This East Devon route has everything you could want from a countryside walk – riverside relaxation, enchanting woodland, far-stretching hilltop views and quaint thatched cottages.
Starts/Finishes: Just across the northernmost bridge out of Colyton via King Street (GR: SY244942)
Distance: 2.5 miles approx..
Time: 2 – 2.5 hours
Difficulty: Strenuous due to one long climb up to Ox HIll
Terrain: Muddy riverside path, bridleway, rocky/rooty woodland tracks and tarmac lanes – good footwear advised
Embrace winter and blow away the cobwebs by taking on this challenging route in the heart of East Devon’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
There is parking available immediately on the left, just on the other side of the picturesque bridge over the River Coly as you follow King Street north out of the village. You will hear the sound of rushing water passing under the bridge and will see a kissing gate and signpost markers for the East Devon Way, of which the start of this walk follows.
Go through the gate and follow the well-worn path taking you alongside the beautiful River Coly (keeping the river to your left). The views, considering you’re at low level, are superb. Suitable footwear is advised as this first section of the route can be quite muddy.
Make your way through the gate, passing a white bench and into a narrow, short stretch of woodland close to the river bank before emerging through another gate at the other end and back into the field.
Continue past the small weir in the river to another gate and across a small gated footbridge. At this point, follow the path around to the left following the course of the river. This section is very peaceful and great for dog-walkers with dogs who like playing in the shallow water.
Follow this path as it curves around to the right towards a footpath marker sign you’ll see ahead in the distance. Go through the gate just after this point and you will see a large, stepped footbridge over the river. Make your way over the bridge and then follow the path back on yourself, now with the river on your left, and through another gate before bearing right towards a set of double wooden gates.
Here you will begin the strenuous ascent uphill, first along a bridleway and up to the striking Heathayne Farm. Follow what is now a more metalled track uphill to the left until you reach a lane. You will need to cross over this lane, following the track that then crosses another lane very soon after and takes you to a metal farm gate. Next to this is a wooden kissing gate which you will head through into woodland.
Now you’re on the main stretch of the climb – a rooty, rocky but hard-packed track that meanders uphill through the woodland. You’ll see glimpses of East Devon countryside as you pass silver birch trees and listen to the sound of birdsong. If you’re as lucky as me, you might spot deer running through the woods and over the hedgerow into the fields.
After 15-20 minutes of climbing you’ll reach a stile into a field. Go over this and follow the path through the field steadily uphill to the highest point of Ox Hill where you will reap the rewards of your labour as you take in the views for miles.
Turn left here and follow the path that soon disappears, following the hedge line downhill to your left as you go. It’s level from here and you can enjoy more views as you pass a gated area for cattle feeding on your left and then just past this, turn left to go over the stile placing you onto a lane with grass in the middle.
Turn right to start your descent back down to the town and follow this lane downhill towards the main Sidmouth to Colyton road that you likely came in on. Next, turn left and walk down the road (remembering to walk on the right against traffic) for a short way until you see a wooden gate deep into the hedgerow on your right.
Follow the track through the fields and through more gates, keeping left at all times as you snake steadily down through rolling hills. At the bottom, you will go through two wooden gates before reaching a lane and continuing further down the hill.
At the junction, go straight ahead through the 30mph speed limit signs until you reach a residential area. Turn right and immediately left down the road marked ‘no entry’ to vehicles and you will eventually reach the main road again. From here you will see Soanes Cycle Shop where you can turn right and then left where you will end up in the heart of Colyton.
Now you can discover the historic market town with its typically Saxon street arrangement and quintessentially English cottages, inns and independent shops. Be sure to stop off for a well-earned pub lunch at The Kingfisher or The Gerrard Arms, or if you’re looking for something lighter head to either the dog-friendly Colyton Garden Shop café or the Merchants Tearooms for some traditional homemade goodies.
Pass the church along the rail-fenced path, turn left at The Gerrard Arms and then turn right at the end of the road to return you back to where you began.