It seems so long since we last did this walk on the Devon side of the River Tamar but with so many in our programme to choose from, they don’t come round very often and the fine weather certainly brought out a good crowd. Thirty two signed in at Bere Alston station and two more caught up with us as we headed up the road making 34 in total. At the junction everyone followed Maggie down a track, over a railway bridge and on towards Lockeridge Farm where several House Martins were flying about overhead as we stood admiring the views of the River Tamar and Kit Hill.
Much of this walk took place along the Discovery Trail which is depicted by apple symbols and yellow arrows on signposts along the route. The views of the river are suburb, sometimes right up close while at other times from higher up as part of the bigger picture as we were soon to see. A gate and a few steps led us all up onto a field where the air was so clear we soon spotted Pentillie Castle in the distance as well as the polytunnels hugging the hillside at Bohetherick and even Cotehele Quay way, way off into the distance.
Several open fields followed meaning we became quite warm so the next section high above the river was a welcome relief as the path continued through ancient woodland where both the bluebells and the wild garlic were going to seed but despite having dropped their petals, the smell of garlic still hung in the air. It wasn’t long before we were seeing glimpses of buildings on the Cotehele estate through the overhanging branches and a bit further on, Calstock boatyard and then the village itself as it clung to the hillside. Apart from birdsong, it was so quiet here and the sound of voices carried right across the water from over in Cornwall.
After passing through one particular gate, the trail then went right through someone’s garden and they had very kindly positioned some picnic benches with a sign telling walkers to have a rest and our group didn’t need telling twice!
Once we had resumed the walk via one or two more fields, a stile led us onto the causeway above the reed beds where a long straight section of the Discovery Trail followed with Calstock Viaduct in the far distance, on and on we went with our eyes firmly fixed on the narrow path but I did briefly glance to the right as a flock of raucous rooks caught my attention; they were flying in and out between the legs of a mixed herd of cattle quietly grazing over on Ferry Farm. I assumed these noisy birds were in search of any insects that the animals might disturb.
Whilst walking through the elegant arches of Calstock viaduct this morning I was reminded of a greetings card I once purchased that depicted our little two-carriage train crossing the viaduct, this picture was reproduced from a watercolour painting by Ian Pethers from Glenrock studio near Gunnislake station. He must really like trains because he even has a model railway in his garden! Ian is just one of many artists who choose to live and work in the Tamar Valley because of the clear air and the special light. Besides those that paint, there are printmakers, ceramicists, sculptors, calligraphers, jewellers and textile artists from both sides of the river as far as Plymouth. The Tamar Valley has been an inspiration to many ever since Turner’s visits in the early nineteenth century. The Drawn to the Valley group was formed in 2003 by the artists themselves to contribute to the regeneration of the local economy through exhibitions and Open Studio days.
Back to the walk and we weren’t finished yet, more woodland was to come, up and down we went still following the shady trail beside the river which often had a steep drop over to our left while to the right the path was edged with Bilberry plants and Common Cow wheat. Lower down one or two damp patches had to be negotiated but from Tuckermarsh it was all uphill culminating with a steep grassy field. A gate at the top led us onto the road which continued beneath a railway bridge and 2¾ hours after we had begun, our weary group were back to Bere Alston station.