Coast Path and Tarka Trail. Perhaps the “saunter” of the title is slightly misleading, since to reach the top of the Down requires a substantial climb, but this is a long, steady climb rather than a steep scramble. In any event, the views from the top of the Down are without doubt among the finest in Devon and repay the effort. Pick a bright day for this walk and reward yourself with some magnificent views of coastline and estuary, of Lundy and Exmoor and of a wide sweep of North Devon, all backed by the open sea.
Over the centuries fishermen, coastguards and smugglers have helped to create this historic path – now Britain’s longest National Trail – stretching over 600 miles/960km in total. Ranging from easy to challenging, the path is comprehensively waymarked; the Devon element of the South West Coast Path runs for 90 miles/144km in the north and 115 miles/185km in the south.
This long-distance walking trail boasts some of the most spectacular landscape, seascape, climate and vegetation to be found anywhere in the UK. To the north, the beautiful bay of Combe Martin, Ilfracombe’s picturesque harbour, the magnificent sweep of Saunton Sands and the dramatic cliff scenery around Hartland Point are all inspiring sights. To the south, the coast has many contrasts – from the city of Plymouth to the delightful estuaries of the South Hams; from the many dramatic headlands to the red cliffs of East Devon.
This newly constructed cycle trail offers an almost entirely traffic-free, wonderfully level route which forms part of the South Coast NCN No.2.
The trail takes you right around the Exe Estuary from Dawlish to Exmouth, passing through the pretty villages of Starcross, Topsham and Lympstone to name a few. The estuary is of international importance for wintering waders and wildfowl, supporting thousands of birds. RSPB reserves near Topsham and Dawlish Warren National Nature Reserve offer some of the best opportunities to view wildlife along the estuary.
Stretching for over 52km / 32 miles from Braunton to Barnstaple, then to Instow, Bideford, Great Torrington and on to Meeth. Entirely traffic-free, this section of the “Devon Coast to Coast” is known as the Tarka Cycle Trail as it follows the journey of Tarka the Otter in the classic tale written by Henry Williamson. The route can be broken up into easily managed sections:
Braunton to Barnstaple 10km / 6 miles
Barnstaple to Bideford 14km / 9 miles
Bideford to Great Torrington 10km / 6 miles
Great Torrington to Meeth 18km / 11 miles
The “Devon Coast to Coast” National Cycle Network (NCN) Route 27, the complete 102 mile route of which, runs between Ilfracombe on the north Devon coast to Plymouth on the south coast.
The Tarka Trail is a shared trail enjoyed by many different types of user – Walkers, cyclists, wheelchair users, mobility scooters, dog walkers and horse riders, please remember that it is here for everyone to enjoy. Horse riding is only permitted on the section between Servis and Meeth. For more information read the Tarka Trail guidance for horse riders and the Tarka Trail code of conduct.
The Granite Way is an 11 mile multi-use trail running between Okehampton and Lydford along the north western edge of Dartmoor. It is mostly traffic free, largely following the route of the former Southern Region railway line. A journey along the Granite Way offers fantastic views of the granite landscape of Dartmoor, as well as a number of specific sites of geological interest.
Hope Cove, in the far south of the county, is one of the most attractive settlements on the South West Coast Path. It consists of two coves, Inner Hope and Outer Hope, the latter being the larger of the two, with most of the facilities.
The starting point is the Sun Bay Inn at Inner Hope, then the walk goes eastwards along a ridgeline parallel to the south coast before climbing up to the cliffs and finishing by rounding Bolt Tail.
Drake’s Trail in West Devon is a 21-mile, multi-use route linking Tavistock with Plymouth. This important part of Devon’s recreational network runs along the western edge of Dartmoor with superb countryside, attractive scenery, and much historical and heritage interest along the way.
In addition to the main Drakes Trail route, there is a network of two other cycling routes (and four walking routes) linking nearby places that featured in Drake’s life, from his birthplace, to the house he owned at the time of his death, and following sections of the 18-mile Drake’s Leat to Plymouth Hoe, where he famously played bowls.
This is a lovely, peaceful cycle route, often along the towpath, beside a tranquil stretch of the Grand Western Canal. It meanders through beautiful mid-Devon countryside between Tiverton and the Somerset border.
Situated in a Country Park and Local Nature Reserve, the canal extends for just over 11 miles and provides a wonderful location for a cycle ride.
By starting at Tiverton Parkway, there is a circular route following the canal towpath to Tiverton and then the NCN3 on and off the towpath back to Tiverton Parkway. The route can be amended to start in Tiverton or Willand, or extended to its northern end at Lowdwells Lock, near Holcombe Rogus.
The Grand Western Canal forms part of the West Country Way Cycle Route (NCN3) which runs from Bristol to Padstow in Cornwall.
This walk is based on using part of the Two Castles Trail, one of Devon’s longer-distance routes running between the two castles of Okehampton and Launceston. It features a variety of other historical elements – an Iron-Age hillfort, ancient standing stones, a Saxon battle-ground, a Norman Church and Castle, a Jacobean House and a Victorian Manor, as well as passing through attractive Devon countryside on the west side of Dartmoor.
Totnes, the historic market town that’s full of fascination and interest, is at the centre of this wonderful leisurely route which can be split into two distinct rides, forming part of the South Coast NCN No.2:
Totnes to Hood Manor via Dartington
7km / 4miles
Totnes to Ashprington via Sharpham
8 km / 5 miles
Just 15 minutes from Exeter, and with 3,500 acres of woodland, Haldon Forest Park has something for cyclists of all abilities.
Routes vary from those that help you gain confidence in off-road cycling to the more technical trails designed for experienced mountain bikers. If you are looking to develop new skills, try the cycle Skills Area and Pump Loop.
This walk is a figure of eight based on the Two Moors Way on the northern edge of Dartmoor. It may be done as two separate circular walks of just over 4 miles each and the southern circuit takes in the spectacular Teign Gorge.
Around 15 miles / 25km of new trails have recently been created in the Tamar Valley as part of the Mining Heritage Project, a £7million investment by public bodies to conserve and improve access to the rich mining heritage of the Tamar Valley. The trails include routes along old mineral tramways and railways where you can learn about the mining history and enjoy stunning landscapes.
The spectacular landscape of the Lynton area, where Exmoor meets the sea, lends itself to superb walking. Lynton itself is on the South West Coast Path, but also, together with its twin town of Lynmouth, forms the northern terminus of the Two Moors Way. This outstanding walking route spans Devon south to north, crossing both Dartmoor and Exmoor and also the lesser-known areas between. With a link from the Two Moors Way to the South Devon coast at Wembury, a Devon Coast to Coast walk has been created with Lynton or Lynmouth the northern starting or finishing point. The walk described here starts and finishes at Lynton, the higher of the two twin towns. It skirts the dramatic landscape of the Valley of Rocks, to the west of the town, giving superb views over the Valley and the sea beyond. It returns to Lynton along the South West Coast Path.
The route combines the beaches and estuaries of North Devon with the lush green valleys of the Torridge, the Tavy, the Walkham and other evocative West Country rivers. It also skirts round the western flank of Dartmoor, offering superb views of Devon and the surrounding area. There are also many local links and spurs to explore. Largely tracing the course of former railway lines, the route takes you through tunnels and across the breathtaking viaducts and bridges bequeathed by Victorian railway engineers.
Ilfracombe has been a holiday town since Georgian times, although its origins go back much further. Surrounded by magnificent cliff scenery, it makes a good walking centre to enjoy some stunning views, even if the price to pay is a steep climb. The long-distance South West Coast Path traverses these cliffs and passes through Ilfracombe. This part of the coast is also followed by the Tarka Trail, the long walk which traces the wanderings of Tarka the Otter in Henry Williamson’s evocative 1927 book. The walk described here is based on Ilfracombe and passes over the Torrs, the hills and cliffs immediately to the west of the town, before returning along the Coast Path and Tarka Trail. While not especially long, it does include a couple of short sharp climbs so should not be approached too lightly.
Clovelly is undoubtedly among the best known and probably best loved of Devon’s villages. Occupying as it does a dramatic cleft in the cliffs, the steeply cobbled village street lined by cottages clinging to the sides of the cliff, Clovelly is almost certainly unique. Residents and visitors alike will enjoy their visit to the village, but while there it is well worth taking the time to explore some of the sights and experiences that a local walk can bring. This walk explores some of the woodland which clothes the valleys and cliffs to the west of the village, as well as passing through attractive farmland and parkland and offering superb coastal views.
