A Very Local Spring – Part 3

It’s a grey but warm summer’s day early in July, as I write this, and I’m just back from a local walk from home up into the Haldon Hills by way of another green lane. It’s new to me (how much I’m enjoying discovering all these old routes!): steep, narrow, dark, sunken and contains some splendid old oak trees growing from and across the sides of the path. Those images and that walk will have to wait, because I really want to complete this little ‘ode to a local spring’ trilogy before any more of the year passes me by.

The remainder of June was strictly local for me this year. The pattern of being dropped off a few miles away and walking home continued another couple of times, and inevitably resulted in me revisiting the same areas and lanes and getting fascinated with the landscape’s changing colours again. But I’ll begin with an image just a mile or so from home where in the woodlands the lanes down to the river Teign are particularly gnarly and rutted, and divide in several places to continue around trees that have grown in their centres. It pleases me no end that I can be here within a half hour walk from my door – I just need to find good light and a little more time, but there’s no hurry. In the deep woodland shade the leaf colours were still quite fresh. Just how many shades of green are there, I wonder?

Puttshills, Chudleigh

In the middle of the month I decided it was time to make my third walk along the green lane near Beggar’s Bush, after noticing that all the cool fresh greens were turning lazy summer yellow-green very quickly. I was dropped early at the Bush, strode off, looked down, looked up. Everywhere was humming with life and growth and I couldn’t wait to get to the lane.

I looked down
I looked up!

The lane was a joy, but very overgrown now. The bracken brushed my arms as I walked past, in places there were wild flowers growing in the middle of the path, and the leaves were all but exploding on the trees and hedges.

Rather than turn into the darkest part of the lane again I chose another path leading to the Haldon Hills, knowing there were good views to be had of the land over to the moor. It meant a little minor road walking, but in 40 minutes or so I saw only one small vehicle go past. The A380 road could be heard near the top, but not seen; it’s where all the action was, and I was very happy not to be a part of it. It had clouded over a little near the top, but visibility was reasonably good and I could take in Rippon, Saddle and Hay Tor on the left and the tiny, ravishing village of Hennock on the far right.

Rising near the Haldon Hills

When I’d reached the top my descent back down to Chudleigh had to begin, past lovely farmlands, looking at channels perhaps 8-10 feet below surface level on either side of the minor road, that must have been formed by water draining from the Haldon Hills. At the bottom there was a superbly overgrown green lane I wouldn’t be taking, but couldn’t resist photographing.

I continued my walks up to The Rocks in Chudleigh over the spring. It’s perhaps 20 minutes from home to the top, but it always takes far longer when I carry a camera. Just one more image here from 15th June shows the colourful growth of Valerian as it clings to the sheer cliff face. It’s important not to lose your footing here as you edge out to get the best angle for a photograph!

Valerian growing on the cliff edges, The Rocks, Chudleigh

Just one day before the longest day, and the beginning of summer, I took my final walk of spring 2022, beginning alongside the river Teign near Chudleigh Knighton, then crossing under the A38 road before climbing the hill to Gappah. The colours of the Teign reflections were golden, rather than fresh green, in contrast to the photograph from almost exactly the same position that I posted in the first part of this blog series:

River Teign, Chudleigh Knighton

The walk up to Gappah was almost a scramble, there was so much grass and leaf growth. Each time I saw a gate ahead I wondered if I’d be able to open it or find some other way over it. Soon the overgrown path was behind me and open fields were ahead. Looking back is impossible not to do here, and it’s an excellent place to sit and watch corvids circling, study the skyline of the moor, and wonder how life on the A38 below can seem so frenetic while life on a high hill can still be so quiet and calm.

The ascent to Gappah
Fields of Gappah, the A38, and southern Dartmoor in the distance

I stayed some time here and ate a little lunch, then dropped down from Gappah to the fields beneath The Rocks before heading home. The bluebells I’d photographed here just a few short weeks earlier were nowhere to be seen, and I was encircled by cows! They were too relaxed and hot to be bothered by me and took some shade under a tree. I continued among them, and, just as I’ve done so often throughout the spring, I looked up one more time.

The walk back home from here took me over Kate Brook – a modest water course that I seem to come across everywhere I walk around Chudleigh. Its sources are mostly in the Haldon Hills, and it skirts around the town before emptying into the Teign near the A38. The opening photograph from this 3rd blog piece was taken of the brook near the tree under which the cows were sheltering.

And so to summer! It’s never been a favourite season for me. But this is an extraordinary year, in all kinds of ways. The skies might be blue and uninteresting; the hills too steep for hot weather; the greens too yellow! But there will still be woodland, and dark lanes, and a brook whose sources I may need to search out.

Thanks for reading!

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