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A bridge crosses the River Mole
A walk of two poles via the River Mole
By Jo Bishop
As part of BBC Radio Devon's 25th anniversary celebrations listener Midge Bailey recommends this walk from South Molton to North Molton and back through fields, footpaths and along the River Mole.
The River Mole meanders its way between North and South Molton through a patchwork quilt of fields, steep wooded valleys and quiet country lanes.
It's a landscape that's changed little over the years, apart from the notable exception of the North Devon link road, which this walk passes under and over.
It begins in the pleasant market town of South Molton.
Indeed the starting point is outside the town's traditional pannier market, which was bustling with shoppers on the morning I set out with BBC Radio Devon listener Midge Bailey and her friend Alison Carr.
Midge, who's written a book of several local walking routes, explained why this is one of her favourites.
Midge and Alison Carr walking through a green lane
"We'll be walking to North Molton, along the River Mole, through fields and footpaths. There's so much variety and it's so full of flowers and wildlife," she said.
From the market car park go either through the pannier market, or alongside via Market Street. Cross the road straight ahead to a pedestrian path up to the Parish Church of St Mary Magdalene.
Keep ahead and to the right of the church, turning right and then shortly left into Parsonage Lane – known by long time locals as "gas lane" because it's where gas storage cylinders used to be held.
Bear right at the end of Parsonage Lane, just ahead of a new development Moleridge Way. This lane takes you past the recreation ground on your left and along to the community woodland on the right.
Follow the woodland through to the local industrial estate, turning right and right at the T-junction. At the next junction, as you leave the estate, turn left, where it's signed North Molton.
Continue out to the link road and take the underpass, signed to the right, which follows the River Mole and comes out at the Riverside Caravan and Camping Park.
Turn right here into Marsh Lane and follow this until you reach East Marsh Farm. A footpath signs you over a stile on the right, then left through a couple of fields which lead into a steep wooded valley, alongside the River Mole.
Shortly you reach a gate and a wide track which climbs steeply to the left. You'll return to this spot later from the footpath directly ahead, but for now you turn left to climb to North Molton.
As the village comes into view so do hills beyond, some of which are in neighbouring Somerset – North Molton being very close to the county boundary.
Turn right at the top of the hill and right again into the village – you're now just under halfway at exactly four miles. The Poltimore Inn on the right makes a good place to stop for coffee and the village Post Office and stores gives a chance to stock up for the journey back.
Follow the road through the village centre and just after Broad Close on the left, look for a footpath sign to the right, alongside Lane End Cottage. Turn right here and follow the path which leads via a pleasant track and woodland back to the River Mole.
The meadows and woods here were home to hundreds of pheasants the day we passed by. Midge said they're also home to roe deer, red deer and much other wildlife.
The fields can be very wet and muddy, and certainly were the day we walked, so you may need to pick your way carefully.
After a series of gates and fields you come back to the steep track, now on your right that leads to North Molton.
Turn left and follow a track alongside the river briefly upstream and over the bridge, uphill and down again to Bicknor Farm.
A view over North Molton
You come to a T-junction at Drewstone where you turn right.
"There's supposed to be a well that provided water for drovers when they were taking their flocks up to pastures on Exmoor," said Midge. "But I haven't been able to discover it yet."
Shortly cross a stone bridge, which used to go over a former railway, though little other evidence remains.
This road climbs gently uphill and over the North Devon link road. Shortly you turn right, where it's signed public footpath. A large mobile phone mast defines the turning, so it should be easy to spot.
Head across the fields as a clear view of South Molton opens out ahead. Cross a lane and over a stile into more fields, dropping down to exit the field bottom left by another stile and head briefly left out to the B3227, where you turn right and up the hill into South Molton.
A heritage trail runs through the town and among the points of interest along the way is a property called Tamarisk. This is a former school and where the author of Lorna Doone, R D Blackmore, first studied.
And there you have it – a walk between two poles, well compass points north and south at least, via the River Mole.
last updated: 19/09/2008 at 14:07
Midge's South Molton walk
Start/finish grid reference: SS 715 216
The start is from the market car park, in the town centre.
Distance: 8.5 miles circular route.
Duration: 3.5 hours.
Terrain: Footpaths, fields, tracks and tarmac lanes. Can be wet and muddy underfoot.
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