This is a one-way walk along the old railway line which flanks the south side of the Taw Estuary in North Devon. It is based on Barnstaple, from where it is suggested you catch a bus to the start of the walk. The walk is completely flat and well surfaced, making it ideal for those who wish to take a push-chair. The good surface also makes it a good walk to do in the winter, with the opportunity to spot the birds on the estuary adding to the interest. Having returned to Barnstaple, there is an optional extra loop around the town to take in some of the more interesting locations in the town centre.
Westward Ho! is on the western edge of the town of Northam, itself a couple of miles north of Bideford. It sits between the vast open area of Northam Burrows, situated where the Taw and Torridge rivers meet the sea, and the cliffs which rise to the west and lead to Devon’s north western extremity, Hartland Point. Until the mid 19th century this was a remote area. Then in 1855 Charles Kingsley set his novel Westward Ho! here and a small resort was developed on the coast and named after the book. It is now the only town in Britain with an exclamation mark as part of its spelling. This walk starts by circling inland behind the town before heading to the cliffs to the west, it then returns along the South West Coast Path.
Lying at the entrance to the Taw-Torridge Estuary, Braunton Burrows is one of the most important sand dune systems in Britain and forms the core of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
This extensive site extends 5km from north to south and is up to 1½ km wide. It supports a wide variety of habitats including flooded dune slacks, flower-rich grassland and scrub. In turn, these are home to a huge number of plants and animals. For example, the Burrows supports over 400 flowering plants, including rarities such as sea stock (see photo below) and water germander, and 33 species of butterflies have been recorded. The site is also of interest for its birds, including wintering waterfowl and an assemblage of breeding birds that include wheatear, skylark and meadow pipit.
The nearby Northam Burrows Country Park (across the estuary at SS445308) hosts a range of coastal habitats including saltmarsh, a cobble ridge and a system of dunes rich in plants.
A very popular half-day walk based on the picturesque village of Noss Mayo on the south side of the Erme Estuary and taking in a section of the South West Coast Path. Unusually for the Coast Path there are no steep climbs, just fantastic scenery and far-reaching views!
This walk is in the far west of Devon in a remote part of the Tamar Valley. For many centuries, this atmospheric location has been the centre of a local estate which this walk explores. It is one of the Ruby Trails, a series of walks originally set up in the morth-west of Devon to encourage visitors to the area to help the local economy of this very rural part of devon.
The wonderfully named village of Beer lies on the East Devon part of the Jurassic Coast. It sits in a steep sided valley surrounded by chalk cliffs which has enabled Beer to retain much of its old-world charm and attraction and it makes a fine starting point for this circular walk over the cliff-tops to Branscombe.
Drake’s Trail in West Devon is a 21-mile, multi-use route linking Tavistock with Plymouth. This important part of Devon’s recreational route network runs along the western edge of Dartmoor through superb countryside, with attractive scenery and much historical and heritage interest. But the trails aren’t just about Drake – they take you through wooded river valleys and across open moorland, up close to fascinating history and wildlife.
This length of the South West Coast Path, is centred on the charming little bay of Blackpool Sands, a little way to the west of Dartmouth, between the villages of Stoke Fleming and Strete. This walk explores the new length of Coast Path in two sections, using Blackpool as the focal point. This means that the whole walk can be followed but, if preferred, either of the two sections, east or west of Blackpool, could be walked as a shorter circuit. Both circuits include one of the villages, Stoke Fleming to the east and Strete to the west.
Dartmoor has plenty of cycling opportunities along designated cycle tracks, public roads, byways and bridleways – though the open moor is always off-limits. The Princetown Railway mountain biking routes offer a choice of a long or short family friendly routes following the former railway and minor roads. The short route is 6 miles/10 kms and circuits Kings Tor whereas the longer route of 19 miles / 30 kms heads south along the former rail track towards Burrator Reservoir, set amidst stunning scenery, and returns along the same route.
Dartmoor has plenty of cycling opportunities along designated cycle tracks, public roads, byways and bridleways – though the open moor is always off-limits. However, for an exciting circular ride which does take in some of the best and highest moorland scenery Dartmoor has to offer, the Princetown and Burrator route has something for all mountain bikers!
Blackingstone Rock is a large tor situated in the eastern part of Dartmoor National Park. It exhibits many of the typical features of the Dartmoor Granite. Of particular note is that the coarse-grained granite contains very large crystals of feldspar. The term ‘feldspar’ encompasses a group of pale coloured rock-forming minerals; Blackingstone Rock has examples up to several centimetres long. The tor also displays characteristic jointing.
Much of the Tamar Valley in West Devon was once home to a thriving mining industry. This industry needed a transport system, and a number of small quays were built along the River Tamar to ship out the mined material. One such example is the restored Morwellham Quay, now an open-air museum and visitor centre.
Copper ore taken from the nearby George and Charlotte mine, first worked in the 1700s, was shipped from here. This small mine has many features characteristic of the other mines found throughout the Tamar Valley, but here you can actually journey underground and experience something of the working conditions of the miners during the 19th century.
Morwellham Quay is part of the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape World Heritage Site.
This walk uses part of the Tarka Trail from Barnstaple to Landkey, although generally easy and based on the urban centre of Barnstaple, follows a length of the route not so readily associated with the Tarka Trail. It is designed to use the regular local bus service to return to Barnstaple.
Stover offers a range of facilities to help you enjoy the Park and appreciate the natural surroundings. Its 114 acres of woodland, heathland, grassland, lake and marsh provide a wonderful opportunity to enjoy a wide range of activities from an afternoon picnic to serious nature study. The Nature Interpretation Centre offers high-quality displays explaining the plants and wildlife found at Stover. There are also two CCTV links, one to a nest box and the other to a pole in the marsh showing the lake and its inhabitants.
The Aerial Walkway, suitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs, gives a tree-top perspective of one of Stover’s woodlands.
The Ted Hughes Poetry Trail (2 miles) and Children’s Trail takes in specially designed Poetry Posts each displaying a poem by Ted Hughes on a theme relating to wildlife of the natural world.
Watersmeet is one of the largest remaining ancient woodlands in the south west. Oak dominates the canopy, but other species are present including a number of rare whitebeams.
There is a rich ground flora including bilberry, sweet woodruff and dog’s mercury, and there are diverse communities of lichens and mosses.
The East Lyn River cascades through the woodland, meeting Farley Water and giving the site its name. Watersmeet also supports some important areas of heathland. The site has a very diverse breeding bird community, including ravens, redstarts, pied flycatchers and all three woodpeckers. The nearby Foreland Point, also managed by the National Trust, provides an excellent example of coastal heathland making this a very rich wildlife area.
The Stover Trail is a mostly traffic-free route which connects Newton Abbot to Bovey Tracey. This flat, mostly off-road family friendly route passes close to the beautiful Stover Country Park and will eventually extend towards Lustleigh and Moretonhampstead in Dartmoor National Park. A new bridge across the busy A38 dual carriageway ensures a safe crossing.
There are sections of the trail which are on lanes. Please click on this map for more detail.
Devon’s coastline shows some spectacular geology and this is certainly true between Woolacombe and Ilfracombe.
Woolacombe itself is home to an impressive series of sand dunes. A short way to the north is Barricane Beach. Here, slates deposited in a shallow marine environment during the Upper Devonian are well exposed and are very rich in fossils.
From here the South West Coast Path passes through the wonderful Morte Point, with cliffs of slate rising from 50m to 100m, and on through some of the most spectacular of Devon’s coastline to Ilfracombe.
Starting within Exmoor National Park, this beautiful stretch of coastline reveals some dramatic geology of the Devonian age. There are a number of very good exposures of sandstones and mudstones, and within these can be found a number of limestone bands, especially prominent at Rillage. These bands of limestone contain fossils, including corals, fish fragments and brachiopods (marine invertebrates) suggesting they were laid down in a shallow marine environment.
This site is an ideal and beautiful location to see the River Exe as it snakes its way through the Exe Valley, and well demonstrates how a typical meandering river can effect the development of a floodplain. Here, processes of erosion and deposition are causing the River Exe to cut through the local Permian sandstones.
Between Sidmouth and Beer the geology is strongly influenced by a gentle easterly dip in the layers of the rocks that are present. The result is that as you travel east the visible rocks change from those of the Triassic Period (230 million years) to the more recent Cretaceous (70 million years ago). This reflects the unique ‘walk through time’ that can be experienced along the length of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, of which this is a part.
Just east of Sidmouth are the Triassic Mercia Mudstones and these bring a distinctive red colour to the rocks. They were deposited in temporary lakes and rivers in a desert environment. These mudstones are then capped with yellow Upper Greensand and white Chalk (this from the younger Cretaceous Period; ‘Creta’ is Latin for ‘chalk’). Both these rocks were laid down in a marine environment, the chalk mainly consisting of the skeletons and shells of countless numbers of organisms, most of them microscopic.
