Killerton Underwater Walk – Sunday September 29 2019

The weather forecast was not promising much, apart from wind and rain, and lots of it, so only eight walkers travelled hopefully to Killerton House, near Broadclyst, for a walk along the East Devon lanes led by Ken and Jacqui. The weather on the day stayed fine but the preceding week’s rainfall did have quite an effect. The walk skirts this large estate, past Ellerhayes, and then follows the River Culm, the longest tributary of the Exe, passing flood water marker posts six feet in height. Most encouraging, but all was well and after Columbjohn Wood we reached Columbjohn Chapel, an ideal place for coffee among the tombstones. This is an exquisite little chapel, a special spiritual place, where Sir Thomas and Lady Acland of Killerton, lie side by side, in shouting distance of  their housekeeper Mrs Craggs. From there we walked to Rewe, and on to the Exe Valley Way. Everything was going swimmingly, which was a bit of an omen. The rain was holding off and this part of agricultural Devon was providing a scenic and peaceful backdrop. The miles were going fast on the flat cindery path, until without warning it became a canal, and was completely impassable. Adam, who had anticipated a deluge, was wearing a deluxe pair of new wellington boots, and we were grateful to him for testing the depth. Plan B was to retrace our steps and then continue on an alternative route along the road to Brampford Speke, our next destination on the river Exe. Luckily a dog walker appeared at the deep end, waded through and told us that the area we were making for was flooded and there were swans gliding along the place where the footpaths used to be. Great for canoeing, and not worth risking,  so a bit reluctantly we turned tail and headed back to Killerton, stopping for lunch by the quiet bank of a swollen stream, like Huckleberry Finn, where a verbal description of the gems of the missing route had to suffice – the old railway path from Stoke Canon, the Exe in all its glory, the comfortable dining area on the bridge, the picturesque village of Brampford, the Station House, Netherexe Chapel, and the Edward VII narrow aperture post box. All would have to wait until after the flood. The walk was retrieved, improved, and lengthened by a diversion into the grounds of Killerton, not previously undertaken. First we conquered the Clump, an extinct volcano where legend says a dragon lives, and admired the view through the large picture frame. We followed the zig zag of the tree walk, exploring the collection of rare, ancient and giant trees marvelling at the wonderful redwoods, most of them gigantic, and thoughtfully labelled. Those who like to hug giant trees were ecstatic. After a wander round the main chapel it was time for tea in the cafe. It was even sunny by then and hardly a drop of rain had fallen. We had been lucky. Nine and a half miles, and a day well spent. Thanks to all who took part.
By Ken B