The Dart Valley, Withleigh




3.75 miles (6kms)

150ft (45m)

About the walk

There are three, little-known but wonderful, areas of National Trust woodland – Cross's Wood, Thongsleigh Wood and Huntland Wood – tucked away in the secluded, undulating mid-Devon countryside to the west of Tiverton. This walk, very much off the beaten track, explores these lovely woodlands draping over the steep hillsides above the valley of the tiny River Dart, which runs into the River Exe at nearby Bickleigh.

There are several excellent riverside picnic spots along the route, and intermittent open areas where you can gaze across the valley and spend some quality time admiring that magnificent bird of prey so typical of this kind of landscape – the buzzard.


Watching a pair of common buzzards gliding through the sky has to be one of the most magnificent sights above the hills and valleys of the West Country. Using updraughts to soar overhead, their broad wings held forward and wing feathers extended, these most common of the larger raptors scan the ground below for their prey – small mammals, and rabbits in particular. Their characteristic 'whee-eur' call is frequently heard in hilly country, and if you're lucky enough to see one perched upright on a fence post you will notice it has a heavily barred tail, a small head and a black, hooked bill. With the decline in persecution by gamekeepers, and with a plentiful supply of rabbits, the buzzard population now runs to tens of thousands.

By contrast the scarce honey buzzard is one of the country's rarest breeders. It lives on a diet of wild bees and their honey, as well as on other insects. This rather refined food source may be supplemented occasionally by small mammals. The honey buzzard is only a summer visitor to southern England, and fewer than a dozen pairs attempt to nest each year. They are very unusual in this part of Devon but have been spotted over the Haldon Hills to the southwest of Exeter.

The woods, fields and banks encountered on this walk are full of interest all year round. As well as a glorious range of wild flowers, there is a fantastic babble of birdsong here in spring and summer, and a chance of seeing roe deer, and in the early evening perhaps a badger trundling along the path. You should also see dragonflies skimming over the sparkling waters of the Dart. The walk follows waymarked paths and tracks, parts of which (especially the bridlepaths) can be muddy at any time of year.

Walk directions

From the car park cross the stile/gate into a field, and turn right along the field-edge. Go left with the hedge and keep ahead. Descend steeply at the wood edge, heading for the gate and a stone water trough.

Go through the gate and straight ahead, keeping the hedge left. Go through a gate and continue alongside the little River Dart. Before the bridge turn left at the waymarker, through a small gate into a field. Turn right right along the hedge.

Leave the field through the next gate onto a broad track which rises through Cross's Wood. Soon after passing a bench a waymarker directs you left, off the track up a fairly steep path, which can be muddy in places. Continue to climb until the path reaches a wide track at the top of the woods, with a house, left.

Turn right to follow the track gently downhill, through a gate into an open area to zig-zag more steeply downhill between gorse, broom and bracken.

Pass Buzzards Cottage and follow the track left to join the riverside track at a gate, and keep ahead. Before the bridge over the river (right), turn left on a broad track. After a few paces turn right over a stile and plank bridge to enter a field.

Keep the high hedge on your left and walk through the field for about 250yds (229m) to reach a small gate into Huntland Wood. Follow the path steeply uphill. Eventually it joins a track; bear right. The track levels off through the beautiful upper wood before descending gradually to a lane.

Turn right downhill, cross the Dart at Worthy Bridge, and turn right at the junction (signed 'Cruwys Morchard'), eventually passing Thongsleigh Mill (right) and climbing. Where the lane bends left, go straight ahead through a gate on to a track. At a fork take the raised left path, eventually passing through a gate and into Thongsleigh Wood.

Continue along the track, with the river, right. At a big gate leave the wood and enter some meadows; keep along the right edge. In the field corner two metal gates lead to a lane. Turn right over Groubear Bridge and climb back up the ancient rocky lane to the car park.

Additional information

Waymarked paths, tracks (some muddy) and quiet lanes

Wooded valley and riverside meadows

Keep on lead in fields

OS Explorer 114 Exeter & the Exe Valley

A narrow lane (No Through Road) leads to NT Buzzards car park from B3137 near sign to parish church

None on route

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About the area

Discover Devon

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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