A discouraging forecast today did not deter 18 members convening at Newton Abbot bus station for Rod and Maggie’s 8½ mile circular walk to Stover Park. It was drizzling when we set off but by the time we had reached the river path behind B & Q, the sun appeared and we enjoyed fine dry weather for the rest of our walk.
Re-crossing the river we followed the path which runs alongside the railway until we reached the road. In the past this path has often been underwater but today it was clear with just a few small puddles. We eventually crossed the bridge spanning the Stover canal, which we followed, sometimes on the path and sometimes on the cycle track, until we reached Ventiford Basin, where it meets the end of the Haytor Granite Tramway.
The Stover Canal Society was formed in 1999 to promote the preservation and restoration of the Stover Canal and several members of the Torbay Rambling Club have been involved in this endeavour. Built by James Templer and opened in 1792 the canal was used for nearly 150 years to transport clay and other materials from the Bovey Basin initially and latterly granite from Dartmoor quarries, to the docks at Teignmouth. The ambitious plan was to ensure the canal flows once more to Town Quay in Newton Abbot but as with all such projects, funding and town planning have proven obstacles. There was at one time the shell of a barge in the basin, now removed for careful preservation. A replica wagon has been placed in situ.
2020 marks the bicentenary year of the Templer Way. This is the name of the route, created by James Templer and extended by his son George to transfer granite by means of the first railway in Britain, a granite stone track on which wagons were pulled by horses, downhill from Haytor to the canal basin. Many slabs of the original track are still in place and can be followed from Haytor on The Templer Way to Teignmouth, which is now a recognised walking route of 18 miles, also completed by several members of the Club over the years.
After a break we walked under the railway line and along the road leading us eventually into Stover Park. Entering the park through the trees, the path was wet with some generous, but easily negotiated, puddles. We followed the lake to cross a bridge and shortly entered the woods again, enjoying the convenience of toilets and benches for our lunch. For any bird watcher or nature lover this park is a haven and we were greeted with swans, squirrels and a variety of other birds.
After lunch we circled the lake until taking a right hand path, through the wood and across the fields behind and beyond Stover School, which was once the home of George Templer. We passed the carved statutes commemorating the Canadian ‘Sawdust’ Fusiliers who came in 1916 to lend their expertise and manpower during WW1 to provide timber for the front. We took a left here to cross another field before picking up the road to reach a level crossing and the canal once more.
We followed the cycle track/path back to the road but this time returned to Newton abbot on the other side of the railway line. It had been a lovely day defying the forecast with reasonable sunshine and, of course, good company. In the words of Craig Revel-Horwood (of Strictly fame) – FAB-U-LOUS.