Tag Archive | countryside

Come for a ramble around the hill

Last week, on a hot sunny day, I went for a walk to explore a lane that passes behind our hill.

I set off down our private lane…




Turning left I walked along the quiet country lane that runs along our valley on the opposite side to the house. We live pretty much in the centre of the below picture, with both house and garden hidden behind the tallest trees.




I followed the lane to the end of the valley, then turned back on another lane that runs up the hill behind the house.




There were lovely views from the hill, back down the valley, with our village in the distance on the right.




A bit further on is the highest point for miles around, with views down the far side of the hill to the sea, with the Devon coast beyond. Fancy being able to walk from my house and see the sea!




A little further on and the view is of the Taw and Torridge estuary.




It was a lovely quiet lane, with hardly any cars, and one lone horserider.




Just as my route left the lane and entered the woodland to return home, this view showed the road running south towards Braunton.




That had taken me just over an hour, and then for another hour I followed the paths through the shady woodland.




The wood  wraps around the hill and the side of the valley, and leads me back all the way to my garden.




The view from the summit

I like walking up hills, even though it is hard work, as you get a huge sense of achievement, and the view from the summit is usually worth the climb. The exception was the time I struggled up Snowdon with a group of kids from the school where I worked. In the rain. In a cloud from the car park to the summit and down again. No views at all, and the cafe at the top was shut as well. Pah!

So I was pleased that the day of the walking club’s hike up Codden Hill near Barnstaple dawned bright and clear.




The path led directly up the end of the ridge, and was very steep and unrelenting. I managed it quite well, considering, so maybe the elusive fitness is finally happening. And the views from the top made it all worthwhile.




Directly below is was Bishop’s Tawton where we started, then beyond that is Barnstaple. The hill in the distance on the right is Saunton Down, with Braunton Burrows stretching across just below the sea. In the other directions it was rolling green landscapes as far as the eye could see.




After a brief stop for a drink and a mint humbug, which is a walking club tradition, apparently, we headed down the far side. It was good to stretch out and walk at speed after the slow climb, and I walked a large section of the walk at the front with the leader.




Once we reached the valley the walk skirted round the side of the hill, giving us great views of where we had been. I stopped briefly to watch a male blackcap singing in a bush. Summer is coming!




The return journey followed a pretty stream through some wet woodlands. There was a dipper flying along the stream, but there seems to be a dipper in every stream in Devon. I am not complaining, they are lovely birds to watch.




The ridge of Codden Hill was ever present.





Little lambs were in every field, mostly resting in the sun.




We passed through an old quarry.




Marsh marigolds were putting on a fine show in the shallow pools.




After a good stretch of level walking, we then had to use our climbing muscles again as the path gently rose across grassy fields to return us to our start, where we refreshed ourselves in the local pub before heading home. They did a very nice prawn salad, and the cider wasn’t bad either. Just what we needed, and you do have to support the local businesses, after all!



Come for a walk at Braunton Burrows

Braunton Burrows is a large area of undulating dunes behind Saunton Sands beach. It is a mile wide by several miles long, and is criss-crossed by a network of paths and tracks. We park at the aptly-named Sandy Lane car park, and the main track sets off broad and straight, to cope with the large number of summer visitors.




But soon it starts to split, with paths heading off in several directions, and the other couples and families we can see ahead and behind us all peel off, leaving us to enjoy the Burrows in peace.

This is the first ridge of high dunes, still quite some distance from the sea. At some point in the past, the wind has eroded the top of the dune enough to expose the sand, and over time the sand has blown inland in a massive swathe. The notice boards tell us that this is encouraged, as it prevents the central part of the Burrows from becoming too overgrown, and creates more varied habitats for the vast array of plants and insects which live here.




In the valleys between the ridges of high dunes the ground dips below the water table, creating shallow pools. These are apparently fantastic for dragonflies in summer, so I look forward to seeing  that.




From the top of the next dune ridge, we get our first glimpse of the sea in the distance.




In the next valley, a large pond complex. It will be really interesting to come here through the seasons and see what we see. There is also a lovely view of our favourite little island, Lundy.




Finally we wend our way through the last ridge of dunes, and down onto the beach. Now where is my costume…




It is low tide, so there is quite a lot of beach…




The wind has blown the sand up against all the little protrusions from the flat beach, making interesting shapes round these shells.




This plank of well-rounded driftwood is irresistible, as it will make a great house name or garden sign-post, once it has dried out and been cleaned up a bit. Lets carry it home!




Soon it is time to head back inland and try and find our way back to the car.




The wind blows the sand on the tops of the dunes into fascinating shapes.




This central part of the Burrows is used for military manoeuvres – looks like the boys (and girls) have fun with their toys!




Looks like we are heading in the right direction – this is the seaward side of that blown-out dune ridge.




Last stretch of path through the sand before we reach the more mature, flatter land below, then soon we will be back at Sandy Lane.  Then it’s home for lunch!




