Make your way along the Fisherman’s Path to see the salmon leap on this moderate walk near Castle Drogo.
Starts/Finishes: Fingle Bridge Car Park, EX6 6PW
Terrain: Moderate to difficult – footpaths with some gates, steep ascents and descents with railings and steps
Time: 1.5 – 2 hours
Distance: Approx 3.5 miles
Parking: Free parking on the side of the approach road to Fingle Bridge Inn
If you are reading this and we’ve had the first heavy rains of autumn then get your boots on and head out for one of nature’s truly magnificent displays – the running of the salmon up the river Teign.
There are a few places to watch this annual migration to the ancient gravel beds of the upper Teign that have served as the spawning grounds for as long as there have been salmon, but our favourite was designed by no less than Sir Edward Lutyens himself. This famous architect had an unusual brief from the Drewe family when commissioned to design Castle Drogo – please build a salmon friendly weir for our turbine house.
This encapsulating walk starts through the pedestrian gate on the right before the bridge. Go just right of the cairn and up a short rise to a contour path. After about 800ft you will go past Dan’s Seat and then through a lovely oak, holly and birch wood, past a post marked with a blue arrow and the number 11.
At the half mile mark you will start to climb – don’t forget to look back at the river for a chance of spotting the bright blue flash of a kingfisher.
This side of the bank is up and down, up and down – sometimes helped by log enforced steps – and the path can get a bit rugged so stout walking shoes are advised! The big climb on this part of the route occurs at the blue arrow pole marked 13. Here you’ve got 20 steps up steep stone ledges, with a handrail for support which brings you level with the forest canopy bringing more great views back down the gorge.
Having made it to the canopy top you will then descend a full 42 steps back down to the river bank! Not for the faint hearted but easily done thanks to the hand rail support again. You will now be about two thirds of the way up the upstream part of the walk and you should notice some new groundworks and overhead cabling leading across the river to the recently refurbished turbine house.
Almost there, you’ll now travel through a lovely bracken and oak woodland sweeping up the hillside on your right, with your first view of Drogo Weir spanning the river ahead. Linger at the weir for as long as you can. If the fish are running you will see them, normally at a rate of one a minute. They will burst from the white water, quite often backwards by mistake, until they get it right to leap from pool to pool up the weir and then into the large pool behind.
There is a lovely suspension bridge that takes you across that pool and affords more chances to peer into the rich reds and browns of the autumnal colours mirrored on the water below. Look upstream for the best views, and then it’s time to make your way back via the south bank.
There are ten steps up to a stone wall and over to a road-sized track on the other side – this can get very muddy so be warned. Make your way back along the track, through a magnificent five-bar wooden gate and up the right fork. Pause and look down on the turbine house where you should see the two original turning gears, now shiny black. There is also a sweep of grass, gorse and heather up to your right.
The final signpost will show a path to Deer Stalker Path. Ignore this and follow the signs to Fingle Bridge. You will get very close to the bank at times and should be able to see trout no matter what time of year, and of course the salmon if you are lucky.
The final few hundred feet of the walk are through a parkland setting with large meadows bringing you gracefully back to the bridge. Claim your reward in the Fingle Bridge Inn for a welcome refresher whilst swapping your salmon-spotting stories.
Find out more at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/fingle-bridge
Images: National Trust Images / John Millar & David Sellman