An Autumn Walk on the Dartmoor Borders
Looking for a good autumn walk in the Westcountry?
Why not try this walk on the edge of Dartmoor if you want to see the colours changing. Lustleigh remains the unspoiled Dartmoor village I first knew so many years ago, still retaining most of its thatched cottages, the surrounding fields and woodlands filled with huge boulders. A place to linger, with a delightful array of public footpaths, bridleways and open country which make access a delight. Pick a nice day and take your camera. This is not a very long walk, but it does pass through some of the very best of Dartmoor border scenery.
The walk starts on the green opposite Lustleigh parish church, map reference SX785813. The route is some 6 miles and there is 1,175 feet of climb, though this is spread out across the walk. The ramble is almost entirely on woodland paths, some of which are quite steep and rocky so take care! Suggested Map: Ordnance Survey Explorer OL28 Dartmoor. As always you do the walk at your own risk! Please note that there is NO car park in Lustleigh, so park carefully around the village. It is best to arrive early to ensure a space or better still use public transport, avoiding church service times.
1. Walk down by the village cross, steer left in front of the chapel, crossing a stone bridge. Follow the track to the hamlet of Wreyland, a delightful mix of thatched cottages of considerable age, immortalised in the book Small Talk at Wreyland by Cecil Torr. Keep right after first cottages. Just after Barn House turn right up a public footpath signposted “Lustleigh Indirect”. Continue for 200 yards. As the track veers left take the footpath through the gate in front of you signposted Lustleigh.
2. Follow left hand hedge to the very bottom of the field, where it continues down a stepped gully. Beyond, an obvious path winds to the left into woodland, in the midst of which a footbridge crosses a brook. The clear path then continues, climbs to take you past the old railway line which originally ran from Newton Abbot to Moretonhampstead, then up to a lane. Turn left for just a few yards, then right up a bridleway. This steep ascent leads up to an imposing house called Rudge.
3. Turn left up the lane in front of Rudge to a T-junction called Rudge Cross. Turn left, then almost immediately right up a bridleway signposted to Hisley and Rudge Wood. The path steers to the left of the house at Hisley, then, after passing through a shooting gate, turns right and then left through the Hisley outbuildings. The path then contours the hillside through woodland, offering excellent views towards Trendlebere Down, Black Hill, and over the famous Lustleigh Cleave. Look out for the large boulders of Gradner Rocks above you on the left as you begin to descend.
4. The track heads downhill for just over half a mile, then doglegs back to the right. At its lowest point you are just above the River Bovey, which you will hear before you see it! (A short diversion from here to your left will take you down to the ancient and very picturesque Hisley Bridge). After this point, the track climbs steadily through Hisley Wood for three quarters of a mile. At the next path junction, follow the public footpath signposted to Lustleigh Cleave. Just after, pass through a gate and begin a steep climb uphill.
5. At the next path junction, take the path signposted to Manaton and Water. Follow for just over a half mile, ignoring any side paths. At the next signposted junction take the path signposted to Hammerslake and Lustleigh. Keep following the Hammerslake signs. The top of the slope is reached and then the path runs downhill at the edge of the woodlands. There are superb views across the Wrey valley at this point. As the path dips down it becomes narrow and rocky, arriving eventually at a gate which you should pass through. A gully path leads to the road a hundred yards further on. (If you are not very agile you can turn right at this point and follow the lane back to Lustleigh).
5. If you are okay with rough paths, turn left along the lane, then just a few yards on, right over a stile on to a footpath signposted Church Steps for Lustleigh. This winds left for a few yards, then makes a very steep and rocky descent. Take care and take it slowly as it is quite rough going. After a half mile a footbridge takes the path over a brook. And then up past a cottage on your right. Just after, to the right, a footpath goes off signposted Lustleigh. A few yards on, bear right, ignoring the path to the Manor House to the left.
6. After a quarter of a mile you emerge through a shooting gate (notice the huge boulders around and about). Cross to the bottom of the field (marked Lustleigh indirect). Pass through the gate and turn hard left. This path crosses a tiny brook using boulders and a tiny stone bridge. The path climbs to a junction, turn left, over a footbridge, then walk through Lustleigh’s lovely old orchard back to the village. Notice the rock, complete with throne, where the village’s May Queens are crowned. Enjoy the walk!