Jim led 17 walkers from Forde House today, setting off along the level path towards the Town Quay. It was a much better day, weatherwise, than forecast and we were treated to sunshine and unseasonable warmth for a January day – it can’t last!
Town Quay is an historic docking area, where the River Teign meets the estuary and here is considered ‘tidal’. It has seen trade in clay, timber and coal over the centuries and was often the embarkation point for fishermen casting their nets in Newfoundland between the late 16th and mid-19th centuries. Devon County Council began to restore the area in the 1980’s and a 2.5 km walking and cycling route that effectively links Newton Abbot with Kingsteignton, was eventually created. The centrepiece of the scheme is a 90 metre-long pedestrian and cycle bridge over the River Teign.
We walked along the River Lemon initially, to the Stover Canal and on towards Teigngrace. We rejoined the Teign here and took the first bridge across the River to find ourselves at Preston, a tiny hamlet where a rare Queen Victoria wall box was spotted. Had we not gone the wrong way, we would have missed it ! About turn to find the newly built wooden bridge, our correct crossing point.
On our way now to Chudleigh Knighton, we circled the extensive clay pits. Ball Clay is a result of the Sticklepath Fault, Jim explained, and found here in the Bovey Basin and in Petrockstowe near Okehampton. It is of high quality and used in the production of ceramics, sanitary ware, tiles and tableware and is worked by open pit excavation, as we could clearly see in this area. Thankfully there was an underpass below the busy A38, taking us to the town.
We navigated the new housing development, to find ourselves eventually on the Heath, an area of gorse, heather and grassland maintained by Devon Wildlife Trust and once an extensive area of the Bovey Basin. Today it was our lunch spot in the sun.
A steady, if damp in places, walk across the Heath and through Little Bovey Farm now to pick up the road to Heathfield, pausing at the Greater Horseshoe Independent School – apparently a bat friendly environment for your children! Here the decision was made to cut a corner (quite a big one) and take the group back along the Templer Way, via the new cycle route, to Newton Abbot, rather than out to Bovey and Stover Country Park.
The Templer Way is named after James Templer, born in Exeter in 1722. He was a carpenter by trade and having made his fortune in India, returned to Devon where he purchased the run down Stover Estate, some 80,000 acres, building Stover House, – now a private school – as his personal residence. His son James II created the Stover Canal between Teigngrace and Newton Abbot to carry clay initially, for export via Teignmouth Docks. His son George in turn built a granite tramway from the Haytor quarries to move this hard-wearing rock by horse-drawn trucks to the docks, via the Stover Canal. It was valued for its durability and high quality and used in London for a variety of buildings, including London Bridge.
We were able to see parts of the Canal on the return journey at Graving Docks and Ventiford Basin where a crane base can still be seen as well as the dry dock where barges were repaired and maintained. A welcome ‘slurp stop’ with seats, for the weary band today.
At one time in history the Templer family owned all the land we could see on our walk but sadly the fortune was squandered by a junior Templer and it was gradually sold off. We must thank the conservationists who have worked hard raising funds and worked hands-on in the canal and around, to clear the site and reveal the history of this long forgotten industrial transport.
The Templer Way is now a popular walking route and runs from Haytor to Teignmouth, along the tramway, the Canal, through Town Quay and on to Teignmouth estuary, crossing via the Ferry at Shaldon, to finish at The Docks. This has been completed by several members of the Group over the years and was around 18 miles – mostly downhill fortunately!
A long day as we had completed 13.5 miles, even with the shortcut. Some retired to the Penn Inn for welcome refreshments and to meet non-walkers Gail and Mike today.