I hope you enjoyed the walk.


The West Down Lady Walkers…


Today I went for my first walk with the West Down Lady Walkers. I have no idea why us ladies of West Down are not allowed to walk with our menfolk, who have their own West Downers Mens Walking Club. Maybe it is because we did only 5 1/2 miles today, and they tend to do at least 8. Good luck to them!




Now five miles back in Hertfordshire is a nice mornings walk. not too arduous, maybe take 2 hours or so? We were not in Hertforshire. We walked up, and then up some more. There was the odd level bit, then a lot more up. A little bit of down was followed by a very long section of up! Don’t get me wrong, it was all very pretty, with moss and ferns everywhere.




There were a very respectable twelve of us, not bad for a little village club (the men can only muster five members) The walk took us from the Hunters Inn at the top of Exmoor (see here for a previous walk in this area) along a river valley to where a lovely patch of wild snowdrops were flowering.

Photo of snowdrops


We passed gurgling streams and rushing torrents.



Then the walk wound up and up out of the valley onto the tops, with lovely views.





By now I was wondering how a walk could be almost entirely up with no down. And then when we returned to the valley where we started, I understood. The Inn was almost directly below us in the bottom of the valley, and we had a very steep descent to get to our lunch! A pint of local cider slipped down very easily after nearly three hours of walking.





Whatever the weather…

The forecast yesterday was for heavy rain all afternoon, but we were desperate for a New Years Day walk, to help wake us all up after an evening of indulgence and a late night. So we kitted up in full waterproofs and walking boots, and set off for Instow, to walk along the river and see what birds we could see. I left the big camera behind as it doesn’t like rain, but my little one is waterproof, luckily.


Instow beach


There were plenty of families with their dogs enjoying the beach, despite the weather. We followed the coast path along the shoreline, and the rain came and went in short bursts, which was better than a non-stop torrent.


yelland path


The tide was falling. and the exposed mud was frequented by plenty of waders such as redshank, oystercatchers, curlew, and grey plover.


yelland view


My little camera doesn’t have enough of a zoom to photograph the birds, so you will have to make do with the scenery! There were also at least a hundred teal, some shelduck, and one lovely goosander up close, which was very nice to see.


Instow barton Marsh


Next to this little pool was a bush with four male bullfinches feeding. Who needs parrots when we have such colourful chaps! The path along the coast finally turns inland and joins the Tarka Trail which runs parallel on the disused railway line, and we followed this back to Instow.



Like many establishments in Devon, the pub in Instow was offering cream teas, so we joined quite a few other families inside (with their dogs) , and treated ourselves. A lovely New Year’s Day, despite the weather.


Gushing rivers, rock scrambling, and cider in the sun

In other words, a walk down the Heddon Valley, in the Exmoor National Park. It is a lovely steep-sided, wooded valley, which runs from the Hunter’s Inn northwards to the North Devon coast.



On such a sunny day, we weren’t the only people enjoying the walk, but it wasn’t unbearably busy.




The river was very full as we have had rather a lot of rain, and it was mesmerising to watch.




The valley stays narrow right up to the coastline, where the river tumbles down the rounded boulders on the beach.




The tide was low, so there was a fair expanse of rocky beach, and we explored our side, clambering around the rocks to the newly exposed bits as the tide dropped. In the summer, you can happily hop across the shallow stream to the far side of the beach, but the water was flowing fast and deep today.




We then returned via a bridge over the river, and took the path up the far side of the valley




The Hunters Inn is perfectly placed for post-walk refreshments, and we even ate outside in the weak December sun. What a super winter walk!



A Country Girl Again

I was brought up in a village in Surrey, with towns and bustle not far away. But our little community lay protected in a bend in the river, surrounded by broad flood plains, so we had our own small piece of countryside. From a young age I roamed the sandy footpaths and tangled woods near home, and once I was allowed out on my bicycle I explored much farther afield.

I climbed gnarled oak trees, explored every track and lane, and cycled the towpath alongside the river. My friend and I used to hang around at the locks and help the narrowboats with the lock gates. Sometimes we would be rewarded with a ride on the boat to the next lock – in those days an innocent act of kindness which would horrify most parents today – myself included!

Wey navigation

Wey Navigation – photo credit: aIMG_1771 via photopin (license)

I left home to work in London, then married and moved to a market town in Hertfordshire where my husband and I have raised a family. We all enjoy being outdoors, and I have never lost my love of walking and nature. Now the children have flown the nest, we have decided to realise our dream of moving to the countryside, so that we can have a more relaxed lifestyle, a bigger garden, and beautiful countryside to explore.

We have settled upon North Devon, as we have spent many happy holidays in the area, and love its mix of sandy beaches, cliff paths, peaceful moors and wooded valleys. Our house is sold, and we have chosen a nice solid stone barn conversion with over an acre of garden, just a few minutes drive from the coast. I can’t wait to move, and be a country girl again!