Stage 2: Yealmpton to Ivybridge
Wednesday, May 15, 2019
After taking a day off the Erme-Plym Trail to explore the villages and countryside to the east of the River Yealm, I returned to Yealmpton to walk the final stage of the walk. With only fifteen kilometres to walk to Ivybridge, I could afford a later than usual start and stopped for lunch at the Rose & Crown on Market Street (picture 1) before heading off on the Trail.
I was more heavily-laden than on the previous stage of the walk as I was carrying camping gear to spend some nights under canvas while I walked the remainder of the Devon Coast to Coast Walk on the Two Moors Way.
From the crossroads in the middle of the village, the Erme-Plym Trail runs down the right-hand side of Torr Hill to cross the River Yealm via a modern pedestrian bridge built onto the side of a much older stone road bridge (picture 2). On the other side, the route crosses the road and takes a gated footpath that squeezes between the river and the back fences of a housing estate (picture 3).
After 300 metres, the path bends away from the riverside to reach the end of Riverside Walk, now a residential street but once the site of the terminus of a Great Western Railway branch line from Plymouth that closed in 1960. Just over to the left, a public footpath sign points the way up a short alleyway that leads to the small woodland of Black Torrs, where the Trail turns left to follow a tall wooden fence along the edge of the wood (picture 4).
At the end of the wood, the path crosses a stile and follows a well-worn path to a gap in the middle of the field boundary ahead then aims for the far-right corner of the next field. A green lane (picture 5) then leads to a small footbridge, which the Trail crosses to proceed straight ahead across a grassy meadow and join another enclosed path alongside the perimeter fence of an untidy industrial compound, marked as a "depot" on the OS map.
After passing the depot's gates, a flower-lined path leads out to a lane, which is followed to the right, to pass through the village of Dunstone. The Trail stays on the lane when it swings left at a junction in the village (picture 6), but leaves the tarmac about two-hundred metres later, when a stile gives access to a large field.
This irregularly-shaped field was divided up by a makeshift electric fence — just a wire strung along a series of low wooden posts — which I followed toward a lone tree on the ridge ahead. Through a gate beside the tree, the Trail follows the left edge of the next field then runs along the high, right-hand side of the following field. From here, one has a good view left of the path, across a fertile valley with the southern peaks of Dartmoor beyond the ridge (picture 7).
When the field narrows, the Trail bears left to a gate, then angles away from the left side of the next field to aim for a gate in the middle of the opposite field boundary. Heading down the left side of one last field takes the Trail to a minor lane, seemingly unnamed, which is followed to the left (picture 8).
Four hundred metres up the lane, just past the gates of a sawmill, the Trail turns right onto another lane that runs along the edge of Butland Wood (picture 9) before going through a crossroads and heading into the pretty Flete Wood (picture 10).
At the end of the lane, the Trail turns left to follow a farm driveway along the edge of Flete Park. When the driveway ends beside a farmhouse, the Trail continues ahead through a gate and across a grassy area to join a sunken path that dips down through an arch under an estate road.
The sunken path, lined with flowers (picture 11), now runs inside a narrow strip of trees, eventually passing through a pair of wooden gates before continuing ahead as a broader farm track. When the track turns left, the Erme-Plym Trail goes ahead across a stile and descends a meadow to reach the side of the A379 (picture 12).
Over the road, the Trail crosses a stile and turns right along the edge of a field, paralleling the A379. Crossing a minor road opposite the gates of Flete Lodge (picture 13), the Trail continues along a fenced path beside the A379 to Sequer's Bridge (picture 14), finally reaching the banks of the River Erme (picture 15).
This is where the routes shown on the 2010 and 2017 versions of the OS map diverge. I walked the latter, turning upstream and following a wire fence along the left riverbank (picture 16) for almost a kilometre in rough pastures to reach the A3121, which is followed to the right (carefully, as there is no verge or pavement for most of the way) for about 250 metres to the edge of Ermington village. The older maps shows the Erme-Plym Trail crossing over Sequer's Bridge and following the right bank of the Erme to entirely bypass Ermington.
