Devon Country Walks - 3
The East Devon Way - Newton Poppleford
Turn left; when you get to the junction, keep left along Exmouth Road. You need to take the first turn on the right - this is Littledown Lane; go along this lane as it ascends slowly out of the Valley of the River Otter. If you look back, you'll see the distinctive wooded outline of a prehistoric coastal hill fort on Peak Hill to the left. To the right is Harpford Common, which you'll cross on the return leg. Bear right at the road junction, then keep going along the pleasant lane, fringed with hedges, for another 500 metres, in other words about a third of a mile. Turn left along a delightful narrow green lane located about 125m before Ashe Brooke cottage. Follow this ancient green lane to its end, where you will find it meets a wide, sandy track. Take a right turn here along Naps Lane.
Naps Lane is an ancient track which runs between Colaton Raleigh and the parish's common land on the heathlands which lie ahead of you. At the junction of the ancient green lanes keep going ahead, bearing a little to the right. You'll see high land formed by the extraordinary East Devon Pebblebed Heaths - the combination of sand and pebbles makes these areas unproductive and they have evolved into wild, uncultivated areas with a few plantations. Nearby parishes have commons on these heights. Go along the green lane until you arrive at a surfaced lane hard by a cottage.
Turn right here, and then walk straight ahead at the junction known as Hawkerland Cross. You have now joined the East Devon Way, a long distance trail which arrives here from your left hand side after it has left the heaths. Your waymarkers now are the mauve arrows indicating the East Devon Way, usually with a foxglove symbol.
When you get to the next junction turn right and climb up the hill. After about 100m of ascent bear left along the main track and keep to it as you steadily climb the Hawkerland Valley, situated at the eastern side of the Pebblebed Heaths. You're actually slightly lower than the bulk of the heathlands, but you can still see the distinctive landscape of gorse, scattered pine trees, fir and beech.
Follow the track you're on around a sharp right hand bend somewhere near the top of the hill until you emerge at a lane opposite a car park. Then take a left turn up the lane until you get to the main road at the top, which is the A3052 between Exeter and Sidmouth. Cross the main road - with care - and go down the lane opposite. This is Aylesbeare Common, an RSPB Nature Reserve.
Follow the newly surfaced lane downhill over the common land. This part of your route has excellent views over the Otter Valley. You'll see Newton Poppleford, the start point and finish of your walk, away towards the right. Keep to the lane while it descends, but when it bears left to Woolcombes Farm, you'll need to take the other, unsurfaced track which runs directly ahead. Go along this track while it descends to cross a little stream, after which it rises slightly again, well off the heathland now, before it arrives at a surfaced lane nearby a white house. Turn right along the lane, and you'll pass Benchams Cottage, rather like a fairy tale house. Go along the track which forks to the right just after the cottage; keep on this track over more heathland, called Harpford Common, which is the most easterly and low-lying of the pebblebed heaths.
Continue walking along on the track as it leaves the commonland and becomes a green lane lined with trees. When you get to the junction at the end, go along the path ahead, but be ready to go almost immediately left over the stile into the field at the waymark. Follow the well-trodden path across the field to a stile; again, go over this and descend the steps. If you follow the path, you'll come to a lane at Court Barn. Turn right here. Lying to your left is the settlement of Southerton.
Walk to the end and go cross the road, pass through the gate found opposite and diagonally to the left. Walk along the edge of the field round to the right, go over a stile and walk ahead through the orchard.
Harpford village is now lying ahead, and the church should be very visible. (You may not be able to see this, but Harpford is on the opposite side of the Otter.) At the end of the orchard you need to turn left and then almost immediately right down the green lane. Go down the steps at the bottom, and then turn right, after which you follow the path round to the left before arriving at a footbridge. Go across the field lying ahead of you and on the far side cross yet another footbridge; after that, descend from an embankment into another field.
The embankment was an old railway, from Budleigh Salterton to Feniton, closed in 1967 as one of the Beeching casualties. Go across the next field towards a distinctive footbridge which crosses the River Otter. The East Devon Way crosses the river to Harpford village on its route in the direction of Lyme Regis, but if you wish to return to Newton Poppleford, you need to turn right, and go alongside the river.
Pass through a kissing gate so you
get on the line of the old railway and then continue straight ahead
next to the river towards some animal pens. Turn right here into a
lane, and opposite a kiddies' play area. Walk left along the lane,
before turning right along the signposted footpath which runs
alongside the recreation ground. Keep going on the path until you
arrive at a road on a little housing estate. Go straight ahead on
this, making sure you take the first turn left, which will take you
to the main road just about in the centre of the village, near the