The swift’s eyes have located the prey (if you follow…
What could be more delightful than a walk along the Dart estuary combined with an amble along a scenic mill pool, down rambling old village lanes, through an orchard before visiting an ancient church with a thousand year old tree?
This walk has it all, it’s not a long walk, but it has every element to make your trip a delightful outing to savour.
It’s worth getting here early, as parking is at a premium in the village. Advised parking is by the River Shack, which is situated right on the mill pond, having superb views out across the water. You can feed the ducks or watch children crabbing at this peaceful place. I’m afraid parking isn’t cheap, but well worthwhile and a good starting point. Actually, if you’re coming from far away, the River Shack’s a good place for refreshment, with great views and both outdoor and indoor seating. There are a couple of public houses in Stoke Gabriel, The Castle Inn and Church House Inn. I haven’t visited either (more’s the pity), but Church House Inn is early 14th century having fine medieval interior features and the Castle Inn.
If you haven’t been to Stoke Gabriel, you’re in for a treat, it’s a naturally pretty place and you can bring your family and dog/s with you so long as you don’t let your dog off the lead at low tide. Along the way, you can walk through the old apple orchard along the path that leads to the church entrance.
The Church of St. Mary and St. Gabriel is perched on a delightful high point overlooking the mill pond. The tower is 13th century, although the rest of the church was largely rebuilt in the early 15th century. An interesting modern feature is the fine oak south door given to the church in 2003 by Lady Pontin in memory of her husband, Sir Fred Pontin. There are some fine features including the painted rood screen (above). If you visit the church, the guide book is worth purchasing and please leave don’t forget to leave a donation for the upkeep of the church.
The real ‘not-to-be-missed’ feature in the churchyard is the ancient yew tree which was a young tree in Saxon times, making it one of the oldest trees in England. Experts opinion is that the tree is actually between 1,200 and 1,400 years old. The lower branches sprawl out and many are propped up, some limbs have reached down to the ground and then grown upwards from their support. The tree really is a treasure and a living link back to our Saxon ancestors.