Devon Coastal Walks - 3

Ashford, near Barnstaple, North Devon


Start/finish:  Trelawney Garden Centre during opening hours. There is also a layby on the busy A361 just below the Garden Centre, grid ref 527349

Distance:  8 miles/12.9 km Time 4 hours Height gained  860ft/260m

Terrain:  A few ups and downs but all easy for fit walkers. Some paths can be overgrown in high summer.

Refreshments:  Trelawney Garden Centre, Heanton Court (pub and restaurant)

Toilets:  Garden Centre. None on walk.

Map: OS Explorer 139. Mark your route on the map before you start and remember to take it with you.

Public transport: Traveline 0871 200 22 33

For further information on the Tarka Trail and the South West Coast Path, click here. To order books and leaflets on Devon paths and trails, click here.

This walk starts along a small stretch of the Tarka Trail (the dismantled railway track) where it comes close to the broad expanse of the Taw Estuary. Here sandbanks and salt marsh provide a natural habitat for a great variety of birds. The trail is inspired by Henry Williamson’s tale, ‘Tarka the Otter’, written in the 1920s. The 180-mile trail follows Tarka’s adventures, in a figure of eight shape, centred on Barnstaple. The overall route takes you through a variety of delightful Devon scenery, including tranquil countryside, wooded river valleys, rugged moorland and part of the spectacular North Devon coast.

1 Start from the Garden Centre, cross the busy A-road and walk right, passing the layby. After 55yds take, on the left, the signposted path that directs you downhill, under trees, and beside the wall of Strand House. Go under the bridge that carries the dismantled railway - you may have to take your boots off if the tide is high. Once on the shore of the estuary, turn right and immediately climb steps to the railway track, which is now part of the South West Coast Path and the Tarka Trail.

2 Turn left (walking westwards) along the level reinforced way, a glorious blaze of colour when the summer flowers are in bloom. Away to your left stretches the estuary. Go past Heanton Court and continue until you reach a road. Cross and walk right and then left. Go over the A-road and walk left for a few yds to take, on the right, a typical narrow Devon lane, signposted Heanton Punchardon. Climb steadily and then turn left towards its fine church. Walk beside it on your right and pass some charming thatched cottages beyond which you turn sharp right.

3 Walk for 200yds to take a signposted green lane on the left. Climb two stiles and as you go enjoy the rolling hills, grassy slopes, deciduous woodland and hedged fields of this lovely corner of North Devon. Turn right onto another green lane and then left as directed to continue beside a hedge on the left. Descend steadily to a stile and then on down through lush scrub to a footbridge over Knowl Water. Turn right and edge the field to a stile to a narrow lane. Walk right to take, in a few steps, a stile into a field, which you cross, bearing slightly right, to another stile into woodland.

4 Beyond stroll the delightful path as it climbs relentlessly. This is Ash Lane and once the only way to reach Ash Barton, the charming house on the ridge above, which is mentioned in the Domesday Book. Follow the waymarks directing you right of the house and once past the stables take the gate on your right. Strike diagonally across two fields, aiming for the stiles you can see from the gate. Go ahead through the next pasture to pass through large double stock gates.

5 Turn left and head towards Luscott Barton. Beyond the gate, turn right to walk 50yds. Turn left before the first dwelling to stride a cart track. Remain on this track for 1/4 mile to climb a stile. Then drop down the steep slope to cross, on stepping stones (rarely underwater), a stream to a stile beyond. Walk ahead through a copse to a stile to a steep slope. Climb straight up to a stile on your right, which gives access to a hedged track. Carry on along this to a narrow road and turn left.

6 Where the lane turns sharp left, go ahead to a waymarked gate to the left of Pippacott farm. Follow the path that leads you to Pippacott Wood, where the Woodland Trust has provided a wonderful grassy walk. Keep to the lower track to join a narrow lane and turn right to descend to the tiny hamlet of Whitehall, where you turn left. Go on and ignore the next right turn, continuing to climb up and up the lane. Once over the brow, stride past Springfield farm and then take a signposted reinforced track, right, towards Springfield Cottages.

7 Beyond the last dwelling take the stile ahead. Bear left and edge the pasture to pass through a gate. Cross the huge field, diagonally right, to the far bottom corner, passing Springfield House on your right. Step across a small stream and walk straight up the barley field to a road. Turn left and, 20yds on, climb a stile on the right. Walk ahead to a gate to Gratton Lane. Turn left and then right to follow the narrow winding lane to pass on your right, Ashford Church. It has wonderful carved pews. At the T-junction, go left to descend to the Garden Centre.

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