The Christmas lunch walk this year was a short and easy circular route of just over four miles from The Fox & Hounds car park at Bridestowe taking in the West Devon Way/Dartmoor Way and the Granite Way.  Twenty members ventured out.  The only climb, a short, steep ascent from Bearslake on a well-used track beside Crandford Brook, led the group up to Lake Viaduct where they turned onto the Granite Way and headed back for their Christmas festivities.  The walkers were fortunate with the weather this week which was grey and dull and they didn’t suffer any downpours similar to the previous two weeks. 

Bridestowe, which was bypassed by the A30 in February 1976, remains a relatively unspoilt village.   It still boasts a village school, a busy post office/stores, the 15th century parish church of St Bridget, a Methodist chapel, a modern village hall and the crystal-clear waters of Crandford Brook flowing through the heart of the village.    The village was once a thriving community of tin and copper miners, quarrymen, farm, railway and peat workers as well as those working on the big estates.   Today many of those industries are long gone and the railway is defunct.  The remains of Burley Wood camp, a 12th century castle mound, bailey and outworks remain to the south west of the village.  Charles I visited in 1644 and reputedly stayed at the Elizabethan manor house, Great Bidlake, said to be haunted by a previous lady of the manor.  The disused Bridestowe railway station, now a private dwelling, stood at almost the highest point of the LSW railway.  Warrening (the husbandry of rabbits) was a considerable local industry and a statistician calculated that more rabbits than passengers were sent away annually from Bridestowe station.  Information taken from the Devon Village Book written by the Devon Federation of Women’s Institutes. The walkers joined the Dartmoor Way shortly after setting out, eventually crossing the A386 at Lake, beside the Bearslake Inn. The hamlet of Lake consists of a few cottages clustered around the hostelry and is intersected by the busy A386.  The inn is an old Devon Longhouse which would at one time have accommodated both farmers and their stock under the same roof.  The inn had been a working Grade II listed farm until it was converted in the 1930s to three cottages. In 1959 it was converted again into tea rooms and later to a public house.  The current owners have preserved as much as possible of the heritage and authenticity of the building. ( Shortly after D Day, German POWs arrived in the UK.  Of the 16 POW camps in Devon, Bridestowe hosted Camp 673 on the Leawood Estate. Initially, it housed Italian solders captured during the fighting in North Africa, but latterly, held Germans captured in France.  Local farm production became reliant on these low-risk prisoners and some even settled here after the war.  They were allowed out for a walk around the lanes on Sundays, accompanied by a single armed soldier. Some were talented artists and craftsmen and even made wooden toys for the village children.  The interiors of huts were often decorated with beautiful murals and inside the compound several exquisite wooden models stood close to the barbed wire.  The artistic skills of one the POWs was harnessed for a beautiful mural in The Fox and Hounds Inn at Bridestowe which can still be seen today.  The mural of a fox hunt, which covers the whole of one wall in the bar was painted by German PoW Willie Brandt.  It is said that he painted it because Hitler hated hunting and it so endeared him to the locals that he made Dartmoor his home.  (

The group finished their walk in plenty of time to join fellow members and their spouses at the Fox & Hounds for an excellent and most enjoyable festive meal.  

As ever new walkers are always welcome. Meet at the post office in George Street, Okehampton, on Sunday mornings ready to leave at 9.30am.   Please be there in plenty of time so that the group can leave promptly. Next week is likely to be a local walk starting at the Post Office. Where possible, we try to share cars though this cannot be guaranteed. You should be suitably attired for all weather conditions, including sturdy footwear and bring a packed lunch.