History and Folklore of Bovey Valley Woods
The valley once contained a number of medieval farmsteads. The best preserved are the three buildings of Bovey Combe Farm in Hisley Wood which origina...Read more
This enchanting cluster of three woodlands, Hisley Wood, Houndtor Wood and Pullabrook Wood, lies in the south east corner of Dartmoor National Park and contrasts with the starker landscape that inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Hound of the Baskervilles. Together with Trendlebere Down and Yarner Wood (owned and managed by Natural England) it forms part of the East Dartmoor National Nature Reserve. The Woodland Trust and Natural England work closely to manage this area.
The woods are magical in springtime when you can stroll among the oak, beech, birch and sweet chestnut and enjoy the primrose and celandine. It’s also the time to listen for the melodious song of the pied flycatcher recently arrived from West Africa, and the trilling of the rare Dartford warbler – this little brown bird is most often seen in open heathland.
Throughout the summer months colourful butterflies hover over the wildflower meadows to the south, where you may also come across stocky little Dartmoor ponies grazing peacefully. Stop for a picnic by the ancient, picturesque pack horse bridge in Hisley Wood and watch out for the flash of iridescent blue-green as a kingfisher swoops over the river. And if you’re there at twilight, you’re likely to see bats flitting across the water – 10 species have been recorded in the valley.
Hisley Wood has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest due to the impressive range of lichens that drip from its gnarled trees. Winter, when the foliage has died back, is a good time to appreciate their strange beauty. Look out for the little silvery-green pixie cup, the apricot-centred jam tart, and the aptly-named string of sausages lichen, which is an indication of the good quality of the air.
There’s historical interest too. Stone walls and earth banks testify to the medieval farmsteads that once occupied the site, and you’ll also come across flat, circular areas where charcoal hearths once produced fuel to fire the Industrial Revolution.
Join us for a walk, see the beauty of the wood through a lens or wrap up warm and blow away the cobwebs with friends and family.
The 86ha (212 acre) Bovey Valley Woods comprise three Woodland Trust sites: Hisley Wood, Houndtor Wood and Pullabrook Wood. They lie in the valley of the River Bovey, on the south east side of Dartmoor National Park and are part of the East Dartmoor National Nature Reserve. The woods are close to the villages of Lustleigh and Manaton, and are eight kilometres (five miles) from Newton Abbot.
OS Explorer 28; Landranger 191, grid reference: SX778803
The main access is from the Old Manaton Road, an ancient lane leading from Trendlebere Down to the village of Manaton. You can also access the woods from surrounding lanes and footpaths.
Bovey Valley Woods has a large network of footpaths with a combination of hunting gates and step over stiles. There are some easy walks, but many paths are steep, uneven and muddy. There is also a permissive horse riding route that runs through Pullabrook Wood to the Old Manaton Road and back through Hisley Wood to Heaven’s Gate.
Hisley Round is a five kilometre (3.2 mile) flat and easy walk taking 1.5 hours. It starts in Pullabrook car park and follows the main trail onto the Old Manaton Road. It then passes the huge granite boulder known as the Pudding Stone and continues to the beauty spot of Hisley Bridge. From here, the path follows the River Bovey east passing through Rudge Meadow where you will see the large skeletal frame of the dead Rudge Oak.
Bus 39 from Exeter to Newton Abbot stops in Bovey Tracey. The nearest bus stop is in Union Square in Fore Street, around two miles from the woods.
From the A38, follow signs to Bovey Tracey on the A382. Take the second exit at the first roundabout, staying on the A382, then at the next roundabout take the first exit onto the B3387. Keep to the right where the road forks and continue to a brown road sign on the right to Bovey Valley Woods. Pullabrook car park is on your left just before the stone bridge over the River Bovey. There is also parking south of Hisley Wood on Trendlebere Down at the start of the Old Manaton Road (grid reference SX 784 793). (December 2016)
The nearest public toilets are at the Natural England offices at Yarner Wood, including disabled access. There are also toilets in Bovey Tracey. Toilets in the Station Road car park include a disabled toilet (RADAR key). Further information on public toilets and opening times can be found on the Teignbridge District Council website – Teignbridge Gov.
There are many restaurants, bars and cafes in Bovey Tracey.
Accommodation and tourist information
There is a wide range of places to stay including hotels, bed and breakfast, self-catering and camping. For ideas on accommodation visit tripadvisor or Discover Bovey Tracey. Bovey Tracey Information Centre is in the train station car park. Telephone: 01626 832047; email: email@example.com.