Sunday 8 March 2020 – The Exeter Green Circle

The Exeter Green Circle is a 13 mile walk around the city of Exeter; a well-established and well-signed route divided into sections, each one a valley park. As this was International Women’s Day, before we began we remembered the pioneers, Mary Woods and Barbara Evans, who were the founding members of our club. There is no official start or finish point so the thirteen walkers assembled at Marsh Barton, crossing the canal at the swing bridge, into Riverside Valley Park, following the path past the old mill, and the grounds of the crematorium, to Topsham Road and Ludwell Valley Park. This park is dedicated to a remarkable woman, Ivy Johns, who was instrumental in securing the designation of Ludwell as one of the Valley Parks, and if we had known then we would have thanked her as we drank our coffee among the trees, never far from the sound of running water. We walked past Hamlin Valley Playing Fields, Polsloe Bridge Station, and St Katherine’s Priory, sometimes known as Polsloe Priory. The nuns of the Priory built a dam in the valley over 600 years ago. This created a lake which powered their corn mill and provided fish for the table. The Priory was one of only three nunneries in Devon and Cornwall, and was dissolved by Henry VIII in1539. It is due to another remarkable woman, Miss Lega Weekes, and the Devonshire Association that the remaining buildings were saved. It still belongs to the City Council and is leased to the Stoke Hill Community Association as a community centre. The lake is in Mincinglake Valley Park which we entered next. All the parks are now managed by the Devon Wildlife Trust and on this day they were planting plugs of wild flowers and saplings. The next section took in the secluded nature reserve of Duryard Valley Park, and followed the Hoopern Valley through the University’s Streatham Estate with its arboretum. We had lunch here among the trees, and were joined by some academic ducks – MAs, LLs, and ARDs mostly. From here the path leads to the streets and historic parks of St David’s, and highlights were the former blue plaqued home of F J Widgery, famous Devonshire Victorian artist, the statue of General Sir Redvers Buller, St Davids’s Church, and the Iron Bridge. We walked under the cast iron sections which were brought from South Wales in 1834, and cost £9000. We were close to the city walls at this point, and the catacombs, as well as St Michael’s Church with its imposing steeple. We crossed the pulsating River Exe via Miller’s Crossing – the footbridge at the Mill on the Exe. The next section is known as the Redhills Walk and crosses the flood plain before climbing the hilly western fringe of the city. The path skirts Exwick Cemetery, and leads to Bowhay Lane, an old sunken lane, and the Barley Valley Nature Reserve, where we stopped again for another break, and enjoyed panoramic views over the city. The last leg follows the valley of the Alphin Brook, which flows through agricultural land. Little John’s Cross marks the start of this section, which includes an ancient ridge top green lane, a fruit farm on Roly Poly Hill, and a very muddy path close to the A30. The final landmark is the old village of Alphington, where Charles Dickens’ parents lived at Mile End Cottage from 1839 – 1842. Clapperbrook Lane took us back to our cars in Grace Road, Marsh Barton, the completion of the circle and a great walk, excellently led by Jacqui B. Afterwards we drove the short distance to the fabulous Double Locks Pub, close to the circle further along the canal..
By Ken B