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24 September 2014

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The river at Umberleigh
The river at Umberleigh

Home Town - Umberleigh

Frank Adey
Umberleigh is an unassuming village in a quiet and almost undiscovered part of North Devon. Here local businessman Frank Adey describes what Umberleigh has to offer.

Umberleigh is the sort of village you drive through on your way to Exeter on the old A337 road, without even noticing the wealth of things around.

The village is in the parish of Chittlehampton, a very quiet and almost undiscovered part of the county.

The main interest for the motorist is the super three span bridge, which is best seen if you park in the railway car park, opposite Murchs’ Antiques Emporium.

The Tarka line at Umberleigh
The Tarka line at Umberleigh

There are lovely river walks from here going downstream towards Barnstaple, through Murch Bros (Engineers), which used to be the biggest tractor workshop in North Devon.

The walk takes you under the railway bridge on a most unusual footway, along a lovely riverside walk. If you stand in the centre of the bridge you can see fine views both up and down the river.

Umberleigh is one of the stations on the picturesque rural branch line between Barnstaple and Exeter in Devon, known as the Tarka line. Named after Henry Williamson's bestselling Tarka the Otter book - the rail journey provides some fantastic views.

Like most of the stations on the Tarka line, Umberleigh Staionhas entered the Best Kept Station awards.

The village Post Office has another unusual claim to fame. It doubles up as a sorting office for 11 postmen and women covering the largest postal catchment area in England.

Canoeing on the river at Umberleigh
Canoeing on the river at Umberleigh

Umberleigh has many hidden gems - private fishing on River Taw, four great pubs within four miles and a wide variety of local shops.

One of the biggest tourist attractions in the area is the Cobbaton Combat Collection, a hobby that got out of hand.

This military museum houses a collection of 50 vehicles and thousands of other dusty exhibits from the Boer War right up to the Gulf War.

Umberleigh is also home to the acclaimed artist Colin Allbrook, famous for his atmospheric landscapes which capture the everyday activities of the people and animals of North Devon.

Classic cars in the village
Classic cars in the village

One of the village's more unusual ventures is South-West Snails. Based at North Nethercleave Farm, it's one of only a handful of snail farms in the country.

David Bailie-Bellew and his wife Maura farm 250,000 helix aspersa maxima in polytunnels for supply to  local hotels, restaurants and delicatessens.

Chittlehampton, Chittlehamholt and Atherington are only a couple of miles either way from the bridge, and all well worth a visit.

There are plenty of 'Old English' Thatched cottages in Chilttlehampton, which is particularly quaint, with old medieval stocks, a fine old church with large spire.

Umberleigh is only six miles from Barnstaple and on the A377 to Exeter and the market towns of South Molton and Torrington are near at hand. It's a place to stop and explore on your way through.

last updated: 25/07/06
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