The Walk from Dogmarsh Bridge to Fingle Bridge takes you through some of the prettiest and oldest countryside in the UK. This particular article was written in late March after one of the worst and longest winters on record, so spring was very delayed. The weather had been dry for a spell and the river was quiet.
The walk is a little under five miles long, and not too strenuous. However, it's advisable to wear walking boots, as the paths are strewn with rocks and crossed by streams in many places. In summer it's common to see tourists attempting the path wearing strappy dresses and flip flops (thongs to the rest of the world, although thongs to us are underwear), which affords some entertainment, as the Devon countryside is unforgiving.
From Moretonhampstead, take the 382 to Okehampton. After around 4 miles you will pass the Mill End Hotel on your left, then immediately cross a bridge; this is Dogmarsh Bridge. Just over the bridge the road widens enough for vehicles to park on the left hand side. Cross over the road and on to the National Trust land, which forms part of the Castle Drogo Estate.
For the first part of the walk the terrain is flat and follows the course of the River Teign ("Teen") which should be on your right. Pass by the little bridge, cross over the ford and continue straight ahead. If you look to your left you will see Castle Drogo sitting on the hill, surrounded by trees. The Castle, which is now owned by the National Trust, is relatively modern, and was built as a stately home in the 1930s. Continue through the next gate, which is very boggy, summer and winter, due to a natural spring and continue to the next bridge.
Cross over this bridge and mount the stile which climbs over the the wall. The stile, which can be a little difficult to negotiate, is built into the wall and is of local granite. This takes you away from the river slightly and along a track with the wall on your left hand side. You will be able to hear the river, but not see it.
The path continues
for a few hundred yards and once you are through the gate at the end you regain the river on your left hand side. Walk along this track until you reach Fingle Bridge. The route is undulating, but not really steep, taking you roughly a hundred feet up the side of the valley, then back down again a few times.
Part of the joy of this walk is that it involves a pub half way round. The Fingle Bridge Inn
has seating inside and out, and serves meals and snacks. A pot of tea is hot, plentiful and neither too strong nor like dishwater, and it goes really well as a cream tea, which undoes all the good done by the long walk! Dogs
are welcome inside and out and there are usually plenty of them. If you're lucky, you may see trout in the river, salmon leaping, the blue flash of a kingfisher, or some of the numerous deer.
The bridge itself is ancient and built of granite. You can drive over it, but remember it was made for horses and the occasional cart, so it's NARROW. You really need to know the width of your car, as many makes of saloon tend to get stuck, which entertains those sitting outside the Inn. If you drive a four by four, don't even think about it. If you drive a Hummer, you probably won't even fit through Dartmoor, let alone be able to cross Fingle Bridge.
It's nice to walk back on the other side of the river, making a circular walk. The terrain is again undulating, with one to two pretty steep bits, in particular where you climb a couple of hundred feet in a very short space of time, up and then immediately down some vertiginous, unveven steps, some of which are made of rock and which get pretty slippery when damp.
Walking back this way gives you some very pretty views of the river and of the two weirs, which were quiet on this particular day.
This weir, closest to the bridge crossed at the beginning of the walk forms a pool of deep water behind it, with some fishing
docks. In summer locals swim from some of these docks, and although it looks a lovely idea, I'm not sure I'd do it. There are some pretty big submerged boulders, and the water coming straight off the moors is cold enough to take your breath away, even on the hottest day. Maybe I'll pluck up courage!
From the bridge, you simply retrace your steps through the first couple of fields, with Drogo on your right this time. Once back in the comfort of your own home, you can log on to the internet and Google Fingle Bridge Web Cam, and lo and behold, you can see where you've been today. If you want to do something really pointless, you can email all your mates the day before and say we'll be on the bridge at X time, log on and we'll give you a wave. Like most web cams, the picture changes every ten seconds, or so, so you need to stand on the bridge, waving towards the camera mounted on the far end of the Inn for maybe, thirty seconds, just to be sure you're waving in the picture. This also amuses the locals.