On a fine, dry and sunny Autumn morning, 20 Torbay Ramblers gathered outside the 7 Stars Hotel in Totnes, to set off on a seven and a half mile meander along the River Dart, and around the footpaths of the Dartington estate.
As the group began their hike, the river was running particularly high, and fairly swiftly, due to the Spring Tide and the recent heavy rains, so as a consequence, some of the paths were rather damp and a trifle muddy. Early into the walk, and as a result of the lovely weather conditions of the day, reflections of the trees along the banks of the river could be seen in the waters of the Dart, and it was here too that a pair of swans were in residence. A little further along the path, the route emerged to skirt Queens Marsh, where a Heron was spotted looking for food in the water meadow. A climb up through the woodlands then led the way to an open grassy space above the valley, with good views of the surrounding countryside, and back across to the town at Totnes. Shortly after another woodland stretch, the track went over a stile, and soon passed by the allotment area. This brought the walkers into the gardens of the Dartington estate, where a coffee stop was enjoyed in the sunshine. Before continuing on the trek, a group picture was taken, and then the way went by a metal sculpture of a donkey, also passing close to two pretty buildings with thatched roofs, one a Summerhouse, and the other referred to as the ‘Playhouse’. Down then through a grassy area, and across the drive, to enter fields, before returning to a footpath alongside the river. It was at this point that the Heritage Steam Train from Buckfastleigh put in an appearance on its journey to Totnes. Here too it was possible to detect the sound of a Woodpecker tapping on a tree in the vicinity, probably trying to establish its territory someone said. Then about two dozen Fallow Deer could be seen grazing in the pasture nearby. After another short section through the woods, a stop for lunch was made in the fairly newly constructed picnic area associated with the Forest School. Following the refreshment break, the walk travelled on a short road section through the developed part of the estate, before picking up a concrete path across a field. Passing through a gate at the end of this path, the route entered another agricultural area, where a crop of what was thought to be Hemp was being cultivated. In order to avoid trampling on the plants, a trek around the perimeter of the field was necessary. Another gateway then took the walkers back into the trees again, where the track began to descend steeply, before finally returning to the path at the Queens Marsh junction. From this point the route kept beside the Dart, and as the water level had dropped considerably, the path beyond the weir took the walkers onto a small beach very adjacent to the river, from where an island mid stream could be seen which was covered in sea birds. Only a short stroll then before the days outing was completed, and all but four of the party went their various ways home. The remaining foursome found a local cafe and partook of a very welcome pot of tea. Thanks to all those who accompanied us today on a wander through this beautiful part of our local environment, in almost perfect walking conditions.
By Sal and Barry H