• Start: Car park beside Community Hall, Christow, OS grid ref SX 838851
  • End: Car park beside Community Hall, Christow, OS grid ref SX 838851
  • Country: England
  • County: Devon
  • Type: Country
  • Nearest pub: Artichoke Inn, Christow; there are also two well-stocked shops in the village.
  • Ordnance Survey: OS Explorer 110 or Landranger 191
  • Difficulty: Medium
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Deborah Martin goes on a springtime ramble through Devon's Teign Valley to Dartmoor's oldest reservoir.

Early spring, when the first flowers are appearing and leaf buds are forming on the trees, is an ideal time to explore the delightful Teign Valley just south of Steps Bridge. Here the river, still fresh from its brisk journey across Dartmoor, has created a valley that twists and turns through many-folded hills. It's not far from the A38 dual carriageway, but its atmosphere is far removed from that noisy symbol of today's hectic pace.

A large part of the valley lies within the National Park and there's a whole network of footpaths and bridleways linking villages and outlying farms. This walk uses some of these paths to climb up one side of the valley, through woodland and fields, to reach two of the three reservoirs that lie on the plateau to the west. After the forest tracks near the reservoirs, a more open route takes you back down again, with views over a crinkled landscape of fields and hamlets.

It starts at Christow, easily reached from the main Teign Valley road. The village has a number of old farmhouses and cottages and is an interesting place to wander around. The church, dating from the 15th century, is a sturdy granite building with an impressive tower. Inside are the original chancel screen, some carved bench-ends and a Norman font. It's hard to imagine that this quiet rural parish was once a mining centre, but in the 19th century there were silver, lead, copper and manganese mines here. The former engine house of Wheal Exmouth and Adams silver-lead mine can be seen at Canonteign, just to the south of the village.

At the highest point of the route is another feature of 19th-century enterprise. Tottiford Reservoir was built in 1861 and is the oldest reservoir within the National Park. It was followed by Kennick Reservoir in 1884 and the third of this trio, Trenchford, in 1907. They were constructed to provide water for the growing resort of Torquay and today play a key part in the water-supply network for Torbay and Teignbridge. They're attractive to wildfowl, so look out for various kinds of ducks and geese on the water, and possibly - on a quiet day - even a heron might be seen amongst the reeds.

1 From the car park walk up the road through the village, passing the church. Just past Newhouse Farm take a lane to the right and continue as it passes between two houses. Soon a waymark points right to a footbridge over a stream where you turn left. Reaching a road, take another footbridge on the left to a gate back onto the main village street. (The village stores and the Artichoke Inn are just along the road to the left.) Go straight across to another footpath, which continues uphill beside the stream, first with a fence on the left and then into woodland. The path is marked by yellow spots on trees and keeps close to the stream. When you reach a track with a wall on the far side, cross the stream and turn right to a ladder stile into a field. Turn left uphill beside the hedge to another stile back into the woods. Continue uphill with the stream on your left. At a track turn right, signed 'Public Bridlepath Bowden (for Reservoirs)'. Pass Bowden Farm and at a T-junction turn right along the track. Soon there's a footpath sign by a gate; follow the pointers through the field to a gate at the far side.

2 You are now at a road, but ignore it and take the left-hand footpath into a field. Keep the hedge on your left and where it turns a corner continue ahead in the same direction to a stile beside a gate on the far side of the field. Turn right along the road. At a triangle turn left on a lane uphill. Pass a cottage on the right and continue ahead at the track junction, signed 'Bridleway to Kennick'. At the next junction turn left. (On the right here is a plaque marking an old Quaker burial ground.)

Turn right at the next junction, then straight ahead, signed 'Footpath to Kennick Reservoir'. Go straight on at the next junction and when you reach a gate turn right along the road to Kennick dam, where there's a view of the reservoir. Now take the footpath to the left, signed 'Tottiford Walk'. This leads to the head of Tottiford Reservoir and continues along the bank to a causeway. Here you turn left away from the water. (If you want to extend the walk by about 11/4 miles/2km, cross the causeway and turn left to follow the path round the reservoir, returning to this point.)

3 The path follows a 'corridor' through the conifers. Keep straight on at the junction and at the road turn right, then immediately left onto a bridleway. Pass the farm buildings and continue to a road. (As the track rises before reaching the road turn round for a distant view of Haytor Rocks.) Go straight across onto a byway, then turn right on a footpath for 'Bennah Hill and Christow'. As the path starts to descend there's a wide view over the Teign Valley to the Haldon Hills beyond. After a small plantation look out for a waymarked post and go through a gate on the left, across a field to a lane. Turn right downhill, right at the junction, left at the first fork and right at the next. This brings you back into Christow; turn right down the road to the car park.


Distance: 51/2 miles (9km)

Time: 21/2-3 hours

Start/parking: Car park beside Community Hall, Christow, OS grid ref SX 838851

Terrain: Footpaths, bridleways, forestry tracks; woodland paths will be muddy after rain

Maps: OS Explorer 110 or Landranger 191

Refreshments: Artichoke Inn, Christow; there are also two well-stocked shops in the village.

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