Margaret’s Christow Circular – Sunday 14th July

A glorious day was unfolding for the 12 walkers today, so unlike the last time Margaret led this walk when the reservoirs were overflowing and we left the car park in pouring rain. We were joined by three visitors from foreign climes today, so a varied conversation and lots of chatter could be heard, along with comments about our ‘gorgeous County’ and the joy of walking through it, rather than the flashing views from inside a tour bus.

We firstly headed around  the 15th Century stone built Christow Church, taking paths and lanes towards Court Barton.

A sharp incline in the woods, a tough one in the heat,  provided the first challenge,  so a tea break was welcome – and this time in the open field, spotting alpacas in the far corner.

We set off again along lane and track to Middle Hole and shortly afterwards passed the Quaker Cemetery at Clampitt. Quakers of course must be buried in unmarked graves.

Tottiford Reservoir was soon before us, a lovely expanse of water, sparkling with many anglers on both banks, peacefully enjoying their sport on this wonderful summer’s day.  Tottiford was built in 1861 and is the oldest reservoir within the National Park. It was followed by Kennick Reservoir in 1884 and the third of this trio, Trenchford, in 1907. They were constructed to provide water for the growing resort of Torquay and today play a key part in the water-supply network for Torbay and Teignbridge. All three running low today, so unlike last December.

Our walk took us around the Reservoir and on to Trenchford, where we enjoyed lunch on benches in the shade.

After lunch and obligatory group picture, we set off along Trenchford, circled by fir trees set against clear blue skies a perfect panorama to be relished today.

Our homeward leg took us through Moor Barton, over Kiln Down and down to Benen.  One notable feature in Benen, apart from the ancient cottages and pretty stream running through, was a Stench Pole, or Stink Pipe. They were an invention of the Victorian era, originally in London following the Great Stink of 1858 when the Thames dried to a trickle and, er, waste matter backed up in the sewers. They channeled the smell and fumes away before it could explode with disastrous consequences.  Improved sewer systems mean few remain outside London, but there are still some in rural parts of the Country, looking to all the world like very tall lamp posts – but hollow with no light! This one was less ornate than it’s London cousins but no doubt a listed item now from days long gone – a good thing perhaps in the case of old drains.

A walk down the road from Benen to The Artichoke Inn at Christow where we decided, as we were mud free and thirsty, to take cold drinks in their garden before taking the short path back to our cars.

The Artichoke Inn is a grade II listed building built in the 17th Century when Christow was a small farming parish, but there is evidence of bronze age life there, agriculture being the mainstay of life in the Teign Valley since about 3500 BC, with  hut circles still visible on Christow Commons not to mention the well known Time Team excavation of the drained Tottiford Reservoir in 2009, where the somewhat sensationalised headline proclaimed  ‘Atlantis and Mini Stonehenge Found in Devon’. A full stone circle was found together with animal remains leading them to conclude that this self-contained valley had been a special place from the later Mesolithic (around 6000 BC), through to the Bronze Age.

A wonderful, varied and interesting walk on a beautiful Summer day – thank you again Margaret.