Pretty circular woodland walk starting in Oakford village, Devon
- Credit: Simone Stanbrook-Byrne
If you go down to the woods today...you’re in for a real treat, on this delightful family walk from Oakford, writes SIMONE STANBROOK-BYRNE
Some walks are so appealing that, when you’ve finished, you just want to do them all over again. This is one such.
For the summer holidays there is much to entice on this short, family walk: a welcoming inn at the heart of Oakford village (youngsters also welcome) and a community field and playground round the corner to entertain the smalls – with a boules pitch for the less-small. Or, if a game of Pooh Sticks is your thing, there are also a couple of bridges spanning the fast-flowing, light-spangled Iron Mill Stream, as it rushes gleefully to its melding with the River Exe.
A gorgeous route through fields and woodlands of dappled sunlight, with the music of small streams and a spot of nature-watching. Does it get any better?
Walk up through the village, passing beneath the elegant fingerpost showing that the footpath is straight on. The Red Lion is on your right; continue past it, uphill, for 100m. Opposite the entrance to Manor Farm you find a wooden footpath sign fixed to a rounded stone wall on the left. Take this path, left off the road, and pass through gates, walking through the yard between barns. This early stage is likely to be the muddiest bit, so I hope you’re well-booted.
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Keep ahead from the buildings along the slightly bendy track which soon starts to climb. The track opens into a field – continue alongside the left-hand hedge. As the ground levels it reaches a yellow-arrowed gate ahead. Go through and continue straight on in the field beside the right-hand hedge, enjoying distant views diagonally left across the Exe Valley. You are descending towards the closer, tree-filled valley of Iron Mill Stream. Ever since I was a child I’ve wondered about the history behind this name – if anyone knows, I’d love to hear.
When you arrive down in the field corner cross the stile into Town Wood, a tranquil sylvan spot – if you ignore the associated pheasant shoot.
Cross the stile and bear right for about 10m then, just before a gate into a field go left (an arrowed post directs) heading downhill through the edge of the wood, fence to your left and a field visible to the right. Magical with dappled light in summer, the place can be full of cascading birdsong.
Look out for lustrous Dor beetles underfoot and don’t tread on them: as dung beetles they have an important job to do – we’d be ‘up to our necks in it’ but for their efforts. I also recommend a return visit to this woodland during the purple haze of bluebell season.
Follow the path down to a yellow-arrowed post within 200m of the stile – it’s a case of ‘spot the arrow’ through here. Follow its direction to the left, downhill on a clear path between fences, to arrive at another arrowed post in about 50m, which also directs left.
Stay with the occasionally-arrowed downhill path as it passes a small collection of past-their-best vehicles and arrives in a more open area with two tracks ahead. Take the right-hand, lower track, very soon passing the back of an artist’s studio. Keep going along the track, past Town Wood House cottages; you will hear the voice of Iron Mill Stream down to the right and in just over 200m you reach the road near the picturesque area of Iron Mill Bridge.
Turn right on the road to cross the bridge, then immediately right again along a signed footpath, passing through a gate and following the clear path through the wood, with Iron Mill Stream down to the right.
As you continue, Town Wood House cottages appear across the valley through the trees. About a third-of-a-mile from the gate the path passes a rushing tributary stream with a well-placed curvy bench, designed for a game of giant marbles by the look of it.
In another 250m a track comes down from the left near an arrowed post. Keep ahead, still on the clear well-made path. There are smaller paths that slip right amongst the trees, going down to the stream, but the banks are a place of wildflowers and rich wildlife, so, if you are tempted, tread lightly – the footpath doesn’t go right down to the water.
The main path continues above the stream that babbles down to the right, meandering back and forth. The path rises and falls for another third-of-a-mile, passing occasional arrows, before crossing a plank bridge to reach a fingerpost at a crossing track.
Turn right along the track, designated a ‘county road’, and in a few metres cross Iron Mill Stream on the footbridge. The adjacent ford is for wheels and horses – if you chance it watch out as the stones under the water are slippery.
From the bridge follow the track uphill through Nethercott Wood for just under half-a-mile, ignoring any paths off until you reach a footpath fingerpost on the right. Before you get there Nethercott Farmhouse is glimpsable through the trees on the left. At the fingerpost turn right and enter a field, walking through it with the hedge on your left, Nethercott Wood is now below to the right.
Keep on until the very end of the field, to reach a gate in the top corner. Pass through and continue beside the left-hand hedge for another 160m – it was along this stretch that we spotted a roe deer, bouncing through the field as she headed down to the shelter of the woods.
You reach a metal footpath-field-gate combo on the left. Go through and follow the direction of the arrow, heading obliquely right from the gate across the next field, passing a helpful, yellow-arrowed post part-way across. This line reaches a wooden kissing gate out to the road. Turn right and you’re soon back at The Red Lion.
All the info you need to complete the walk
Directions to start: Oakford is about 10 miles north of Tiverton, accessed off the A396
Start point: Outside The Red Lion, Oakford. Post code: EX16 9ES. Grid ref: SS910213
Parking: On road, with consideration for residents
Map: OS Explorer 114, Exeter & the Exe Valley 1:25 000
Terrain: Farm tracks, field and woodland paths. Road in the village. Some stretches can be muddy after wet weather so be well-booted
Distance: 2½ miles
Dog friendliness: Animals grazing; some stiles. The pub welcomes dogs
Exertion: Easy to moderate, a longish ascent near the end
Toilets: None en route
Refreshments: The Red Lion, Oakford, EX16 9ES (01398 351569)
And while you're walking look out for