War Horse Country

Walk: Iddesleigh, Devon

Discover a landscape of working farms and horses, spectacular views and hearty welcoming pubs brimming over with stories – enough to inspire a literary favourite, says Tor McIntosh

 

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Talking to war veterans in his local pub in Iddesleigh inspired author Michael Morpurgo to write War Horse in 1982. A fictional account of the Great War, it focuses on Joey, a young farm horse thrust into the horrors of the Western Front. It’s a touching children’s book that has since been adapted into an award-winning play (2007) and film (2011). Despite its worldwide fame, the book, its characters and its author firmly belong in the idyllic parish of Iddesleigh in the heart of mid-Devon.

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1. Make A Start

From the village pub, take the path through the Church of St James’ churchyard. Turn right on to a road before turning left at a junction, signposted to War Horse Farm Park. Continue along this road before turning right. 

Follow a section of the Tarka Trail as it runs adjacent to a stream before passing through a gate into a field. Cross and aim for a yellow-topped footpath post that leads you to a wooden gate. 

2. War Horse World

Continue through the gate into another field – this is a good spot to admire the views – and follow the right-hand edge to reach a gate leading into Parsonage Farm; the farm Morpurgo used as Joey’s Devon home. Today it’s a working farm and the War Horse Farm Park, which has a War Horse exhibition (open 2-6pm, Easter to September).

Exit the farm through two granite posts to join a road. Turn left along this quiet road passing Nethercott House. This is the home of Farms for City Children, a charity set up by Murpurgo and his wife, Clare, in the mid 70s. Continue straight to Waldons and after a quarter of a mile continue straight across a dog-leg junction following signs to Bullhead. It’s on this stretch that you’re greeted with splendid views of the high tors of Dartmoor to your right.

3. Across The Fields

At the entrance to Bullhead Farm turn left to follow a public footpath across a field to a wooden stile, before continuing diagonally left across the next field to reach a metal gate. Turn left on to a road, passing through the hamlet of Pixton, before turning right. This path descends to reach a wooden bridge across a stream. Pass through a gate on your left that takes you through a small marshy field to a gate that leads straight over another small wooden bridge.

Follow the left edge of the field. Cross through the metal gate, keeping to the top of the field, before crossing through a further two gates to reach a public footpath sign directing you right along a track towards East Park Farm.

4. Back To The Pub

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Enter the farmyard through a gate and take a left. This wide track leads you back to the village and its welcoming pub, The Duke of York – it would be rude not to stop for a pint.