Jubilee Inn to Exford 

route diagram

Witheridge to Jubilee Inn
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The Walk

Today we leave the pastoral country of north Devon to enter Exmoor National Park, and also cross the county boundary into Somerset. The change is actually quite subtle. The theme of the last few days - farming country, woodland, lanes, footpaths and tiny villages - is still evident,  but now the villages and farms become a little fewer and further between, while upland heath, rough pastures and stone walls start to join the mix.

Exmoor is thus very different to Dartmoor, which  was a essentially a vast area of heath and moor on which it was possible to roam pretty much at will. Here you are constrained to rights of way but that is no disadvantage because Exmoor's scenery is much more varied. The morning of today's walk has the rolling North Devon countryside  on the menu once again as we amble through Yeo Mill and West Anstey, then we meet our first taste of wild heath as we cross the National Park boundary at Badlake Moor Cross. We cross into Somerset just south of Hawkridge and negotiate another stretch of hilly farm country to reach Tarr Steps. The delightful River Barle section follows as we hug the bank of the river through woods and pastures for the four miles to Withypool. Finally we cross another section of upland pasture to reach Exford, a horse riding centre and arguably the "capital" of Exmoor itself.

Walk Statistics:
Length: 13.5 miles / 21.7 km
Total ascent: 2316 ft / 706 m
Total descent: 2259 ft / 689 m
Estimated time: 5 hrs 4 mins

Map:  OS 1:25000 Outdoor Leisure 9 (Exmoor)

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Jubilee Inn

Easter New Moor

I'll start by assuming that you've just hopped off the Taunton - Barnstaple bus at Jubilee Inn and have walked back along the road to the west.

Just a hundred and fifty metres short of your point of emergence from New Moor Plantation yesterday, turn right (north) for a fieldside footpath. Although this locality is called Easter New Moor it's not actually a moor at all, just a pleasant pasture grazed by sheep. There's a stile or two, but just keep heading in the same direction with the hedgerow to your right, until you come out onto the next road. Take the road ahead of you towards Yeo Mill.

Easter New Moor and the Yeo Mill road

Yeo Mill

Yeo Mill

Yeo Mill is a most pleasant little place. Just before you reach the village itself you cross the course of an abandoned railway line,  a Great Western branch from Taunton to Barnstaple. The line closed in 1966, a victim of the notorious Beeching Report. Yeo Mill has a shop, which many walkers will find useful (in fact I'd encourage you to use it, many of these small rural stores are struggling and need all the custom they can get just to stay afloat).

Yeo Mill and the Wychwood road

There's a crossroads atthe north end of the village. Go right, for Wychwood. The road is a narrow lane between high hedges (so pray you don't meet any traffic). It heads east and rounds a couple of very sharp curves to cross a stream. After it straightens and levels out proceed for some 300 metres to the east. Just before the lane starts to go downhill again look out for a rough, steep and narrow lane to the left. This is our route, and takes us to West Anstey.


West Anstey

The approach to West Anstey

The steep, narraow lane is only a few hundred metres long but seems much longer. At the top of the rise you emerge from the lane into open pasture. Continue walking in the same direction. The route, a mix of short farm tracks and fieldside paths, is well marked goes diagonally down a northwest-facing slope to approach West Anstey from behind a tall hedge.

West Anstey

West Anstey is pleasant just as Yeo Mill was, excepting that is is much smaller and has no facilities. It's really just a handful of cottages and a church. A good mile of road walk now follows. The road, known locally as Badlake Lane, curves round to head south of west after leaving the village but, on the lip of a steep slope down to a coombe it bends sharply left again to head up to Badlake Moor Cross.

Badlake Lane

Badlake Lane heading north

As you climb along the lane it's worth casting a glance backwards, as the view across north Devon is particularly good.

Looking back


Badlake Moor Cross

At Badlake Moor Cross you reach the boundary of Exmoor National Park. Ahead of you is a rough track following the edge of Woodland Common, a patch of unimproved heath typical of Exmoor itself. The track diverges almost immediately but it doesn't matter which track you follow, they join up again before you reach the next road crossing.