Reaching the edge of Ermington, I turned left up Town Hill (picture 17), passing the Crooked Spire pub to continue along the short School Road. At the next junction, in front of the village War Memorial, the Trail marked on the OS map turns right, but first I walked a short distance ahead up Church Road to visit the large 14th-century Church of St Peter and St Paul, which is crowned by a crooked wooden spire that inspired the naming of the village pub (picture 18).
Returning to the War Memorial, I walked down the hill to rejoin the A3121, turning left to follow the road, vergeless once again (picture 19), over the River Erme. Just over the river, the original route comes in from the right and a Devon Coast to Coast signpost still points that way for southbound walkers, suggesting that the route I had just followed from the OS map may be a work of fiction. The same signpost also directs northbound walkers to turn left up a quiet lane that initially runs beside Lud Brook (picture 20), a tributary of the Erme.
A kilometre up the lane, and seventy metres past a junction, the Trail turns left through a pedestrian gate to descend the curving right-hand edge of a field. The Trail bears half left across the next field, looking for a gate under trees, from which a more obvious track crosses a smaller field. Following the right-hand edges of two more fields leads to a bend in a lane, which is followed ahead to Caton Cross (picture 21) and a left turn along Keaton Lane.
The lane soon reaches a bridge over the Erme (picture 22), but instead of crossing it the Trail turns right to follow a shady riverside track signposted as Cole Lane (picture 23). When the river bears away, the path leaves the trees and runs along the right edge of a field to join a driveway leading out to a bend on Ermington Road at the hamlet of Yeolands.
A narrow verge runs ahead along the left side of the road until a gate opens onto a recreation ground (picture 24). The current OS map shows the Trail going along the edge of the recreation ground, parallel to the road as far as the carpark of the South Devon Tennis Centre, then rejoining the road for another seventy metres before crossing over and skirting a small circular green to follow a dead-end street past the small Ivybridge Fire Station. The older OS map shows a slightly longer route, going along the other side of the recreation ground to follow the River Erme around the back of the Tennis Centre and under the main road to join the dead-end street. Once again, the signposting where the two alternatives merge together still matches the old route.
At the end of the short street, the Trail follows the culverted River Erme beneath the A38 Devon Expressway. On the other side, a tarmac path follows the river through parkland (picture 25) and under Majorie Kelly Way to reach the Ivybridge Leisure Centre (picture 26). A path leads up to the Glanvilles Mill Carpark and the Trail turns left along the edge of the carpark and passes a footbridge over the river to reach a signpost under trees where the Erme Plym Trail ends and the Two Moors Way begins (picture 27).
Having completed the walk, I crossed the nearby footbridge over the Erme to Ivybridge's main shopping area on Fore Street and headed to The Exchange at the top of Fore Street for a pub dinner.
Leaving the pub well-fed, I still had a little more walking to do as my plan was to spend the night camping under a full moon on the 334 metre summit of Western Beacon, which despite its name is the Dartmoor National Park’s southernmost peak. Uniquely in England, wild camping (outside designated campsites) is permitted on much of Dartmoor.
Western Beacon is reached by following the first two kilometres of the Two Moors Way before turning away to climb the last kilometre to the peak. I would be returning to Ivybridge in the morning to collect supplies before starting the Two Moors Way, so I won't duplicate that description here.
The rather strenuous climb took me an hour and I arrived just in time to watch the sunset. There was a strong, and rather cold, wind blowing over the moor from the north, which seemed to become even more chilling once the sun had sunk below the horizon. Not being very keen on the cold, I decided against pitching my tent near the summit cairn and wandered a few hundred metres down the south face of the hill to look for a less breezy alternative.
Finding a flatish spot with a boulder next to it to provide a handy seat and a little extra shelter from the wind, I set up my little tent and settled in to admire the dusky view over Ivybridge and on toward the distant coast — the territory I had walked through on the Erme-Plym Trail (picture 28). As the sky darkened, the lights of towns and villages gradually appeared, as did those of the distant city of Plymouth.