There is no better time of year than early summer for walking in the Devon countryside. The trees, hedges and wild flowers are at their best and the going is good underfoot. So here is a reminder of where the Parish footpaths are.
Most of the footpaths run north from the village as the river constitutes a barrier to the south and east. There are four routes out of the village which lead on to public footpaths. Three of these run more or less parallel and lead onto and beyond the road which links Swardicott Cross and Down Farm. I shall refer to it as the Upcott Barton road as it runs through Upton Barton farm. The most westerly of these, is accessed from West Road just after the bridge over the Mussel Brook, the second starts at Old Court Farm in North Street and the third further up North Street, soon after you pass North Road Farm. All three paths join the Upcott Barton road within half a mile of each other so give you a number of options as to which loop you decide to follow if you are returning to the village. There are great views back to the village with the church prominent and Dartmoor on the skyline. Other points of interest are the old cob buildings at Upcott Barton and the green lane which you follow if you walk the path through Old Court Farm This lane has species-rich hedges and banks with cow parsley, primroses, bluebells and greater stitchwort to name a few. I see deer most mornings, particularly in the woods alongside the Mussel Brook which joins the Torridge just below Westover. A circular route up to the Upcott Barton Road and back down one of the other paths takes about 1 hour.
The fourth path walk starts by going out of Sheepwash along East Street until you reach the turning for Wooda Farm on your left. There is a footpath sign. Walk through the farm yard and the path continue through a gate and then up a field margin with a fence on your right-hand side. The path emerges into North Street just south of the vineyard and there is a gentle walk back into Sheepwash. The whole walk only takes about half an hour.
It should be said that bits of all of these walks can be heavy-going in winter and that you may encounter sheep in the fields at more or less any time of the year. Dog owners need to take care. There are also cows with calves during the summer and these need to be treated with respect. All of the paths are marked periodically with way markers.
If you wish to walk further there are two footpaths, (which form a loop) heading north off the Upcott Barton road. There is a green lane just opposite Middlecott Farm which leads north through Lake Farm and then past a number of other cottages into Buckland Woods. For those with an interest in industrial archaeology there are a number of things to observe. One is a series of leats which took water from the Mussel Brook to a turbine which provided power for forest industries in the wood. The remains of the turbine can still be seen on the left soon after you pass Buckland Mill. Further on, on the left, is a rather strange looking building, with a gallery round the top. This was a ‘stone cracker’ which graded rocks from the quarry behind for use in the building trade. The rusting chutes at the bottom were where the graded material was poured into carts. Soon after, you pass a saw mill on the right and then reach another road. The walk through the woods is superb at the moment with bluebells in full flower. You can either retrace your steps from this point or turn left along the road for about half a mile and then turn south again on a footpath that runs behind Buckland Filleigh Church. After a short road section you again take a path through the woods which will return you to the Upcott Barton Road. You can then take any of the aforementioned paths to the village. This walk takes at least two and a half hours, but is well worth it, particularly in the spring.
If you want something gentler, the Community Wood, down by the river provides an attractive stroll, particularly of a summer’s evening.
June 2010 (Summer issue)