The views from Ladram Bay to Sidmouth are some of the most dramatic on the East Devon coastline. Both Ladram Bay and Sidmouth are situated on the Triassic Otter Sandstone. This is the same sandstone which, at depth, is an important oil reservoir at the Wytch Farm Oilfield near Poole.
Among the more impressive sights along this stretch of coast are the sea stacks at Ladram Bay. The sea hollowed out caves in the relatively soft Otter Sandstone and these, in time and with the further action of the sea, came to form arches of rock separate from the main cliff. Eventually, these arches collapsed, leaving the stacks we see today. The base of the stacks is formed of a harder band of sandstone and this is preventing their complete destruction by the sea.
Start Point to Prawle Point is a truly beautiful stretch of south Devon coastline. It is underlain by rocks that are very different to those of the rest of Devon. These are known as mica schist – found at Start Point (SX 828372), and hornblende schist, which has a green tint and is found at Prawle Point (SX 772352).
These rocks are the result of intense pressure and heat acting on the original rocks during a collision of tectonic plates. The mica schists were originally shales, siltstones and sandstones, whilst the hornblende schists were once lavas and ashes, all probably of Devonian age.
Orcombe Point marks the western gateway of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site and its oldest rocks, dating from the early Triassic period around 252 million years ago, can be seen here.
The dramatic red mudstone and sandstone reveal evidence of a previous desert environment crossed with seasonal life-giving rivers similar to Namibia today. Rare plant fossils have been found here. Of more recent design is the Geoneedle, unveiled by HRH the Prince of Wales in 2002 in celebration of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site.
Kents Cavern is fascinating for both its geology and human history. It boasts beautiful and spectacular geological formations and significant prehistoric finds, including flint hand-axes dating from over 450,000 years ago. Indeed, it is one of the oldest recognisable human occupation sites in Britain.
The oldest human bone ever found in Britain was discovered in Kents Cavern, a jawbone dated at 37-40,000 years old. Scientific research is ongoing to discover if the bone is from a Neanderthal or a modern human.
This site provides a stunning viewpoint showing the broad geological features of the South Hams.
Blackdown Rings consists of an Iron Age hill fort with a Norman motte and bailey castle built within the prehistoric embankment.
The rocks underlying the site, Staddon Grits, can be seen in the commemorative stone by the site entrance. These are harder than the Devonian slates found to the north and south, so resulting in some of the highest land to the south of Dartmoor. Devon’s oldest rocks, those of the Start Complex, are just in the distance to the south.
The coastline from Baggy Point south to Saunton Sands is a magnificent sight. The rocks are about 370 million years old (Devonian) and include a wide range of sedimentary rock types such as sandstones, shales, slates and limestones. The bulk of these were probably laid down in shallow marine or brackish waters. Today, the effect is impressive and the coastline boasts rugged cliffs rising in places to 60m. There is evidence of the past stresses and pressures that have been at work here, with dramatic folding and fractures in the rocks being quite common.
This magnificent coastal section runs along the eastern side of Plymouth Sound from Andurn Point northwards to Mount Batten Point. As you travel along this route you can experience a varied and impressive geology. The rocks become younger as you head north but all were laid down during the Devonian Period (417 – 354 million years ago), named after this county.
The Southernmost outcrops at Andurn Point consist mainly of red and green slates with sandstones that were deposited in lakes and rivers in seasonally arid conditions. Heading north, the dominant rocks are slates, siltstones and sandstones but these are greyer in colour and contain some marine fossils, indicating flooding of a continental edge by the incoming of the sea.
Tavistock, originally founded in 974 AD with the building of the Benedictine Abbey, has been greatly influenced by the local geology. The surrounding area once supported a thriving mining industry. Indeed, the extraction of minerals such as tin, copper and arsenic is documented as early as 1305.
Tavistock is now a part of the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape World Heritage Site, in recognition of the considerable legacy of this mining activity. During the nineteenth century, the town was completely remodelled by the 7th Duke of Bedford, Francis Russell, and his steward John Benson, using the profits gained from mining. In the process, a number of impressive public buildings were built, as was model housing for workers – virtually unheard of at the time.
The areas of Ivybridge Town and the valley of the River Erme to the north and south are very interesting for their geological features.
Exposures in the River Erme north of the railway viaduct show Upper Devonian slates that have been baked by the intrusion of hot granite. Dykes of very fine grained granite (known as aplite) are exposed in the river (at SX 6385 5710) and, just above this, a sheet-like mass of aplite forms the river bed and is intruded into the slates. Providing the water is not too high, the contact of the main body of the granite with the slates can be seen at SX 6375 5740.
Located on the south-western edge of Dartmoor close to the impressive Burrator Reservoir are the disused Upper and Lower Burrator Quarries.
The Upper Burrator Quarry offers an opportunity to view a rare exposure of the contact between the Dartmoor granite and Devonian rocks. Indeed, veins of pink granite can be seen penetrating these rocks which were once slates resulting from the deep burial and intense deformation of mudstone, originally laid down in marine conditions. However, the high temperatures that resulted from the intrusion of the hot granite transformed them into re-crystallised rocks known as hornfels. Minerals such as black tourmaline have been formed in the original slate.
Situated in the centre of Dartmoor National Park, the area around Bellever Tor is easily accessible and is a popular site for walkers. It provides a good example of a hill-crest granite tor. Features seen here and at the nearby Cherrybrook Bridge Quarry illustrate the effects of weathering on granite and give a good indication of how the Dartmoor tors were formed.
From the adjoining Forestry Commission plantation, there is a pleasant and relatively gentle walk up the moorland slopes towards the summit of Bellever Tor. The tor shows well-developed and flat-lying tabular jointing. Weathering has penetrated these joints causing the disintegration of the granite into large slabs which now form the debris, known as clittle, that surround the tor. The tor is also cut by widely-spaced vertical joints which have weathered into broad gullies.
Located on the west side of Dartmoor, this site is home to a number of impressive landforms that are defined by the underlying geology and demonstrate the effects of weathering during the Ice Age. Dartmoor was never glaciated but still suffered the effects of the cold conditions, known as periglacial activity. Solid ice sheets came as far south as the coast of North Devon.
Brent Tor is one of the most impressive rock outcrops on Dartmoor. With St Michael’s Church at its top, it makes a distinctive and famous silhouette on the Dartmoor skyline. It is a unique example of an early Carboniferous basaltic volcano, now weathered down.
The tor is unusual as it is one of the few on Dartmoor not to be made of granite. In fact, it is formed from basaltic lava which flowed some 350 million years ago into a shallow sea that covered the area during the Lower Carboniferous and Devonian periods. As the lava flowed out into the sea some solidified into globular masses known as pillow lavas. Others were broken up by explosive contact with the sea water.
This lava formed a mound on the sea floor which was then eroded by sea currents, with the resulting debris being washed down the slopes of the mound. Debris of this nature can still be seen loose on the southern slopes of the tor.
Dawlish Warren is a fascinating place. This sand spit at the mouth of the Exe Estuary is not only of geological interest but is also a nationally important habitat for a wide variety of plants and animals. It also has a protective effect on the estuary and helps to prevent localised flooding.
Dawlish Warren is a rare ‘double sand spit’ with two dune ridges that, in the recent past, were separated by a tidal inlet. The two ridges can still be seen, most clearly from the meadow known as Greenland Lake. The Warren is also unusual because it is an acidic sand spit and is not derived from shell material.
Situated on the edge of Dartmoor, Haldon Forest Park covers 3,500 acres of clean, green spaces with 25 miles (40km) of trails where visitors can walk, run, cycle and ride at their own pace.
The Harcombe Riding Trails offer a network of trails covering a total of 10 miles (16km) for you and your horse to enjoy.
Riders are welcome to bring their dogs but should keep them under control at all times. The riding trails are waymarked and use of the trails is free. Horse riders are requested not to use the Haldon Forest Park visitor car park but instead use the de-boxing car park at Harcombe. Access to the horsebox car park is free but by permission. Riders should contact firstname.lastname@example.org for the code.
There is more information and a downloadable trail map here www.forestryengland.uk/haldon-forest-park/harcombe-horse-riding-trails-haldon-forest-park
The beauty of this site is in its views. Standing at the viewpoint on Great Torrington Common, you can look south over the valley of the River Torridge. Evidence of how the river has shaped the physical structure of the valley can be clearly seen.
