A gentle walk around the Dartington Hall Estate, with a pretty pub loop.
Distance 5 miles (8km)
Minimum time 2hrs 30min
Ascent/gradient 164ft (50m)
Level of difficulty Easy
Paths Fields, woodland tracks and country lanes, 4 stiles
Landscape River meadows, parkland and mixed woodland
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 110 Torquay & Dawlish
Start/finish SX 799628
Dog friendliness Possibility of livestock in some fields; dogs (except guide dogs) not allowed within Dartington Hall grounds
Parking Opposite entrance to Dartington Hall
Public toilets Outside entrance to Dartington Hall and Staverton village
Notes Larger organised groups require permission from the Property Administrator (01803 847000) in advance
© AA Media Limited 2015. © Crown Copyright Licence number 100021153
1 From the car park turn left downhill. Follow the pavement until you reach the River Dart.
2 Turn left over a stile (no footpath sign) and follow the river northwards. This part of the walk is likely to be very muddy after rainfall. The Dart here is broad, tree-lined and slow-moving. Pass over a stile, through a strip of woodland and over another stile into the next meadow. At the end of that pass over a stile onto a short wooded track.
3 Walk along the river edge of the next field (with Park Copse to your left). At the end of that field cross a stile into Staverton Ford Plantation. Where the track veers sharply left go through the gate in the wall ahead, then right to follow a narrow, wooded path back towards the river. Keep on this path as it runs parallel with the Dart, becoming a broad woodland track through North Wood. When you see buildings through the trees on the right, leave the track and walk downhill to a metal gate and a lane.
4 Turn right to cross Staverton Bridge. At the level crossing turn right to pass through Staverton Station yard into a park-like area between the railway and river. Follow the path across the single-track railway and walk on to meet a lane by Sweet William Cottage.
5 Turn right and follow the lane to its end. Go straight ahead on a small gritty path to pass the Church of St Paul de Leon, who was a 9th-century travelling preacher. Turn left at the lane to pass the public toilets, and left at the junction to the Sea Trout Inn. After your break retrace your steps to the metal gate past Staverton Bridge.
6 Turn immediately right to rejoin the track. Follow this until it runs downhill and bends left. Walk towards the gate on the right, then turn left on the narrow concrete path. The houses of Huxham's Cross can be seen right. Keep on the concrete path, which leaves the woodland to run between wire fences to meet a concrete drive at the Dartington Crafts Education Centre. Follow the drive to meet the road.
7 Turn left to pass Old Parsonage Farm. Keep on the road back to Dartington Hall, passing the gardens and ruins of the original church (right), until you see the
car park on the left.
You could be forgiven for thinking that Dartington is really nothing more than what you see as you cross the roundabout on the A382 leading south from the A38 to Totnes - just somewhere you pass en route to the South Hams. But there's so much more to Dartington than that, and the story behind 'the vision' of Leonard and Dorothy Elmhirst, who bought the estate in 1925, is a fascinating one. This walk circles the estate and you should allow time at the end to visit its central buildings.
Dartington Hall was described by Nikolaus Pevsner in his classic book on the buildings of Devon as 'the most spectacular medieval mansion' in Devon. The great hall and main courtyard were built for John Holand, Duke of Exeter, at the end of the 14th century, and although all the buildings have since been carefully restored, to walk through the gateway into the courtyard today, with the superb Great Hall with its hammerbeam roof opposite, is to step back in time. Arthur Champernowne came to own the manor in 1554, and made various alterations, and the estate stayed in the hands of the Champernowne family until 1925. Further restoration work was carried out in Georgian times, but by the time the Elmhirsts came on the scene the Hall was derelict. Modern visitors can explore the Great Hall, courtyard and gardens, providing they are not in use, in return for a moderate fee.
St Mary's Church can be found on the northern edge of the estate just off the Totnes road. You'll pass the site of the original estate church just to the north of the Hall. It was demolished in 1873, leaving only the tower, which can be seen today. The new church, which is wonderfully light and spacious, was built in 1880, following the exact dimensions of the original building, and re-using various items from it, such as the south porch with its lovely star vault, the chancel screen, font, pulpit and roof. A tablet in the outer east wall records the rebuilding and subsequent consecration of the church by Frederick, Bishop of Exeter. The Dartington Hall Trust, a registered charity, was set up in 1935, and evolved from the vision of Leonard Elmhirst and his American wife Dorothy Whitney Straight, who bought the derelict hall and 1,000 acres (405ha) of the estate and set about making their dream reality. He was interested in farming and forestry, and in increasing employment opportunities in rural areas. She believed passionately in the arts as a way of promoting personal and social improvement. Their joint aim was to provide a foundation where both dreams could be realised simultaneously, and Dartington Hall today, home to Dartington College of Arts and a whole range of other educational facilities, provides the perfect setting.
Spend some time at the Cider Press Centre. This is a wonderful place to browse and shop. There's farm food, a stationery and bookshop, woodturning, great refreshments, a cookshop, Dartington pottery shop, toy shop and plant centre. It's the perfect place for present shopping all year round. Open seven days a week, and parking is free.
The thatched and beamed Cott Inn (established in 1320) is signposted from the roundabout in Dartington village and has a pretty garden, accommodation and good food. There are two excellent eateries at Dartington Cider Press Centre - Cranks vegetarian restaurant, and Muffins, which provides light lunches in the open air. Within the grounds of Dartington Hall there is the White Hart restaurant and bar, where you can enjoy a drink in atmospheric surroundings. The 15th-century Sea Trout Inn at Staverton has very good food, and was known as the Church House until 30 years ago, when it was renamed by the landlord in celebration of a successful fishing trip on the Dart.
You can't fail to notice the steam trains running along the opposite side of the river. This is the South Devon Railway, which runs from Buckfastleigh to Totnes. Staverton Station has featured in many television programmes and films, such as The Railway Children. The station at Buckfastleigh has old locomotives and rolling stock on display, a museum and café, riverside walks and a picnic area. Nearby is Buckfast Butterflies and Otter Sanctuary.