A walk on the wild side: Thorndon Cross to Venndown Gate

Submitted by Richard Leonard of South West Riders

Locals and holiday makers alike may be looking for somewhere to go that is not going to cost a lot of money, just needs a bit of dry weather and will provide some healthy fresh air and exercise.

Distant DartmoorOne possibility is the super new bridleway that runs from the A386 some three or four miles to Venn gate on the A 3079. Originally part of the Southern Railway used by the Atlantic Coast Express, you don’t need a horse to enjoy it although it really is a splendid ride. Walkers and cyclists are equally welcome and there is a good long stretch running north from Thorndon Cross that can be easily negotiated with a push chair. In the first few weeks of opening it was enjoyed by over 400 walkers and 84 riders and use is steadily increasing.

For the more adventurous there are a number of existing bridleways and footpaths branching off that can provide circular walks through fields, forestry and a golf course.

To try the bridleway Thorndon Cross (four miles North West of Okehampton on the A3079 Holsworthy Road and clearly marked when you get there) is probably the easiest place to start. There is a small free parking area almost opposite the bus stop. There is also an excellent Bus Service (X9) during the day. From here cross the A3079 turn right and walk a few yards to find the bridleway running north from this side of the road and South on the other side.

Start by walking north and for the first mile or so the bridleway has a well made level surface and is suitable for people of all ages and ability. Dogs should, as always, be kept under control. For the more adventurous there are a number of bridleways and footpaths leading off from the main bridleway at various points along the route all of which can be used to provide circular walks. Gates on the bridleway found open should be left open while those that are found shut should be left shut.  Notice the complete absence of litter and leave it as you find it. Enjoy the spectacular view of Dartmoor behind you Exmoor to the north east and Bodmin Moor to the West. At one point all three can be seen at the same time.  Much of the surrounding area remains some of the most sparsely populated in the whole of Southern England and has a real rural feel.

Walking on the wild side, rabbits and if you are really lucky, deer, buzzards and even foxes can all be seen. Farm animals including Jacobs Sheep, Cattle and a really spectacular herd of ponies with their young can all be safely observed from behind secure fences but don’t be tempted to feed any of them.

Those wishing for a longer circular walk can turn right along the unclassified road at the Northern end and after approximately a couple of miles or so can walk along the bridleway commencing at Wadland Barton, in to the Wadland forestry plantation  and back through a choice of existing routes to the bridleway.   Alternatively walk half a mile further along the road and go directly in to the Wadland Plantation. Remember always to keep your dog well under control when walking through open forestry and farmland.

At a time when money is tight, walking can provide a splendid afternoon’s recreation and enjoyment for the whole family and the cost can be no more than the expense of getting there. So why not give it a try and if you enjoy it Come again and go south next time when some road work at the far end will get you to Dartmoor.

Happy walking!

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