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Walking in a winter waterland

PUBLISHED: 13:24 12 December 2016 | UPDATED: 13:50 12 December 2016

A ‘layered’ landscape; undulating winter fields viewed from the path back to Kentisbeare

A ‘layered’ landscape; undulating winter fields viewed from the path back to Kentisbeare

Archant

Work off Christmas excesses and blow away the seasonal cobwebs with Simone Stanbrook-Byrne as she takes this lovely walk in East Devon

For those who wish to liven up a little over the holidays this shortish family walk on the edge of the Blackdown Hills will help do just that. The countryside surrounding Kentisbeare is home to several fisheries, their extensive ponds a reflective feature on a bright winter’s day. The youthful (of any age) will enjoy splashing about in the ford part-way round – but fear not, there’s a footbridge for the un-wellied. As an extra to the walk, Kentisbeare’s parish church is a beautiful building admired by John Betjeman. It has some notable bodies. E. M. Delafield, author of Diary of a Provincial Lady and one-time president of Kentisbeare Women’s Institute, is buried here, as is Mary Wotton, aunt of Lady Jane Grey. To round off the excursion the embrace of the log-warmed and very friendly Wyndham Arms is a cosy one. Merry Christmas!

Route

Facing the Wyndham Arms turn right along the road, passing the church on your left. This is Priest Hill, which after a short distance becomes Silver Street. In a few hundred metres you pass a terrace of thatched cottages on the right; the last of these is Thatch Corner. Beside it take the lane on the right and in 50m you find the entrance to the young Silver Wood on the left. This is one of the Woodland Trust’s millennium community woodlands and has been planted with many open glades to create a lovely wildlife habitat. Go through the small footpath gate into Silver Wood and follow the trodden path beyond.

About 50m from the gate the path passes a stone monument commemorating the planting of the wood. Beyond this the River Ken joins from the right. Follow the path, crossing a plank bridge before reaching a larger footbridge spanning the river. Cross here and turn left at the end of the bridge, following the path to a stile within 100m. Negotiate this then follow the narrow path beyond, leaving Silver Wood behind. In about 50m you reach a more open area with a stile on the right. Ignore this stile and turn left to follow a broader path beside a fence, the ponds of Goodiford Mill Fishery over to the right.

Bare trees and winter berries beside a reflective fishing lakeBare trees and winter berries beside a reflective fishing lake

This path leads past the ponds and bears left to cross a footbridge with barns over to the left. Beyond the bridge go straight over the track and go through the arrowed gate opposite, entering an area of more ponds. Walk through here keeping the fence and stream to your left. At the end of the ponds footpath arrows direct left away from the fishing area then right through the car park. The house of Goodiford Mill is ahead to the right. Beyond the car park you reach the lane. Turn right.

Within 200m, at Goodiford Cross, turn right towards Wressing. A ford lies in wait, which can be quite busy after rain but there is a convenient footbridge for the insufficiently booted. Keep going on the lane and just as you reach Wressing, immediately after Laurel House, take the right-hand fork. There is a large triangular paddock to the left and in 120m you meet another lane at a bend. Continue ahead here, slightly uphill along a windy road, passing the imposing gates of Wressing Farm on the right.

Just after this, near a stone barn on the left, a track leads straight ahead off the lane. Take this track, climbing initially and bending about until you reach a lane in half a mile. Cross the lane and continue along the track opposite enjoying lovely views ahead to the hills above Blackborough. This short stretch of track drops to another lane, along which turn left.

The lane bends right, go with it, passing the houses of Pirzewell on the left and ignoring the left turn. Curiously, the spellings of Pirzewell and, later in the walk, Stowford vary from sign to sign. Pass the entrance to Pirzewell Ponds on the right and later a small array of solar panels. Continue on the lane as far as the house of Little Pirzewell with its lofty monkey puzzle tree. Look for the stile on the right and cross here into a field.

The cobbled ford – a nearby footbridge keeps the un-wellied dryThe cobbled ford – a nearby footbridge keeps the un-wellied dry

Walk straight ahead through the field with the hedge to your right, as directed by the footpath sign, with a stream to your right and ponds beyond the boundary. This line leads to a partially decomposed stile – with luck it may have been renewed. Continue beyond it in the direction of the arrow on the stile (if it hasn’t disappeared), following the right-hand boundary through two quite large fields and enjoying undulating views to the left until you arrive at a gate onto the lane. Look for the sign on the post commemorating ‘Dushka’s Walk’, a fitting memorial to a border collie who once lived nearby.

Turn right along the lane bearing right at the T-junction in just over 50m. This is the tiny settlement of Stowford Water. At the next junction, within 100m, keep straight ahead towards Orway. You pass The White House with its red letter box on the right and the lane to the Baptist Church on the left. Keep going past Stowford Water Farmhouse and follow the lane with its expansive views for not quite half a mile until you are joined by a lane from the left.

Keep ahead here and within about 20m you find a track on the right. Follow this as it descends to enter a lightly wooded area. Keep on the track beyond the trees, passing a house with associated outbuilding beyond which is the lane. Turn right and follow the lane for about 400m.

A friendly encounter en routeA friendly encounter en route

You reach a footpath on the left. Take this, going back on yourself, away from the lane through a small woodland area. Cross the footbridge and arrowed stile then walk diagonally right up the field in the direction of the arrow. This line leads to another stile. Pause to enjoy the views behind – back down to the ponds and across the valley towards Blackborough. A level path beyond the stile leads through a field with a fence to the right and views down to the outskirts of Kentisbeare. At the end of the field hop over the stile and go straight across to join a narrow footpath opposite. This leads beside a cottage garden with free range chickens (watch your dogs!) to a stile followed by steps down to the lane. This junction has the delightful name of Honest Heart Cross, named for a long-gone pub. Turn right and follow the lane a short way back into Kentisbeare – a lovely end to a good walk.

Next month we head for Aveton Gifford

Start point: Kentisbeare village centre. Grid ref: ST068081. Post code: EX15 2AD

Directions to start: Kentisbeare is four miles east of Cullompton, off the A373 Cullompton to Honiton road

Parking: On-road in village

Public transport: Buses are occasional – see travelinesw.com

Map: OS Explorer 128, Taunton & the Blackdown Hills 1:25 000

Terrain: Footpaths, tracks and quiet lanes. It WILL be muddy so wellies advisable – the lane stretches give respite. Care – wooden bridges and stiles can be glacially slippery when wet

Toilets: None en route

Distance: almost 4.5 miles/7km

Dog friendliness: Good, but possible livestock/free range chickens. Some stiles don’t have provision for dogs but Pandora negotiated them all

Exertion: Moderate, some gradual ascents

Refreshments: Kentisbeare Post Office and Stores for snacks. The Wyndham Arms, High St, Kentisbeare, 01884 266327

Kentisbeare walkKentisbeare walk

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