Walk - Codden Hill from Barnstaple Station
Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2020. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
- Turning right out of the station, turn right again after the filling station, bearing left afterwards to come out by the Leisure Centre. Turn right onto the footpath which runs from behind it.
- Coming to the iron railway bridge, use it to cross the River Taw. On the far bank turn right and continue upstream, passing beneath the main A39 road and continuing beside the river until the footpath turns left and heads uphill to the main road in Bishops Tawton.
Bishops Tawton is an interesting collection of buildings from many different periods, some of them dating back to medieval times, when there was a fishery here, and a mansion at nearby Hall, complete with stables, barns, a granary and a bakery, as well as a deer park, which would have been added later. The Bishop of Exeter had a palace here, too, until Tudor times (hence the village's name). The font in the church is Norman and its tower is fourteenth century. The two pubs date from the seventeenth century and the Law Memorial Almshouses were built in 1885 and are also listed buildings.
- Cross the road and turn right, walking through the village to where the Tarka Trail is signposted left down School Lane.
- Following the Tarka Trail signs, turn left at the bottom of School Lane and then immediately right, going straight ahead at the end to cross the bridge over Landkey Brook – one of the haunts of Henry Williamson's Tarka the Otter – and climb to the junction at the top.
- Turn left up Sentry Lane and walk past the houses and out into the open countryside, until you come to the footpath signposted through a field on your left.
- Climb the stile to drop downhill, still on the Tarka Trail, and follow it through two fields, descending to the stream and following the footpath into the woods. The Tarka Trail meanders along through the woodland beside the stream before turning right and then left through a field and around the edges of Venn Quarry, to come out on a road.
- Turn right on the road and walk uphill, continuing straight ahead at the junction to carry on climbing for about three-quarters of a mile, to the junction at Bableigh.
- Ignoring the road to your right, carry on to the next junction, walking past the two roads on the left to turn right onto the lane just beyond. Carry on past the house to the green lane which leads steeply uphill to come out by the car park on Codden Hill. Turn right to go through the car park and continue climbing gently, past the reservoir and on to the monument.
The route around the permissive paths on Codden Hill has been designated a Natural England conservation walk and is part of the Defra farm conservation scheme, which helps farmers and land managers to protect and improve the countryside they care for, as well as its wildlife and history. Grazing livestock have been reintroduced on Codden to restore the fragmented heathland, an unusual and declining habitat supporting a range of specialised wildlife. This is working farmland, and it is important to keep dogs under control.
From the top of the hill, there are panoramic views in all directions, from Dartmoor's granite massif in the south to the shale and sandstone of Exmoor in the north. On a clear day, it is possible to see the sweep of the coast all the way from Hartland to Minehead. There is a toposcope around the monument at the top of the hill which lists no fewer than 18 viewpoints around the compass.
There are also striking views of the area's whale-backed hills, of which Codden is the most dramatic, and the conical peaks which line up between here and Swimbridge. This landscape is the result of the huge forces brought into play by the collision of tectonic plates 300 million years ago.
Across the Taw Valley, the impressive white building is Tawstock Court, built in 1787 by Sir Bourchier Wrey, after an earlier building was destroyed by a fire. From the 1940s it was occupied by St Michael's School. Also visible, nearby, is the folly in Tawstock's Tower Park, built in the form of a lookout tower and thought to date from the eighteenth century.
The monument at the top of Codden Hill was erected in 1971 by the Rt Hon Jeremy Thorpe, North Devon MP and leader of the Liberal Party, in memory of his wife, Caroline, who died in a car crash in 1970. It was designed by Portmeirion architect Clough Williams Ellis and dedicated by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Crediton.
Also on the summit, below the monument, there is a Bronze Age bowl barrow with a surrounding ditch.
- Continue on the path past the monument which leads over the hill and starts to descend towards Bishops Tawton.
- Before you reach the bottom of the hill, take the track leading downhill to your right. Turn left at the junction, halfway down it, and then right at the bottom boundary, to go through the gate at the end of the track and come out on Sentry Lane again. Turn left to return to Bishops Tawton and either retrace your steps to Barnstaple Station or take the bus back to Barnstaple Bus Station to return to the Railway Station from there.
Barnstaple, two pubs in Bishops Tawton, pub in Landkey