Neil’s Manaton Meander – Sunday 21st July

A warm day promised, with just a 5% chance of rain for the 16 who set off from the Church Car Park at Manaton today.

A relatively unspoilt Dartmoor Village, Manaton boasts a 15th-century church, located due north of the village green, dedicated to St. Winifred. Three of the six bells in its tower are medieval.They are still being rung today on a regular basis by the local team of bellringers. It’s rood screen was carved in around 1500, but as is the case with many old English Churches, the figures were defaced during the Reformation.

Between 1903 and 1923, the writer John Galsworthy frequently stayed in a farmhouse called Wingstone in the village. 

Heading initially down the famous Slinker’s Lane, we walked through Neadon Cleave to find ourselves briefly in the 5% area, a light shower! Coats on, we progressed to Foxworthy Bridge, taking the path  up onto the open moor and a tea break at Hunter’s Tor.  The views from here are panoramic, Hay Tor, Hound Tor, Bowerman’s Nose and as far as Hameldown Ridge. A good break was enjoyed after the steady climb, as the sun came out to dry us nicely.

There are remains of an iron age fort just to the east of this Tor.  Originally the hillfort consisted of a triple ramparted enclosure with the two inner banks being stone walled, the 320m height clearly affording a marvellous vantage point in those days and a  ideal spot for our group picture today.

Lustleigh Village was our aim now as the temperature rose and the group relished the breeze crossing the high ground before descending into a series of woodland tracks, some were rather challenging and Barry The Snip was well employed as the nettles and ferns pervaded the paths. One particular steep descent, in an effort to avoid road walking, was certainly interesting shall we say, a little used path for some reason but no problem for the stalwart sixteen today.

Eventually we entered Lustleigh Orchard, by the rear gate this time and as if Neil had pre-arranged it, benches and lush grass awaited the weary walkers –  a 30 minute break was enjoyed.

Onwards and, yes, upwards again, Neil led us back along road and track, through Heavens Gate and the shady woods, eventually to Clam Bridge over the River Bovey. This ancient log bridge was used for over a century to cross here but was rendered unsafe and closed some time ago. We were glad to see it open again with a repaired handrail and, despite the warning to cross at your own risk, a brave few decided to tread the footsteps of olden times, rather than use the sturdy, but less attractive  modern replacement.

We found ourselves finally walking back through the hamlet of Water with it’s old water wheel and archetypal English thatched cottages, probably holiday lets now, but nonetheless charming.

A relatively short walk now to meet the road to Manaton Church, by the Kestor Inn where we were to stop after our walk for welcome teas and cold drinks in their garden.

A lovely walk, seeming much longer than the 8 miles recorded but well led by Neil in a charming area of Dartmoor on a beautiful summer afternoon, blessed indeed.