Five great winter walks in East Devon

Family Walking Dog Through Winter Woodland Smiling

Venture outdoors with the family this January - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The new year often ignites a renewed interest in health pursuits for many people yet an over-ambitious and full-on training regime is likely to be hard work and short-lived.  Realistic steps to better health can be enjoyed simply by putting one foot in front of the other and East Devon's beautiful rolling rural and coastal landscape brings with it a rambling playground that is a perfect environment for improving one's mental and physical wellbeing.

A local group always keen to pull on the hiking boots, whatever the weather, is the East Devon Ramblers.  We caught up with them for some of the best walks in the area at this time of year...

Couple With Dog Walking Along Coastal Path Talking

Take a ramble on the coast path - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

1. THE EYE SPY EASY FAMILY WALK
This fun family walk is around two miles long and although it is flat, it's not suitable for wheelchairs or pushchairs. For added interest, encourage the children to look out for signs of wildlife along the way.
Park in the village of Otterton. Walk towards the bridge over the River Otter, then take the footpath on the right heading north and follow the track adjacent to the river. 
Whilst you're on the path, look for the salmon ladder. This is a structure that helps fish swim upstream and enables them to leap up small waterfalls. This area of the riverside has also seen the recent reintroduction of beavers. 
Next, search for signs of beaver activity such as dams in the river made from branches, twigs and leaves, gnawed at trees, and beaver footprints in the mud.
Then, look for ducks bobbing along on the river Otter. Quiz the children on the difference between the colours of male and female ducks and see if they know what the proper name for a male duck is. 
Keep walking next to the river until you reach a wooden bridge on the right, then count the steps leading up to the bridge.
Cross over this bridge and then turn right. You should now be heading south.  Look skywards to catch sight of buzzards flying above you.
Continue following the river from the higher path and keep walking until you reach a gate. Pass through the gate and follow the path that will lead you back to the village of Otterton. In Otterton there is a village green with benches for a picnic or visit Otterton Mill or the King's Arms for refreshments. 

Family Walking Along Winter Beach Holding Hands

Stroll along Exmouth beach after a visit to Manor Gardens - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

2. EASY FAMILY WALK 
This flat and easy walk of around three miles is suitable for pushchairs and wheelchairs.
Start in Foxholes car park in Exmouth. Cross over the road to the green space and nature reserve called The Maer. 
Take the wide flat path to the back of the Maer heading west, then keep to the lower path until you reach the back of the Ocean building. Here you can see the mural of dinosaurs. Encourage the kids to count the dinosaurs.
Next, cross the road to reach the pavilion. On the west side of the pavilion, there is a new sensory garden. Look at the different plants and inspect the mural on the wall to find a blue tit, a butterfly, some hares and a snail.
Exit the sensory garden to the rear and continue walking west until you reach the waterwheel on your right and a road straight ahead. 
Cross over the road into Manor Gardens. Take a stroll around the gardens and then find the exit near the toilets. At this exit, cross the road via the zebra crossing and head left. 
This will lead you to the dinosaur paddock and the Strand where there are several cafes for a fuel stop. 
After visiting the dinosaurs, retrace your steps to Manor Garden. Walk back through the park and use the bottom left exit. Cross the road and walk a few yards towards Exmouth seafront. Cross over to the seafront and walk east heading back towards your car. Along the seafront you will pass a play park on your left and ice cream huts on the right.

Budleigh Salterton by Alex Walton Photography

Go on a walking treasure hunt in Budleigh Salterton. Pic: Alex Walton Photography - Credit: Alex Walton

3. WALKING TREASURE HUNT
This interesting trail incorporates a walking treasure hunt and is suitable for families with children aged eight years+.  It is around four to five miles long and starts at Budleigh Salterton Town Hall car park. Parking in the upper car park is free.  
This trail involves following clues that send you on a route around the outskirts of Budleigh, bringing in the seafront and cliff top.  The walk is largely flat except for one steep climb. The trail conveniently ends in the High Street where a hot drink and snack can be bought at one of the delightful tearooms. To download the details about this walk, its clues and answers, visit the East Devon Ramblers website www.ramblers.org.uk

Beer seafront

There's a seven-mile circular walk that takes in Beer and Branscombe - Credit: Alex Walton Photography

4. MODERATE TO CHALLENGING PUB WALK: BEER TO BRANSCOMBE. 
For this scenic seven-mile circular walk, start at the Beer clifftop car park. At the entrance to the car park, there is a signpost pointing towards Branscombe. Take this coastal path and get ready to be amazed by the magnificent views along the way.
Keep to the upper path walking over the clifftop. Keep going straight ahead until you start to descend to Branscombe beach. This will lead you to The Sea Shanty café for refreshments.
When you are ready to return, start by taking the same path heading back up the cliff but don’t go to the top. Instead, take the trail to your right that goes through the caravan site.  This footpath has a signpost and will lead you along a route underneath the Hooken Cliffs.  This path has steep inclines and can be challenging to the inexperienced walker. When reaching the clifftop, head right towards Beer. You will now be back on the same route as before. Walk past the car park and head down the hill back into the pretty fishing village of Beer. Stop for a hearty pub lunch or head to the pebbly beach for a picnic. Perhaps, buy some fresh fish from the fishermen selling their latest catch. 

Walk through the woods at Salcombe Hill near Sidmouth

Some of the walks in the area have steep inclines - Credit: Alex Walton Photography

5. GROUP LED WALK - BRANSCOMBE
For a group-led walk, which is rated as moderate to strenuous, why not accompany some of the East Devon Ramblers on an eight to nine mile hike on Wednesday, January 12, 2022?
You would be made to feel very welcome to join this walk, led by an experienced guide, and you may be pleasantly surprised at how quickly the time and miles pass by when walking and chatting to others in the group. 
The group will meet at Branscombe Village Hall car park for a 10am start. 
The ramble begins by heading towards Branscombe church. The walk follows the track behind the church and tackles a steep climb until the path levels out. The spectacular sea views will be the reward for the climb. Next, the route meanders through woodland and meadows and at certain points will pass through farmland where you could be lucky enough to see dozens of baby pheasants scurrying by, as well as a host of farm animals going about their daily routines. 
This walk will require wearing a pair of walking boots or sturdy footwear. The terrain will be uneven and it's most likely to be very muddy, but the walk will provide a gratifying breath of fresh air for both the lungs and mind.  There will be regular drink stops and time to refuel with a picnic lunch.

For more details about this walk, call the East Devon Ramblers on 01395 567450

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