You will see the river curve in from your left, then it runs along the bottom of the Common. Look at the inside of the curve and the slope rising up from the river. You will notice a series of terraces underlain by gravels. These terraces represent the past action of the river (erosion and deposition) as it has progressively cut down into the landscape.
The area around Killerton shows signs of having experienced high levels of volcanic activity about 285 million years ago. Evidence of this can be seen all around, from the natural landscape to the local buildings.
Killerton House and Parkland is managed by the National Trust.
The Westward Ho! cliffs provide a good section of a raised beach platform well above the level of the present beach. This platform and the deposits upon it are very important because they provide evidence of glacier ice reaching the South West peninsula. For example, flint and granite erratics (stones transported by an ice sheet or glacier) are present, as is a deposit of angular rock debris of the kind that flows down slopes during freeze/thaw conditions in the vicinity of ice.
The main geological feature at this wonderful site is a dramatic shingle bar running from Strete Gate south to the village of Torcross. Known as Slapton Sands, it separates the sea from an important freshwater lagoon, Slapton Ley.
The ridge is made up of flint, chert and quartz pebbles, some of which are stained red. It is probable that the major formation of this barrier began about 5000 years ago, during a period of sea level changes. As the sea rose, the water transported the shingle ridge ahead of it. This linked the headland at Strete Gate with Torcross, damming a post-glacial estuary and forming the freshwater lagoon. The sediments that have accumulated in the lagoon now form an important record of environmental changes since the formation of the ridge.
Replenished with shingle by long shore drift of debris derived from cliffs and from sediments on the sea floor, the ridge remains a dynamic structure and is vulnerable to the power of the sea. Indeed, the road that runs along the ridge has recently had to be realigned.
Developed on a series of fields once farmed by the villagers of Stanton, Andrew’s Wood now has a mix of habitats including broadleaved woodland, herb-rich and marshy grassland and wet heath. It supports a diverse flora, with species such as black knapweed, betony and marsh pennywort. Of particular note is the largest British colony of the rare health lobelia.
The wide range of habitats provides a home for many animals. Among these are breeding tree pipits, dormice and many butterflies including the silver-washed fritillary.
Plym Bridge is easily accessed via the Drakes Trail. This is quite a gentle route for both cyclists and walkers, heading out from Plymouth towards Dartmoor. The Trail goes through Plym Bridge Woods which are managed by the National Trust, and it offers great views and the opportunity to get close to features of geological interest found particularly at Cann and Bickleigh Vale Quarries
The trail is managed by private landowners and the National Trust.
Part of the North Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, this stretch of coastline is one of the most dramatic in the British Isles. Breathtaking coastal scenery and cliff top walks are all to be found.
Here in the cliffs and foreshore you can view spectacular evidence of geological events which took place over 300 million years ago. The rocks are sandstones and mudstones that were laid down around 320 million years ago in what was then a brackish sea. Of particular interest are the striking patterns that can be seen in the faces of the cliffs. These tell a dramatic story of ancient forces that have helped to shape the Earth as we see it today.
Looking south from the Quay’s car park, you can see a hanging valley and abandoned alluvial tract of the Milford Water. The truncated valley bottom can be seen clearly.
Please be aware: There are high cliffs and dangers of being cut off by the incoming tide. There is also little or no sand here so walking is difficult. The walk from Hartland to Hartland Quay is about 5km, some is on-road, so care should be taken, especially around Stoke where there are no footpaths.
A walk from Salcombe around Snapes Point on the Salcombe Estuary, an inland headland which is in the ownership of the National Trust and which extends into the estuary. The estuary views from Snapes Point are well worth experiencing, as spectacular in their way as any of the better known coastal views.
The coastline in Devon’s far north-west corner between Hartland Point and the Cornish border is possibly some of the most dramatic in the whole country. It faces 3,000 miles of open Atlantic Ocean, and a combination of the power of the sea and unusual geology has resulted in a landscape of jagged cliffs fronted by long bony “fingers” of rock stretching out into the sea. Not surprisingly, this coast is of great danger to shipping, resulting in numerous wrecks in the area. It is in recognition of the danger that the name Iron Coast has been applied. Picturesque on a good day, this walk can also repay the effort on a windy winter’s day, the wild sea showing the Iron Coast at its most impressive.
This walk features the fine headland of Baggy Point and panoramic views over North Devon’s surfing beaches of Woolacombe Sands and Croyde Bay, together with the sweep of the North Devon coast to Hartland Point. Much of the walk follows the line of the South West Coast Path and Tarka Trail.
Explore beech, oak and conifer woodland with sweeping views over the steep sides of the River Tamar. This is a narrow footpath, steep and challenging in places, passing near to a vertical drop. It can be muddy after wet weather and there are short sections of rocky, uneven ground.
This area on the beautiful coast of Exmoor National Park is home to a number of fascinating geological features.
To the west of Lynton is the famous Valley of the Rocks. The site has excellent exposures of the Lynton Beds which are rich in fossils and are some of the oldest Devonian rocks in north Devon. However, it is perhaps the topography of the site that is most dramatic, with many classic landforms on show. These include a dry valley and a number of periglacial features demonstrating the effects of the freezing temperatures present here during the Ice Age when glaciers reached as far south as the north Devon coast.
To the east, at Lynmouth, a large boulder fan can be seen extending into the Bristol Channel from the mouth of the East and West Lyn rivers. This bears witness to major flooding over thousands of years and in particular to the disaster of August 1952 following a period of very heavy rainfall. Water flowed in sheets over the surrounding open moors and the resulting volume of water – estimated to be the equivalent of three months discharge of the River Thames – moved over 50,000 tonnes of boulders, some of more than 10 tonnes each. Many of these boulders can still be seen in the river beds and other features associated with the flood, such as boulder field deposits, can still be observed in the upper valleys.
This small site is a mosaic of reedbeds, scrub, grassland, open water and ditches and is part of the River Teign floodplain. These habitats support a varied wildlife – over 150 different plant species have been reported, along with a variety of animal life.
Marbled white butterflies, azure damselflies, six-spot burnet moth and great green bush crickets can all be seen here. The area is also of local importance for breeding birds, notably reed warbler, sedge warbler and the rare and protected Cetti’s warbler. Kingfishers are regularly seen and otters are known to visit the site too.
Bovey Heathfield is a remnant of lowland heathland that was once much more common in the area. It has suffered from misuse in the past but is now being managed as a Community Nature reserve.
Divided into two parts, it supports a range of habitats including dry and wet heathland, scrub and wet alder carr. There is a range of plants characteristic of heathland, including heather, heath milkwort, heath spotted orchid, bog asphodel and devil’s bit scabious. The reserve has a diverse fauna, including heathland rarities such as the Dartford warbler.
Lying on the eastern edge of Dartmoor National Park, this riverside woodland reserve consists primarily of sessile oak on the steep valley slopes above the River Teign. Ash predominates on the wetter slopes and the extensive floodplain. Ferns and mosses are abundant throughout the area.
Dunsford is one of the best sites in south-west England for the wild daffodil, with stunning displays in spring. Other characteristic woodland plants include common sow-wheat, wood anemone, bluebell and wild garlic.
The fauna is also extremely rich, including pied flycatchers, green woodpeckers, dormice, otter, fallow deer and the rare high brown fritillary butterfly.
Stover Country Park covers 114 acres which consist of six main habitats types: freshwater, marshland, coniferous plantation, mixed broadleaved woodland, lowland heath and grassland.
These habitats are easily accessible from a network of surfaced and un-surfaced paths. Extensive deciduous and coniferous woodland are interspersed with pockets of lowland heath and grassland providing habitats for a range of visiting and resident wildlife.
There is a substantial variety of wildlife, notably dragonflies and wildfowl, as well as other bird life, insects and mammals. 19 species of dragonflies and damselflies have been recorded here including rarities such as the hairy dragonfly, the migrant hawker and the red-eyed damselfly.
There is ongoing management work to increase the area of heath, which supports breeding nightjars.
The Granite Way is an 11-mile cycle and walkway running between Okehampton and Lydford, mostly following the course of the former Southern Region railway line. The route is mostly traffic free and these sections are largely wheelchair accessible. Once you head off the Granite Way the terrain becomes more challenging, with a mix of paths and open moorland walking.
The Granite Way has great views of some of the landscape and wildlife that the north western edge of Dartmoor has to offer, and opportunities to experience some of this first hand. These include:
- From Sourton (SX 535904) there is access to the open moor and the rugged landscape of Sourton Tors.
