Devon’s best walks: Royal connections in the countryside near Newton Abbot

PUBLISHED: 17:11 21 November 2019 | UPDATED: 17:11 21 November 2019

The Graving Dock Lock on the old Stover Canal, where barges could be repaired in dry dock

The Graving Dock Lock on the old Stover Canal, where barges could be repaired in dry dock

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Not far from the bustle of Newton Abbot SIMONE STANBROOK-BYRNE discovers some easy rural walking with royal connections

Although some areas of our county can feel quite built-up, it's often possible to find tucked-away green places. This particular green place, steeped in industrial heritage, is pleasingly rural and good for wildlife, with a wealth of history en route and distant views to Dartmoor.

The Templer Way is an 18-mile path between Dartmoor and the coast, which for part of its route runs alongside the Stover Canal.

This walk uses some of the Templer Way; look out for the logo which comprises a tramway wheel, for the granite tramways on Dartmoor, and the tiller and rudder of a barge.

The Templar Way, beside the old Stover Canal, is popular with dog walkersThe Templar Way, beside the old Stover Canal, is popular with dog walkers

The trees may be bare, the sky grey, but it's Ideal for a short, sharp blowing away of the cobwebs on a winter's day.

Route:

1) Leave the car park, cross the road with care, and pass through the footpath gate on the opposite side. Turn immediately left through another gate, walking along a narrow path parallel to the road, field to the right.

Some majestic trees are encountered during the walkSome majestic trees are encountered during the walk

In 200m you reach blue and white signs indicating the Stover Trail. Keep ahead here for a few metres; this is now part of the surfaced Sustrans Cycle Route 28.

2) Go through a gateway and as the surfaced path swings right keep ahead to an information board which explains some of the local history.

The two-mile Stover Canal was built in the late 18th century by James Templer who owned the Stover Estate. The canal transported clay used in pottery and, for a while, granite which was quarried on Dartmoor (see Devon Life walk, July 2016). The freight was taken to the sea at Teignmouth. Take a moment to read the information board - the area has seen big changes over the centuries.

The Templar Way follows the old Stover Canal towards TeigngraceThe Templar Way follows the old Stover Canal towards Teigngrace

Turn right from the information board following a stony path; the depression to the left of this path is the site of the old canal (the cycle path is to your right, through the trees).

The path soon passes through a gate and rejoins the cycle track, the once-canal still to your left and, beyond that, a railway line which has not been used for some years.

The last traffic along it was to move logs, although the Royal Train has used the line as an overnight stop. Efforts are afoot to re-open it as a heritage line.

Occasional glimpses of golden gorse lighten the wintry path beside the old Stover CanalOccasional glimpses of golden gorse lighten the wintry path beside the old Stover Canal

At a fingerpost leave the cycle track as it veers right and keep ahead through another gate, walking beneath trees - this path is signed for the Fishwick Feeder and Graving Dock Lock. The former refers to a point at which water from the River Teign was fed into the canal; the latter is a lock on the old canal which was extended in the 1860s to provide a shelf on which barges could be repaired - a 'dry' or 'graving' dock.

The canal beside this section of the path has water in it. A boardwalk carries you across a damp area and you soon arrive at the well-restored lock - all thanks to the efforts of the Stover Canal Trust. This is a good place to pause and explore more of the history.

From the lock continue on the path through a wonderfully scrubby area, great for birdlife. Look up through the tracery of naked twigs - you may spot parties of long-tailed tits.

The Graving Dock Lock on the old Stover Canal, where barges could be repaired in dry dockThe Graving Dock Lock on the old Stover Canal, where barges could be repaired in dry dock

3) The path emerges through a wooden gate near a memorial bench to Wilma Thompson. Here a three-way finger post gives options.

The walk will continue on the heritage trail, heading right across the field from this point, but first it's worth diverting to Locks Bridge and into Teigngrace.

For the diversion, keep ahead on the surfaced Templer Way to the information board a short distance further on, by Locks Bridge. This area served as a boatyard until the canal closed in the 1930s.

The Graving Dock Lock on the old Stover Canal, where barges could be repaired in dry dock (note the shelf to the right of the water where barges could sit)The Graving Dock Lock on the old Stover Canal, where barges could be repaired in dry dock (note the shelf to the right of the water where barges could sit)

From the bridge you can see the tower of St Peter and St Paul's Church in Teigngrace, where James Templer's brother, John, was vicar for 45 years. Although this attractive church was locked when I was there, keys are available if you wish to visit (contact details on notice board by main gate to church).

