Cove to Stoodleigh

Starting in Tiverton at the Bolham roundabout, take the A396 towards Bampton. After 4 miles or so indicate left as soon as you see the Cove village sign. It's a sharp drop down on to a single track road. Pause and get out just before the small humpback bridge over the River Exe; look up and down to see kingfisher, grey and pied wagtail and perhaps sawbill and red kite in winter.cove

Continue UP THE HILL but slowly and at the end of April and the beginning of May bluebells decorate both sides of the road. Just after the house on the right look for early purple orchids on the nearside grass verge.

Turn left at the top, x Packs Lodge, and look for buzzards on the tops of telegraph poles lining this stretch for the next mile. Once past the stud stables and training track there are handsome views of some 5 or 10 miles, exceptionally good on a crisp, clear winter day. At x Stoodleigh Moor keep right and park after 20 yards. Start walking straight on in a westerly direction; it is a triangular route and will return you after a leisurely two and a half miles in less than an hour. The banks and hedges produce a wonderful variety of plants and flowers all the way round.

At x Ash turn left and continue on the road or take the public footpath, but there is attraction over the hedge on the right; a small herd of alpacas. Move gently at the approach to the gate and their inquisitive nature will bring them closer. 600 yards further on there is another public footpath, but, continuing on the road, winter heliotrope are massed on either side, tough enough to flower in both months straddling the new year.

Turn left again at x Vials Corner passing a mixed stand of Douglas fir and Sitka spruce and another left turn at x Kissing Gate. Look closely for mosses and lichens on the banks and trees on the house side. Halfway along, lean on the field gate for splendid views to Tiverton and beyond. Your last left turn is at x Cold Blow- and it's bitingly cold on a bleak winter day - and then a gentle descent back to the car (and coffee?).

DAWN CHORUS in May

Park at x Ash and take the road/track to the north going downhill, 1/2 mile towards a hamlet. Return the same way and then chose the footpath above as described. You will see and hear in full voice yellow hammer, chaffinch, goldfinch, siskin, warblers, corvid and pheasant in the extensive grassland to the right, green and great spotted woodpecker and and the varied musical phrases of the song thrush. Return home to a good fry-up!

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