Devon’s best walks: A four-mile circular in the hills around Bampton
PUBLISHED: 12:42 24 September 2019
Discovering fabulous views on a hilly walk from Bampton, with SIMONE STANBROOK-BYRNE
Bampton always seems to be full of colour. Famous for its floral displays, this attractive, very rural town boasts a lovely array of independent shops including one of my favourite artisan bakers, Bawdens.
The town sits astride the River Batherm, a tributary of the larger nearby River Exe. It boasts a lengthy historic heritage and is the home of one of the oldest charter fairs in the country which has been taking place for more than 760 years (bamptoncharterfair.org.uk).
It is worth allowing time before or after the walk to visit some of the town's sites, such as the hill of the Norman 'castle' or the Heritage Centre in St Michael and All Angels' Church. The latter organises monthly Town Trails (bampton.org.uk/heritage-centre).
A diverse array of eateries will ensure you are well-fuelled for this undulating and very appealing walk.
1) Leave the Riverside Hall car park and turn left along the main road through Bampton, immediately crossing the River Batherm on a stone bridge.
The road climbs towards a red phone box near the junction where the main road swings right and The Quarryman's Rest is just ahead. Go right with the road, towards Tiverton, then turn immediately left up a stony path between cottages - the one on the left is called The Toll House.
A few metres along a footpath fingerpost reassures that you're going the right way. The path rises to reach a Western Power hut, turn right along a surfaced path to arrive on a residential road.
Turn left along this road for about 60m, then look for the footpath going right along a narrow path between houses. Initially surfaced, the path climbs quite steeply then levels out to reach a stile.
2) Cross the stile and continue, now under trees for a while. The track continues uphill between high hedgebanks and reaches another yellow-arrowed stile leading to a meeting of ways and gates. Go straight across this area to join an ascending track that arrives at an arrowed farm gate in 40m.
Beyond this continue through a field, following the line of the right-hand boundary uphill with the ground sloping away to the left. Views to the left become more expansive as you climb.
Look out for the distant rocky faces of old quarries. This was once a busy part of Bampton's life; quarrying has possibly taken place here since Roman times. Keep ahead alongside the boundary; you may spot a farm pond way down to your left.
3) The path passes through a gap in an ancient boundary where a yellow-arrowed post directs slightly left. Follow this to another gap within 100m, where another arrow points right.
The path curves round to reach a stile not quite in the corner of the field. Cross this and turn left, now following the left-hand hedge through a large field.
Note the way this hedgerow has been 'laid' in the past - a traditional method of management that keeps the hedges strong enough to contain grazing animals and provides good habitat.
At the end of the field pass through a metal gate and continue beside the left hedge to a stile at the end of the field. This leads onto a broad grassy track heading for Three Corners Farm.
Go through an arrowed kissing gate below a barn conversion and keep ahead to another gate within 100m. Beyond here continue past the farm, following the track away from the house.
In about 60m the track swings left in front of a large wooden shed. Follow it away from the buildings, passing a collection of once-loved farm machinery, to reach the road by a house called North View.
Here we were treated to a disembodied voice in the garden giving a joyful rendition of, appropriately, "Everywhere you go, always take the weather with you"; it was a delight to hear on a gloriously sunny autumn day.
4) Turn left on the road, the old Tiverton-Bampton road, now heading downhill and enjoying fantastic views; not having to watch your step on rough ground makes it easier to take in the panorama.
We met a jolly host of walkers from Tiverton Ramblers, also enjoying it. This is part of Sustrans Route 3, the National Cycle network, so you may spot breathy cyclists.
Bend left with the road, passing Sparkhayne in about 700m. Just over 100m beyond this bend look for the lane on the right going downhill.
Take this right-hand lane and in 40m it meets another lane. Cross this and now keep ahead along an inviting hedged track.
5) The chimneys of Pipshayne come into view ahead. Keep along the track, bending left then right, then ignoring a footpath going left just after this dog-leg. Stay ahead on the track, ignoring a right-hand turning towards Pipshayne.
The track wends its way along the side of the valley, following the contour of the hill with lovely views ahead and to the right, approaching Ford. Just over 500m from Pipshayne the track reaches a lane by a stone house.
6) Turn left along the lane, now heading uphill for a short stretch. Occasional gateways to the right offer appealing views over the Barton Hills where ravens cronk overhead.
Stay on the lane to reach the outskirts of Bampton with glimpses to the right towards the church tower. Soon the lane lands you back in town near where you started and right beside the Quarryman's Rest.
Directions to start: Bampton sits on the B3227, just over seven miles north of Tiverton and signed off the A396
Parking and Start Point: Plenty of on-road parking in Bampton. There is also a 50p public car park that serves the Riverside Hall. Grid ref: SS959221. Postcode: EX16 9LT
Public transport: Several buses serve Bampton, running from Tiverton, Taunton and surrounding areas, see travelinesw.com
Map: OS Explorer 114, Exeter and the Exe Valley 1:25 000
Terrain: Paths and field tracks, sometimes muddy and rough underfoot; some road walking on very quiet lanes - we saw no traffic
Distance: 3¾ miles (6km)
Dog friendliness: Grazing animals and some road walking
Exertion: Moderate to strenuous; there is a good deal of ascent during the first stretch and a few ups and downs near the end
Refreshments and facilities: Bampton is very well-provided with pit-stops. Over the years I have tried most. A few suggestions: Bawdens the Bakers Café, EX16 9LY (01398 331426); The Quarryman's Rest, EX16 9LN (01392 331480); Toucan Café, EX16 9LY (01398 331777); The Swan, EX16 9NG (01398 332248)
From Circular Walks in the South Hams, one of a selection of West Country walking guides from Simone Stanbrook-Byrne and James Clancy. Others include: Circular Walks in Central Devon, Circular Walks in East Devon, Circular Walks in North Devon/Exmoor, A Dozen Dramatic Walks in Devon, Favourite Walks in Devon, Town Walks in Devon. culmvalleypublishing.co.uk / 01392 881513