- From Meldon (SX 559923) it is a short walk to Meldon Reservoir (which also has car parking). The reservoir provides a circular walk, and from here there is access to some wonderful and dramatic open country, including Black-a-Tor Copse National Nature Reserve, an excellent example of high oak woodland, granite boulders and moorland.
- Meldon Viaduct (SX 565923) there is access to Meldon Woods, which has impressive displays of bluebells in spring.
Haldon Forest is a structurally diverse conifer plantation covering 3,500 acres. No fewer than five species of birds of prey breed in the forest. These include the rare goshawk, as well as hobby, sparrowhawk, buzzard and kestrel.
Forestry England maintains a viewpoint offering the chance to see these magnificent birds in the flesh. There is also a bird hide which is adapted for use by wheelchairs and buggies and a new nature hide close to the main forest hub facilities.
The forest is also home to a wide variety of other wildlife, including dormice, Devon’s most important population of breeding nightjar, crossbills and a range of butterflies for which several areas are specifically managed. Species include wood white and a significant population of the rare pearl-bordered fritillary.
The dedicated ‘Butterfly Trail’ is a 3-mile circular route that takes you to an area specially managed for butterflies. Over 30 species have been recorded here.
Straddling the Devon and Cornwall border, these two man-made lakes offer many opportunities for bird watchers. Flocks of ducks, such as teal and pochard, can be seen in the winter, and waders use the lakes on spring and autumn migration. The surrounding habitats, which include fringing reed, grassland, ponds and woodland, help to support a range of other birds, with species such as long-tailed tit, kingfishers, treecreepers and reed bunting being common throughout the year. In all, over 200 bird species have been recorded here.
The range of habitats supports many other species too, including otters, dragonflies and butterflies.
Several waymarked walks, some suitable for wheelchairs, will help you explore the lakes and their surrounds. The popular round-lake walk takes approximately one hour. There are visitor and interpretation centres at both lakes and a bird hide at the Lower Tamar Lake.
There is a children’s play area and plenty of space to play games.
Offering wonderful views of the surrounding countryside, the Grand Western Canal runs for 11 miles between Tiverton and Holcombe Rogus, near the Somerset border. A wealth of wildlife has colonised the canal as it has matured since its opening in 1814. In the spring and summer, the water’s edge is alive with wildflowers such as yellow loosestrife and meadowsweet, with the impressive white water-lily gracing the main channel.
Many birds use the site, moorhens and mute swans are frequent, and kingfishers are a regular sight. Sedge and reed warblers may be seen in the section between Halberton and Sampford Peverell. In addition, many butterflies and dragonflies can be seen along the canal, including red-eyed damselflies (near Halberton) and the scarce chaser (near Westleigh). Otters are active in the park.
This reserve is an excellent example of a marshy, heathy type of vegetation known locally as Culm Grassland. There are also areas of wet woodland and scrub. Dunsdon is extremely diverse and supports 189 species of plants, including meadow thistle, devil’s-bit scabious, southern marsh orchid and lesser butterfly orchid.
As one might expect, the site is also rich in fauna, including the attractive banded demoiselle damselfly and many butterflies. There is also a large population of the rare marsh fritillary butterfly. Many birds can be seen, depending on the season, such as breeding sparrowhawk and spotted flycatcher, and wintering snipe.
This circular walk is based on the scenic little town of Lynmouth, on Devon’s Exmoor coast. A walk of contrasts, its outward leg follows the valley of the East Lyn River while the return, on the route of the Two Moors Way and Tarka Trail, is a high, airy walk along the valley top.
The Tour de Manche offers a unique maritime perspective over 1200 km of varied landscapes either side of the English Channel. Two of the 16 sections are in Devon.
Going at your own pace you can discover natural locations of exceptional beauty and interest including Corfe Castle, Dorset and East Devon’s Jurassic Coast, Dartmoor National Park, the Pink Granite Coast and the Bay of Mont St-Michel.
This route also builds in part of the existing European cycle route EV4 along the French coast and can be ridden in ‘bite-sized’ pieces, or for the more serious cyclist, as a complete tour. Most of the Tour de Manche route is on quiet roads, and it has been carefully marked out.
Whether you’re looking for a challenge or a leisurely cycle ride, Velodyssey has something for everyone. Get on your bike and experience the wild beauty of a cycle route covering more than 1,200 kilometres from Brittany down the Atlantic coast to the border with Spain. The sea is never very far away, as you discover the best each region has to offer along France’s longest waymarked cycle trail.
There is one English section of Velodyssey, out of 15, which takes you into the heart of Devon – famous for its green, rolling hills, well-preserved villages and welcoming pubs. This route mainly follows the former steam train tracks – making it accessible to all – and will lead you to discover the wild and magnificent beauty of Dartmoor.
This route stretches from St Austell in Cornwall to Dover in Kent and covers 359 miles / 574 kms in total. 75 miles / 120 kms are in Devon where the route runs between Plymouth and Dorset via Exeter and the south coast. It is currently still under development, although a number of shorter traffic-free sections are in place, such as the Exe Estuary Trail. Other sections of the route are fully open and signed.
The only major gaps in this route are between Dawlish and Totnes, and Plymouth and St Austell. Between Exeter and Poole the route is also signed as part of the Tour de Manche circular cycle route.
The route can be ridden in either direction, it takes you through the varied landscapes of the West Country, from Cornwall to the River Avon. Start with the tranquillity of Padstow harbour and the Camel Trail onto the atmospheric Bodmin Moor. Descend into Devon’s rolling countryside via the Tarka Trail and on into Somerset across beautiful Exmoor. Continue along canal towpaths to Taunton and the Somerset levels to Glastonbury before the climb onto the Mendip Hills. The route ends in Bristol or Bath.
Total distance: 240 miles / 384 km
Devon section: 105 miles / 168 km
The Grand Western Canal Country Park is a popular place to enjoy a flat, easy walk in the countryside, with the opportunity to stroll near villages or to get away from it all and explore the quieter sections beside the northern half of the canal.
The canal towpath is a public right of way that runs beside the canal for the full eleven and a half miles. The towpath has been extensively resurfaced although there are still some sections that can be muddy in the winter. Access points are located throughout the length of the Country Park.
The trail passes through a gentle agricultural landscape with some lovely views and several small villages. The path is flat and the walking is easy.
The Exe Valley Way is a long-distance route for walkers exploring the length of this beautiful river valley. The trail stretches from the South West Coast Path on the Exe Estuary to the village of Exford in Exmoor National Park. An additional 7.5miles/12km links Exford to Exe Head, the source of the River Exe, high upon the open moorland. Most of the routes follows beside the River Exe.
The Exe Valley Way can be divided up into a series of 10 stages, most of which can be walked comfortable by most walkers in half a day. The route is waymarked in both northbound and southbound directions.
Devon offers many fantastic opportunities which are designed to help everyone access and enjoy the experience of horse riding first hand.
For more information please visit: http://www.calvert-trust.org.uk/activities/horses
This walk is on the Exe Valley Way in Exeter, linking it to the western skyline overlooking the city. It is entirely on surfaced lanes and paths, making it ideal for the weather conditions of winter and early spring.
This walk follows a length of the Exe Valley Way in its middle section between Bickleigh and Tiverton. The stretch closely follows the east bank of the Exe, much of it through rich woodlands of oak and ash. It is a one-way walk, designed to be used in conjunction with the adjacent bus service.
This walk conveniently links the East Devon Way with the South West Coast Path. You can choose to catch a bus to make the route circular.
This National Nature Reserve consists of three adjacent sites – Yarner Woods, Trendlebere Down and the Bovey Valley Woodlands.
The main habitats present are ancient woodland and heathland. The woodland is dominated by oak, though other species are present including alder and willow in the wetter areas.
Characteristic flowers of the woodland floor include cow-wheat, bilberry and, where the soils are wetter, royal fern. Lichens and mosses are abundant. Breeding birds are typical of western oak woods, and include pied flycatcher and redstart. Dormice breed at the site and there is a rich invertebrate fauna, including the high brown fritillary butterfly. Trendlebere Down provides a glorious expanse of heathlands and valley mire habitat, typical of the Dartmoor fringe.
Trinity Hill is an area of lowland heathland that is rich in wildlife. Heathers that form a wash of colour in late summer dominate the flora. These heathers are the daytime home of a huge number of moths, such as the lovers knot and the drinker (see photo). Bare sandy areas that quickly warm in the sun support animals that require warmth, such as the common lizard. There is also a rich bird life, including breeding nightjar. Linnets, whose numbers are declining nationally, are doing well here and can be heard singing from tall bushes on the reserve.
