Monday, October 25, 2010

Walking in the Devon woods

All of Katharine’s cousins like to hike, so our visits to England always include explorations of their local countryside. Most of our relatives live in central England, but one cousin had moved to Devon since we’d last visited, and we were eager to be introduced to this part of SW England.

Eric taking photos from a rock overlooking the valley of the
River Teign along the path to Fingle Bridge from Castle Drogo.
Yet another sunny day threatened to dispel the clichéd view of damp English weather as we drove to nearby Drogo Castle. Now a National Trust site, the castle was completed for food retailing magnate Julius Drewe in 1931. The castle is located on a prominent bluff, and the site includes our destination for the day: a network of walking trails leading along the nearby River Teign.

Not surprisingly on such a fine autumn day, we were not alone as we walked along the edge of the steep valley to descend to Fingle Bridge.

Most walkers stopped at the old stone pub at the bridge, but we continued on along the river for a few kilometres. By the time we returned, the crowds had lessened—but we were only moments from their last call for lunch. The pub lunch and local cider on the outdoor patio was a welcome break before heading back along the river valley trails and the climb back up to the castle.

These two little girls were dropping twigs off the upstream side, then rushing to
see them float by on the downstream side. Fingle Bridge, near Exeter in Devon.
This area seems so pristine and pastoral, yet a closer look reveals evidence of past industry. The very narrow Fingle bridge is made of rough-hewn stone, and the pub was once a mill; piles of rubble along the trail were probably mine tailings; and old foundations are visible amongst the trees.

Today the River Teign water looks clean enough to drink, but likely only due to very concerted efforts to restore the local environment.

Is all the effort worthwhile? I suspect the many people we saw enjoying it on this sunny autumn afternoon would not want it any other way.