Hawkridge and Tarr Steps from Marsh Bridge

On my trips to Exmoor I have “bagged” a number of the Ordnance Survey Trig Pillars dotted around the National Park.  However, there are still a few on my list to visit, so today I have planned a route to encompass them and take me to places I have not previously visited.

The starting point for my walk is the small parking area close to Marsh Bridge, which is off the B3223 to the west of Dulverton (Grid Ref: SS907289).  From the parking area I cross the B3223 and take a way-marked path along a restricted byway towards Court Down. 

It is a long steady ascent up this ancient track.  I always find it interesting to look at a map and try to work out why some of these old tracks were turned into roads while others were left. 

As the track starts to level out I reach a junction of paths, here I turn right to take a slight diversion from my route to follow the footpath uphill to reach a gate into a field of pasture.  From the gate I continue across the field to visit the trig pillar on Court Down, this is the 222nd I have bagged.

From the trig I return to the gate, here there are two footpaths and I take the one on the right which heads across the field to rejoin the track I was on earlier.  Turning right along the track I follow it through a gate and then continue along a hedge lined route offering occasional cracking views.

On reaching a junction of paths I turn left to join a tarmac lane, Leigh Lane, and then follow this lane for just over a mile to reach the farm at Leigh.

Soon after passing the farm I take a footpath on the left that leads along a track towards access land on an area of moorland marked on the map as The Allotment.

On reaching the access land I turn left and follow a track to a junction of paths.  Here I turn left again to follow the route way-marked to Mounsey Hill Gate.

On reaching Mounsey Hill Gate at the B3223 I cross and continue on a path that follows the fence line to reach a cattle grid on a minor road.  I go through the gate besides the cattle grid and then fork left away from the road on a track heading across Varle Hill.

At a fork in the track I go right and follow a well-worn path across Ashway Side that descends gradually towards a band of trees.

I follow the path as it descends through trees to cross a stream and reach a minor road where I turn left towards the clapper bridge at Tarr Steps.  Because of the Covid restrictions there is a one way system in place across the bridge to enable folk to maintain a social distance whilst crossing.  Sadly not everyone thinks the rules apply to them, especially if their visit has involved driving a car to the beauty spot and walking halfway across to get a picture and then returning to the car to “experience” the next location on their itinerary. 

There was a time when I would have engaged with such people to explain the error of their ways, but these days I choose to ignore them knowing they will soon be gone.  I wait until the bridge is clear and then make my way across and continue along the minor road at the far side to reach Penny Bridge.  

I had intended to turn right here on a footpath but the road is so quiet I decide to continue on as it climbs steadily up Marshclose Hill.

Eventually the lane leads me into Hawkridge near the church of St Giles. Originally built in the 14th century it underwent major restoration in 1878, but parts of the original church remain.

I have visited a number of churches on our travels, not many have such a stunning view from the churchyard as this one.

From the churchyard I turn left and walk along Broad Lane at a fork in the road by the telephone kiosk I go left and pass the village hall.  

I stay with Broad Lane as it heads out of the village to reach West Hollowcombe where I take a footpath on the left which is the route of the Two Moors Way heading towards Slade Bridge.

This way-marked route heads across pasture fields and gradually descends to a gate where it joins a minor road, Slade Lane.   Here I turn left and follow the road downhill to reach Slade Bridge.

After crossing the bridge I continue with the road as it heads uphill to reach a cattle grid, here I turn right along a broad track.  I stay with this track towards a minor road, Ridge Road.  Just short of the road I take a brief diversion onto the moor to visit the Ordnance Survey trig pillar on West Ansty Common, this is number 223 for me.

From the trig pillar I continue to the road and then turn left along it.  I had originally planned to take a path across Venford Moor and then drop down to the River Barle, but I know I need to be on the north bank of the river at some point and the map only shows fords and not footbridges.  There is not a lot of daylight left, so I don’t want to find it impossible to cross the river.  A quick check of the map and I work out an alternative route.  This entails walking along the road for a couple of miles, but it is straight and there is little traffic about.

One of the benefits of walking on the road is I can pick up my pace so daylight should not be an issue.  After a mile and a half on the road I reach Five Cross Ways and continue straight on for another half a mile to reach a footpath on the left at Chilcott Cross.  This path follows the hedge line in a field as it descends towards a minor road.

On reaching the road I turn left and continue downhill to a track on the left which continues to head steadily downhill through trees towards the river.

At the River Barle I turn right and follow the path besides the south bank of the river. 

The route is now very straightforward.  I stay with the path as it heads east with the river to my left.  There are times that the path departs from the river briefly but it is never too far away and I am soon back beside it.

I stay with the path besides the River for just over a mile and a half to reach the tearooms besides Marsh Bridge.  Here I turn left and cross the bridge to return to my starting point.  Marsh Bridge is thought to have been built in the 18th century, but over the years it has been altered.  In 1866-67 the iron bridge was constructed and this has had many repairs over the years.

My walk has covered just over 14 miles through some stunning scenery. Before I head off I take a look at the packhorse bridge close to the parking area.  This would have been the original route for pack horses travelling between Dulverton and Ansty.

To follow my walk you will need Ordnance Survey Outdoor Explorer OL9 – Exmoor

You can view this 14 mile walk on OS Maps and download the GPX File Here (Subscription to OS Maps Required)

9th October 2020

© Two Dogs and an Awning (2020)

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