The magnificent East Devon Pebblebed Heaths complex is the largest block of lowland heath in Devon. The site’s large area and its varied soils and structure result in it being very rich in wildlife. Both wet and dry areas of heath occur, together with small springs and flushes. As well as heather (ling) and its relatives, plants such as heath dog violet and heath spotted orchid can be found. Bog asphodel and the insectivorous sundew grow in the wetter areas. Of note among the bird life are strong populations of the Dartford warbler and, in summer, the nightjar. The heaths are also important for their dragonflies, including the rare southern damselfly, and butterflies such as the silver-studded blue.
Bowling Green Marsh makes up part of the Exe Estuary, an area of international importance for wintering waders and wildfowl.
Adjacent to the town of Topsham, this is the main high tide roost for the north of the estuary. Large numbers of waders and wildfowl gather here as the tide rises and covers the mudflats, especially in the winter. High numbers of black-tailed godwits can be seen and many widgeon graze on the marsh. Though rarely seen, otters use the site.
Part of the Exe Estuary, Exminster Marshes is an area of international importance for wintering waders and wildfowl.
The area consists of wet grassland drained by dykes and ditches. The marshes are an important breeding ground for lapwings and redshanks. Ducks, including shovelers and teals, also breed here. In winter, the marshes provide roosting and feeding areas for waders such as curlews and black-tailed godwits, and brent geese graze the drier areas. The ditches have a good dragonfly fauna, including the rare hairy dragonfly.
This walk follows the Tarka Trail between Instow and Bideford.
The Templer Way is a route for walkers linking Haytor on Dartmoor with the seaport of Teignmouth. It has a length of 18 miles/29km and covers a wide range of scenery from open moorland, woodland, meadow, historical tracks and urban land, through to estuary foreshore.
Using a mixture of rights of way, permissive routes and minor roads, the Templer Way takes about 10 hours to walk. Tide times should be checked before setting out.
The route may be tackled in short stretches or in one go and is waymarked in both directions, except on the open moorland at Haytor Down, where the granite rails of the tramway can be followed.
Warleigh Point is a fine example of coastal oak woodland. A variety of management regimes have created a diverse woodland structure, including areas of coppice, open glade and scrub. Though dominated by oak, other trees are also present including the uncommon wild service tree. The rich ground flora includes bluebells, primroses, sweet woodruff and wild garlic. The range of habitats support a wide diversity of animal life. Speckled wood butterflies are common, and tawny owl and green woodpecker breed here. A number of wildfowl and waders, including little egret, can be seen on the estuary in the winter.
John Musgrave was a keen walker from Torquay who left a legacy to the South Devon Group of the Ramblers Association to create a new walking route around Torbay. The result is the John Musgrave Heritage Trail, established in 2006, and is a partnership between the Ramblers Association, local authorities and the Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust.
The 35miles/56km trail takes in a large section of south Devon’s wonderfully scenic and varied landscape of rolling hills, secret combes, captivating villages and its stunning coastline.
Details of the walk can be found on the South Devon Ramblers website: South Devon Ramblers – John Musgrave Heritage Trail
Lydford Gorge is 1.5 miles long and includes the spectacular 90 ft high White Lady waterfall and the exciting Devil’s Cauldron whirlpool. It is also home to a wide variety of wildlife. Ancient oak woodland cloaks the valley sides, with a rich ground flora including bluebells, wood anemone, great woodrush and bilberry.
The site also boasts varied and abundant communities of ferns and mosses. Among the animal life, ravens, buzzards, kingfishers, dippers and otters are all present.
Springtime in this wooded valley of the River Plym sees the woodland floor carpeted by wild flowers including wood anemone, wild garlic, primroses and bluebells. Several old quarries with interesting industrial archaeological remains now support an abundance of ferns, mosses and lichens. The site is home to many animals, including a herd of fallow deer, and a wide range of birds. Kingfishers and dippers can be seen along the river, and lesser-spotted woodpecker and tree pipit are found in the woods. Peregrine falcons breed on an old quarry face in the woodland. During the breeding season, there is usually a viewing station with telescopes for visitors’ use. The site supports many damselflies and butterflies, such as the speckled wood.
This 15 mile/24km generally easy path takes in the pleasing environment of the Erme Valley south of Ivybridge, as well as following a cross-country route through attractive pastoral landscape.
The trail runs from the attractive village of Wembury on Devon’s south coast to Ivybridge. The route is a gentle undulating stretch with views of Dartmoor dominating the northern skyline. A particular highlight is the crossing of Cofflete Creek, a tributary of the estuary of the River Yealm. After passing through the attractive villages of Brixton and Yealmpton, the northbound route reaches the Erme Valley which takes you on into Ivybridge.
This wonderful, but wild and windswept, site is one of the largest remaining areas of Culm grassland. This rare habitat once dominated the landscape of northern Devon. It consists of a mixture of wet grassland, heath, bog and scrub and supports a wide diversity of wildlife. The reserve has a rich flora, including such species as heath spotted orchid, marsh violet, devils bit scabious, bog asphodel and bogbean. The animal life is also abundant. The reserve supports 28 species of butterflies, including the rare marsh fritillary, and a variety of birds including curlew, stonechat and willow warbler and, in winter, woodcock and snipe. Red deer are a common sight.
Halsdon consists of a mixture of ancient woodland, floodplain meadows and a magnificent length of the River Torridge immortalised by the tale of Tarka the Otter. The woodland is predominantly of oak, but other species are present including the uncommon Devon whitebeam and wild service tree. The woodland has a rich ground flora including primroses, wild garlic and broad-leaved helleborine. Marshy fields alongside the river support such plants as devil’s bit scabious and march cinquefoil. Kingfishers and dippers can be seen, and all three species of woodpecker breed in the reserve. Halsdon is a favoured haunt for otters and the river is famous for its run of salmon.
Running for just over 100 miles/160km between Ivybridge in the south and Lynmouth in the north, this famous path links the two National Parks of Dartmoor and Exmoor.
The route covers a wonderful diversity of scenery including a wild and remote stretch of Dartmoor and some of the most beautiful sections of the valley of the River Dart. After some delightfully unspoilt parts of central Devon, the trail reaches Exmoor and its deep wooded valleys, with magnificent views from the high moorland.
Walking is easy with just one or two challenging stretches and the route is comprehensively waymarked, apart from the open moorland sections which require navigational skills.
The West Devon Way is a 37-mile walking trail linking Okehampton with Plymouth via Tavistock. This important part of Devon’s recreational route network runs through superb countryside, with attractive scenery along the western edge of Dartmoor and much historical and heritage interest.
The downloadable booklet/PDF is good for navigating the route; but note that on the ground there may be some signage gaps.
This route covers a stretch of the valley of the Tamar, the historic border between Saxon Devon and Celtic Cornwall. It links the edge of Plymouth, with its maritime associations, in the south, with Launceston, the ancient capital of Cornwall, just over the county boundary.
The route involves a river crossing by train (unfortunately the ferry crossing is not currently running) and takes in riverside and estuary paths, woodland tracks and quiet country roads. It also includes a tidal crossing of one of the Tamar’s tributary rivers. You will need to check for tide times as well as train or ferry times.
The route is comprehensively waymarked and walking is generally easy with a few short sharp climbs.
*Please note that while there is a train service from Calstock to Bere Alston there are only a few trains each days so it is worth checking the timetable in advance of your visit.
This magnificent reserve comprises 304 hectares of coastal landslides and cliffs – one of the largest such areas in Britain. Where past landslides have stabilised, the site has developed an excellent example of ash woodland that is virtually untouched by man. The ash is joined by field maple, with a thick understory of species such as hazel and spindle where movement has been more recent. Where movement is very recent or still occurring, annual plants such as Nottingham catchfly can be found. This creates a varied ground flora mosaic. The site supports a variety of animal life, including a range of breeding birds and the uncommon wood white butterfly.
This compact and accessible estuary supports a particularly well-developed saltmarsh flora that includes such characteristic plants as glasswort, sea purslane and sea lavender. There is a classic saltmarsh zonation from the sea to the head of the estuary, where the influence of freshwater is greater and common reed and hemlock water dropwort grow. On the west of the estuary there is a small area of freshwater reedbed, pools and grazing marsh. The Otter Estuary supports a significant population of wintering wildfowl and waders, including redshank, common sandpiper, curlew and red-breasted merganser. Reed warbler, sedge warbler and reed bunting breed on the site.
