19. East Devon: Around Membury - 3.5 miles (Circular) - OS Explorer 116
A walk doesn't have to be spectacular. Meandering through the countryside surrounding a pretty east Devon village is as good a way to spend an afternoon as any.
Start at Membury village car park (free whoopee). Opposite is the village hall and a footpath sign pointing left toward the church. Although closed, we dallied to admire St. John the Baptist's gargoyles and impressively tall tower. Restored over the centuries, the earliest bits are Norman 12th (the chancel).
Turn right at the far end of the church and follow a track west that leads to a T junction and a footpath sign straight ahead into a field. Take the footpath.
Being spring, we had lambs for company.
Through farm gates you end up on a farm lane. Go left here and left again onto a path into narrow woodland as the lane turns sharply right (there’s a footpath marker).
Stay on the main path until you come to a rough lane/track leading to Yarty Farm. Turn right here toward the farm.
Before you reach the farm, there's a footpath sign on your left pointing into a field. Take this and cross diagonally to the far right corner. More lambs! Through a farm gate, follow the river Yarty, as unassuming and relaxing as the countryside.
It eventually comes out at Beckford Bridge, a lovely old stone bridge worthy of ye olde worldly font it gets on the O/S map, but don't leave the field. Looking left you'll see a footpath sign by the hedge in front, pointing east. Follow that, keeping the house ahead to your right.
Crossing a wooden footbridge, you emerge onto a track with a lovely country lane straight ahead. Follow it until it comes to Lewsley Lane (first right). Lewsley Lane leads appropriately to Lewsley Farm. Go left through its double gates at the far side, then left again following a footpath sign into another field. More sheep!
At the end of this field another gate. Right here for lovely views to the valley Membury decided to nestle in. Membury got its name from an Iron age fort nearby built by the Dumnonii (a Celtic tribe of Dumnonia, now Devon) to keep those buggers from Dorset out. It didn't work against the Romans, or the Anglo-Saxons, or the Normans, or second homers, but you can't blame them for trying before retreating to Cornwall.
More sheep greeted us at another gate to another field but, unusually, brown ones this time. They looked almost apologetic.
Keeping on ahead, the final treat is a substantial old mill under renovation, with an intact water wheel. Here you come to the lane and turn right to return to Membury.
A Sunday walk that's as relaxing as a nap. No pub or cafe tho. But Stockland is close by and I noticed as we drove through that the Kings Arms (long in cobwebs) has reopened. I knew the villagers were clubbing together to buy it, and it looks like they've succeeded. Good for them! I look forward to giving them some of my business when lockdown ends.