Woodland Common

The vegetation on the heath is typical - a mix of heather, gorse and bracken. Follow the track, almost due north, to the next road crossing. The road is known as Ridge Road and, as the name implies, it pretty much follows a ridge top. Continue along the track directly ahead, across the road.

Ridge Road and Anstey Money Common

Anstey Money Common lays on the north side of Ridge Road. To your left is another patch of wild heathland although to the right, through the hedge, you can see a well tended grassy pasture. The difference is stark and it is an excellent illustration of how mankind has formed the landscape.

Anstey Money Common

The walking here is excellent - heathland always provides first class walking country in my experience. Once you top the slight rise at an elevation of around 350 metres a glorious view opens out ahead. You're looking at Hawkridge and the hills fringing the valley of the river Tarr.

First view of Hawkridge

The route of the Two Moors Way over Anstey Money Common

The route has been following the enclosure boundary of the common but, some 750 metres north of Ridge Road, look out for a bifurcation with a path heading off half left. It's easy to miss at first. The path is much narrower and rougher than the track you've just left but it provides some interesting walking as it threads its way across the heath, winding gradulayy down the slope. It curves around to the right - more so, in fact, than the map might suggest. As you proceed you are rewarded by the views of Hawkridge and its surrounding fields, not much over half a mile away.

The descent towards Hawkridge

The descent is gradual, and takes more time than you might think. Proceed carefully because the terrain is uneven. As you descend the vegetation becomes thicker and, eventually, Hawkridge disappears behind a screen of shrubs and trees.

Approaching the edge of the common

Finally, the path drops down one last steep slope to arrive at a back lane within a ribbon of woodland. Turn left onto the road and follow it through the wood for the short distance downhill to the bridge over Dane's Brook.

The road to Dane's Brook

Dane's Brook

Dane's Brook marks the county boundary between Devon and Somerset, so say goodbye to Devon; we've walked through it for some 90 miles. Although Somerset is a smaller county than Devon the route of the End-to-End onwards from here traverses its full length and also makes a couple of large doglegs; we have 160 miles of walking ahead of us before we reach Gloucestershire on the first day of the Cotswold Way. But all that is too much to contemplate at the moment. The banks of Dane's Brook make a very inviting lunch stop.


Slade Lane and the field crossing to Hawkridge

From the bridge there's a short but unpleasantly steep climb along the road, Slade Lane, until you reach the footpath to Hawkridge to your right. Slade Lane and Hawkridge have been in view for the last half hour as you descended the slopes of Anstey Money Common..


The footpath runs straight across the field, more or less on the level. There's no actual path but the line of the route is obvious enough; head just to the left of West Hollowcombe farm. The path reaches the edge of the village at a grassy dell under tree cover, and there's a nice little stone seat here on which you might like to park if you've not already had your lunch break.

A narrow lane leads into Hawkridge, the first village in Somerset.


Like Yeo Mill and West Anstey, Hawridge is a most pleasant little place. It has a shop, if you need provisions (and a cold drink or ice cream is just the job early on a warm summer afternoon). Turn left at the phone box in the middle of the village, and just by the post office turn right again over a stile into open pasture (third photo above).

Great Cleeve

Your route now lays through a succession of pastures. There's a fairly obvious path to follow. Down to your right is the valley of the river Barle. The path converges with and then runs along the edge of Great Cleeve Wood. Stay on this path until it reaches the end of a moorland road coming down from Hawkridge Common up to your left; at this point  the path goes through the rudimentary car park and then slightly left, down through the Row Down Wood to cross a stream.

Row Down Wood

Parsonage Farm

The track to Parsonage Farm

Directly on the far side of the stream crossing there is a path junction. Take the track to the right, which leads to Parsonage Farm. The map doesn't show it but the path is still running through woodland. The track climbs smartly away from the river and Parsonage Farm is almost on a hill top.

