I’ve been trying to get time to post for a week now, and have finally grabbed a moment. Sorry to all of you who have left comments. I’ll get to you.
River Torridge Ramble
The weather forecast on Friday was at best, wet, with the added bonus of strong winds. So rather than head for exposed rocky cliffs I left our chalet and went for a ramble along the River Torridge. There is very little in the way of marked footpaths, so I headed along the bank following the field boundaries and animal trails. There is usually some kind of way along the edges of rivers, though you need to be aware of the streams that will need crossing and the areas of mud and marsh.
The old Motte and Bailey fort marked on the map is all but hidden by the overgrowth of trees, I could tell from the way it commanded high ground over the river that it would have dominated the area in the past, and the name of the area, Woodford Wood and Woodford Bridge, give clues to it’s reason for being. The clouds were low and grey, not stormy, just full with rain that was to pass in thin bands during the day and leaving enough breaks for the sun to bring out the shapes of trees on the skyline and the lush green of riverside vegetation.
The tracks, after a dry summer and recent wet start to December, have become very greasy. It has an upside though, because the rain cleared old traces of animals and left fresh ground to look for the clues to what animals are living along the river. I’m very much a beginner at spotting these tracks and traces but it makes a pleasant change to be slowing down and taking the time to see what’s around in nature, listening to the sounds of the river and woods as you pass.
Along the stretch I found Otter prints, Deer, Pheasant and small bird tracks. Stoat or Weasel, I’m not sure how to tell them apart. Plus many signs of the routes they take through the woods and fields. Slipways into the river, worn paths under hedges and fences, and the holes of smaller rodents.
Winter opens up visibility in the woods and I was lucky enough to see a herd of Deer walking along the edge of a field across the river, A female and about six or seven young. They drifted along before jumping the fence and heading off to wherever they head to live. The river is quite full due to the rain and crossing some of the streams feeding it proved interesting, sometimes you just need to accept you will get wet or muddy, or both. The force of the water can be seen from time to time, in the debris scattered about the banks, or held on a bend in the water itself. Blockages like this will free themselves eventually.
After the narrow tracks of the river, it was all change as I crossed the bridge at Haytown, entering the domain of man. Past the Olde Mill House (It is spelt like that, no artistic licence from me) and into Bulkworthy. Its chapel is plain and dark with the local stone, well looked after and the village consists mostly of Town Farm. It was time now to follow one of the Bridleways that cross the English countryside. Wide and not too sloshy with mud I had views across the river bottom I had just walked along, out over the heaped domes of the Devon hills.
Open country is a different challenge, and some farmers plough footpath anyway to discourage their use. Usually though you can see the trace of the feet of ages crossing the field. Over stiles and through kissing gates. Into the heart of a farm to return to the Chalet. A pleasant stroll around Devon, with only a little rain to dampen the sky.
I’ll look at the layout of this post later. Sorry if its a bit rough.