“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks” – Adventurer John Muir
People tend to talk about walking as a way to ‘switch off’ but I see it as a way to switch on.
I love walking for so many reasons. Health, nature, exploration, it’s an endless list. But I also enjoy knowing what I’ll see, hear, smell, taste and touch will be different every single time.
When I walk I feel more tapped into what is going on around me. Absorbed, almost.
In Devon there are so many opportunities to walk and so many variations: from a quick 15-minute lunchtime stroll to an all-day hike.
I woke up this morning to grey clouds chasing Storm Ciara as she took her leave. Like a bad guest at a dinner party she left an unwelcome trail of mess in her wake and then – joy! – the forecast told of a brief window of blue skies and sunshine.
I was itching to get outside but didn’t fancy straying too far or embarking on anything overly challenging.
Then I thought of the perfect place. Shaldon, a small village with narrow, twisting streets and back lanes which nestles on the banks of the Teign Estuary, has the perfect blend of urban, rural and coastal.
Shaldon is thought to date back to the early 1600s but a community has been in this area for much longer. The original settlement, Ringmore, is a short distance away but over the centuries silt washed down the river and the land was reclaimed.
There are many things to love about Shaldon: its abundance of pubs and cafes, the gorgeous views, the well-preserved heritage. But one of my favourite aspects is the (shhh, keep it a secret) hidden delight of Homeyards Botanical Gardens.
Built into the steep hillside overlooking the Teign Estuary and Lyme Bay, the gardens were created in the 1920s by a woman called Maria Laetitia Kempe Homeyard whose husband, William, invented and manufactured a cough syrup.
With the help of a designer Maria created an informal terraced arboretum with features such as a mini castle, a pond and rill garden and an Italianate rockery which today are lovingly managed by a group of volunteers.
I spent time wandering the paths, exploring the gardens and admiring the views. Once I’d done so, I pottered down through the narrow streets, crunched along the sands of the estuary and climbed up woodland tracks to The Ness for panoramic views of Teignmouth.
Afterwards I stopped in the jaunty Clipper Cafe. Overflowing with nautical-chic and set plumb on the edge of the estuary, the location could not be better for sipping on a coffee while drinking in a riverside view. I grabbed a first floor table and worked my way through a post-walk breakfast of smashed avocado on toast.
I thought about everything I’d taken in: from watching the fishing boat bobbing on the waves and hearing dogs barking, to the gritty touch of the seashells and the aromatic sea air in my nose.
As John said, you get so much more from being in nature than you think. Why not take yourself outside and see you what find?