Walk - Steart Farm - Hoops Inn and Worthygate
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.
- Walk down through the campsite to pick up the signed footpath. Go down the steps into the lower terrace of the Middle Burrows camping field. In the woods turn left at the waymarker, bearing right shortly afterwards when another path joins from the left. Follow the red waymarkers above the stream, to come out in Bucks Mills Woodland car park.
Steart, Walland and Loggins Woods were purchased by the Woodland Trust in 1996, with help from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The woods are mostly broadleaved trees, including oak and beech, with some conifers which were planted more recently, mainly larch and sitka spruce. Over time the Trust aims to reduce the number of conifers and return the woodland to broadleaved species, both naturally and through a programme of planting. There are a number of tracks and paths through the woods, created to carry out forestry operations. The public are welcome to walk along them.
Most of the houses in Bucks Mills were built at the beginning of the nineteenth century to accommodate workers on the Walland Cary estate, the manor to the west side of the village. The stream carries on down through the village and once powered the corn mill which gave the village its name.
- Going out onto the road, turn right, crossing the footbridge, to pick up the narrow footpath to the left of the house ahead. Behind the house the path turns to the right, climbing steadily through the wood and emerging in a meadow. Follow the right-hand hedge and cross the stile at the far end, beside the barn. Carry on between the buildings at Lower Worthygate Farm to the farm drive.
An area of woodland to the left of the path was given over to the Bodgers and Badgers woodland project in October 2000. The project, is funded by the National Lottery, through its Millennium Commission and the objective is to manage the woodland in line with the conservation strategies used in the neighbouring areas. Traditional skills and techniques are employed, such as coppicing, charcoal-burning and hurdle-making. Volunteers help restore neglected areas through tasks like cutting back hazel stools and erecting deer fencing.
The aim is to develop the area as a woodland amenity as well as to encourage wildlife. Guided walks are provided. Flora and fauna surveys are carried out.
It was first documented in 1600 that the area was wooded. Since that time its oak trees have been used for producing tannin from the bark; charcoal for smelting and making gunpowder; timber for pit-props and shipbuilding; and more recently, for building and firewood. The practice of coppicing - cutting back new growth for commercial use while leaving the main stem to continue growing - means that a tree may live for several centuries.
Some of the wildflowers here are only seen in ancient woodland: look out for the delicate white flowers of wood sorrel, and the clusters of dainty yellow-green leaves of the opposite-leaved golden saxifrage. Watch out, too, for shy roe deer between the trees.
- For the short route, turn left up the drive, turning left on the road beyond to join the main route at the footpath at 6 (below).
To visit the Hoops Inn, on the longer route, turn right on the drive to pick up the waymarked footpath leading from the bottom corner of the farm’s garden. The path follows the left-hand boundary of two fields to the road beyond. Turn right and drop down to the main road, turning left here to walk with care along the main road to the Hoops Inn.
The A39 along the North Devon coast to Cornwall was named the Atlantic Highway in the 1990s. The name reflected the coastline's strong ties with the Southern Railway's 'Atlantic Coast Express', which ran daily from London Waterloo between 1926 and 1964. The road itself, travelling between Bideford and Bude, was built long before the arrival of motor vehicles and was the main coaching route into Cornwall from North Devon. The Hoops Inn was one of three coaching inns en route where horses were changed, the other two being the West Country Inn on Bursdon Moor, near Hartland, and in Kilkhampton. It would take all day to travel from Bideford into Bude, and the horses would be returned to the inns on the journey back.
The Hoops Inn is a Grade II listed building for its many seventeenth century features, but the original building dates back to the thirteenth century. In Tudor times it was a popular meeting place for seafarers such as Sir Francis Drake, Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Richard Grenville. It was also known as a notorious smugglers' haunt.
- Head through the archway to the pub's car park, continue straight ahead uphill to go through the gateway at the top into the small field beyond. Bear left in the field to cross the stile in the far left-hand corner, turning left on the footpath beyond to follow the left-hand hedge of the big field uphill to the road.
- Turning left on the road, walk past Sloo and on down to the sharp left-hand bend about half a mile beyond.
- Take the footpath on the outside of the bend and follow the green lane towards the coast, where it meets the South West Coast Path. Turn left and follow the Coast Path down into Bucks Mills village, coming out on the road a little way up from the beach.
The oak woods along this part of the Coast Path are also very old. The remoteness of the location and the steep hillsides meant that they survived the extensive felling which destroyed the greater part of the ancient forests that once covered the whole of Britain. Like the rest of the area's woodland, it supports a wide diversity of species with a large range of habitats being provided by the scrub, grassland and marsh elsewhere in the valley. As a result, the area is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and is particularly known for its rare lichens. The abundance of wildflowers, such as early purple orchid and marsh orchid, in turn attract butterflies. Look out for the speckled orange-brown, pearl-bordered fritillary, and the well-camouflaged brown dingy skipper.
- Turn left on the road and walk back to the woodland car park. Going into the car park, take the footpath in the far left-hand corner, ahead of you, and follow it back up through the woods to Steart Farm.
The Hoops Inn