Enjoy thirst- quenching views and wide open spaces on our walk near Musbury
PUBLISHED: 16:43 25 February 2015
Stepping out for New Year, Simone Stanbrook- Byrne guides us through a walk which features huge, thirst- quenching views and wide open spaces
For many centuries BC high ground was regarded by our Iron-Age ancestors as a strategically good place to be, ideal for keeping a wary eye on troublesome neighbours and a safe place to settle. There are several hill forts near the Devon-Dorset border and these were often occupied by tribes defending neighbouring territories from one another.
The Dumnonii of Devon kept a strict watch on the Durotridges of Dorset, although there is some thought that the hill fort of Musbury Castle, although in present-day Devon, may have been used by the Dorset tribes. It was protected by embankments and a ditch plus a wooden palisade enclosing several acres in which people led their lives.
There is also evidence of later Roman occupation though the fort has never been excavated. Musbury village is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086.
The oldest part of the current church building is 15th century with later additions and restoration. Its striking Drake Monument was built in 1611 and extended a few decades later.
The Musbury Drakes were a notable local family and although they did know the family of Sir Francis Drake (of Spanish Armada fame) no direct kinship can be established.
1 From the top of the lane near the church follow the signed footpath leading into the beautiful gardens of Musbury Barton – this is a private house and gardens, please respect their privacy. Within 20m of the entrance, at the garages, go left on the drive, away from the house to reach the buildings of Musbury Farm. In the yard a footpath pointer directs you right across a cattle grid. Follow the clear track uphill away from the buildings. This is the East Devon Way (EDW); you will notice its pink arrows and foxglove symbol. As the track levels out, pause to admire the sweeping views back across the village.
2 The track swings left and in less than 50m you find a public footpath going right. Follow this uphill through the field as the finger directs, passing telegraph poles to your left and reaching a footpath gate at the top of the field. Go through and keep ascending in the direction of the arrows. You reach a fingerpost on your left, keep ahead as it directs (there is a right-hand path diverging here that you don’t want).
Continue uphill – this is no longer the EDW – to reach the ridge, at which point you have a glorious view towards Dorset. Turn left, the view now to your right; you are climbing steadily towards the hill fort. Ignore any paths off (unless you wish to explore) and keep ahead to skirt the open top of the fort up to your left. You are following in the footsteps of people who led their lives here centuries ago.
At the end of the open area you reach a stile with a yellow arrow. Cross it and continue ahead on a narrow path. Keep going until you reach a metal gate.
3 Go through and turn left to another stile 40m away. Pause here for the view ahead, it’s probably one of the most superbly-positioned stiles in Devon.
Cross over and turn right to follow the top boundary of the field, keeping the hedge to your right, view to your left. Keep on through the field to a stile at the end by a transmitter. There is also a lovely memorial bench to Adam James Hoare; he has a beautiful view. Continue ahead through the next field – there are good views in front as well now. At the far end of the field ignore the stile to the left and cross the one in the top right corner, walking through the field with the hedge on your left. In 100m you reach the lane.
4 Turn right along the lane for 800m, on a sunny day this is an easy, ‘dappled’ stretch of walking and we saw no cars! At Bulmoor Cross turn right on a lane shown as ‘no through road’ – this is the EDW again – and descend, passing Bulmoor House on the right. Ignore a left turn and keep straight ahead passing a sign for Bulmoor Farm. The lane becomes a track, pass the farm buildings and keep on the track as it bears left, downhill. Stay with it as it bears right in less than 100m.
5 Keep on down the track for another 200m at which point the track bends left and a footpath goes straight ahead through a gate. Take the footpath, following the field hedge on your right. At the bottom keep ahead through the next field on the obvious track, hedge now to your left. The heights of Musbury Castle are up to your right. Continue, passing a farmhouse on the right of the track then walk ahead along its surfaced drive.
6 About 150m from the house look out for the three-way fingerpost directing you 90° right on a track, still in the same field and now following a hedge to your left. You’re walking uphill towards the castle. After a stile continue to climb, going ahead then left along the line of the hedge. Up at the next fingerpost you are directed left into the trees – you will see a big metal tank over to the left in the woodland. It’s very uppish here, sorry!
Keep ascending with the path to emerge into a field. Here a yellow arrow on a post points you up to the top left corner of the field. (When we last passed the post was flat on its back, but it still managed to point the right way!).
In the top left corner you find a gate. Go through and a fingerpost beyond has a yellow arrow pointing you up to a metal gate. Go through this and beyond it keep going up (the ascent is almost over). At the top of the bank an arrow points you ahead towards trees – enjoy the view left here. Once in the trees follow the clear path. Pass through a gate and head up to a fingerpost which you may recognise.
Here turn left, you are now retracing your steps down to a stile. Cross this and walk diagonally right down the field you ascended earlier.
You reach the stile onto the track, turn left along it and descend once more to Musbury Farm. Turn left out of their yard, along the drive of Musbury Barton and back to the church.