Devon Country Walks - 2
Ruby Country - Hatherleigh and around
Walk past the George Inn and take a left turn when you get to the Square opposite the Post Office. (The George Inn may originally have been the court house for the Tavistock Abbots, Lords Of The Manor until as late as the 1500s. After this, the George became a coaching stage-point between Bideford, Exeter and the port of Plymouth.) Go into the Churchyard and if you wish, visit the church. It dates from the 1400s and has retained a great deal of its medieval fabric. When you've seen enough, walk back to the square and take a right turn next to the 1828 National School. Turn right next to the garage and then take a left turn next to the livestock market - you need to follow the public footpath sign. At the livestock market keep to the right, and walk along the top edge of the market, until you get to a stile at the end. Hatherleigh's livestock market remains an important occasion for the local farming community - it's held on Tuesday.
Go over the stile and turn left, whereupon a second stile will take you into a green lane. Walk ahead under the Hatherleigh by-pass, until you get to the end of the narrow surfaced lane, where you should continue onwards over another stile. The path goes between some venerable oaks, typical of much of the forest of Ruby Country.
Next you enter a small pasture; walk ahead towards the gate and stile opposite. Go over the stile and then bear right, walking along next to the bank. You're passing through another landscape typical of Ruby country, great for birds and small mammals. Walk on to the double-decker stile.
Cross over the double-decker style and continue ahead, walking parallel to the river at the bottom edge of a field. The river you see is the River Lew, which rises north west of Dartmoor and then flows northwards until it becomes one of the major tributaries of the River Torridge. Please make sure you keep to the path while it meanders through a wooded strip alongside the river; it's narrow in places so tread carefully. Walk along the path to the right until you get to a kissing gate and an old railway embankment. Go down the other side, pass through another kissing gate and then walk diagonally across the grass-tussocky field to the bridge which you can see in the far corner. Go over the stile into the lane, and then take a left turn over the bridge.
This is Lewer Bridge: you can see a plaque which tells you when the bridge was built (1844). Keep walking along the lane while it rises steadily and indeed relatively steeply. After a while, you'll see trees have been or are being planted on the fields next to the lane. This is because the soil is poor and forestry is a good use of the land. When the lane has levelled off, watch for a sharp right bend where there is a clearly visible farm track over a cattle grid to the left (going to Keyethern Farm). Turn left along this farm track.
As you walk, you'll see some very evocative views to the left over Ruby Country stretching to Dartmoor. The banks of the lane have a stunning display of flowers in springtime, rewarding you for the effort you are putting into the climb! Go along the farm track as far as the tall deer fence and the ladder stile. However, don't cross the stile, but turn left just before the fence, and go over a small stile. (You may see fallow deer in the park beyond the fence.) Follow your path along the field edge, then walk through a gate into yet another field and continue to walk ahead, remaining on the field edge; you'll cross two more stiles, the second fairly soon after the first. After this, continue walking ahead again along the edge of the next field until you get to a gate at the far end. This succession of fields represents another typical type of Ruby Country's unimproved grassland, which actually has much value as a wildlife habitat.
You may see the spire of Hatherleigh church over the trees as you pass through the gate into a narrow green lane. Continue along the green lane until you get to a farm track, then pass through a metal gate ahead of you. Keep walking ahead on the track; you'll pass the house on your left, after which you should take the next track on the left. This takes you into a field, from which you can see the whole of Hatherleigh. Go into this field, making sure you bear right and head for the far left bottom corner here you will find a stile; go over the stile and turn left, then immediately right along the edge of the field. When you get to the end of the field, take a left turn through a gate, before turning immediately right and going along the edge of the next field. Go through two gateways and then across a small field to a footbridge. This footbridge crosses Pulworthy Brook, and is protected by two unusual stiles.
Go through the old gate of the
long-closed railway line.
Keep walking ahead on the farm track passing between the buildings. This is
Waterhouse Farm, which has been dated to around 1500.
Bear right to the gateway, then go left and left again. Cross over the stile
at the end of the bank and pass into a field. Next, bear slightly right
and cross over a
double stile on the far side, before heading diagonally across the next
field to the opposite far corner: the village of Hatherleigh is now
quite near. Keep going through the gateway and walk along next
to the hedge, then pass onwards through two gates until you reach a track.
Walk ahead over cattle
grids, and then pass Hatherleigh Cricket Club - you will soon arrive at the Hatherleigh
by-pass. If you wish to return to the "Sheep", you need to cross the road past the
entrance to the
Bowling Club, and turn left when you go past the Bridge Inn, before
finally walking back up Bridge Street to your starting point.