Devon’s best walks: Vast views on a circular around Sidbury Castle
PUBLISHED: 12:35 20 September 2019
Enjoy a walk of vast views in East Devon, with SIMONE STANBROOK-BYRNE
The Iron Age hill fort of Sidbury Castle is about 185m above sea level and overlooks this walk.
Such forts were constructed by our ancestors on naturally-occurring high ground in order to provide somewhere to live and trade which might be reasonably easy to defend.
In the 19th century a hoard of sling stones was found here, now in Exeter Museum.
This is a walk of glorious views and at one point you cross a nature reserve where you might be lucky enough to spot the rare Dartford Warblers and Cirl Bunting. Enjoy!
1) With the church to your left and the Red Lion to your right walk away from the centre of Sidbury passing Court House on the right - watch for traffic. Within 100m, at the end of the wall of Court House, take the footpath going right to White Cross along a track.
The rough track becomes tarmac, passing houses. As the tarmac ends keep ahead along a track, there's a yellow footpath arrow here plus a pink East Devon Way (EDW) arrow. Look out for the EDW's foxglove symbol on some posts.
You reach a farm gate; keep going past a barn on the left to enter a field. Continue, following the right-hand hedge. The hill ahead to the left is Sidbury Castle. Enjoy the views behind as you ascend this field and at the top go right through the gate, still following the pink arrows.
This narrow stretch of field broadens; continue to a metal gate, beyond which is a tarmac farm drive. Turn right along it, crossing a stream to reach Goosemoor Farm. Pass the house on your right and keep straight ahead through a gate to join a path, still walking in the same direction and going uphill.
It's a long haul up this track and you eventually rise to meet a gate with arrows on a post. Follow their direction up through the long field beyond, hedge to the right, heading up towards trees. Near the top of this field look for the yellow-topped post over to the left near the trees to help guide you. When you reach it pause to draw breath; admire the sea view behind.
From the post follow the arrow's direction, leaving the field and following more arrows directing ahead along another line of trees, fence over to your right. Keep going, passing through another boundary to eventually reach a footpath gate with the usual signs.
Keep ahead beyond this through the next field, now with the boundary on your left. When this ends keep straight on across the field to find a gate onto a track. This leads to a lane, turn right.
2) This is White Cross. You arrive at a car park with immense views. Savour them then seek the track at the end of the parking area furthest from the lane (not the footpath at the edge of the view). Follow the track beneath trees and within 100m signs announce 'no vehicular access apart from agricultural access'. Keep ahead between these, still on the EDW; a lovely stretch of verdant woodland walking.
When you emerge from the woodland keep ahead on the track for another 500m or so to where you will find a meeting of ways at Hollow Head Cross. Keep straight ahead on the pink-arrowed EDW.
In approximately 120m you reach a point at which a 'County Road' forks left but you keep ahead on the EDW - essentially continuing in the same direction as before, resist the temptation of any forestry tracks which deviate off. This is Fire Beacon Plantation and there is a superb boundary of trees on your left.
At the end of the wood you reach a metal gate; the EDW continues across Fire Beacon Nature Reserve. Keep ahead here on the left fork, walking towards expansive views and the sea. 300m away you may be able to spot a fingerpost. When you reach it, greet it but ignore its left turn and keep straight on.
Keep ahead at the next fingerpost, within 100m. The path descends, Sidmouth visible to the left. Arrows keep you in the right direction until, just over 150m from the fingerpost which you greeted but ignored, the EDW takes a sharp left turn.
3) Keep going downhill until you reach another nature reserve board by a meeting of ways. A few metres beyond the board a footpath goes left - the arrow was missing when we were last here but this is what you follow, now leaving the bridleway and EDW.
Follow the footpath and within about 150m there is an indistinct fork at which you need to keep left up two steps -a yellow arrow helps direct you. Keep on this well-arrowed path, which can be damp but boardwalk helps. Beyond the boardwalk the path winds past a horizontal tree which fell out of the bank years ago but continues to grow - a real survivor.
About 150m beyond this tree you may spot a footpath going right, but ignore it and follow the ongoing path to reach a footbridge with a stile beyond. Cross the field after this to another stile leading onto the lane.
4) Turn left for 50m along the lane to reach a footpath going right into Core Hill Wood. Take this and keep ahead in the wood (don't fork left as you enter it) to follow what becomes a sunken track under trees.
