Walk - Dart Marina - Greenway
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.
- From the entrance to the Dart Marina Hotel turn right and walk down Sandquay Road, forking left towards the river and crossing the Dart on the Higher Ferry. Reaching the far bank, walk up the road from the ferry to the permissive footpath on the right-hand side.
In 1828 Devon engineer James Meadows Rendel got together with Plymouth architect John Foulston to design a suspension bridge across the River Dart between Dittisham and Greenway, but the scheme was abandoned in the face of strong local opposition. After another two attempts which were also strongly resisted, Rendel changed his design to the Dartmouth Floating Bridge. Divided lengthways into three sections, it was powered by a steam engine, housed with its two boilers in the centre section. The two outside sections carried carriages, pedestrians and cattle, and the vessel travelled along two cast-iron chains fixed to granite blocks on either side of the river.
Commercially the Floating Bridge was an instant failure, so in 1836 the steam engine was replaced by two horses working a treadmill winch, and this design was used until 1867, when Dartmouth shipbuilders Philip and Son reintroduced steam power. Over time the chains were replaced with wire ropes and the steam engine gave way to a diesel-electric engine using a 400-volt generator to turn paddles. The current ferry was built by super-yacht builders Pendennis of Falmouth and arrived on the Dart in June 2009, accompanied by a naval escort.
- Turn right here and follow the path steeply up through the National Trust land at Hoodown and on to the Dart Valley Trail. Turn left, signed towards Greenway Ferry and Maypool, and carry on through the woods above the river. Follow the waymarkers as the path turns to a country lane above Lower Noss Point until it comes to the road.
For more than 100 years the Noss Shipyard employed hundreds of men, producing thousands of tonnes of shipping every year. During World War II the yard built 250 vessels for the war effort, and in 1942 it was attacked by German bombers. There is a memorial stone on the site, dedicated to the 20 workers who were killed in the raid. The yard finally closed in 2000.
- Cross the road, and another smaller one beyond, and carry on through the trees, heading inland above the creek at Cart Wood and turning sharply left with the path as it doubles back towards the River Dart.
The 6½ mile Paignton and Dartmouth Steam Railway was built by the Dartmouth and Torbay Railway between 1861 and 1864 and taken over by Great Western Railway in 1872. First built as a broad gauge line, in 1892 it was the last of Brunel's GWR lines to be converted to narrow gauge. West of Greenway it oroginally crossed the two creeks at Longwood and Noss by means of wooden viaducts, although in 1923 the line was moved inland around the creeks and the viaducts were demolished.
- Ignoring the path joining from the right, carry on through Long Wood, following the waymarkers around Oakham Hill. Coming out of the trees, the path travels downhill to Higher Greenway.
Long Wood is an ancient semi-natural oak woodland covering more than 100 acres. It is a haven for wildlife, with fallen branches and mossy boulders creating a wealth of habitats for insects. Together with the berries on the holly bushes these provide a larder for small mammals as well as many birds, including blue tits and marsh tits, sparrowhawks and tawny owls. Look out for buzzards wheeling overhead, and keep an ear open for the screech of a jay or the drilling of a woodpecker. Carpets of spring and summer wildflowers attract moths and butterflies, while foxes and badgers can sometimes be heard rustling through the undergrowth. Occasionally even a shy roe deer is spotted among the trees.
- Following the waymarkers over the stile to the right of the path, carry on downhill along the edge of the field to the lane, turning left here towards Maypool, Galmpton and Greenway Ferry and then left again towards Greenway Gardens. Coming out on the road at Maypool, the Dart Valley Trail is joined by the John Musgrave Heritage Trail and the Greenway Walk. Carry on through Maypool towards Greenway.
- Going through the gate onto the National Trust property at Greenway carry on along the path, following through the gate to the right above the river, signed Greenway Gardens, to walk through the field beyond. Ignoring the path to Galmpton, carry on towards Greenway gardens, descending steeply to the car park.
Managed by the National Trust (and well worth a visit!), Greenway (www.nationaltrust.org.uk/greenway) was the home of Elizabethan explorer Sir Humphrey Gilbert, who founded Newfoundland. His half-brother, Sir Walter Raleigh, also spent time here. A little way downstream on the opposite bank of the river is Hamblyn's Coombe, once the family's hunting lodge, and Raleigh is said to have experimented with growing potatoes here after he brought them back from the New World. Nearby land is still owned by the Raleigh family. Another Elizabethan explorer who lived by the Dart was John Davis, who discovered the Falkland Islands and gave his name to the Davis Strait between Greenland and Canada.
Almost four centuries later Greenway became the home of crime novelist Agatha Christie, who bought it in 1938 for £6000 after falling in love with it as a child. It was requisitioned by the Admiralty during the Second World War, and the American officers occupying it painted a frieze on the library ceiling. The house (the setting for the novels 'Dead Man's Folly' and 'Five Little Pigs') was given by the family to the National Trust in 2000 and opened to the public in 2009 following major restoration work.
- Follow the waymarkers signed to Dittisham via the ferry to descend to the quay for the return journey to Dartmouth. There is a charge for the trip to Dartmouth. Please check www.greenwayferry.co.uk for further details.
People have been crossing the River Dart from Greenway Quay to Dittisham since the Bronze Age, 4000 years ago. For many centuries horses and cattle were carried across by boat. With the advent of motor transport the ferry was adapted to carry cars, but this stopped in 1974. Now only foot passengers are conveyed across the river. The ferry is still summoned by ringing a ship's bell mounted on the quayside at Greenway.
Text by Ruth Luckhurst and the SWCP team