Landscapes & legend
PUBLISHED: 09:00 26 April 2014
An idyllic village, annual Arts Festival and the chance of a dragon-sighting are all featured on this Thorverton walk, as SIMONE STANBROOK-BYRNE reveals
Photography by Jim Clancy
Look out for
St Thomas of Canterbury Church, home of the East Devon Arts Festival
Cadbury Castle and the Killerton Dragon
The Raddon Pine
Exe Valley Farm Shop (on lane between A396 and Thorverton)
For over 40 years the pretty Exe Valley village of Thorverton has hosted the excellent East Devon Arts Festival each May (13-17 May 2014). The historic parish church, filled to bursting with a huge range of quality art and craft work, makes an attractive venue for the event. The village is good to visit at any time of year and this lovely walk takes you to the airy heights of Raddon Hills. Here a magnificent lone pine (Devon Life’s cover image, July 2013) stands sentinel. The views throughout the walk are some of the best in Devon and include the Iron Age hillfort of Cadbury Castle. Legend has it that this castle and Dolbury Hillfort, to the south east, each conceal hidden treasure. The Killerton Dragon flies nightly between the two to guard his gold, a distance of some six miles as dragons fly. Occasionally one hears dissent about whether the dragon belongs to Killerton or Cadbury; the dragon knows for a fact that he isn’t owned by anybody.
Leave the car park and turn right up the lane out of the village. The lane levels and up ahead is the lone pine on Raddon Hills. Keep going, passing Lynch Farm with its striking monkey puzzle tree, until, three quarters of a mile from the car park, you reach Chapel Corner. Keep ahead on the lane towards Shobrooke and Crediton and in 150m you find a kissing gate on the right. Go through here and follow the field boundary on your left to another kissing gate. Now continue with a fence to your left and a copse to your right. The path bears right through the end of the copse and arrives at another gate.
Go through and turn immediately left, hopping over a small stream as you enter a field and then turning right to walk up through this field with the boundary on your right. Follow the hedge up and around the field until you find a stile on the right. (Recent fencing has obstructed this slightly; the footpath officer has been alerted but meanwhile it’s quite easy to duck underneath.) Cross the stile and turn left, keeping the hedge on your left and following it round the field to the top left corner where you find a plank bridge and steps up to a stile. Cross here into the next field and bear diagonally up it in the direction of the yellow arrow on the stile. A waymarker post part-way across directs you over a crossing track and on up the field. In the top corner, diagonally opposite the point at which you entered, a stile leads out of the field. Enjoy the views behind.
The stile brings you to a track; walk ahead down to a gate about 25m away with another stile beside it. Beyond here turn right along the surfaced drive, passing the wonderfully elevated Raddon Hill Lodge. (The public footpath goes straight past their garden, please respect their privacy.) Keep ahead on the track past the house to reach the buildings of Raddon Hill Farm, at which point the track turns sharp right. Go with it, ignoring a footpath up steps to the left and continuing a short distance further along the track to a gate on the left.
Pass through this and walk straight up the next field, boundary on your right. The field levels out towards the top; ahead of you to the left is a yellow-arrowed gate leading onto a narrow path. Before passing through the gate to join this path there are views ahead and slightly right (north east) to Cadbury Castle with the church nestling below; search the sky for dragons.
Once you’ve gazed your fill join the path, wending your way between hedges and negotiating occasional gates where yellow arrows direct you straight on; don’t be tempted to veer left into the fields. The buildings of Kitlake Farm will be seen down to your right. When you are almost level with Kitlake you meet a farm gate where a yellow arrow directs you left to a small gate through which you leave this narrow path – don’t leave it any sooner.
Go left off the path through this gate and then immediately right to follow the field boundary on your right. In 50m you reach another arrowed gate. Pass through into the next field and continue ahead with the boundary on your right until you reach the end of the field. Here turn right through the gate and walk down the field to the stile in the bottom left corner. There are more good views to Cadbury Castle as you descend.
After the stile turn left along the lane heading away from Kitlake Farm. Follow this for just over half a mile, enjoying occasional big views to the right, until you see the back of a corrugated barn on your left. As the lane bears right go sharp left back on yourself, joining a footpath that passes the open front of the barn. Walk ahead through the field with the hedge on your right. This is an elevated stretch of walking with windswept trees and, on a clear day, panoramic 360° views. It can be wonderfully wild up here. Behind you to the right is Dartmoor, ahead to the right the Sidmouth Gap.
This is a large field; at its end continue into a second and soon a third field. In the third continue ahead, now with the boundary on your left, towards the unmissable, solitary tree. A long time ago there were more trees here; this survivor now stands as lone guardian over Raddon Hills. A majestic sight; hug it if you are inclined, the tree deserves attention.
From here head to the stile beyond the tree, cross it and bear diagonally right down the field to a stile in the bottom boundary – you can see Thorverton ahead down in the valley. The stile leads to the steps that you passed earlier. Descend and turn right at the bottom to retrace your steps along the track past Raddon Hill Farm and Raddon Hill Lodge.
Beyond Raddon Hill Lodge you have an option. When you reach the bend in their drive you can either go left to the stile and pick up the footpath that you came along earlier, retracing your steps along your outward route, or continue down the increasingly stony drive beyond Raddon Hill Lodge until you meet the lane. At the lane turn left, passing Raddon Court on your right. Follow the lane back to Thorverton.
From Circular Walks in Central Devon: the walking guide for Mid Devon, one of a selection of Culm Valley Publishing’s West Country Walking Guides. Titles include Circular Walks in East Devon, Circular Walks in North Devon, A Dozen Dramatic Walks in Devon, Favourite Walks in Devon, Town Walks in Devon. culmvalleypublishing.co.uk/01884 849085