Walk - Dittisham
Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2019. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
- Starting in Dartmouth, take the ferry to Dittisham, either directly or via Greenway, disembark on Dittisham Quay. For further information see www.greenwayferry.co.uk or www.dartmouthdittishamferry.co.uk . Make your way up Manor Street, climbing steeply through the village to Rectory Lane, on your left towards the top of the hill.
People have been crossing the River Dart from Greenway Quay to Dittisham since the Bronze Age, 4000 years ago, and in the days before motor transport cattle as well as horses and pedestrians were transported across the river by means of the horse ferry, a float propelled by two extra-long oars. Even as late as the start of the twentieth-century cattle were driven down Manor Street and held in a pen in what is still known as the Pound House, before being ferried across to Greenway to be taken to market in Galmpton.
In time the oarsmen were replaced by a launch and the ferry could carry two cars across the river. This was succeeded by a 'water jet', capable of conveying six cars at a time; but since 1974 the ferry service has been confined to carrying passengers. It is still summoned by ringing the ship's bell mounted on the quay at Greenway.
- Turn left onto the footpath along the lane and follow the Dart Valley Trail towards Dartmouth. Follow the fingerposts to the right and then the left to travel high around the edge of the fields as it continues to climb to the road at Fire Beacon Hill. Turn left on the road.
The footpath travels high above the fields it borders, giving great views down to the river. Midstream is Anchor Stone, sometimes known as the 'Scold Stone'. According to tradition, unfaithful wives were tied to the rock as punishment.
Onshore, just a little downstream of the rock is Hamblyn's Coombe, where Elizabethan explorer Sir Walter Raleigh is said to have experimented with growing potatoes after bringing them back from the New World. At the time Hamblyn Coombe was a hunting lodge belonging to the part of Raleigh's family living at Greenway, including his half-brother, Sir Humphrey Gilbert. Gilbert, too, was an explorer, and he founded the colony at Newfoundland, leading to strong trade and fishing links with the territory. A third adventurer of the period operating from the River Dart was John Davis, who discovered the Falkland Islands and gave his name to the Davis Strait between Greenland and Canada.
Fire Beacon Hill was one of many hills throughout the South West where fires were lit in 1588 to warn of the approach of the Spanish Armada, a system designed by Raleigh, enabling the alarm to reach London in less than four hours. The present brazier was used for the 400th-anniversary celebrations.
- Turn left onto the permissive footpath a moment later and follow it through the fields and then downhill, turning left on the lane with the footpath a little way below and then leaving it along the path to the right a few minutes later. The path continues to descend, veering to the right and then left above Rough Hole Point to skirt the top of the small inlet, before heading through the conifers above the waters of Old Mill Creek. Turn left on the lane at the end of the forest and follow it downhill to the creek.
The area around Fire Beacon Hill is known as Bozomzeal, a medieval manor which in the fifteenth century belonged to John Bozum, whose daughter married the Sheriff of Devon, Sir Baldwin Fulford-Knight. Parts of the present Bozomzeal Farmhouse date back to the sixteenth century.
- Cross the bridge and carry on up Old Mill Lane, climbing steeply around the double bend and carrying on past the path to Hermitage Castle, taking the footpath to the right at Old Mill Crescent to come out on Archway Drive.
Old Mill Creek marks the parish boundary between Dartmouth and Dittisham, and the picturesque bridge crossing it is thought to date from the eighteenth or early nineteenth century, as does the tumbledown limekiln beside it, once used to burn limestone to make fertiliser. Further down the creek, on the Dartmouth side, is a circular tower known as Hermitage Castle. From stonework bearing a fragment of a date, this folly is thought to date from either 1790 or 1890, although the lower levels may have been from an earlier building on the site.
The abandoned hulks of a number of boats lie in the mud in the creek, including the timber skeletons of a ketch, a trawler and a barge.
- Carry on ahead along Townstal Crescent and onto the head of Old Mill Lane to the main road. Turn left here to walk down College Way, forking left at the bottom of the hill to follow Coombe Road back down to the riverfront and the Higher Ferry. Turning right along North Embankment will lead you to the centre of Dartmouth.
Britannia Royal Naval College (BRNC) is the Royal Navy's initial officer training establishment. Although the buildings which stand on the hillside today were built in 1905, officer training has been taking place in Dartmouth since 1863, with earlier students living in two wooden hulks moored on the river below. The first of these was HMS Britannia, moved here from Portland and joined shortly afterwards by HMS Hindustan. In 1953 the name Britannia was given to the newly-built HM Yacht Britannia, and the ship name of the Royal Naval College was changed to HMS Dartmouth.
Royal naval cadets who have trained here include Georges V and VI, as well as the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales, the Duke of York and Prince William.
The Dart lifeboat station in Coronation Park was re-established in 2007. There was a Lifeboat Station at Dartmouth from 1878 until 1896. In 18 years they only launched 3 times and only assisted 1 vessel. In 1896 the boat was withdrawn. The inshore lifeboat station was completed in October 2007 at a cost of £175,000. The D Class inshore lifeboat serves the Dart river as far as Totnes and the surrounding coastline from Start Point to Berry Head.