The morning was cool, with big clouds sailing overhead building into bars of grey and giving way to shafts of sunlight.
I’d met a friend for a run and had plotted out a 10k route around Ashburton; a lumpy plod in a north-east direction past fields, farms and a working quarry.
This attractive rural town was designated a Stannary town in 1285. Stannary (derived from Latin: stannum meaning tin) law governed tin-mining in Devon and Cornwall; an industry worked for hundreds if not thousands of years. Some say as far back as when Romans made their presence felt.
Ashburton is one of four Stannary towns in Devon: places where refined tin was weighed, stamped and sold on and by the early 1500s more than 40% of the county’s tin was sold through the town. Imagine the scenes of our medieval ancestors in this busy trade centre.
Alas, tinning has long gone although the town has retained oodles of character. It is now home to eclectic independent shops, more than 10 Instagram-ready antique shops and good cafes, restaurants or pubs. One, the Old Exeter Inn, established in 1130, is where Sir Walter Raleigh was arrested and charged with treason before he spent 12 years incarcerated in the Tower of London.
Leaving history behind, we ran past the town hall and beside a small River Ashburn before swinging right into Terrace Walk, an elevated well-trodden footpath with superlative views towards Dartmoor’s open moorland. We slipped and slid around, the mud being like tramping through sticky toffee pudding, before going left onto country lanes where farms sell vegetables and meat at the gate.
At a crossroads begins an uphill climb passing an old woollen mill (wool was another big industry in the town) known as ‘the Coffin Mill’ on account of its shape with the gurgling river not far away. We admired awhile before plunging upwards until we crested the hill.
Heading right we came to Owlacombe Cross where 1840s tithe map records mining activities. In a field, a horse gives a whinny of welcome and the clouds crack open to pour sunshine.
We enjoyed a long descent, talking lots and pressing into hedges so cars can pass before taking a sharp right onto a public footpath behind a limestone quarry. Turning east to pick up another footpath we meet a cheerful lady walking a little dog with speckly ears. As it turns out, we found most people in Ashburton to be cheerful.
We splodge on, the hum of the A38 forming background music until we reach a path back to Terrace Walk. The winter wind coming down from the moor is enough to sting cheeks and tickle noses.
Then it was back into town for coffee, cake and post-run retail therapy.
Start and finish: Kingsbridge Lane car park, TQ13 7DX (short and long stay).
Getting there: Car: A38, leave at Peartree, follow parking signs. Bus: Regular Stagecoach South West services from Exeter, Newton Abbot, Torquay and Plymouth.
Run: With town hall on left run roughly 400m then look for public footpath sign to Terrace Walk on your right (it is a bit obscured) and follow path across the contoured field and into lane which brings you out onto a road. Left; follow road to crossroads. Turn left into Rew Road past Cuddyford Farm. Right at Rewlea Cross. Follow road with lovely woodland on left and River Ashburn a little way away on your right. Steadily uphill, past Rushlade to Halshanger Cross. Right; in 760m at Owlacombe Cross, turn right. Stay left at fork to go steeply downhill past a high stone wall on right. Right at public footpath sign (partly in hedge) along asphalt track past a farm. Follow public footpath sign behind quarry and school. At stone steps, bear left. In 300m turn right at public footpath sign. Follow for 415m to road, then carry on the pavement towards Ashburton. In 230m turn right down a asphalt path. Cross road to pick up public footpath opposite and cross another road to pick footpath up again. It climbs steeply to a kissing gate where you rejoin Terrace Walk. From here, retrace steps to the town hall.
Grading: Moderate. Essentially this is a straight ‘up to the top’ and back run (or walk!)
Pit-stop: I love the Old Library but there are plenty of cafes/pubs.