Chivenor Cross, North Devon
Showcasing great places to visit from a Strongvox site near you, this edition finds us right alongside the famous Tarka Trail, near the Taw Estuary at Chivenor Cross in North Devon. It’s roughly at the midpoint of a stunning 40-mile stretch of coastline, forming the North Devon Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. With three world-class beaches all less than ten miles away, the area is a surfing hotspot and draws visitors year-round.
You don’t need to surf to appreciate the magnificence and beauty of these heavenly golden beaches and dramatic cliffs. The surrounding countryside is as glorious as it is diverse. Green rolling hills and peaceful woodlands, flat marshes and vast sand dune systems provide habitats for a wealth of plant and animal life. They are beautiful places to simply explore and enjoy.
Strongvox at Chivenor Cross
Our brand new development at Chivenor Cross is nestled between the picturesque Tarka Trail / South West Coast Path and the A361. It’s a short distance from the trendy village of Braunton and five miles from the bustling town of Barnstaple.
41 individually styled Strongvox homes, comprising four-bedroomed detached homes, plus semi-detached and detached three-bed homes will offer a superb setting in this sought-after area. Homes will be available to buy off plan later this year, so register your interest now.
On the Trail of a Famous Otter
Our walks share a common thread. They all include short sections of the 180-mile Tarka Trail, inspired by the route travelled by Tarka the Otter in Henry Williamson’s famous book.
From Chivenor Cross, turn left along the Tarka Trail to head inland along the picture postcard Taw Estuary towards Barnstaple and Bideford. Or, turn right for Braunton village and the heavenly beaches at Saunton and Croyde. Braunton Burrows, flanking Saunton Sands is one of the largest sand dune systems in the British Isles and is a designated UNESCO Biosphere reserve. These beautiful Tarka Trail locations are close by and all have extra walking options:
Barnstaple – 4 miles (and take a bus back)
Braunton Village – 1.5 miles (return by foot or bus)
Saunton Sands / Braunton Burrows – 3.7 mile walk/cycle/drive (one way)
Croyde / Baggy Point – 8 miles cycle/drive (one way)
East – Barnstaple and Beyond
From Chivenor Cross heading east, the Tarka Trail is exceptionally easy to navigate. The wide, tarmac path is flat and flanks the north side of the pretty Taw estuary for about four miles into Barnstaple. Approaching the town, you’ll see the high-arcing Taw road bridge dominates the skyline, with Barnstaple’s church spires and rolling hills beyond.
Set amidst the usual high street shops, Barnstaple’s traditional pannier market sells local produce and other goodies. The adjacent and much photographed Butcher’s Row has a selection of independent shops and delicatessens. Several historic buildings, the local museum, heritage centre and the medieval Long Bridge with 16 arches spanning the river are also worth a visit.
At Barnstaple, the Tarka Trail crosses the River Taw and continues along the south side of the estuary towards the neighbouring town of Bideford on the River Torridge. From Barnstaple, it’s easy to hop on a bus back to Chivenor Cross, if you don’t wish to retrace your steps on foot.
West – Braunton, Braunton Burrows and Beaches Galore
Heading west from Chivenor Cross, the Tarka Trail is an easy 30-minute amble into Braunton village. As you walk alongside a short section of the Chivenor military base perimeter, there’s usually something interesting to spot beyond its wire fence. The elevated path then passes to the left of a small wetland area with a viewing platform.
A little further along, at Velator on the very outskirts of Braunton, the Tarka Trail and South West Coast Path take a sharp left to Braunton Burrows and the coast, but the tarmac path continues straight ahead into the centre of Braunton village.
Continue walking along the old railway line path – look out for the old railway signals and the babbling river – into the centre of Braunton. Although officially a village, Braunton looks and feels more like a small town. Here you’ll find a wide choice of trendy surf and lifestyle shops alongside all the essential shops and services, cafes and restaurants. Places to visit include the Museum of British Surfing and the Braunton Countryside Centre. SQUIRES is Braunton’s award-winning fish and chip restaurant and take-away. It’s easy to spot – just join the end of the queue!
There are regular buses between Braunton and Chivenor Cross, giving options for the return route.
At Velator, the Tarka Trail and South West Coast Path follow an elevated route for 1.5 miles on the edge of Braunton Marshes, close to a narrow toll road. At the end of this road is Crow Point (and the Broadsands car park), where the estuary narrows before meeting the sea. There are great views across the water to Appledore – less than one mile away as the crow flies, yet an 18-mile drive away!
Broadsands car park is at the southern access point of Braunton Burrows, a huge area of sand dune systems stretching the length of Saunton Sands beach. There’s always an adventure to be had, whether it’s communing with nature, walking the dogs, or a picnic with the kids.
Braunton Burrows has an abundance of plants and wildlife and is of great historical significance. In 1943 the area was given to the American army to use for training over 10,000 troops ahead of the WWII D-Day landings. It is criss-crossed by pathways and vehicle tracks so it’s easy and fun to explore. A word of caution: some parts are still used for military exercises. Don’t be tempted to touch any military debris!
More information and accompanying map with history and nature walks around the Burrows are available to download here. There’s also a great 6-mile circular route starting from Velator in the Pathway Finder Guide of North and Mid Devon Walks, which adds variety for the walk back.
Saunton Sands is a top-notch dog-friendly beach for all seasons. Enjoy a bracing walk during the colder months, or stroll barefoot on its pristine shoreline in the summer. The dunes provide some shelter from the wind too! At 3.5 miles long, it’s always possible to find a quiet spot, even on the hottest days of the year.
If you are planning on walking from Chivenor Cross, follow the route described to Braunton Burrows then walk along the length of the beach to the Saunton Sands Hotel (as shown in the first photo). That’s a distance of approximately 8 miles. There’s a regular bus service to get back to Chivenor Cross. Alternatively, you can cycle/drive and use one of three car parks to access the beach at Broadsands, Sandy Lane or Saunton Beach, right next to the hotel and surf schools.
Croyde and Baggy Point
Around the headland north of Saunton, is the small village of Croyde and another surfing and tourism magnet – the sandy beach at Croyde Bay. Once more along the Tarka Trail, there’s a superb family/dog friendly stroll out to Baggy Point – a rocky headland framed by dramatic cliffs. On a clear day you can see the island of Lundy. You may also glimpse seals just offshore and rock climbers scaling the cliffs when the sea birds aren’t nesting. The weathered bones on the path are the remains of a whale washed up on the beach in 1915. There’s also a memorial stone to Henry Williamson, author and creator of our beloved Tarka the Otter.
It’s a one-mile walk to Baggy Point if you park at the National Trust car park outside the village, or closer to 2 miles if you walk from Croyde. A longer circular route continues further along the Tarka Trail’s dramatic coastline towards Putsborough. Full details are in the Pathway Finder Guide of North and Mid Devon Walks.
We hope you’ll be inspired to follow some of Tarka’s journeys too. You won’t be disappointed!
Look out for the next Strongvox Walk on the Wild Side blog for more great places to explore on foot.
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