Located in historic Bampton, on the edge of Exmoor, Bridge House makes an ideal base for…
Bampton is one of those places that isn't really on the way to anywhere. As you drive north towards Exmoor from Tiverton you might sweep past the turning to Bampton, making for Dulverton up the Barle Valley. But it would be a mistake not to go and have a look at this quiet, ancient town, situated at a natural crossing place on the River Batherm, and whose Saxon origins are still evident in the layout of its building plots, streets and almost circular churchyard. In 1258 a royal charter established St Luke's Fair, which survives today as a funfair and street market.
An agricultural community
Bampton held important cattle and wool sheep markets from the 14th century, and the various fine buildings in the town to be seen today are evidence of wealthier times in the 17th and 18th centuries, when the cloth industry was at its most prosperous. The town was famous for the Bampton Notts, said to be the finest breed of sheep in Devon, but which died out in the late 19th century. Before the coming of the railway in 1884 the sheep were herded on foot to Bristol, 60 miles (97km) away, for sale.
It's worth deviating from your route a little to have a look at the church of St Michael and All Angels in Bampton, dating in part from the 12th century, though an earlier one occupied the site. A late Saxon or early Norman window arch can be seen high in the south wall. An interesting feature here is the stone casing around two enormous yew trees in the churchyard, to prevent the sheep that used to graze here from being poisoned. The roots of these huge trees may be responsible for the cracks that have appeared in the south wall.
As the walk penetrates deeper into the Devon countryside, it reaches the tiny village of Morebath, essentially a farming community, as it has been since Saxon times. There are warm springs of chalybeate water here in a marshy basin, from which the name Morebath derives. The simple tower of St George's Church probably dates from the 11th century but its most unusual feature is the saddleback roof, part of the 19th-century restoration, which is unlike anything seen elsewhere in the county.
Leave the car park by the toilets, cross the road and turn left up the steep, narrow lane signposted 'Dulverton'. After a few minutes follow Exe Valley Way (EVW) signs right up a drive, left through a gate and up the field keeping right. Cross over the stile and go left down the track to cross a double stile in the top corner of the field. Turn immediately right over another then turn left through a tree-studded bank and right, uphill (with bank right).
Follow EVW signs over the next stile, straight across the field to a gate (top left) and cross the next field to an open gateway. Turn left, then immediately right, keeping the hedge left, to reach a metal gate just over the brow of the hill, with views towards Exmoor.
Continue downhill along the right field-edge to pass through a gate before Coldharbour Farm. Bear half left towards a gate; follow the signed path through fields, eventually through a big gate and along the left field-edge. A gate leads onto the lane.
The EVW goes left, but turn right up the lane to reach Blights Farm. Turn left up the drive towards Surridge Farm. Just past a bungalow turn left through a gate in the fence, then half right up the field to pass through another gate (barns right). Keep ahead through another gate, and follow the right field-edge through a gate onto a green lane (muddy in winter). There are views of Morebath ahead.
Keep ahead downhill and over the dismantled railway towards Ashtown Farm, then right down the drive. Turn right and follow the deep lane uphill past The Old Vicarage to the centre of Morebath village. Keep ahead to meet the B3190.
Turn right down the road, taking care. At Bonny Cross keep right (signed 'Bampton') to pass Lodfin Cross and the old station. When the road bends sharply right take the unsigned stony track ahead, slightly uphill.
At the hilltop a footpath sign leads right through a kissing gate. Keep along the right edge of the field, through a gate and over a stile, then straight on through a gate, over another stile. Go through a gate at the top of the next field, and turn immediately left through a gate. Cross the field diagonally right towards the left of two gates. Pass through the next field to a stile at the top, then down a narrow fenced path towards Bampton. Cross over the next stile and field to gain the road via a gate.
Cross over, turn left, then bear right down the old road into the town. Turn right towards the church and your car.
Fields, tracks and lanes, many stiles
Rolling farmland and wooded combes
Keep on lead in fields
OS Explorer 114 Exeter & the Exe Valley
Station Road car park by church, Bampton (donation)
By car park
WALKING IN SAFETY
Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.
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About the area
With magnificent coastlines, two historic cities and the world-famous Dartmoor National Park, Devon sums up all that is best about the British landscape. For centuries it has been a fashionable and much loved holiday destination – especially south Devon’s glorious English Riviera.
Close to the English Riviera lies Dartmoor, one of the south-west’s most spectacular landscapes. The National Park, which contains Dartmoor, covers 365 square miles and includes many fascinating geological features – isolated granite tors and two summits exceeding 2,000 feet among them.
Not surprisingly, in Dartmoor the walking opportunities are enormous. Cycling in the two National Parks is also extremely popular and there is a good choice of off-road routes taking you to the heart of Dartmoor and Exmoor. Devon’s towns and cities offer stimulating alternatives to the rigours of the countryside.
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