Tarka Trail - Follow the Otter
PUBLISHED: 14:38 20 April 2010 | UPDATED: 11:20 28 April 2010
You can walk or cycle along a safe track that was once the railway line skirting the Taw and Torridge rivers and their estuaries, enjoying vistas of water, fields and woods. Isley Marsh is an RSPB nature reserve where you will see great flocks of wading birds and wildfowl flying in to feed on the estuary mudflats.
Fremington Quay, once a busy port, has been restored as a visitor centre and includes a caf/restaurant. The railway signal box is now an observation tower with panoramic views.
Dodge off the trail to the waterside village of Instow to laze on its sandy beach and even ride the ferry across to Appledore (bikes can go, too). Cross the Landcross Viaduct and go through an old railway tunnel, over bridges and along the wooded Torridge Valley with its ageless, tranquil river. Torrington Station is now a pub and refreshment stop aptly named The Puffing Billy.
Northward you follow the River Taw to Ashford, where you can leave the trail to watch birdlife from a specially-built hide. You can also picnic hereabouts Braunton Burrows is a good spot with its vast sand dunes.
A worthwhile extension to your trip is to go out to Crow Point via a public road and toll road (watch for cars). See also Brauntons historic Great Field which was tilled in medieval times.
Another quaint village well worth a visit is Georgeham. Here you will find the hut in which Henry Williamson wrote Tarka the Otter.
Earlier we mentioned two wheels. Correction. You cannot only hire bikes, but tricycles, trailers for babies even ones for dogs, and wheelchair tandems, so that everyone can take to the Tarka Trail. There are hire shops at various places along the route. One of them is Tarka Trail Cycle Hire, based at the railway station in Barnstaple.