A hard - yet rewarding - exploration of the wooded Bovey Valley.
Distance 5 miles (8km)
Minimum time 3hrs
Ascent/gradient 754ft (230m)
Level of difficulty Hard
Paths Steep rocky ascents/descents, rough paths and woodland
Landscape Deeply wooded river valley and open moorland
Suggested map aqua3 OS Outdoor Leisure 28 Dartmoor
Start/finish SX 774815
Dog friendliness Dogs can run free but take care with livestock
Parking By side of lane at Hammerslake
Public toilets Kes Tor Inn at Water
© AA Media Limited 2015. © Crown Copyright Licence number 100021153
1 With Lustleigh village behind you, walk straight ahead from your car and turn left up a narrow rocky path between the houses 'Loganstones' and 'Grove', following bridleway signs 'Cleave for Water'. At the gate go straight ahead signed 'Hunter's Tor' and climb steeply up to the top, where there are wide views over the moor.
2 Turn right through oak woodland; the vegetation clears, and you follow the path straight on over the highest part of the ridge (1,063ft/324m) and across the remains of the Iron Age fort to reach Hunter's Tor.
3 Pass through the gate right of the tor and follow the signed path right to meet another signed path left. Follow the track downhill through one gate, then immediately right through another and downhill towards Peck Farm. Go through the gate and straight on down the concrete drive.
4 Shortly after turn left through a gate signed to 'Foxworthy Bridge' and continue along a wooded track. Pass through two gates to reach the beautiful thatched hamlet at Foxworthy; turn right.
5 Almost immediately go left, signed 'Horsham'. Follow the track into mixed woodland through a gate. After 5 minutes or so follow signs right for 'Horsham for Manaton & Water', to reach the River Bovey. Follow the riverbank left for a few paces to the crossing (on boulders) at Horsham Steps.
Note: If you are concerned about crossing the river at Horsham Steps, don't turn left for 'Horsham' at Point 5, go right down the drive, which crosses the river. Take the first footpath left and follow the river until you rejoin the main route at Point 6.
6 Cross over, taking care, to enter a nature reserve. Follow the path steeply uphill through woodland and over a stile. Keep left at two junctions then pass through a gate by two pretty cottages (note the tree-branch porch) following signs for 'Water' through Letchole Plantation.
7 At the crossroads of tracks turn right ('Manaton direct') to meet the lane by cottages at Water. Take the second lane right to the Kes Tor Inn.
8 Retrace your steps to the crossroads. Go straight on downhill to a split in the track. Keep left through a gate and continue down the steep, stony path (signed 'Clam Bridge for Lustleigh Cleave'). Cross the river on the split-log bridge and proceed steeply uphill to the signpost left 'Lustleigh via Hammerslake'. Go left and left again at the next signpost (very steep). Pass a large granite boulder and follow the signs for Hammerslake. At the gate turn right down the rocky path back to the lane at the start.
Lustleigh is one of those perfect Devon villages that everyone just has to see. The rose-covered cottages and pub cluster tightly around the green and 13th-century Church of St John the Baptist. The quintessentially English cricket field, rushing streams and boulder-strewn hillslopes, all nestling together in a deep wooded valley beneath the eastern fringe of Dartmoor, make this a real magnet. But Lustleigh has a problem (or perhaps an advantage?) - there is no car park, meaning that many people weave their way through the cars parked around the church and drive off again in frustration. But there is another way of getting a feel for the real Lustleigh: drive on through the village, park, and walk back in.
From the ridge approaching Hunter's Tor (after Point 2) you get a superb 360-degree view. To the south you can see the coast at Teignmouth. Following around clockwise you can pick out the familiar outline of Haytor, then Hound Tor (resembling a pack of hounds frozen in flight), Hayne Down and Bowerman's Nose, Manaton church and rocks, Easdon Tor, North Bovey, the Manor House Hotel, then Moretonhampstead with Mardon Down behind. Continuing round there is the stark outline of Blackingstone Rock then, far beyond on the Haldon Hills, the white tower of Haldon Belvedere, a folly erected in 1770 by Sir Robert Palk in memory of Major General Stringer Lawrence, the 'father of the Indian army'.
Lustleigh still holds a traditional May Day ceremony, which takes place on the first Saturday in May. The festival had died out, but was revived in the early years of the 20th century by Cecil Torr who, while living at Wreyland, wrote his famous three-volume work Small Talk at Wreyland, a charming record of rural life. The crowning ceremony at that time took place at Long Tor on the outskirts of the village. The May Queen, dressed in white and garlanded with spring flowers (and elected from the local children - candidates must have danced around the maypole on at least five previous occasions) leads a procession around the village beneath a canopy of flowers which is held aloft by other Lustleigh children. She is then crowned on the May Day rock in the Town Orchard. A new granite throne was set in place on the rock to celebrate the Millennium, and the names of recent May Queens are carved below.
The Kes Tor Inn at Water has a range of bar snacks. On summer afternoons cream teas are often served at Manaton village hall, near the church. The thatched 15th-century Cleave Inn at Lustleigh has a delightful garden and serves excellent food. The Primrose Cottage Tearooms provide the perfect setting for a Devon cream tea.