It is another day when Lynnie is relieved of walking duties, she is meeting with friends from Taunton at Killerton House and spending the day catching up whilst wandering around the house and gardens. I am, therefore, free to jam about with the boys.
I have studied the map and reckon that there is a good walk through lanes and footpaths to a crossing over the River Exe, there I plan to pick up the Exe Valley Way before looping back to Killerton.
I leave Killerton Park and on reaching the road turn left to walk uphill and then continue as the road descends to Ellerhayes Bridge. After crossing the bridge I take a footpath on the left following the edge of the River Culm. This is a pleasant start; the sun is shining as the river peacefully meanders on its way. What could spoil this?
I soon find out. The path crosses the busy main railway line, this should not be a problem. However, the stile accessing the embankment is totally impassable for the dogs. They need to be lifted over, which given the angle of the land is not an easy task. After crossing the line, (Stop, Look, Listen!) I have to repeat the process on the opposite side. I find this extremely irritating, it would not take much to put in a dog gate and it would be a lot safer.
My route continues across fields towards Lower Hayne, here the route follows a farm track towards Silverton. On reaching a junction I turn right and follow a quiet lane and keep going straight on at a crossroads. Almost half a mile later I take a lane on the left heading towards Greenslinch. The tarmac lane soon turns into a track climbing steeply up hill (ignoring a footpath to the left). This is a good blow one of those long relentless climbs that just keeps going.
At the top of the hill I meet a road and turn left on to a quiet road towards Christ Cross continuing straight on at a junction. Keeping left at a fork in the road I pass Queensborough Farm, then about a quarter of a mile later turn left at a crossroads up a tarmac track. There are great views from up here.
As the road swings to the left there is a hand painted sign saying “No Cars”, I find this odd because it is clearly marked on my OS map as a road. Then as I descend I see why, the surface has broken up in parts and on turning to the right most of the road has been washed away by the water descending off the hill.
On arriving at the hamlet of Great Dorweeke I follow the road (which is now passable to all vehicles) towards the river and at a junction turn left to walk along a quiet road passing Lower Dorweeke Farm to a junction with the busy A396. Crossing with care I pick up a footpath on the opposite side leading across a field to a disused railway track, here I turn right and walk a hundred yards to the footbridge across the River Exe leading towards Traymill Farm.
There is only one problem, and it is a pretty significant one. The footbridge has fallen into disrepair with major sections missing. There is no way across here!
I cuss, then look at the map and cannot spy an alternative. There is a crossing on a road bridge over a mile further up the road, but to get there avoiding the busy road will involve a circuitous route of a couple of miles, then descending on the other side of the bank will add well over an hour. I now have a good swear, I am already tight for time and will have to take a route south along the busy A396 if I am going to get back in time to meet Lynnie before the car gets locked into the car park.
During our travels we have come across a number of instances where footpaths disappear, or are impassable through neglect, or occasionally what appears to be intent. However, there is usually an alternative solution. But here there is no alternative solution. I know that landowners are obliged to keep footpaths clear and stiles maintained, but I don’t know what the position is about bridges across rivers. This one has clearly been neglected for a long time and the local authority surely should be doing something to ensure the route is open.
Back at the A396 this is decidedly unpleasant walking and after a couple of hundred yards I drop into the hamlet of Chitterly to avoid the next section. I rejoin the A396; the next fifteen minutes are the scariest that I have ever had walking. Every time a car comes, and it is frequently, I step onto the bank. Some slow and take care to give space to the dogs and I. Others, predominately white vans and BMW’s continue at full pace getting scarily close.
One of the disadvantages of our technological age is that the majority of us use the convenience of online shopping at sometime, consequently there is an increase in vans travelling around desperate to get from one drop off to the next as quickly as possible. I have never owned a BMW, and I’m never likely to do so, mainly as there appears to be something within the controls of these cars that allow people to drive like a complete arse. Granted there are a few exceptions and clearly it is not a manufacturering fault. They just seem to attract this type of driver!
Thankfully I reach a turning on the left, by the interesting named Jenny’s Portion, and follow this quieter lane into Silverton. Here I have a choice, either take the route eventually leading to Lower Hayne and the unpleasant railway crossing, or follow the B road for a couple of miles to reach Ellerhayes Bridge. I opt to stay on the road, it is reasonably quiet and the vehicles I encounter are considerate so it is not too stressful. The road takes me back to the entrance to Killerton and the car where Lynnie is patiently waiting.
What had the potential to be a pleasant jam about was spoilt due to the poorly maintained footbridge, resulting in the unpleasant experience of walking along a busy ‘A’ road. The keyboard will soon be red hot as I write to the local authority, hopefully others will soon find the bridge back in full working order.
It was close to thirteen miles according to my Suunto Traverse, it is not a walk I will be repeating. On the way back we agree that a stroll to The Diggers Rest, the village pub in Woodbury Salterton, is called for. Indeed after a couple of pints of fine Otter my mood has considerably improved. Cheers!
To follow this walk you will need Ordnance Survey Explorer Map 114 – Exeter & The Exe Valley
20th April 2016
© Two Dogs and an Awning (2016)