It’s hard to beat this kind of walk: you plunge through dense woodland, steeply downhill, with views of the hills all around, descending deep into the valley, until there is the first glimpse of the river straight ahead, right across your path. The kind of walk many people must be familiar with, enjoyed for as long as the rivers have run. But this one doesn’t run, because it isn’t a river at all.
The Ashcombe estate, nestling in the hills between Dawlish and Teignmouth, has offered many outdoor experiences over the last few years: an adventure centre, quad biking, shooting, that kind of thing. Absolutely none of which interests me, but the landscape does, especially the fine hardwood trees and the Castle Dyke hill fort, which I’ve been photographing a lot in the last few months. (I’ll post more about Castle Dyke soon.)
About eighteen months ago the gentle slopes of the hills around the estate took on a silvery shimmer; drivers speeding along the B3192 looked twice, and at first didn’t know what to make of it. But all was soon revealed, and 17 hectares were rapidly transformed. Back in the late spring this year I decided the roadside wasn’t the best place to view the transformation: hard to park, hard to quite see the detail when flashing past at any kind of speed. The only thing was to walk straight down through the woods until I could get no closer to the crazy river.
Whatever your opinion of these things, they certainly do not blend in, do they?:
Here is the eventual reveal, unobstructed, but with a glorious Devon hills backdrop:
We almost certainly need more of these things, and at Ashcombe they are much less visible from the roadside than at other sites in Devon (I’m thinking especially of a vast area above Ashburton that is very clearly (shockingly?) visible from Landscove). I think, for all that, that a glimpse through the trees is probably the best way to view them.