Parsonage Farm

Immediately beyond the farm is another path junction, and here you can avail yourself of an alternative route if you wish. The Withypool Hill track across Parsonage Down is a shorter, alternative route to the upcoming Barle Valley walk. It involves a fair road walk and is really only of interest to those who need to shorten the walk, perhaps due to time constraints. Otherwise it would be an excellent first leg of a circular route out from Withypool. I've not actually shown it on the diagram above.

The route from Parsonage Farm to Tarr Steps

Beyond Parsonage Farm the woodland falls away and you follow a series of fieldside paths along the eastern spur of Parsonage Down. Initially you have hedgerows to your right but some 700 metres beyond the farm the route strikes out across the middle of a pasture and then turns right at the far end to head downhill to the south (second image above). At the foot of the pasture it enters the wood above the Tarr Steps hotel.

Tarr Steps

Tarr Steps wood

The woodland section is rather beautiful and is another of those parts of the walk that seem much longer than it looks on the map. There are sounds of civilisation to your right, including the occasional vehicle; the map tells you that you are very close to a road but it's not possible to see anything. Eventually you come out onto a narrow lane. Turn left onto this lane and follow it, emerging after only 100 metres or so at Tarr Steps.

Tarr Steps

Tarr Steps is a well known beauty spot and the place won't exactly be quiet. The road fords the river Barle here at a point where it is shallow and wide. Beside the ford is Tarr Steps itself, a pedestrian clapper bridge of long sandstone slabs. The bridge is thought to date from the fourteenth century but its actual origins are not recorded. On the eastern side of the Barle is Tarr Steps Farm, beautifully situated at the top of the bank; it is open for refreshments in season and does an excellent trade. For those who wish to break the walk up, a minibus service calls at Tarr Steps in the high season on a route out of Dulverton; the route also includes Withypool and Exford. The service didn't make it into the Somerset public transport timetable for 2004 but it was advertised locally at Dulverton tourist information office.

The east bank of the Barle at Tarr Steps Farm

Barle Valley

The Barle Valley walk, Knaplock Wood

Now comes what is arguably the highlight of the day's walk. For the next four miles the Two Moors Way follows the east bank of the Barle along a series of wide meanders, through a mix of woodland and pasture. This is a very lovely stretch. It goes without saying that it is at its best in sunny weather, and unfortunately the sun deserted me on the afternoon I did the walk in August 2004. It will pay a return visit some day.

The Barle Valley walk

The first part of the walk runs hard by the riverbank in Knaplock Wood. The route varies between stretches of good track and rough path, the latter often dodging uphill to avoid sandstone outcrops and tree routes. A left and then a right curve bring you out into an area of open pasture, through which both river and path curve to the left (west) again. There follows a fairly sharp right turn opposite Westwater Copse, and a footbridge near here marks the strolling limit for those just visiting Tarr Steps. Beyond the footbridge the pedestrian traffic thins out significantly.

The River Barle walk, Bradley Wood

Our walk continues, through the localities of Worth Wood and Bradley Wood, hugging the curves and meanders in mixed woodland and grassland. Then, just north of Bradley Wood, the river describes a massive double bend; it curves a hundred and eighty degrees to the left through a distance of roughly half a mile, so that you end up walking south. Then, it curves back to the right for a full 220 degrees over the succeeding half mile, so that you ultimately find yoursef facing northeast. During much of this second curve the path runs along the edge of a pasture, the river being fairly well hidden behind a screen of trees.

The Barle Valley walk at Oakbeer Wood

At the northern end of this open section there's a possibility of going astray. The path leaves the riverbank and climbs a little way up the slope to your right, alongside the edge of Oakbeer Wood. This excursion away from the river is not shown on the map! At a fairly obvious point the path turns left across a stile into the wood and runs down to the riverbank again. You're within dense woodland as the river makes another tight curve to the left.

The Barle Valley walk opposite Batsom Farm

Once you're through Oakbeer Wood you're into the last mile of the Barle Valley walk, in my opinion the finest part. The scenery hereabouts is soft and varied, with plenty of interest on each bank. You walk along a series of beautiful river meadows, dotted with trees, and fringed by woodland to the right. This theme continues for most of the way to Withypool.

