One of the largest woodlands in mid Devon, Killerton Estate comes alive in early spring as colourful carpets of wildflowers signal the end of winter.
Extensive work has been carried out by the National Trust across this historic 300-acre parkland to improve natural habitats and restore the lost views of the surrounding countryside.
As the delicate clumps of snowdrops begin to disappear, it is not long before the pungent scent of wild garlic arrives, swiftly joined by a burst of bluebells in the ancient woodland of Columbjohn.
Home to the Acland family until 1944, the house was intended as a temporary residence, with plans for a grander dwelling further up the hill. Construction was never completed but the original foundations remain. Nearby Dane’s Wood and the wildlife-rich Ashclyst Forest, found to the south and east, also belong to Killerton Estate.
This short, leisurely amble through Columbjohn woods takes in Killerton’s best wildflower spots with plenty of time at the end of your walk to enjoy a hearty Devon cream tea – cream before the jam, of course.
1. Shades of violet
Starting at the main entrance, which has a small visitor centre and tearoom, stroll towards the peaceful grounds of the Chapel. You will soon arrive at an astonishing blanket of wild cyclamen under the tulip trees.
From here, head up the hill towards The Clump, where you will get your first bluebell sighting along the south-facing slopes. Dartmoor ponies can sometimes be seen at the site, helping with ongoing conservation work as they graze the hillside undergrowth to create better conditions for bluebells to grow. It is a short but steep climb to the top, where you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views across Killerton Estate and the chance to explore the remains of the Iron Age Dolbury Hillfort.
2. Bluebell gate
Continue along the footpath near the edge of the main garden to pass through Bluebell Gate, which offers one of the best views of the farmland surrounding the estate. Cross the field and go through another gate into Columbjohn woodland. Here you will be greeted by a strong scent of wild garlic and more bluebells.
You can choose to complete a longer circular route by following the main track along the woodland boundaries, or you can take the shorter but more meandering paths towards The Clump. As the trees come into view, rather than head back through them, follow the path along the lower edge to return to the main parkland.