Karen’s Erme River Ramble – Sunday 20th October


Sunshine and clear skies for the 16 today who joined Karen on her walk along the River Erme in Ivybridge and out on to the open moor at Harford.

We parked near Stowford Mill, now a luxury development but was a major employer as a paper mill, which Barry testified as his mother worked there. The chimney still dominates the skyline as a reminder of darker days perhaps for employees working long hours in Victorian England.

Karen imparted some history of the area. Ivybridge, in the 1990’s said to be the the ‘fastest growing town in Europe’ and home to the largest secondary school in Devon and Cornwall. It was mentioned in the 13th Century as an important crossing point over the Erme on the Exeter to Plymouth route. A humped backed bridge was in the centre of the then ‘village‘ with a corner in four parishes. As it was covered in ivy – and still is – it was known as ‘Ivy bridge’. The village officially became a town in 1977. In 1692 the village was sold to John Rogers, a Plymouth merchant for the princely sum of £3500.

Wet underfoot as expected, but a pleasant stroll along the river, in spate today after the week’s heavy rains  The Erme was the source of power for the mills of Ivybridge and when the South Devon Railway Company built it’s route through Ivybridge in the 19th Century, thanks to Mr. Brunel, the area expanded in the industrial revolution.

Our first pause alongside the river was to marvel at the granite pillars of the railway line.  Originally built as single track broad gauge in 1848, it was soon unable to carry the increasingly heavy freight and passengers trains, The old wooden tracks and upright pillars were replaced with arches for the broad gauge railway. The wood long gone of course but the old stone pillars remain alongside the new and make an impressive sight above the river, dwarfing the group below.

We climbed a raised bank shortly after this to see the remains of the old farmers reservoir, used once by local children as a swimming pool and also by the American GI’s based here in preparation for D-Day, for their training.

After 3 miles and a tea-break in the sun – toffee buns welcome – we left the woods and entered an open field above Kings Barn. The next and somewhat exciting event was to cross the always-wet ford and pass through the gate towards the Harford Road. We like a challenge and creative rambling became the order of the day as some took the high path – the wall – and some just waded, thankful for Gortex.

Only a minor injury sustained and after deft application of cream and plaster, we were on our way to Harford, crossing Harford Bridge, where we enjoyed lunch around the lovely church, again in autumn sunshine.

Harford is the smallest parish in the South Hams with around 80 inhabitants a village not a hamlet because it has ‘a compact core settlement and a central building’ – apparently!  The 15th Century Church is dedicated to St Petrock and was well cared for with a lovely flower display, for Harvest Festival perhaps. The Old School House nearby also converted to a private dwelling named – The School House!

Up the hill and on to the open moor now, where the views were panoramic as we headed for Spurrell’s Cross, always just beyond the horizon, for a group picture.

A steady walk towards Eastern Beacon where once more the views were enjoyed and a breather before the ‘up and down’ to Western Beacon. We opted for the lower path, downhill now all the way to pass Stowford Mill and the College before crossing The Ivy Bridge and making our way back to our cars. Around 9 miles in total.

Teas at the Avon Inn but this time in the Riff Raff Bar – most inappropriate for a classy walking group  today!

Karen H