Sal and Barry’s South Brent Saunter – Wednesday 19th June

Although the rain was falling steadily when the convoy left Totnes on a misty, murky Wednesday morning this week, when everyone finally gathered at South Brent Railway Station car park, it was actually dry, if rather overcast.

Eleven stalwart Torbay Ramblers set off to begin the walk and almost immediately were given information about the local Church of St Petroc. Here in 1436, the Reverend John Hay was dragged from the building while officiating at a Divine Service, and subsequently murdered. Unfortunately however, no other information on the subject is available.

The path quickly descended under a railway bridge, which carries the main line to Exeter, went through a kissing gate, and over a small clapper bridge, to run alongside the right bank of the River Avon. Then there was a stone stile to clamber over, to emerge on Lydia Bridge, a narrow Packhorse construction dating from the 17th century. Standing beside the bridge, is Rock House, which was built in the 19th century, and features a carved image of a ‘Green Man’, made from Beer stone from a local church. Almost immediately we came upon a Victorian Postbox, complete with brushes, which was duly photographed for posterity.

Then began a rather steep climb up a quiet lane, and after about a mile, the route went through a gate and out onto the moorland. After a brief stop to disrobe in the humid conditions, the way led across the fields to pick up a stoney track. A refreshment break was taken before we journeyed on to a junction from where Corringdon Ball became visible in the distance. This is the site of a Neolithic Long Barrow.

Soon the path led to Ball Gate, where a group picture was taken. This is the old Gate Post to the former Brent Manor. After passing through Ball Gate, the way joined open moorland once more, and views of the surrounding countryside were enjoyed. After a fairly short stretch across this open ground, the tricky descent down ‘ Diamond Lane’ had to be negotiated. This bridleway is always wet, and the boulders are permanently slippery and thus quite hazardous. The sign at the entrance to Diamond Lane, advises horse riders to dismount, which indicates precisely the kind of terrain to be encountered. Everyone safely emerged onto the road at the bottom, and fairly soon afterwards Shipley Bridge was reached.

It was here alongside the River Avon, that a stop was made for lunch. Once everyone’s appetite had been sated, a short diversion along the tarmac path towards Avon Dam was taken. This was in order to allow those members of the group who had not previously ventured to this area, to get a flavour of the delights that are on offer here for visitors. Once again information was relayed to those present, this time about the ruined buildings found at Shipley Bridge. These are part of the 19th century Naptha processing works. Naptha is flammable oil extracted from peat, that was brought down on horse drawn tramway from the Redlake area. This type of processing work only lasted for 4 years, before the site was then used to process Clay, which was conveyed in liquid form through pipes from Petre’s Pit. This work ceased in 1880.

After rejoining the road for a short distance, we went over a stile into woodlands. Here the buildings of the former Plymouth Chest Hospital at Didworthy could be seen through the trees. These buildings were used as a TB Sanitorium in the early 1900’s, which finally closed in 1968. The buildings are now all used as residences. The route crosses the road in Didworthy, before picking up a path, which passes a memorial to a young Royal Naval Rating, tragically killed by a falling tree in the storms of January 1990. The track then undulated past a field of white cattle with young calves, before going over a clapper bridge and up through and on into the Hamlet of Lutton. Here an Edward V11 Postbox was spotted, only this one didn’t have brushes in the aperture.

Soon the track passed through fields to a lane which led back to Lydia Bridge, and after going over the stile again, the riverside path was taken as on the outward stretch. The route back to the cars was short and sweet, before everyone descended on the Rowan Tree cafe for well earned refreshment.

As the day had remained dry for the six and three quarter mile walk, a good time was had by all, with a few glimpses of blue sky and even some shadows materialising during the afternoon.

We would like to thank everyone for joining us, and we look forward to seeing you all again soon.


Barry & Sal H