A winter walk on Dartmoor Magazine's 'doorstep'
I researched the Walk & Eat route for this year’s winter issue recently. Walks in the magazine (and seasonal articles) have to be thought about at least a year in advance to get photos taken in the right season, so I made the most of a bright and cold day last week and worked out a route around Drewsteignton and Fingle Bridge. It’s sometimes easy to ignore places ‘just up the road’ when thinking about walk locations, but walks in the magazine need to come from every part of the moor – and it was good to pick an area relatively close to home this time.
And – surprise, surprise – the start and end (and some of the outward route) follows the Two Moors Way! Four marker stones were placed along the Two Moors Way to mark its setting up in 1976 (at Ivybridge, Drewsteignton, Morchard Bishop and Lynmouth). The Drewsteignton one is definitely in need of some TLC, as can be seen here… I soon left the TMW and found a wonderful path that snaked its away up through Rectory Wood. Higher up in Drewston Wood I was delighted to come across a veteran beech tree that has a starring role in the National Trust feature in this spring’s issue of the magazine!
What’s really lovely about this part of the route – which joins the Hunter’s Path along the north side of the Teign Gorge below Castle Drogo – is that in winter you get stunning views across the gorge through the leafless trees. And once you break out of the wood you are rewarded with a panoramic vista looking west over Sharp Tor (in the foreground) and Hunter’s Tor to the open moor beyond.
It looks as if ponies are being used to do a spot of conservation grazing in the Castle Drogo estate. The quizzical expression seen here came about as a result of me inadvertently clicking ‘play’ on my dictaphone – the pony seems remarkably interested in my description of the route so far!
The route descends to the River Teign, which is crossed via the suspension bridge from the Fisherman’s Path. A broad track is then followed alongside this fantastic megalithic wall (I’ve always loved it) along the lower edge of Drogo’s Deer Park. Once through a gate in the wall Drogo’s newly restored hydro turbine – built 1928/9 and once again in fully working order – is soon passed.
Rather than just following the river I decided to add a bit more adventure to the route, so I set off up the valley side again on the Deer Stalker’s Path, which zigzags its way steeply up through Whiddon Wood – it was really nice to get up high again (and back into the sunshine). The path then runs on through Hannicombe Wood. More great views are enjoyed from the steep and rocky downhill track to Fingle Bridge and the beautifully sited Fingle Bridge Inn.
From there I decided to provide a choice of routes back to the start: either an easy return along the lane and then the bridlepath on the north side of Rectory Wood, or – much nicer – a climb back out of the valley again along the Hunter’s Path. Height is gained surprisingly quickly as you negotiate your rather rooty way uphill…
The Two Moors Way is picked again and followed all the way back to Drewsteignton (the opening photo shows the view of the village and Mid Devon from the path over Piddledown Common). Walk & Eat features sometimes manage to cram in two good eating places, and this route actually manages three: the Fingle Bridge Inn, the cafe at Castle Drogo and the Drewe Arms in the square at Drewsteignton. The pub’s purple umbrellas/sunshades add a welcome bit of colour to a winter image!
There you have it – I felt that the walk turned out really well. It’s pretty up and down (something of a leg stretcher) but is packed with interest and there are plenty of places to stop and catch breath and enjoy the incredible views. The full route description will appear in the winter 2018 issue of the magazine. The final photo shows Drewsteignton Post Office Stores, a welcome refreshment stop for walkers on the Two Moors Way – and a Dartmoor Magazine sales outlet to boot!