The glorious view to Iddesleigh
Hiking from Hatherleigh to Iddesleigh
By Jo Bishop
This scenic undulating walk passes through the valley between Hatherleigh and Iddesleigh. It was suggested by listener Dennis Bater as part of BBC Radio Devon's 25th anniversary celebrations.
Before setting out on this charming country walk following footpaths, fields and tracks, it would be good to check you know your left from your right.
The walk twists and turns its way from Hatherleigh to Iddesleigh but also covers part of the Tarka Trail so it's well signposted. If in doubt put your trust in the otter paw print waymarkers and you shouldn't stray too far.
Dennis Bater, a former mayor of West Devon Borough Council, suggested the route because, as he said: "I've always been very fond of it, but as I was born in that valley – I suppose growing up there learning to swim in the river – it's just like home to me."
From the square in Hatherleigh, head towards the church, keeping right through the churchyard, out of the top gate and up the tarmac lane ahead.
Go straight across at the crossroads into Sanctuary Lane. The route bears left at the first public footpath sign, but there's a scenic diversion worth taking here.
Keep on the lane until the first track turning right, follow this for a few hundred yards and you will find a stone-built folly on your left.
A short climb to the top of this Belvedere tower affords magnificent 360 degree panoramic views across Dartmoor and Exmoor.
The actual route follows the first track left off of Sanctuary Lane, signposted public footpath. Shortly the waymarkers direct you over a stile into a field.
Follow the right hand hedge to cross another stile at the other end into a pretty, but possibly damp underfoot, copse of trees.
A stile leads out into another field, go straight across, making for the gate opposite. The sign reads beware of the geese.
"It's all right - I've dealt with them before," said Dennis reassuringly. "You just don't turn your back on them. So you keep walking - I'll face them and walk backwards."
Bearing to the right of the house and barns we made it across this next field unscathed, then out the gate and left into a tarmac lane.
Shortly turn right, signed public footpath, by some barns. Go past the farm buildings and pick up a track at the end of the yard that bears right between fields.
This leads into a pleasant woodland, which the path meanders through to a junction, alongside a field gate. Take the left footpath continuing through the woods, shortly crossing a footbridge.
Dennis recalled his father telling him of cycling to work along this path as a farm labourer: "I remember him making up a poem, him and his friend. 'Over Pale Hill, over the dyke, and up into the woods and on he sped with a big black overcoat over his head'.
Dennis on the bridge over the Ockment
"I think one of their friends was a bit afraid of the dark and they used to terrify him - that was the story."
The path leads up to a gate and out of the woods into a field, which you head straight across and over a stile, into another field. Here you should see a pretty thatched house ahead. The trail leads literally into the garden of this property, by way of a stile, and continues along the drive.
"If they were out there having tea on a Sunday I would have felt embarrassed going through there," said Dennis. They must be used to walkers though, as this is a section of the popular Tarka Trail.
Keep right and into a farm entrance. You will reach a barn on the right, where you turn right through a gate into an orchard. Cross this briefly bearing left, to another gate into a copse of trees, then into a field with rising ground.
Dennis' route-finding suggestion at this point was a somewhat cryptic solution: "Straight where those two sheep are somewhere," he said. This advice was given in a field of ewes and lambs! I'd go centrally for the brow of the hill to be on the safe side.
It's then down to and over a stile. In this next field keep to the right hand hedge, still walking downhill, until you come to a stile and a gate into another field.
The path begins to level out, and here you keep to the left hand hedge and follow that to a track.
Shortly you turn left into a field, following the way marker, to pick up the right hand hedge of that field, dropping downhill and onto a track, which leads to a bridge over the River Okement.
Dennis has recently written a book about his life growing up in and around Hatherleigh – From Farmworker's Son to Mayor. In it he recalls how the river was a source of food for the family during the war.
"My father would find salmon pulled up on the banks by otters. He'd cut off a chunk and when everybody else was eating rabbit stew we'd have salmon."
Enjoying a well-earned pint at Iddesleigh
Cross the bridge and, with your back to the river, bear diagonally ahead and left, keeping to the left of the standing pool of water. Exit the field by a gate in the corner, into a further field, and then shortly exit on to a track.
Continue up the track until you reach a white house, where you turn right still continuing uphill on a track. Shortly you pass buildings on your right - this is the Farms for City Kids project started by children's author Michael Morpurgo.
"Children come from all over the country and it's wonderful," said Dennis. "Some I've heard have never seen grass and I've heard that one child one day lay down and ran his fingers through and couldn't believe what grass was. So that just shows what a good education it is for them."
On reaching a tarmac lane, turn left - a field gate shortly on your left affords fine views across this fertile farming valley. After a short time follow a public footpath sign right into the drive of Parsonage Farm.
"This was the old vicarage where Jack Russell started breeding his terriers," said Dennis. "He was the huntsman that if he was in church of a weekday and he heard the hounds he'd cut his service short because he'd usually have his horse nearby and he was gone hunting. He was mad, mad about hunting."
The route passes around to the right in front of the farmhouse and through a gate past farm buildings. Keep on a track through another gateway into a field, following the left hand hedge.
This takes you downhill through a gate and into another field. Again keep the hedge on your left - the sunken lane would have been the original path, but may be overgrown, so the grass may be easier.
The gate at the bottom is the last one you go through – honest! It leads in to a track that takes you up to a tarmac road. Here you turn left to head up hill towards the village of Iddisleigh, now less than half a mile away.
The Duke of York pub is to the right of the church - it has a fine selection of beers, wines and non-alcoholic drinks to quench your thirst and a good reputation for food.
After crossing all those stiles, opening those gates and remembering your left from your right, go on - you deserve it!
last updated: 20/06/2008 at 15:19
Dennis' Hatherleigh walk
Start grid reference: SS 545 045 Finish grid reference: SS 570 082
How to get to the start: Hatherleigh is just off the A386 Bideford to Tavistock Road and the A3072 Holsworthy to Crediton road. There is public transport to the town, but not back from Iddesleigh.
Distance: 4.5 miles linear route.
Duration: 2 hours - but allow extra time if walking both ways.
Terrain: Footpaths, fields and tarmac lanes.
Additional information: There is a car park in Hatherleigh and room to park on the road in Iddesleigh. Hatherleigh has a selection of shops and facilities. Iddesleigh has a pub and gift shop.
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