- Start: Station Road car park, Bovey Tracey, beside the Tourist Information Centre (grid ref SX815782)
- End: Station Road car park
- Country: England
- County: Devon
- Type: Country
- Nearest pub:
- Ordnance Survey: OS Explorer 110 or Landranger 191
- Difficulty: Medium
This undemanding and sheltered walk from Bovey Tracey is particularly special in the snow. Words and pictures by Robert Hesketh
This walk follows the banks of the delightful River Bovey and returns through woodland, before diverting into the town of Bovey Tracey and concluding with splendid views over roofs and fields to Dartmoor. Well sheltered and with only two short ascents, it makes an ideal mornings stroll at any time of year not least in winter, when snow transforms the scenery.
Part of the walk follows the disused railway that linked Bovey Tracey with Newton Abbot, Lustleigh and Moretonhampstead between 1863 and 1959. The railway is now open only between Newton and Heathfield for goods traffic. However, the track bed is open to walkers from Bovey to Wilford Bridge (point 3) and plans are progressing to make a cycle path from Bovey to Moretonhampstead, mainly using the old railway track bed.
Bovey Traceys Fore Street and Mary Street contain several medieval buildings, some disguised by Georgian and Victorian faades. The Grade I Listed parish church is outstanding. Dating from 1176, it was (like many Devon churches) enlarged in the 15th century. Its greatest treasure is its beautifully carved screen (1427). The carved pulpit is also 15th-century, as are the font and lectern. The church is dedicated to St Peter, St Paul and St Thomas of Canterbury the last dedication said to have been an act of contrition by Sir William de Tracey, one of the murderers of Archbishop Thomas Becket (later St Thomas of Canterbury). The de Tracey name is remembered in Bovey Tracey and Nymet Tracey.
Bovey is also home to the Devon Guild of Craftsmen at the Riverside Mill. This is a showcase for some of the countys leading craftspeople, with displays of woodcarving, handmade furniture, ceramics and textiles, as well as crafts in many other media and special displays.
1 From the car park cross the road in front of you by the Town Bridge. First recorded in 1326, the Town Bridge bears the repair date of 1643. Do not cross, but turn left on the footpath and head upriver through Mill Marsh Park, with its various specimen trees. At the far end of the park, cross the road ahead and turn right onto the gravelled path into Parke Estate. We are now walking on the bed of the old railway.
2 Cross the first railway bridge 100m ahead and turn immediately left and down steps to a stile. (Alternatively, you may simply follow the railway path to Wilford Bridge, point 3.) Cross over and follow the riverbank path upstream for the next 1.7km (1 mile). It follows the riverbank closely and, with the addition of footbridges over brooks leading into the Bovey, makes for easy walking. After 1.25km ( mile), there is a footbridge over the Bovey, which can be used as a short cut by following the woodland path downriver towards Parke.
3 Just before Wilford Bridge the path swings away from the river and climbs to meet the railway embankment. The centre of the railway bridge was removed for safety reasons. Follow the path down to a wooden gate and turn left onto the lane, as signed for Lustleigh and Manaton. Follow the lane ahead over the road bridge, which bears the years 1750 and 1914 on a worn datestone. Walk on uphill, ignoring the first path left by Forder Cottage.
4 Take the second path on the left over a stile. It is signed (on the reverse side!) for the Bovey/Manaton Road and winds through the trees. The path takes a level course, and then climbs gently through beech trees. Fine views open out, best seen in winter. Walk on to a kissing gate. Beyond this point, dogs must be kept on leads.
Follow the right edge of the field, but do not cross the stile on the right, which leads to the Manaton road. Instead, continue to the far end of the field. Go through a kissing gate and continue downhill through the trees to the next kissing gate.
5 Turn left and keep the fence on your left. Cross two tarmac drives, the first leading to a car park and the second to Parke, a handsome late-Georgian house. Built by William Hole, it has an imposing central porch with two pairs of Greek Doric columns. Mature specimen trees, some of remarkable size, surround Parke. It is now the Headquarters of Dartmoor National Park Authority. Turn left onto the rough track, which leads below Parke to a wooden gate. Turn right, signed Riverside Walk. Recross the Bovey via an arched stone bridge and turn right. Retrace your steps along the riverbank to the start.
To see the main features of Bovey Tracey, cross the Town Bridge and pass the Devon Guild with its restored waterwheel. Walk up Fore Street and follow it right into East Street when you reach the Victorian Town Hall.
6 At the medieval church house, turn right up the steps to the church. Retrace your steps down East Street and branch right at the Town Hall. Take the second turning left into Crockers Meadow for superb views to Dartmoor. Follow the road steeply downhill, left into Priory and second right into Hind Street. Turn left by Cromwells Arch (all that remains of the medieval priory) and right down Fore Street to the start.
Start/parking: Station Road car park, Bovey Tracey, beside the Tourist Information Centre (grid ref SX815782)
Distance: 6km/3 miles or 7.5km/4 miles with diversion into Bovey Tracey
Time: 1 hours or 2 hours
Terrain: Well-defined footpaths, one short section of tarred lane; two short ascents; parts can be muddy after rain
Maps: OS Explorer 110 or Landranger 191
Refreshments: Wide choice of pubs and cafs in Bovey Tracey
Buses: Regular services from Exeter, Newton Abbot and Plymouth. 0871 2002233
For more walks in this area see South Dartmoor Pub Walks by Robert Hesketh (Bossiney Books, 2005).