Tag Archive | Tarka Trail

Wild Flower Wander

Sunday was foul. A rainy morning slowly dried up leaving our relatively high valley still in the clouds. The only way to get out of the damp was to head downwards, so we set off for a walk along a section of the Tarka Trail which we had yet to visit. Parking the car at the northernmost point of the trail near Braunton, we caught a bus to Barnstaple and picked up the trail in the town centre.






Soon we were past the town, and the trail was very easy walking, with the river on one side and pleasant countryside on the other.




We had been expecting to see a few birds along the way, and we weren’t disappointed, with a few gulls, a couple of little egrets, oystercatchers, curlew, common sandpipers, shelduck, redshank, black-tailed godwits, cormorants, little grebes, linnets, and a buzzard.




What we hadn’t been expecting was the huge variety of flowers that we found. Some were common, and easily recognised, and some were a bit more unusual or new to us. In total, we counted 43 species! Luckily for you, I didn’t take photos of all of them, but just a few.



Oxford Ragwort poss


Black Nightshade

Black Nigthshade



Common Field Speedwell


In places the origins of the trail as a railway line were evident.




There were banks of buddleias in flower, scenting the air, but as it was so dull, we saw few butterflies.




We did spot this chap hiding on an embankment




We kept finding more new flowers.


Meliotus sp


Wild carrot

Wild carrot





I was also very pleased to find a selection of nice fungi – the first of the new season. These were all boletes, which have pores underneath instead of gills. The tasty and well-known Cep is a bolete. These were new to me, and I am still not sure of their names, but I think this one is the Scarletina Bolete


Fungus 2a


And this one might be the Lurid Bolete.


Fungus 4a





At a convenient point on the path, there was a lovely new cafe overlooking the river, so we felt it necessary to support their endeavours by stopping for a snack. Refreshed, we continued on past the Marine base at Chivenor, where the guards with guns made me a little wary of taking photos!

Once past the base the trail passed through some pleasant countryside, and showed us a few more flowers, before returning us to our car.




St John’s Wort

St John's Wort sp





Rosebay Willowherb.


Rosebay Willowherb


I hope you enjoyed the photos, and please feel free to correct me if any of the flowers are wrong – I am still learning!


First walk of winter

Yesterday was the first day of wintry weather here, with hail showers on and off all day, and a thin layer of hail settled over most of the garden. The temperature was a chilly 4 degrees, and it was hard to remember that on Tuesday I had been out for a walk without a jumper.

Today hasn’t been much better, with rain or hail all morning. By lunchtime we were getting cabin-fever, so started to analyse the weather predictions, which offered a potential dry spell in the afternoon.  Dressed ready, we were out of the house as soon as the last drops fell, and drove a short distance to the start of the northern section of the Tarka Trail.



The Tarka Trail is a long-distance footpath , and our local bit runs along the old railway line between Ilfracombe and Barnstaple. Except that it doesn’t…there is a gap between Willingcott just to the north west of us, and Braunton to the south. One day they will connect the two pieces up, as they are currently purchasing all the necessary pieces of land, and then the path will run 100 metres or so from our garden. That will be very handy!

Parking in the deserted car park at Willingcott, we set a steady pace down the smooth tarmacked track, enjoying the fresh air, even though the skies were leaden. Soon we were treated to a view down the steep wooded valley towards the grey sea at Lee.




Not a soul was to be seen, despite the rain staying away, and we soon started to descend down through the steep-sided cuttings towards Ilfracombe.




Finally some other souls emerged from their cosy living rooms, and we were greeted and sniffed by a variety of happy waggy dogs. The trail passes a lovely old wall with huge beech trees apparently sprouting from the top…




Finally we reached the first of the two reservoirs at Slade, a small community on the outskirts of Ilfracombe. Such a tranquil place at this time of year, I imagine it must get more visitors in summer, either fishing, or picknicking on the grassy bank. Today, all that was there was a pair of dippers, which were lovely to see.




There is another reservoir further on, but we had reached our allotted turn-around time, based on out predicted weather window, so we set off up the gentle but unrelenting slope back to the car. We arrived as the first drops started to fall, so it was nicely judged. Home for tea in front of the log-burner and the tennis, feeling much happier for some exercise.


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.