6 ISSUES FOR £6 Subscribe to Devon Life today click here

Tipsy and tidal: walk around the South Hams

PUBLISHED: 16:20 23 January 2017 | UPDATED: 17:03 23 January 2017

Views of the River Avon from the tidal road

Views of the River Avon from the tidal road


Simone Stanbrook-Byrne enjoys glorious South Hams views, superb birdwatching – and a path for the inebriated

Devon boasts some unusual place names and Aveton Gifford is one of them. A settlement since prehistoric times, the name comes from three sources: the River Avon on which the village lies, the Celtic word ‘ton’ meaning town and the Giffard family who held the manor here from the late 11th century, Walter Giffard having arrived in England with William the Conqueror. Pronunciation is a matter for some debate, some preferring to shorten the first bit to ‘Awton’.

In the raw months at the start of the year this route is bejewelled by snowdrops; enjoy them – but no picking please. The latter stretch, descending towards the estuary, is one of my favourite paths; listen for the haunting cry of curlew, a sound that should be bottled, and the rhythmic pulse of mute swans in flight.

And, vitally, watch the tides times. The tidal road to the village, once a cart track serving nearby farms, a limekiln and a mill, was called the ‘Stakes Road’ due to the posts that mark its passage. At low tide horses could wade across while people used stepping stones. Once the road was constructed with proper drainage it made for easier and safer passage – but it’s not always passable and serves to remind us that Nature is in charge.

War memorial at St Lawrence BigburyWar memorial at St Lawrence Bigbury


Leave the car park at its bottom corner, where a ford crosses the lane. Turn right along the lane, the main body of the River Avon is beyond the grass to your left. Follow the lane for 100m to reach a cottage on the right with two nearby footpaths. The first, going sharply back on yourself, you don’t need. Take the second path, just beyond the wall surrounding the cottage, heading right across a field at 90˚ to the lane. Follow this path as the arrow directs to arrive at a boardwalk in just over 100m.

Here go left, hop across the stepping stones and continue beyond them to a three-way fingerpost. Keep straight on, entering under trees where the path turns right to follow a fence on the left. The clear, yellow-arrowed path goes over two stiles before climbing up to a third beyond which steps rise up to a surfaced track. Go right at the top of the steps along the track for about 150m.

At the brow of a gentle rise a footpath goes left on the Avon Estuary Walk, symbolised by a heron. Follow the direction of the fingerpost, up steps and through the field beyond with rising ground to the right and the boundary to the left. When the boundary on the left swings sharp left a yellow arrow on the corner post directs straight across the field, uphill. Pause as you climb to enjoy the views behind.

This line brings you to another arrowed post. Keep going, now with a hedge to your left again and still in the same field. In the top corner turn right with the boundary to reach a stile a few metres further along. Cross this and bear right across the field towards a substantial stile in the corner; note the intriguing, ivy-clad ruins over to the left.

The tidal roadThe tidal road

At the stile the walk joins the curiously named Drunkards’ Hill, go left along this old byway pondering the origins of the name – it’s been called this since at least the mid 19th century.

Follow Drunkards’ Hill for over 500m until it deposits you on a lane. Turn left, following the lane through a pretty hamlet and passing Foxhole Cottage. Climb breathily onwards; the lane trudges uphill for almost ½ mile until you pass Glebe Barn and Old Glebe. A few bends bring you to the buildings of Easton and opposite its main entrance a footpath goes left off the lane into a field. Cross the field towards the tallest telegraph pole in the top boundary, 150m away, beneath which a lovely, old fashioned, metal kissing gate leads out to the lane (I hope it hasn’t been replaced!).

Go right and in about 50m fork left at Bowls Cross, heading for Bigbury. In 220m the lane bends left, soon passing the imposing gateposts of the church, their grandeur softened by ferns and wall pennywort. The lane does a sharp right bend and within 100m, opposite the main entrance of Bigbury Court, a footpath goes left off the lane, up stone steps to a fingerpost.

At the top of the steps ignore the direction of the fingerpost as the path has been unofficially re-routed. Instead, follow the right-hand boundary round the field, entering a second field through a gap not far from houses (to the right). Continue beside the right-hand boundary in this second field, following the perimeter for 500m from the steps until you reach access onto the lane beside a substantial three-way fingerpost.

Aveton Gifford walkAveton Gifford walk

Here, stay in the field and go left, rejoining the Avon Estuary Walk signed towards Milburn Orchard, 1½ miles away. This clear path crosses the field at 90˚ to the lane to reach a stile with a well-trodden path beyond – there are glimpses of the estuary down to the right. Follow the path as it winds into the trees of Doctor’s Wood. It emerges from the trees and rises up to a wooden kissing gate. After this turn left and follow the fence on the left, walking high above the estuary. When the fence swings sharp left keep straight ahead to gates about 50m away.

