Written by Hilary Bradt
Map: Explorer map 115; start: Greenend Farm, ST050027; 6 miles; easy.
This is the complete package: the best of East Devon’s transport and food – and churches – tied together with a gentle six-mile walk through farmland. You’ll need boots, if you have them, for the muddy bit, although if you leave the right of way for a short stretch you’ll stay dry.
The trip starts and ends in Honiton, with one of Devon’s most scenic bus journeys to get you in a tranquil mood. You end up in Whimple before taking the hourly train or bus back to Honiton. The 694 bus to Plymtree leaves Honiton at 12.15 and drops you at the church at 12.52. Lunchtime, but do take a look at the church and its painted saints before making the decision on whether to eat now at the Blacksmiths Arms or choose the up-market Five Bells in Clyst Hydon.
1) The walk proper begins at the end of Green End Lane. You’ll see the footpath sign on the left just before Greenend Farm. The path runs diagonally across some pasture to a metal kissing gate and the next field where you turn right, skirting the edge of the field and keeping the hedge on your right, past a big oak tree and through a wooden gate. Head across the field to a stand of poplars and the next gate. This field is usually sown with crops so turn left and follow its boundary to reach a little footbridge over a stream at the far corner. Continue to keep the hedge on your left, crossing another footbridge, into another meadow, keeping the pylon on your left. Head across the field towards the farm buildings, keeping an eye out for the footpath sign, and follow the farm track to a metal gate and over a stile. At the junction of three paths turn right through the gate and across a footbridge, then diagonally across the corner of the field to another footbridge. You are now approaching Clyst Hydon, so keep following the footpath signs until you emerge on to a lane which leads to the church.
2) Walk through the graveyard, pausing to peep inside this simple little church, before emerging on to a lane (note the Victorian letter box that leads to Clyst St Lawrence and the Five Bells which is well signposted. By the time you reach the pub/restaurant you will have walked two miles and deserve your gourmet lunch. Or at least a drink. The next part of the walk is four miles, and takes you through some very beautiful wildflower meadows (at least in the spring) and then more farmland to Whimple. We went wrong on this section so remember that there is a footpath sign on every gate. If you don’t see the sign you’re not on the right path. Keep walking in the direction of Clyst St Lawrence; you’ll see the footpath on the left.
3) Cross a cow pasture, shortly after leaving the pub. Walk diagonally to the right, keeping the hedge in sight so you don’t miss the little metal gate and footbridge at the corner. Keep the fence on your left down the next field, through another gate and across the first of two wildflower meadows, heading for a stately line of oaks on the left. After this gate it’s downhill, keeping the hedge on your right, following footpath signs until you emerge in Clyst St Lawrence, less than two miles from Clyst Hydon.
4) This is a tiny village, with just a few very beautiful thatched houses and an appealing little church with a disproportionately tall tower which is, sadly, usually kept locked. Head towards the bridge over the River Clyst and the church, keeping an eye out for your next footpath which is through a farmyard opposite a red-brick barn. Beyond the farm buildings the path leads straight across an arable field to a metal farm gate. The next field is also sown with crops but a blue bag has been helpfully tied to the branches of a tree to show the location of the kissing gate and footbridge over a ditch. Then cross the meadow aiming for a thatched house set in a poplar grove. The footpath runs to the left of this house, and over a stile into the track leading to Great Barton Farm.
5) Follow this to the lane where you turn left and almost immediately right on another footpath. Keep the hedge on your left, following the edge of the field since the next stile and footpath sign is almost hidden in the hedge and easy to miss. In the next field pass between the pylons and through another gate to a green road/track which you follow until it takes a right-angled turn to the left 6.
6) You are now faced with a dilemma. The footpath, signed, is over a stile straight ahead. It is narrow, and even after a dry spell, challengingly muddy. But it is the right of way. Your alternative is to continue along the track when it makes its turn to the left. This bypasses the mud and very shortly brings you out on to the green road that leads to Knowle Cross, just north of Whimple. But it is not a public right of way. From Knowle Cross it’s half a mile to Whimple and the Thirsty Farmer where you can rehydrate while waiting for your train or bus back to Honiton.
7) Trains leave at 44 minutes past the hour and bus number 4 at 39 minutes past the hour.