It’s a great time to go walking, as everywhere there are signs of new life and the countryside coming alive again after the winter rest then the ravages of recent storms.
A wonderful place to witness this new life is on a walk along the River Teign to Chagford. Donning a new pair of wellies this time, I started this walk from the layby near the Mill End Hotel on the A382, at a stile heavily laden with signs.
Crossing the field down to the river, I spotted some activity in the distance, the zoom on my camera revealing it to be some kind of historical battle reenactment. Which one I don’t know, but they certainly looked to be having fun.
The walk into Chagford follows the river, through ancient woodland, with weathered signs pointing the way. The recent storms have felled a few trees which need to be climbed under (or over), and the floods have given the river a good clear out, so the banks look really crisp and the water is flowing with
renewed vigour. Snowdrops and crocuses have appeared triumphant and herald the start of Spring, soon to make way for carpets of bluebells.
The historical battle was not the only surreal sight en route. Fields of fleece-clad swede made for a mystical landscape; strange tree-wall configurations (which came first, the tree or the wall?); and, in the middle of nowhere, an icy cold outdoor swimming pool, awaiting its first brave dippers of the season.
The ancient art of hedgelaying is alive and well here, and it’s lovely to see the newly-spliced branches, bent almost horizontally on top of stone and earth banks, ready for the new shoots to grow upwards and form the hedges.
Leaving the river, and turning left into the road, past a ruined mill and up the hill, you arrive in the picturesque former stannary town of Chagford. The town square is dominated by the octagonal Market House (now housing public conveniences!) and there are lots of lovely places to have lunch, or coffee and cake, and little art and craft shops to peruse.
Not to be missed are my favourite shops, the two general stores, Bowdens and Webbers, which have traded side by side for over 150 years. Entering them is like stepping back in time to a bygone age, before deparment stores and the internet, with crammed spaces packed floor to ceiling with every household and garden item you could ever imagine needing, and lots more. Four candles?
A circle through the town leads back to the original route, where you rejoin the river and head back to the starting point. There one could follow the Teign in the opposite direction, to Castle Drogo which looms on the horizon. But that’s a walk for another day …
If you fancy finding your own walk to stumble across crazy trees and crazier reenactments, book a stay in a Dartmoor holiday cottage around the market town of Chagford.
By Mary Costello (of Molly and the Princess blog)
All image credits to Mary