28. East Devon: Kenton -Turf Lock - Exminster (circular) - 8.5 miles - OS Explorer 31
Easy going but can be boggy in parts
Some think the Westcountry starts at Exeter, where sandstone gives way to granite and slate. If that’s you, this walk starts on the border. Beginning at the car park by the triangle in Kenton, cross the A379, taking the path to the right of the building in front. There’s a stream (or is it a leat?) on your left as you walk.
Keep straight ahead and eventually you’ll arrive at a track. Ignore it and continue ahead to a fenced path through the Powderham Estate.
With luck you’ll see deer, including stag, grazing between the ancient, gnarled trees with the river exe the distant backdrop. Pity about the fence. Pity that so much land should be blocked to the public. You can see a little of Powderham castle to your right and, a little further on, Belvedere tower to your left.
Emerging at a few thatched cottages alongside a back entrance to the Powderham Estate, take note of where you are because you’ll be retracing your steps from here later on. For now, turn right down the lane, toward St. Clements Church. Shortly after passing it, turn left to parallel the railway line and river Exe, and, after crossing a footbridge over the line, take the high path by the river wall. The views are better and there’s no risk of being skittled down by a distracted cyclist trying to shave 0.5 seconds off his best time - at any cost. It brings you to one of Devon’s gems, the Turf Lock Inn. Good ales and simple but good food. They close in winter but if you do this walk from April onward, make time to stop and enjoy. The building, the river, the grounds, the boats, it's lovely.
This is where the canal to Exeter starts. It has an interesting history and is a good example of the swing of power from feudalism to capitalism. Fairly large boats could navigate up to Exeter until the local nobility stuck up a weir in the 13th century so they could charge transit fees to the city. By the 16th century times were a changing and, fed up with the hassle and fees, new-money-merchants built a canal, the first in England since Roman times. It was extended over the years with the Turf to Topsham section dating from the 19th century. If you’d like to know more, check out this website: http://www.exetermemories.co.uk/em/quay.php
By the Turf you’ll see a gate and path off to the left, diverging from the cycle track. Go through and across the field (could be muddy) to a stile and footbridge (to the right of trees ahead). Follow this as it meets the railway line and shadows it. This is Exminster Marshes, a prime bird watching area. It ends at a car park and lane. Go left over the railway bridge with the Swan Inn to your left. If you had a beer at the Turf, behave and keep on walking, although Toby’s reclamation yard by it is worth exploring. The lane comes to an Island. Take the second left into the Exminster.
The most beautiful things in Exminster are the Morgan cars lining the forecourt of Berrybrook Motors. Further up there's a Tesco’s if you need a coffee and sandwich before the final leg. We did.
Heading back, passing Berrybrook Motors, take a right up Exminster Hill (a lane). Once past the Golf course, it’s a lovely, with great views to the river and few cars. A rainbow kept us company.
At the crossroads with the main A380 carry straight on over down an even prettier lane, eventually arriving at the rear entry to the Powderham estate that you passed outward bound. Retrace your steps here back toward Kenton. At the end of the fenced path there’s a track. Turn right here to the sawmill and check out the craftsmen/women plying their trades.
After that, carry on along the track which turns into a lane and, just before it joins the A380, turn left down another lane. Carry on into Kenton to a T junction, turning right here to the A380 and then left to your car.
A long walk but easy going all the way and a beautiful part of Devon. If you have any energy left, the red sandstone church towering up just back from the car park is worth exploring. 15th century, it is surprising large and grand for a diddy village. More info. on it here. https://www.britainexpress.com/counties/devon/churches/kenton.htm