The changing season can fill us with lots of feelings – nostalgia for those hot summer days, grumpiness because it’s dark at 4pm and weariness from smashing the snooze button for the eighth time because, well, it’s pitch black outside and I am nice and warm here thanks.
When we do drag ourselves outside, when the rain does stop to catch its breath, the colours of autumn are great. All those rusty reds, brassy bronzes and mustard yellows can’t help but lift your spirits.
I love wrapping up against falling temperatures to go crunching through leaves, collecting chestnuts and trying (but failing) to identify fungi. Here are a clutch of my favourite Devon walks.
Cockington, Torbay – this chocolate box rural village sits, incongruously enough, within the seaside town of Torquay and remains largely untouched by modern development. Its name is thought to derive from the Saxon for ‘settlement near the springs’ or ‘place of the red meadow’. Here, you explore medieval lakes, meadows, narrow lanes lined thatched cottages washed with walls of lime and cobb, an old water mill and a beautiful church nestling next to an arboretum.
Longer yomp: Waymarked paths extend walks for miles around this 450 acre estate. Follow the path into Manscombe Woods where you’ll find an ancient gamekeepers cottage. From the valley floor to rural vistas, autumn colours can be seen in all their kaleidoscopic glory and a good day, you can see as far away as Berry Head in Brixham.
Heddon Valley, Exmoor National Park: One early childhood memory is being here on a sunny day and seeing a peacock in full display. Since then, it always holds a bit of magic for me. Heddons Valley is like Game of Thrones set location: all gnarly woodland with babbling waters leading you to a pebbly beach, colossal cliffs and a pounding sea. The gentlest of walks takes you from the Swiss-style Hunters Inn to Heddon’s Mouth where there’s a 19th Century lime kiln as well opportunities to skim a few stones.
Longer yomp: Follow the South West Coast Path up sheer scree-filled slopes. East will take you towards Woody Bay with expansive views over the Bristol Channel to Wales. Go west for a more energetic walk along vertiginous cliffs towards Hangman Hill, near Combe Martin.
Lustleigh, Dartmoor National Park: The loveliest of places. Here, you’ll find lots of pretty woodland walks. Head through the orchard and pick a path through Lustleigh Cleave, a steep sided valley cut through by the River Bovey over which a bridge made from a tree trunk – called a clam bridge – can be found. Fingerpost signs tempt you to places such as Heaven’s Gate and Raven’s Tor.
Longer yomp: Climb up, up, up until you reach Sharpitor, a cluster of rocks from which you can see for miles and miles. It shouldn’t really be necessary to say ‘be careful’ if you decide to sit here a moment… yet, somehow, I feel I should.
Plymbridge Woods, Plympton: Years ago, this place would have been very different. It would have been noisy for a start. This area was mined for slatestone for use in some of Plymouth’s grandest buildings and tramways were created to transport it down the valley. Now, you’ll walk among oak, ash and sycamore trees and see ruins of old railway cottages, Brunel’s viaduct at Cann Quarry and old industrial workings. If you come back between February and July, you may see peregrine falcons.
Longer yomp: Pick up the Drakes Trail, named after the famous seafarer whose home was nearby at Buckland Abbey, and which forms part of the 102-mile Devon coast to coast route, to extend your walk by as much or as little as you please.