After yesterday’s trip to the Quantocks I am heading back to Exmoor today to become acquainted with parts of the moor I have not visited. Last night whilst planning today’s walk my eye was caught by Doone Valley. I have never been there but it was a place frequently mentioned by Lynnie’s mother who ranked Lorna Doone as a favourite book.
My starting point for today’s walk is the public car park in Malmsmead. Some folks say this part of Devon is a bit behind the times; I would not usually support such a view, however, having paid for my parking ticket I wonder if it is true. Despite the date today being 28thJanuary 2019, the parking ticket is valid until 27thDecember 2018!
I start my walk by heading south out of Malmsmead along the minor road sign posted to Fullingscott, Slocombeslade and Tippacott.
As the road sweeps to the right I follow a footpath sign through a gate to join a track signposted to Badgworthy Valley.
After crossing a ford the path goes through a series of gates and then becomes a sunken track besides pasture fields. I love walking these ancient tracks used by countless people for hundreds or even thousands of years.
After going through another gate the path descends towards Badgworthy Water, with Cloud Farm on the far bank.
I ignore the footpath across the river, instead continuing south with the water running along to my left. It is pleasantly warm in this sheltered sunny valley and a wonderful place to be walking.
Continuing along the path I reach a plaque to Richard Doddridge Blackmore the author of Lorna Doone. I have never read this book, first published in 1869, but do know snippets of the story set in this valley in the 17thcentury. It tells the story of the love between John Ridd and Lorna Doone and culminates with the villainous Carver Doone sinking into a bog. Whenever we walk on boggy moorland Lynnie warns me to be careful so as not to end up suffering the same demise as Carver!
Walking along this beautiful valley on a sunny day makes me wonder whether I should read Blackmore’s book. I know there is a copy somewhere in a bookcase at home.
Walking besides this river it is difficult to believe this was one of the main sources of the water flow that caused the disaster at Lynmouth on 15th August 1952. Torrential rain caused the river to swell and then as the water joined other river flows at Watersmeet it formed a wave of rushing water carrying rocks and trees. The consequence was horrific as the water surged down through Lynmouth resulting in thirty-four deaths and mass destruction of property.
The path now follows the river through Badgworthy Woods.
I cross a footbridge and continue on with the river now below me.
At a junction of paths I turn right to follow a path towards Badgworthy Lees, now I am walking through the site of a medieval village. It is here that the Doone’s were said to have lived. Whilst Blackmore’s story is fiction it is based on historical characters. An exiled Scottish clan, the Doones, were known to live on this part of Exmoor in the 1600’s.
The route now heads up onto the moor. I am enjoying the views and not concentrating so consequently end up following a sheep path rather then the main route. This leads me further south than I intended to be and results in having to cross a boggy section to get myself back onto the track. Needless to say my walking pole is out testing the ground to ensure I do not end up like Carver Doone!
Back on the main path I go through a gate.
The route follows a clear path, with a few boggy sections, along the side of Withycombe Ridge. It is a clear day and the views are stunning.
The track leads down to a stream, which we ford, with Crosby taking the opportunity to get a refreshing drink.
On the opposite side of the stream we have a choice of paths, I take the one on the left leading up to a stony track where I turn left and follow a clear route towards the B3223.
A few hundred yards from reaching the road I take a path on the right leading across moorland to join the road near a car park at Dry Bridge.
I do not cross the road; instead I take a pathway heading north with leads to the OS trig point on Shilstone Hill.
Having bagged my 131st trig point I continue north on a track until I reach a junction of paths, here I turn left heading back towards the B3223.
Crossing the road I go through a car park and after a few hundred yards take a footpath on the right through a gate to lead across pasture towards Farley Water Farm.
After crossing a couple of fields the footpath joins the tarmacked farm driveway and then starts to head downhill towards the B3223. Before heading steeply downhill I take a footpath on the left leading above a steep sided combe.
The path then starts to descend, initially gradually and then steeply winding its way down to reach a minor road where I turn right and cross the stream. The road now climbs steeply, very steeply, to reach the B3223, which I cross to take a minor road that continues heading uphill to reach High Gate.
At a junction I carry straight on staying on the minor road until just after the disused Barton Quarry where I turn right into Church Hill, as the name suggests I soon reach the church of St Brendan, built in 1738.
I take a short detour to explore inside the church and then continue down the hill into Rockford where I pass the Rockford Inn and then take a footbridge across the East Lyn River.
The water level is relatively low, but it is still an impressive sight as the river flows across the rocks.
On the opposite bank I turn right on a footpath forming part of the Coleridge Way. This fifty-one mile trail goes from Nether Stowey to Lynmouth, I have previously walked sections in the Quantocks, but none of it this far west.
After climbing above the river the route descends to join an ancient track.
It then passes Countisbury Mill; this old watermill has been restored for bed and breakfast accommodation. The driveway leads to a minor road soon passing an old packhorse bridge.
I reach the road bridge over the East Lyn River, but do not cross.
Following the road as it starts a gradual ascent I pass Hall Farm and then take a footpath on the right leading steeply uphill to continue high above the valley with stunning views.
It is a cracking afternoon and the January sunshine is warming to the body and soul. This is a cracking valley to be walking through.
The path descends slightly and then rises again to skirt Ashton Farm. Here the footpath forks and I take the route on the right to descend steadily through Ashton Cleave to reach the bank of the East Lyn River.
This is a very tranquil spot, the footpath now stays close to the riverbank as it passes Glebe Farm and then reaches a footbridge over what is now the Oare Water.
I cross the river and follow the footpath up to the minor road where I turn right and wander back down into Malmsmead and the 17thcentury Malmsmead Bridge that crosses the Badgworthy Water.
Now back at the car I have walked a particularly stunning twelve miles. I know I will be repeating it again before too long, there is no doubt that Lynnie will be wanting to walk this route when she sees the pictures! Meanwhile it is time to head back to Minehead and start packing up to head home tomorrow.
To follow this walk you will need Ordnance Survey Outdoor Leisure Map OL9 – Exmoor
28th January 2019
© Two Dogs and an Awning (2019)