The Barle Valley walk below Bradley Hams


Stepping stones, and Uppington Wood

Once you draw opposite South Hill on the other bank things change quite suddenly. A row of stepping stones gives access to a local footpath running out to the far end of Withypool, and of course this makes them the key part of an excellent circular walk of just around an hour out from the village. Just past the stepping stones the path runs into Uppington Wood.

Uppington Wood and views of Withypool

The riverbanks are steep here and the path climbs a good way up the slope into the wood. It's a bit of an effort but the scenery is grand, especially the views that open out towards Withypool itself, now just a couple of hundred metres away. The path eventually disgorges into the narrow, steep lane that runs down into Withypool from Comer's Cross.

Withypool itself is lovely and worth a visit of half an hour to an hour if you have the time. That same minibus route that served Tarr Steps also calls here. Other bus services come and go year by year; there was a bus out from Minehead and and Dunster several times a day in 2003, but in 2004 it no longer ran. Check current timetables at the local TIC (tourist information centre) before you set out.

The last leg of today's walk is the two and a half miles into Exford.

Scenes on the permissive path leaving Withypool

You can leave Withypool along the road back up to Comer's Cross, but fortunately there is a more elegant alternative. A permissive path leaves this road, just two hundred metres west of the point we joined it at the northern end of Uppington Wood. You will need an up to date Ordnance Survey map to find the couse of the path, which runs along a series of field boundaries to the north and east of the village. Initially it's unpleasantly steep, particularly so if you've just enjoyed a Withypool cream tea. The path runs initually up through a ribbon of woodland and then along the west side of a hedgerow though three successive pastures. One field boundary is seen in the first photo above. At the third field boundary strike out diagonally to the right (the course of the path is becoming visible in the grass) and then continue to follow the path along more field boundaries to the east, north and east again.

Fieldside paths northeast of Withypool

Eventually the permissive path comes out onto the lonely upland road from Comer's Cross to Exford. Cross the road. Almost directly opposite is a gate that gives access to the last series of bridleways down into Exford, now less than two miles away.

Room Hill and Road Hill

Room Hill

Once through the gate you find yourself in a rough, unkempt pasture. The map suggests that you diverge gradually from the road. There are odd bits of path but it's easy to go astray; as you progress you should see a coombe opening up in front of you. Keep this to your right and you should be OK. The path sorts itself out and you should arrive at the path crossroads in the picture below.

Path crossing, Room Hill

Keep straight on for 200 metres to reach a "T" junction with a farm track. Turn right here and follow it, around the shoulder of Road Hill.

The Room Hill coombeRoad Hill track

Road Hill track

The track changes character quite dramatically in the space of around half a mile. At first it is enclosed between twin ribbons of hedgerow, but abruptly you leave the rough pasture behind and find yourself walking along the edge of an enclosed grassy field. Follow the field edge around a slight curve to the left, at which point it starts to run downhill to a clump of woodland.

Descending Road Hill

When you reach the wood take a left turn and follow the path past Court Copse. Exford comes into view down to your right. Initially the path runs over the shoulder of the hill, but soon it begins to descend rapidly into a coombe and re-enters tree cover.

Path junctionfirst view of Exfordabove Court Copse

Descending to Exford

At the foot of the coombe the path turns right to run between a hedge to the right and a wire fence to the left. After about 250 metres it swings to the left and goes downhill to run alongside the river Exe as far as Court Farm.

The approach to the River Exe


Court Farm and the road alongside the river

At Court Farm there's a choice of routes - you can either cross the bridge and walk along the riverbank into the village, or use the farm driveway to reach the public road at Monks Cross. The road gives access to the youth hostel. 350 metres further on from Monks Cross you reach the road bridge over the Exe and enter Exford.

Road from Monks Cross to Exford

The Youth Hostel, and scenes in Exford

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Witheridge to Jubilee Inn
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This page last updated 11th November 2005