3a) If you plan to follow the short diversion to see the church, cross the bridge (unless you weigh more than nine tons), following the sign for Heritage Trail. Hop over the single railway line then follow the gravelly path past Teign Manor and out to the road.

Turn left along the road for less than 50m, bending round Owl's Corner then looking for the small gate between private gardens which gives access to a grassy path leading to the church - please don't end up in anyone's garden!

The path passes through scrubby woodland, ideal for wildlifeThe path passes through scrubby woodland, ideal for wildlife

When you've explored sufficiently, retrace your steps back to Locks Bridge.

From Locks Bridge turn right, retracing your steps a few metres to the three-way fingerpost near Wilma Thompson's bench.

At the fingerpost go left on the heritage trail, walking straight ahead on the well-trodden path to cross a drainage ditch on a concrete footbridge within 20m.

The path passes through scrubby woodland, ideal for wildlifeThe path passes through scrubby woodland, ideal for wildlife

The path passes through a fence line and continues to a narrow footbridge across another drainage channel. Keep going beyond this, through a kissing gate and across the next field. We saw little egrets here.

At the far side of the field go through another gate adorned with a heritage trail badge. Continue as the arrow directs, straight on towards the River Teign.

4) At the river a stone post bears arrows indicating paths in both directions. If you wish to shorten the walk slightly you can turn right and follow the meandering river all the way back to the start point.

Some majestic trees are encountered during the walkSome majestic trees are encountered during the walk

The full walk turns left, river to your right. Look left as you walk, on a clear day there is a view to distant Haytor. The riverside path crosses a muddy track which heads down to a ford; ignore this and continue 60m to a fingerpost and footbridge over the river - a drier option for walkers.

Cross the bridge, now leaving the heritage trail. At the far end ascend steps towards a tall chimney, the remains of an ancient building whose tumbledown walls are still visible.

Turn right along the track, soon passing another ruined building on the right, with the river down to the right. The track heads downhill and swings right to the ford. As it bends, leave the track and follow the direction of a yellow arrow on the left pointing up into trees.

The logo of the Templar Way comprises a tramway wheel and the tiller and rudder of a bargeThe logo of the Templar Way comprises a tramway wheel and the tiller and rudder of a barge

5) The walk now follows an old-feeling way, hedgebank to the left, river meadow down to the right, occasional majestic oak trees flanking the path.

At a three-way fingerpost keep ahead. The river comes into view on the right and the path drops squishily down towards it. Keep going, soon passing two stiles then entering a field. Alder trees stand in the river margin, some dead and topless trunks poking out of the water.

Continue through the edge of the field, bending away from the river at the end of the field and crossing a stream to enter trees. Signs here alert you to the proximity if quarrying, but despite nearby industry the area is well-wooded and full of wildlife.

Way to go along the Heritage Trail towards the River TeignWay to go along the Heritage Trail towards the River Teign

Stay on the clear, sometimes muddy, path through the woodland, soon walking near the river once more. The path meanders, ignore any paths left and keep going until the road is visible ahead through the trees.

6) The path swings left but first notice the old stone marker in the corner on the right: 'K' on one side, 'T' on the other. This is probably a parish boundary marker between Kingsteignton and Teigngrace, though I can't find any documentation to support this.

Swing left with the path, now parallel to the road, then turn right in 60m to emerge onto the road at Gallows Cross - watch for traffic.

Devon’s best walks: Royal connections in the countryside near Newton AbbotDevon’s best walks: Royal connections in the countryside near Newton Abbot

Turn right along the road and you regain the car park in less than 200m, on the left.

Directions to start and parking: Stover Canal Car Park is handily situated for the start of the walk, less than two miles north of Newton Abbot on Exeter Road. Grid ref: SX858734; Nearby postcode: TQ12 3QJ

Public transport: Buses serve the area from Newton Abbot, see travelinesw.com

Map: OS OL44, Torquay & Dawlish 1:25 000

Terrain: Field and woodland paths: some surfaced, some can be very muddy. Quiet lane in Teigngrace if you detour into village. Busy road at start and finish on which car park is situated, so caution needed there

Distance: 2¾ miles (4.5km)

Dog friendliness: Possibility of grazing animals, busy road near car park

Exertion: Easy, it is almost entirely level walking

Refreshments and facilities: MT Tums Café is just along the road from the car park, towards Newton Abbot (01626 685657). Lots of other options in Newton Abbot and The Old Rydon Inn, Kingsteignton, TQ12 3QG (01626 354626)

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

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