Berry Head offers spectacular views across Torbay. So it is not surprising that it was chosen as a strategic location for the defence of this stretch of the south Devon coastline during the time of the Napoleonic Wars, in the late 18th century, and again in World War II. Heritage though is just one aspect of the headland’s importance. The towering cliffs and rocky headland of Berry Head are the wildlife gems of Torbay. Not only is the area a Country Park but it is also classified as a National Nature Reserve and a Special Site of Scientific Interest (SSSI).
The extensive areas of limestone grassland and scrub are home to many rare plants including white rock-rose, small restharrow, autumn squill and a range of orchids. In all, around 500 plant species have been recorded. There is also much to interest bird watchers. The sea cliffs support the largest guillemot colony along the south coast of England (reaching over 1000 birds). Kittiwakes and fulmars regularly breed here and areas of scrub provide shelter for whitethroats. There are also caves which support an important population of rare greater horseshoe bats.
The Napoleonic defences at Berry Head which include two forts and several gun batteries represent some of the best-preserved remains of this period in Britain. Contemporary plans show that three forts were originally intended, but in the event only two were constructed, No. 1, Berry Head Fort and No. 3, The Old Redoubt. Hardy’s Head Battery appears to have been built instead of the intended No. 2 fort. This was initially built in 1780 but was only maintained for three years. It was recommissioned in 1794 and its three gun placements were increased to four. The granite gun beds can still be seen.
Fort No. 3, Berry Head Fort, is the northernmost fort. Built in 1803-5 and enclosing some 16 acres it is the largest fortification on the headland, although the northern portion has now been quarried away. It has an angular redoubt to the landward side, furnished with gun embrasures and which still stands to its full height while at the eastern end are the remains of Half Moon Battery, a 12 gun battery which was built in 1795 and incorporated into the later fort. The fort had a sizable garrison who were quartered in eight barrack blocks, of which the footings of one block are still visible. Other standing remains include the powder magazine, which became a coastguard station in 1906, and its associated sentry box and the former guardhouse which is now a café.
Fort No. 1, The Old Redoubt, is at the southern end of the complex. Built 1795-1807, it had a defensive wall, with gun embrasures and a deep dry moat in front, which ran from cliff-edge to cliff-edge and provided a field of view from which to defend the landward approach to Berry Head. The remains of several military buildings still stand inside the fort including a guard and storehouse, magazine and the kitchen.
The barracks and batteries were dismantled in 1817, two years after the end of the Napoleonic Wars although the headland was retained in military hands until at least 1832. Berry Head has continued to be a strategic location, protecting civilian shipping (there is a lighthouse and coastguard lookout station within Fort 1 which were built in 1906) and providing defences in later conflicts.
During the First World War The Old Redoubt was home to a rather novel, although short-lived, means of defence against German U-boats and mine-layers. In July 2018 a kite-balloon observation post was established. A two-man lookout crew was suspended within a basket beneath a tethered hydrogen-filled balloon at a height of 1200 metres to raise the alarm so that Devonport’s warships could engage with the sited enemy craft. The balloon station was not in operation for long though, closing in December 1918.
Fort No. 3 saw use during the Second World War when the former Napoleonic battery at the eastern end of the fort was reused as a placement for anti-aircraft guns and part of the stores building was re-used as a Royal Observer Corps post. In 1960, during the Cold War, an underground monitoring post was built within what appears to have been a cistern within the stores building. It closed in 1991.
Fort No. 3 and Hardy’s Head Battery were scheduled as protected ancient monuments in 1950 and The Old Redoubt in 2000. The headland became a Country Park in 1969 following its purchase by Torbay Borough Council.
The Two Castles Trail takes you through beautiful and peaceful countryside – from the edge of Dartmoor, past historic battlegrounds to the ancient town of Launceston. It links the medieval castles of Okehampton and Launceston.
The route passes through a variety of landscapes, including moorland in the east, woodland and river valleys and, as well as the two castles themselves, gives insights into a wealth of historic interest along the way.
The Two Castles trail covers 24 miles/38kms in total.
The Wembury Voluntary Marine Conservation Area (VMCA) runs for about four miles from Yealm Head to Fort Bovisand, extending out to sea to a depth of 10 meters. Created in 1981, it is protected as a result of voluntary agreements to ensure sympathetic use of the area. This stretch of coastline is home to a wide range of habitats. In turn, these support a very diverse fauna and flora, some of which are only found in a few other parts of the country. For example, Wembury is home to the bloody-eyed velvet swimming crab and the tompot blenny. Exposed at low water, the patches of sand, shingle and stranded seaweed provide feeding grounds for resident and migrant waders including curlew and bar-tailed godwit.
Wembury VMCA has produced a Code of Conduct for people using the area.
Inspired by Henry Williamson’s much loved novel ‘Tarka the Otter’ which was based on real places, this 163 miles/261kms recreation route follows Tarka’s journeys, in a figure of eight, through the northern part of the county, designated by UNESCO as a Biosphere Reserve.
The Trail takes you through an ever-changing variety of some of the wonderful Devon scenery described in the book. You will pass through tranquil countryside, wooded river valleys, rugged moorland and dramatic coast. It is a wonderful and sustainable way to explore this area.
Comprehensively waymarked, the walk varies from easy to challenging. Short sections of the trail and circular walks from it are ideal for day and half-day excursions.
The Trail passes through the towns of Lynmouth, Barnstaple, Bideford, Torrington, Okehampton and Ilfracombe and parts of it coincide with the South West Coast Path, the Two Moors Way and the Dartmoor Way.
The North Devon Voluntary Marine Conservation Area (VMCA) runs for about 21 miles along the coast from Hangman Point in the east to Down End in Croyde in the west. It extends from the cliff base out into coastal waters to a depth of 20 meters. It was created in 1994 to help raise awareness of this beautiful stretch of coast and its wildlife.
The coastline has a wide range of shores and beaches, home to a diversity of coastal wildlife. For example, the area supports the rare and beautiful scarlet and gold star coral and the shy leopard spotted goby. In summer, sunfish and basking sharks may be spotted off the coast.
The impressive Lydford Gorge has a depth of 35 meters, is almost 2km long and is of considerable importance for interpreting the geology of the local area. It’s possible to see extensive exposures of mudstones, sandstones, limestones and cherts ranging in age from Upper Devonian (c370 million years) to Lower Carboniferous age (350 million years). Some of these rocks contain important fossil remains that have proved crucial in dating the geology. However, perhaps the most impressive aspect of the site is the structure of the gorge itself. This provides a classic example of river gorge formation followed by ‘river capture’ and has many features associated with this process. These include the spectacular 27-metre high Whitelady waterfall and the exciting Devil’s Cauldron whirlpool, along with the imprints of potholes, now many metres above the present river level.
The Granite Way is an 11-mile cycle and walkway running between Okehampton and Lydford along the north western edge of Dartmoor. It is mostly traffic free, largely following the course of the former Southern Region railway line. A journey along the Granite Way offers good views of the granite landscape of Dartmoor, as well as a number of specific sites of geological interest.
Over 70% of the wall that once protected Exeter still remains and reveals a lot about the geology of the area. Work began on the wall about 1800 years ago by the Romans and the following centuries saw many alterations and repairs, generally using whatever material could be found nearby. A walk along the walls will reveal a range of different rock types.
Within the area of Exeter there are numerous listed buildings and Scheduled Ancient Monuments to explore. These include the Cathedral (Grade 1 listed building) and the Cathedral Green and City Wall, both of which are Scheduled Ancient Monuments.
This magnificent 304 hectare nature reserve, managed by Natural England, offers dramatic coastal scenery and is of international importance for its geological and geomorphological features and wildlife. These can be viewed from the beach or, even better, from a boat.
Travelling from Axmouth to Lyme Regis, the rocks get younger, providing a rare opportunity to observe ‘geological time’. In the west, near Axmouth, 235 million-year-old red mudstones deposited during the arid Triassic Period can be seen. The grey bands are the remains of old salt lakes. Heading east, these are replaced by 195 million-year-old grey mudstones and limestones of the Lias (the oldest part of the Jurassic Period). These Jurassic sediments were laid down in warm, shallow tropical seas and can yield the fossils of marine animals. Ammonites are not uncommon and past discoveries have included marine reptiles such as ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs.
Please leave all in-situ fossils for others to enjoy.
The cliffs in the western part of Budleigh Salterton expose the full thickness of the Lower Triassic Budleigh Salterton Pebble Beds. The Beds are made up of well-rounded pink, red and grey cobbles and pebbles that result from the erosion of 400 million-year-old quartzite outcrops lying to the south-west, possibly now under younger rocks in the English Channel or even Brittany. These were laid down as a coarse gravel in a large braided river which crossed the Triassic desert 246 million years ago. Over the years, erosion has released the pebbles from the bed, thus creating the present pebble beach. Some of these pebbles have been carried by the action of the sea as far east as Sussex and Kent.
