LOOK OUT FOR
Huge variety of bird life
The café building is very redolent of the railway era and makes an enticing start and end point for the walk. Get there in time for breakfast and you’ll be well set-up for the day.
Sections of the walk in winter are likely to be very muddy – spare socks advisable. And don’t forget the binoculars.
1From the café walk along the lane with views across the River Taw estuary to your left. Within 100m take the right-hand fork where a metal post prevents vehicles from driving onto the Tarka Trail. Follow this surfaced path keeping a watchful eye open for cyclists as this is part of a very popular cycle path. (Having taken a tandem along here some years ago I can vouch for the fun of it.)
2Follow the tree-flanked path through this deep cutting for 400m, at which point it passes under a bridge and continues. If you wish to add an extra thereand-back stretch to your walk you can, at this point, take the steep path on the left, up beside the bridge, to reach a muddy bridleway at the top. Turn left along it and this track will take you out along Penhill Point for more views and, possibly, more birds. Then return to the Tarka Trail beneath the bridge.
Soon after the bridge the views open up: fields and estuary to the left with Ashford village on the far side of the river; way ahead, the road bridge spans the River Taw in Barnstaple. Also across the estuary you may spot a wind farm.
3Continue for 650m beyond the bridge then keep a look out for some rusty metal fencing on the left that surrounds a drainage channel. Here, attached to some wooden fencing on the right, you will find a faded footpath arrow, directing you right off the Tarka Trail, down some wooden-edged steps and across a small plank bridge. (If you reach a yellow-topped post by a bench in memory of Bob Tucker you have gone about 30m too far.)
Follow this footpath, crossing the sturdy but irregular planks, then continuing on the broad, hedged track. This bends sharply left, soon followed by a bend right, and brings you to a crossing track by Clampitts Farm.
‘As far as birds are concerned this is the jewel in the crown of the walk’
Turn left on this broad track and follow it round as it brings you, within 300m, to some new housing on the edge of Bickington. The track emerges at the houses. Keep straight ahead and look for the four-way fingerpost on the right in less than 100m.
4Take the bridleway going right along a narrow tree-lined path, a pleasing old way despite its proximity to the well-screened new development. The path emerges at a lane, along which turn right, heading towards the distant wind turbines. Within 300m the lane bends left, stay with it, passing a pretty thatched house called Penhill Cottage followed by a bungalow. Immediately after this take the signed footpath going left, along a short and muddy path that soon enters a field.
Once in the field keep ahead, following the left-hand hedge with the village of Fremington visible ahead. At the end of the field emerge onto a public byway.
5Turn right along the byway as it runs beside the inlet of water known as Fremington Pill; as far as birds are concerned this is the jewel in the crown of the walk although what you see will depend on the state of the tide and how much of the food-rich mudflats are exposed.
There will be a few passing cars, also heading to Fremington Quay – the byway goes nowhere else. Simone Stanbrook-byrne and James Clancy have produced a selection of West Country guides including: Favourite Walks in Devon, Circular Walks in the South Hams, Circular Walks in East Devon, Circular Walks in Central Devon, Circular Walks in North Devon/exmoor, A Dozen Dramatic Walks in Devon, Town Walks in Devon. culmvalleypublishing.co.uk/01392 881513