Go through the most right-hand of the gates. Beyond here the path starts to descend towards the estuary. Another kissing gate and the view opens up even more; the walking is wonderful along this lofty stretch.

As the left-hand hedge bends left keep straight ahead, descending across the field, estuary down to the right and Aveton Gifford with its 15th century bridge way off in the distance.

This line leads to a stile, continue beyond it as before; if your left leg shorter than the right you’ll feel better. Keep following the well-trodden path over stiles until you reach one beneath a tree with a slithery path beyond it leading to steps down to the edge of the estuary.

Hopefully you’ve judged the tide correctly so you can skirt across the back of the mud, passing attractive water gardens on the left, to reach a fingerpost by an information board.

Go through the gate and turn right along the tidal road, redolent of the Susan Hill novel Woman in Black. Be reassured: there is no Eel Marsh House hereabouts but over to the left there are remains of the old limekiln. Further along the road passes under the shadow of cliffs to the left, trees clinging on precariously. In just over 1km (0.7 miles) you reach the entrance to your car park.

Next month we head for Great Torrington

Start point and parking: Car park near roundabout on edge of Aveton Gifford. Grid ref: SX691472. Nearby postcode: TQ7 4JL

Directions to start: Aveton Gifford is on the A379 in South Devon, nine miles south-east of Ivybridge

Public transport: Buses call on Aveton Gifford – see travelinesw.com

Map: OS Explorer OL20, South Devon, Brixham to Newton Ferrers 1:25 000

Exertion: Moderate but with some longish ascents

Toilets: Near Aveton Gifford post office and shop in centre of village

Distance: almost 4¼ miles/6.8km

Terrain: Footpaths, tracks and quiet lanes. It WILL be wet and muddy so wellies advisable – the lane stretches give respite. At the time of writing there were many stiles (Pandora managed) but these may be replaced by kissing gates in due course

Dog friendliness: Good, but livestock may be grazing

Refreshments: Fisherman’s Rest, Aveton Gifford (01548 550284) and the village shop for chocolate supplies, 01548 550996

** Important** This fabulous walk ends along a tidal road which is impassable at times, so check the tide details on the website (aveton-gifford.co.uk/local-info/weather-tides-surf) before starting out and allow yourself enough time to cover the distance so that you are finishing the walk well away from the time of high tide


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Devon Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Devon Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Devon Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & About

Fri, 11:51

From stunning sunsets over Barnstaple to meeting the Dartmoor ponies, we have 14 reasons that prove Devon is the prettiest county…

Read more
Fri, 10:36

You have been busy snapping away at the pretty vistas and rolling landscapes of Devon. Here are 10 top picks from this week…

Read more
Mon, 13:02

Plymouth welcomes great theatre this spring

Read more
Mon, 12:46

Creativity, passion and a touch of mysticism are part of the fabric of Totnes, a place famous for its alternative vibe. To see what we mean, head for the town’s best-kept secret, the Timehouse Muzeum, writes Chrissy Harris

Read more
Tuesday, March 14, 2017

We have found some great places for you to try while visiting Newton Abbot

Read more
Monday, March 6, 2017

Blue Cross has set a date of Sunday 9 April 2017 for its 10th annual dog event at Oddicombe beach.

Read more
Monday, March 6, 2017

On Wednesday 26 April 2017 there will be a Spring Shopping Fair at Ugbrooke House in Chudleigh.

Read more
Monday, March 6, 2017

Chrissy Harris discovers that it’s not just humans that love making a home in the beautiful East Devon countryside

Read more
Monday, March 6, 2017

Make the most out of your visit to the town of Axminster with our guide

Read more
Monday, February 27, 2017

Catherine Courtenay talks to photographer Jason Ingram who reveals some of his favourite Devon garden shots

Read more
Monday, February 27, 2017

Villages in Devon are some of the prettiest in the South West. From beautiful little hamlets on the outskirts of the moors to seaside communities, we pick 10 villages in Devon you need to visit

Read more
Monday, February 20, 2017

Simone Stanbrook-Byrne explores around Great Torrington, a town that played a strategic part in the English Civil War

Read more
Thursday, February 16, 2017

Paignton Zoo wins battle of Facebook check-ins

Read more
Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Gardeners in Devon who plan to grow food crops this year are being invited to a special seed swap event this month.

Read more
South West Life advert link
South West Life advert link

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad
Devon Life Application Link

Local Business Directory

Devon's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search