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.
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.
The tide was falling. and the exposed mud was frequented by plenty of waders such as redshank, oystercatchers, curlew, and grey plover.
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.
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.
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!
The forecast was good for this morning, so we set off at first light, which is of course not very early this time of year. A mere ten minute drive brought us to Velator Quay, on the small but navigable River Caen, just south of Braunton. The sun was trying to beak through, the breeze was not cold, if a bit strong, and we had a bracing 5 or 6 mile walk down the river until it joins the Taw, and then out to Crow Point. From there are fine views across the estuary to the cute riverfront towns of Appledore and Instow. We saw plenty of waders, a few duck, an egret, and a lovely view of a kingfisher as we walked back through the country lanes. I will let the photos say the rest.
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!
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!