The Budleigh Salterton Pebble Beds are overlain by red Otter Sandstone which is of mixed wind–blown and river origin and can be seen west of the promenade and in low cliffs behind it. At Otterton Point, on the eastern side of the mouth of the Otter Estuary, this sandstone has yielded important fossil remains including ‘the Devon rhynchosaur’, an ancient reptile that has allowed these rocks to be dated to the Triassic period.
This dramatic stretch of coastline is of tremendous geological, historical, ecological and landscape importance.
Berry Head is a large headland of Devonian-age limestone providing an excellent viewpoint from which to admire Torbay’s varied geology and beautiful coastline. Soaring to a height of 195m, it is generally flat topped, with a series of cliffs, steep slopes and ledges reaching down to the sea. This limestone was deposited as part of a reef in a tropical sea and is exposed in old quarries at the top of the cliff on the northern side of the site. These provided material for the Napoleonic fortifications that are still well preserved at Berry Head. At Shoalstone beach, wave-cut platforms have exposed two sets of red sandstone sedimentary dykes. Some of these are lined with large sparry calcite crystals.
This site spans from Wembury Beach west to Wembury Point. The area has been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and no visitor can fail to be impressed by the magnificent coastline.
The foreshore and cliffs expose excellent sections of Lower Devonian rocks – mainly red mudrocks, now metamorphosed to slate, siltstones and sandstones. These are thought to have been laid down originally in mudflats and flood plains associated with lakes. Some fossil fish remains have been found here and there may have been an occasional connection between these lakes and the nearby sea. In places, folds in the rock can be seen – an indication of the vast forces that have been at work here in the ancient past.
Interestingly, a raised beach platform and a fossilised cliffline can be seen at the back of the modern beach. This is largely covered by a stony deposit (known as head) formed by downward soil movement during the freeze/thaw conditions of the Ice Age, though at Wembury Point itself some remains of the original beach cobble can still be seen.
Wembury is a voluntary Marine Conservation Area and has a Code of Conduct for people using the area.
Braunton Burrows is a dramatic series of sand dunes located at the mouth of the Taw-Torridge Estuary and is one of the most important examples of its type in Britain. Few other dune systems are less affected by underlying geology and afforestation, making this an important site for the study of coastal geomorphology.
At over 5km long and 1.5km wide, the sheer scale of Braunton Burrows is impressive. Towards the centre of the site, some of the dunes reach up to 30m in height and are among the largest in the country. Smaller foredunes, flooded slacks and past evidence of major sand blowouts can also be seen.
The dunes are of international importance for their wildlife, including a number of rarities, and form the core of a Biosphere Reserve.
Meldon Viaduct, to the west of Okehampton, is a superb example of Victorian engineering. Now a significant landscape feature, it was built to carry the old London and South Western Railway main line to Plymouth in the 1870s.
Closed to trains in the 1960s, it is now available to walkers and cyclists on the Granite Way and offers superb views over the edge of Dartmoor.
This walk starts from Meldon Reservoir Car Park or from Meldon Viaduct if arriving by train. The walk includes several elements of Victorian interest on the northern edge of Dartmoor.
Explore the mining landscapes of the Tamar Valley on this wide, mainly level path, with moderate inclines in parts. The path has a compacted stone surface offering a less steep walking route to view mining works and to join the Wheal Maria Trail.
The countryside between Torquay and Totnes in South Devon is a landscape of attractive valleys with a quiet and away-from-it-all atmosphere.
A perfect way of exploring this scenic area is to use the footpaths and tracks which are followed by two of Devon’s long walking routes. These two routes, the Totnes-Torquay Trail (or 3Ts for short) and the John Musgrave Heritage Trail meet at Marldon, between Torquay and Totnes, and then becomes one route.
This walk is a one-way length from Marldon to Totnes, using the regular and relatively frequent bus service between the two to take you from Totnes to the starting point at Marldon, a pleasant ride in its own right.
This walk follows a section of the Templer Way through Newton Abbot and along a length of the Teign Estuary. It then follows one of the ‘South of the Teign Estuary’ walks, a series of walks set up by Teignbridge District Council to complement the Templer Way.
The Templer Way is waymarked by brown signs depicting a wheel and rudder. Much of the south of the Teign circuit is also waymarked by a green disc.
The East Devon Way is a 40 mile (64km) route which runs parallel to, and inland of, the coast of East Devon between Exmouth and Lyme Regis. Towards its eastern end, it goes through Colyton, one of the larger settlements on its route, although still a small, compact and very attractive place.
This walk is based around Colyton, circling to the south of the town across valleys and higher land, and then uses the East Devon Way to return to the town alongside the charming River Coly.
This walk is based around Newton Poppleford and uses minor lanes and old tracks to the west of the village, before circling back on the route of the East Devon Way. It offers a pleasant walk through quiet countryside as well as some good views over the valley of the River Otter, one of East Devon’s characteristic landscape features.
This trail is based around one of the two market towns in the Ruby Country area, Hatherleigh. This Ruby walk acts as an attractive loop for Tarka Trail users. Keep an eye out for the red Ruby Country waymarkers on the route.
Mortehoe is a small hilltop village on Devon’s northernmost coast. Despite its proximity to the holiday resort of Woolacombe, it retains an old-world charm and a feeling of remoteness, accentuated by its location high behind the rocky headland of Morte Point.
This route, originally built by a special needs group to meet the requirements for the whole family, now forms part of the Drake Trail multi-use route.
It starts in the town centre of Tavistock and follows the Canal through woodland and fields.
These stunning woods with spectacular walks have beautifully adapted paths for all. You can take in part of the Tarka Trail and follow the River Okement, or just wind your way through the woodland at your leisure.
A section of the South West Coast Path uses the Revelstoke Carriage Drive along the cliff tops. This gives incomparable views of the wild open seas and the rugged coast.
Part of the South West Coast Path, this path runs between the pretty town of Dawlish and the National Nature Reserve of Dawlish Warren, renowned for its bird life and dunes.
Bolberry Down has a network of paths running along high cliff tops with great views and providing a choice of walks of varying lengths.
The Grand Western Canal Country Park and Local Nature Reserve meanders through beautiful mid-Devon countryside and quiet villages between Tiverton and Lowdwells (near the Somerset border).
Extending for 11 ¼ miles, the Country Park provides a wonderful location to enjoy a peaceful walk, or experience a ride onboard the much-loved horse-drawn barge.
A delightful path along the River Otter which meets with other paths at the lower end of the Otter Estuary, allowing a number of different length circuits to be walked.
Exmouth to Lympstone is just one section of the Exe Estuary Trail, a multi-use route being built by Devon County Council. Both Exmouth and Lympstone are on the Avocet Rail line with a regular half-hourly service, so you can walk further or catch a train back to the start.
Exeter Ship Canal forms part of the Riverside Valley Park, managed by Exeter City Council. Although the canal is over five miles in length, it is possible to walk various circuits using the numerous paths and cycleways in the area.
The Northern Burrows is a scientifically important area which juts out into the mouth of the estuary. It is a site of special scientific interest with a range of habitats including sand dunes, salt marsh, grassland and rocky shore. It’s no surprise to find the area is alive with wildlife – from the smallest plant and insect, to vivid lichen and birdlife.
Entirely traffic free, this part of the Tarka Trail can be enjoyed in sections to suit your group. This off-road route stretches for over 32 miles from Braunton to Barnstaple, then to Instow, Bideford, Great Torrington and on to Meeth. It can be easily broken up into shorter stretches.
The Trail is a haven for wildlife and offers outstanding views, as so vividly described in Henry Williamson’s “Tarka the Otter”.
The SW Coast path out to a viewpoint at Baggy Point has been levelled and compacted to make access easier for everyone.
After the first 0.5 mile, the path is unsuitable for wheelchair use due to lack of passing places.
The higher path after this point involves some steeper gradients.
An excellent path has been upgraded to allow everyone to see the sweeping views and cliff-nesting seabirds.
Baggy Point ‘easy access walk’ route description can be found here.
This walk is in East Devon. It is based around the charming seaside town of Budleigh Salterton and forms a circuit, partly inland and partly using the South West Coast path.
If you prefer, you can continue the inland route into Exmouth rather than turning to Budleigh Salterton.
This walk is situated in and around Torrington. It forms a circular route based around the town, crossing various parts of the Torrington Commons and using a length of the Tarka Trail. While the whole circuit is only suitable for walkers, parts of the route may be used by cyclists, pushchairs or wheelchairs.