Mandy’s Sharpham Spine-chiller – Sunday 28th October

A chilly morning greeted 16 ghoulish (and not-so-ghoulish) walkers for Mandy’s scary saunter to Ashprington and the Sharpham estate and surrounds.

Setting off from Totnes town, taking the higher path to Ashprington, witches and ramblers gathered in this lovely village in the South Hams, mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. The village hosts the historic 14th-century church of St David, which sits on a level bench of land overlooking the village green and the picturesque Durant Arms, a traditional country inn. Enclosed by ‘God’s acre’, with burials going back to the Middle Ages, St David’s has a fine thirteenth century tower, and boasts an unusual (for Devon) red sandstone Norman font. With Halloween around the corner, we discovered a stash of miniature pumpkins ripening in the weak Autumnal sunshine, inviting Kay to balance one on her head … as you do.

Within Ashprington parish is Sharpham House, a late Georgian mansion built for a Royal Navy captain named Philemon Pownoll. A memorial to Pownoll stands in the church of St David, as do a number of memorials dedicated to 17th and 18th-century local gentry.

Pausing to take in the occasional view and bird-spotting opportunity, we headed down to a disused quay to take our morning coffee, huddling to keep the blustery wind at bay. The chill winds failed to spoil the splendid views over the Dart afforded by this convenient spot. A tot of rum and steaming flasks of teas and coffees were enough to fortify the witches and walkers who gathered themselves for the gentle climb back up through the village and on to the bridle path to Sharpham Point, where lunch was partaken amidst the howling winds, a suitable accompaniment for the season of Ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged beasties, and things that go bump in the night.

With Duncannon in view in the near distance, we took off along the river path and the woods in their splendour, opening to a short and sharp climb to the grounds of Sharpham, and Sharpham House itself.

In 1982, Sharpham House was acquired by the Sharpham Trust, an educational charity whose aims and objectives are ‘to maintain, conserve and enhance the land, buildings, resources and biodiversity of the estate for the benefit of the public, and to provide opportunities for physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual learning through activity, reflection, creativity and enquiry’. Today it offered a moment of respite from the wintry chill before heading for the heated terrace of Sharpham Café, where coffees and cakes were enjoyed by grateful walkers delighted by the cosy blankets on offer to warm the bones whilst brews were supped.

It was time for the final push on back to Totnes, taking the lower river path and a series of stiles down to the town, where clean shoes and warm cars awaited, 11 and a bit miles later (Mandy’s 10), and cheers all round for the annual chiller from Torbay Rambler’s Wicked Witch of the West.