Two Green Lanes near the Haldon Hills (Part 1)

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Top of Holloway Lane 1
Stones for teeth, at the top of Holloway Lane

In April 2020, during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, I posted a black and white photograph of Holloway Lane (South Devon) on Twitter that I’d taken in autumn 2019, and it proved a popular one. I hadn’t had the time to really explore the lane or the area, and had been looking forward to doing so in the spring, but the lockdown prevented it. I doubted I would be able to go back until winter this year.

Since then a lot has happened. The lockdown eased slightly, but we were working hard to get our house ready to sell, and trying to downsize. Around the same time my right knee / lower leg was giving me extreme pain, usually whenever I took a steep walk: uphill was painful, downhill was almost unbearable. I reached for my walking pole (I only have one) on a fairly frequent basis for the first time in over 10 years. At the time of writing I’m still waiting for a physiotherapy appointment, but somehow during all this I did manage to explore the lane and where it leads, and linked it with a second lane, St Andrews Lane, to return back to the forest. I walked that route on 26th June, taking about three and a half hours to walk its 5 miles! In my defence I stopped many times to take in the area, and to take my photographs (there will be more than 30 over these two blogs but I took many more). And secondly it is very, very steep in places, and my leg was numb with pain by the time I hobbled back to the car. Both lanes are rocky, shaded and cool, and walking Holloway Lane especially gives a feeling of tunnelling through from the 21st century to the Iron Age. Alongside there are occasional views to be had for anyone willing to scramble up the lane’s steep ‘walls’, and on the day I walked it, the hazy bright light of rural south Devon was a startling contrast to the almost total cover provided by overhanging trees as I headed down. This was once a busy trading route from the Exe Estuary to the Haldon Hills, Chudleigh and Newton Abbot, and is just about wide enough for a horse to pull a cart. I don’t suppose this has happened in the last hundred years or so, and doubt it ever will again.

The lane begins not too far from the Haldon Cafe, and there is some gentle tree cover, just before the ground drops away.

Top of Holloway Lane 2
Top of Holloway Lane 2

From here the descent beckons, and it is pretty dramatic! The light is swallowed almost like water down a drain.

The descent begins. Holloway Lane 3
The descent begins. Holloway Lane 3
Darker. Holloway Lane 4
Darker. Holloway Lane 4
Holloway Lane 5
Holloway Lane 5
Holloway Lane 6
Holloway Lane 6

Before too long I noticed a short, steep little track I could scramble up to my left, with a little clearance between overhanging branches. I took it and was rewarded with a view to the land outside the lane.

From a track by the lane edge, Holloway Lane 7
From a track by the lane edge, Holloway Lane 7
The view to the Exe from the track near the lane, Holloway Lane 8
The view to the Exe from the track near the lane, Holloway Lane 8

I slithered back down to one of the darkest sections of the lane, dwarfed by trees that had plunged their roots deep into the edges of the lane to hold fast.

Holloway Lane 9
Holloway Lane 9
Holloway Lane 10
Holloway Lane 10
Holloway Lane 11
Holloway Lane 11

A further twenty or so minutes of this, and I was hopeful of some further glimpse of the world outside. Another short track to the left, and some further tree clearance showed I was losing altitude quite quickly.

From alongside the lane, Holloway Lane 12
From alongside the lane, Holloway Lane 12
Holloway Lane 13
Holloway Lane 13

The ground was becoming more level and less stony and rutted, and for ten minutes or so the lane seemed a little narrower too, but certainly it was getting lighter.

Holloway Lane 14
Holloway Lane 14

And then, on my right, quite unexpectedly, there were fields, hedges, open space, even a view to the Exe estuary, and lots of open space. I could just make out some livestock.

Reaching level ground, Holloway Lane 15
Reaching level ground, Holloway Lane 15
Holloway Lane 16
Holloway Lane 16

The sheep seemed every bit as surprised to see me as I was to see them.

Holloway Lane 17
Holloway Lane 17

The lane had really levelled off by this point and I knew from the map that I was reaching its exit.

Holloway Lane 18
Holloway Lane 18
Almost out, Holloway Lane 19
Almost out, Holloway Lane 19

And then I was out and looking back. A temporary barrier was marking the junction of Holloway Lane and the wider Cumberland Lane at Black Gate. This is also, of course, the beginning of Holloway Lane for some, and those walking it for the first time might assume it is a narrow but quite level, leafy route. I turned my back to it and walked on, not really knowing what to expect of what lay ahead.

Exiting the lane, Black Gate, Holloway Lane 20
Exiting the lane and looking back, Black Gate, Holloway Lane 20

There will be a part two to this blog, and I hope it won’t be too long before I write it, but we’re now in temporary accommodation and in the process of moving house! 

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