Within 200m of entering this wood the path opens into a meeting of ways and up to your right you see a wooden post with yellow arrows. Climb up to this, and from it keep straight ahead - you are walking towards the buildings of Burscombe Farm which you can see in the distance through the trees.
The path drops down in the direction of the farm and in about 100m reaches a metal gate on the left. Pass through and turn right to keep the boundary and trees on your right. The boundary ends, keep straight down the field to reach a small metal gate; Sidbury Castle beckons across the valley.
Go through the gate and descend to the lane, where you find three options. Take the middle lane, still heading down towards Burscombe Farm. When you reach the farm, just before the house, look for a footpath going right off the lane.
5) Take this and follow the track away from the gate as shown by the fingerpost. The house and garden are to your left. The track bends slightly right, keep going to the far side of the field where you find a gate. Go through this and keep ahead through the next field, which slopes up to your left with the boundary to your right.
Part-way through this field you see an arrow pointing obliquely right onto a sunken path below the field. Follow this beside a stream and keep going as the yellow arrows direct to eventually emerge at the end of the same field with a track ahead of you.
Follow this track in the same direction as before for 200m, at which point look for a fingerpost directing left. Take this, climbing up into a field then keeping ahead with the boundary to your right. Keep ascending through the field; you will see the outskirts of Sidford ahead.
Follow the right-hand boundary as it descends, Brook Farm down to the right, and stay beside the right-hand boundary through fields until it reaches a stile by a fingerpost leading onto the tarmac farm drive.
Go left along the drive to reach Sidford. Keep ahead along a residential road until you meet one of the main roads into Sidford. From here the walk crosses the road and turns left for 20m to a narrow path going right. Take this.
This little path emerges at cream-coloured Mill House. Keep ahead and bend right with the lane, passing modern houses of Ballard Grove on the right. Keep head to reach St Peter's Church then turn left along the main road, crossing the 12th century packhorse bridge over the River Sid.
Follow the main road for almost 400m, passing the Blue Ball to reach crossroads at the end of the village. Turn left along Harcombe Lane East.
6) Follow the road passing the drive to Boswell Farm on the right. Keep going for 500m and when the road swings left keep ahead on the track. You rejoin a metalled road; keep going, and as the drive swings right to Buckton Farm keep ahead on the signed bridleway.
Go through a gate and walk uphill through the field to another gate, continuing on the obvious and steep path up to wooded Buckton Hill. Good breather-views behind here.
At the top of the hill go left on a grassy track as a blue bridleway arrow directs; the sea is visible over your left shoulder. The woodland to the right ends, continue through a gateway, now with woodland to the left. The track passes a smallholding; beyond this ignore a footpath on the right. In 20m go left at the three-way fingerpost, now rejoining the EDW.
7) Follow the path beneath trees and in just over 100m you reach an old bank boundary. Go right and swiftly left again, as shown by arrows. The path drops steeply down through trees - knees in gear! At the bottom of the wood you land on a plank bridge.
Negotiate the fence at the end of the bridge - the top bar lifts to allow a more elegant arrival in the field than I managed. You are now rewarded with views across the fields towards Sidbury - head across aiming slightly left of the church tower.
At the bottom of the field cross a stile and continue, boundary to your right. Go through a gate then bear left through the next field, passing Long Barn House to the right. At the end of a barn go right to a kissing gate then turn right along the lane.
Within 30m go left to drop down into Sidbury, crossing the bridge and soon reaching the road near the church from which you started.
Ordnance Survey maps are available from all good booksellers and outdoor stores or visit the online shop www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk
Directions to start: Sidbury is located on the A375 approximately 6½ miles south of Honiton
Parking: Free car park on Ridgeway Close. Post code: EX10 0SN
Start point: Outside St. Giles' Church. Post code: EX10 0SD. Grid ref: SY139917
Public transport: There are buses to Sidbury and Sidford, see travelinesw.com
Map: OS Explorer 115, Exmouth & Sidmouth 1:25 000
Terrain: Tracks, field and woodland paths; roads in the villages
Distance: 7.5 miles (12km)
Dog friendliness: Animals likely to be grazing; take a lead for the road sections
Exertion: Moderate to strenuous - there are some sustained uphill sections
Refreshments: several options, including Blue Ball Inn, Sidford, 01395 514062; Red Lion Inn, Fore St, Sidbury, 01395 597313
Toilets: Behind village hall in Sidbury and in centre of Sidford
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