This Devon trail has definitely got the Exe factor

Walk of the Month: Beautiful farmland, ancient oak woods, wild ponies, and red deer. Mark Rowe steps out in Exmoor

High moorland, steep-sided, deep river valleys and secluded woodlands characterise Exmoor, and this lengthy walk takes in all these elements, striking out from one of the national park's charming towns.

The walk starts in the centre of Dulverton, where you make your way up Fore Street and take the steps to the side of the church (look for the 13th-century tower) and then turn left along the lane that cuts across at a T-junction. The path winds uphill steeply, and soon you are high above Dulverton.

The path levels out and the route follows a track for a mile, passing a sign to the left to Marsh Bridge. Keep ahead to a gate and follow the waymarkers to the right of gorse bushes where the path forks. Keep ahead until you reach a paved road, where you turn left and follow this lane, sweeping round to the right. After half a mile bear half left, following blue waymarkers into a field and keep to the left-hand field edge past Highercombe Farm.

Pass through a gate beyond the farm, take the track downhill ahead to the road and bear right for half a mile until you come to a cattle grid. Cross over and drop downhill along the road. This is Winsford Hill – wilder, grazed by ponies, the real heart of Exmoor, and a place to savour.

Bear left, following the signpost for Tarr Steps, cross another cattle grid and bear half left along the track, off the road, making again for Tarr Steps. Go through a gate and keep ahead along the thin path for a mile and drop down steeply through woodlands to reach Tarr Steps by the River Barle, a major tributary of the River Exe.

There's a tea house here, and the benches by the river make a pleasant place to pause. Tarr Steps is, in fact, a clapper bridge, made from 17 unmortared granite slabs, each weighing about five tons, and is thought to be the longest of its kind in Britain.

The walk continues across the bridge, bearing left and then immediately taking the track uphill to the right. Follow the blue waymarkers as the path winds uphill, where you enter a field, keep to the right-hand edge and then bear left, still with the edge to your right. Pass through a gate, over a hill and drop down the path to Parsonage Farm. Here, it is worth taking a short detour around the nature trail. The waymarked track winds down through farmland and takes less than 10 minutes, but you have an excellent chance of seeing red deer. The path ends a few metres downhill from where you left the track.

Continue downhill, following the path as it sweeps left, now high above the river. At a crossroads with a paved road, go straight ahead into a field and keep ahead, following signs for Hawkridge. Follow the path around the back of some houses on to the lane and turn left. Keep straight ahead, the lane becoming a track, ignoring the road sign to Dulverton, which points in the other direction.

The path now drills south-east along a ridge, following the Exe Valley Way (though you actually walk above the Barle valley). Again, the views are those of classic Exmoor. After 200 metres, take the right-hand path through gorse and a gate to drop down to the river.

Cross over Castle Bridge and, now on the right-hand bank, follow the course of the river through ancient oak woods for two miles. When you come to Marsh Bridge, turn right uphill and then go straight ahead through a gate where the road bears right, past houses to pick up the path back to Dulverton. At the time of writing, a landslide required a waymarked detour on a parallel path in the woods above the river. As you approach Dulverton, the path drops down to the graceful five-arched bridge to re-enter the village.

While walking this route, the river was in full spate. Back in Dulverton, there is a sobering high water mark, recording the rainfall of August 1952 that flooded Dulverton and devastated Lynmouth to the north.

Compact Facts

Distance: 12 miles

Time: 4-5 hours

OS MAP: Explorer OL9 Exmoor

Further information

Mark Rowe stayed, courtesy of Cascade Cottage, at Edgcott House (01643 831164; edgcotthouse.co.uk), which offers B&B and self-catering accommodation. For more information about things to see and do on Exmoor, go to visit-exmoor.co.uk.

Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Bid Writer

    £25000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in Manchester, Lon...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £20,000 Uncapped

    £15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Guru Careers: Membership Administrator

    £23K: Guru Careers: We're seeking an experienced Membership Administrator, to ...

    Day In a Page

    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific