Thursday 7th June, 2012
On Thursday morning I was up and ready very early so I could drive to Bideford and catch the ferry to Lundy for the day. Because of the gales the ferry was cancelled. Even though I’d phoned the night before and on the morning itself, the voicemail message just said to turn up and then they’d let us know if the ferry would be sailing or not. As it wasn’t, I was up early with no plans for the day. I decided to walk from Barnstaple to Instow. I should have done this on the same day as my Braunton to Barnstaple walk but had cut it short due to sore knees.
I drove to Barnstaple and parked up at the Leisure Centre. I’d decided to walk to Instow and catch the bus back. Usually I like to leave my car at the end of a walk so I’m not clock-watching, but the bus timetable showed that buses run every 15 mins throughout the day so catching one back shouldn’t be a problem.
Leaving the car park I walked through a retail park past a big Tesco Extra and turned towards the train station. Following the road past the station I went through a subway to emerge on the path proper. This path is a former railway track and runs alongside the River Taw in pretty much a straight line all the way to Instow.
It was raining quite heavily but there were still a few people out and about. I was passed by several cyclists as well as a few walkers. There was not much to see along the path (maybe due to the misty rain) and it could have got monotonous, but I was quite enjoying the freshness of it.
After about 2½ miles I came to Fremington Quay. This quay was used to load boats with clay that had been transported across Devon by train. It was then exported around the world. The former train station is now a cafe. I wasn’t in particular need of rest stop but it looked inviting and I had plenty of time. I went in and plonked myself on a comfy sofa after balancing my dripping jacket on my walking poles.
The cafe was quite busy which surprised me until I realised there was a car park at the back of it. The walls were adorned with old black and white photos picturing the former industry. One photo showed a group of white workmen with what seemed to be a black workman at the end of the row. This would probably have been unheard of then. The caption explained that the man was actually covered in coal dust disguising his appearance. In the old black and white photograph it wasn’t really possible to tell the difference.
The station building has a low lookout tower adjoined to it. I went up to the top but couldn’t see much because of the weather. There were information boards on the birdlife that could be seen, but I didn’t see much of that either.
After an un-needed, but much enjoyed, cream tea I set off into the rain again. I walked about a mile and a half further before turning off the old railway and into a wilder area known as East Yelland Marsh. This is the area where the rivers Taw and Torridge meet to finish their journey to the sea together. A firm, but narrow path winds through the marsh sticking as close to the river as possible. It passed a jetty that was no longer in use and was being reclaimed by vegetation.
Finally the path led through sand dunes and on to the beach which I then walked along to reach Instow. I found the bus shelter which had been warmed by the bit of sun and had a very comfy bench and waited about 10 minutes for a bus to take me back to Barnstaple.
When I arrived in Barnstaple I walked down to the river but instead of crossing over the main bridge to get back to the car park I walked along the river bank to the bridge further down and crossed here. I still wasn’t sure if this was the bridge I should have crossed when I walked here from Braunton and I didn’t want to miss out on a bit of the walk.
The walk took me past a park and playing fields and was quite scenic. When I walked back along the other side I walked through trees and then alongside a building site. The views to the other side of the river were lovely though.
Miles walked = 7.5 plus the extra bit in Barnstaple at the end.