Dulverton to Tarr Steps

Last night was cold with a very clear sky so I fully expect a bright start to the day. However, I am wrong, it is overcast with a cold wind. Thankfully there is no sign of rain and the forecast is for a dry day, which is all positive for drying out Plymptons Farm CL.

After a mornings work we head off for our walk, the starting point today is Dulverton. We take a wander around this pleasant Exmoor town before starting our walk from the bridge crossing the River Barle.

We cross the bridge and then turn right along a lane leading uphill, we turn right at the way-marker to Tarr Steps and continue up and along a track that soon becomes a path following the riverbank.

This is a well-marked path and after yesterday’s experience it is very easy going. The odd section of path climbs high above the river only to descend quickly, I think this is good training for a season’s walking but Lynnie is unconvinced.


The path we are on goes through Burridge Wood and about a mile further on arrives at Kennel Farm. On reaching a road we turn right and wander down towards the river. Just before reaching Marsh Bridge our route goes left following the river path below Syds Wood and then into New Invention where the trees have recently been felled and there is still clear evidence of logging.

I do like the names of woods. At what point did someone think that a bit of woodland should be called New Invention, surely woodland had already been discovered by that stage! One area of woodland adjoins another and seamlessly we reach Shircombe Slade.

The route is now through an area of pine woodland taking us away, briefly, from the river. When we are back at the river’s edge the hillfort of Mounsey Castle is above us on the opposite bank. I provide Lynnie, who is ten yards behind, with a commentary from the map and for some reason she is looking out for a Bouncy Castle! Stupid girl!


After crossing the magnificent Castle Bridge we follow the well-worn path along the river only to find that I should have looked at the map more closely. The path soon peters out; we check the map and retrace our steps to the bridge. The route we should be on is signposted to Hawkridge. This is a long gradual climb up through the trees passing under Brewer’s Castle hillfort and eventually reaching Great Gate.

As we approach the gate we can feel the chill of the wind blowing across the exposed fields so decide to hunker down in the woods for a sandwich before continuing on our way.


The walk across Hawkridge Ridge is blowy and we are glad of the extra layers that we have put on. Being on this exposed ridge does benefit from great views all around. It is amazing that since leaving the outskirts of Dulverton we have only met one other couple. The path takes us to a gate that leads into Row Lane and we follow this into Hawkridge.

On reaching the village we turn right opposite the church and descend Marchclose Hill, this country lane leads down to Tarr Steps. Yesterday this was a very busy spot, today there is one family admiring the clapper bridge. Imagine my surprise when the chap turns around and I realise that it is Neil the CEO of a London based charity that I am a trustee of. It is one of those strange coincidences that are difficult to fathom.

After a chat, which included Lynnie recommending an ice cream, we continue on. Over Tarr Steps and then we turn right over a wooden bridge then at a junction of paths we take the left option heading up Ashway Side. This is a good bit of up and Lynnie’s stiff legs are complaining, so is Lynnie!


The path continues over Varle Hill and through a gate, we continue on a clear track to a cattle grid where we follow the bridleway sign to Mounsey Hill Gate. The final section of this is extremely boggy and we are pleased when we reach the tarmac road.

At Mounsey Gate we take the tarmac lane signposted to Ashwick and follow this route for a couple of miles until we are back at Marsh Bridge.


After stopping to admire the old packhorse bridge we cross Marsh Bridge and walk up to Kennel Farm and then retrace our route back alongside the River Barle into Dulverton.


My Suunto Traverse tells me that we have covered twelve miles. It has been a stunning walk and great training for the Yorkshire Dales in a few weeks time.

Back in Dulverton we have another stroll around. I had not appreciated that on the night of the Lynmouth disaster, in August 1952, the River Barle, flowing off the opposite side of Exmoor, also caused devastation in Dulverton. The mark of the floodwater some distance from the river and a couple of pictures in the doorway of the chemists shows the extent of the floods.

Lynnie is interested in the small statue of Lorna Doone, the heroine of one of her Mum’s favourite books that is set in Exmoor.


Driving back to the Coachman Lynnie suggests that a good afternoon’s walking should be rewarded with a sharpner. Not one to disappoint I duly drive to the Masons Arms at Knowstone. Sat in front of a roaring fire with a fine pint of Cotleigh’s Tawny Owl is a fitting end to the day. We take a glance at the menu, but this is not the sort of food that Freddy’s eat. Steak with Snails, you must be joking!

To view this route in OS Maps Click Here

[To follow this walk you will need Ordnance Survey Outdoor Leisure Map OL 9 – Exmoor]

1st April 2016

© Two Dogs and an Awning (2016)


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