Ottery St Mary makes walkers feel welcome

The scenery walkers can enjoy in Ottery

The scenery walkers can enjoy in Ottery - Credit: Phyillis Baxter

Ottery St Mary Friends of Phyllis Baxter Action Group writes for the Herald.

Phyllis Baxter dressed in red sat at her desk with a pen, book and other office equipment

Phyllis Baxter had a dream to write a book and launch a website about Ottery - Credit: Phyllis Baxter

Very few know that in 2012 Phyllis Baxter worked on a community-led project aimed to strengthen Ottery’s reputation as a place for visitors to come and enjoy the outdoors.

Phyllis, as she indicated then, assured “this was a great opportunity to promote walking as a major attraction to the town” and she was right, as a result of this project the year after, two walking festivals successfully took place in Ottery.

After the pandemic, the forgotten love for the outdoors, nature and feeling fit, has awakened in many of us. It has also made us realise why the Ottery Parish is well known for its many beautiful outdoor areas, accessible footpaths and numerous “we welcome dirty boots” cafes, tea rooms and eateries.

This year Ottery St Mary is commemorating the 250th anniversary of the birth of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and what better way for walkers to celebrate this special occasion than exploring the countryside familiar to the poet on the waymarked Coleridge Link walking route, while discovering the sources of his poetic inspiration for Songs of the Pixies and Sonnet to the River Otter.

The Coleridge Link will provide you with a circular nine mile route in the Otter Valley with an option of a short cut to avoid the steepest part of the route and reduce overall distance to about five miles. It will take you from the Land of Canaan to St Saviour Bridge, Millenium Bridge, Pixies’ Parlour, Knighstones Lake, the Wiggaton Hump, Waxway, White Cross, Tipton St John’s Mill & Weir, Salston Manor and the Railway Line.

For an easy walk the St Saviour Bridge Loop a 1.55h walk will take you over our Grade II, 83ft span cast iron arch bridge built in 1851 by Joseph Butler & Co or the Pixies’ Parlour Loop a 1.17h walk to the place where the Pixies fled on a summer night of 1454 escaping the ringing of the new church bells and where they plotted their revenge against the bell ringers.

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For those interested in the cultural side of Ottery, the Heritage Trial & Cultural Triangle offers you a leisure walk taking you through history. Among places to see: The King's Arms, The London Inn, The Monument, The Parish Church, the Library & Poet’s Corner, the Heritage Museum, The College, Chanter's House, the Square, Raleigh House, The Town Mill, St. Saviour's Bridge, the Tumbling Weir, Coleridge Poetry Stones and the Coleridge Statue to be unveiled in October.

Ottery has so much to offer to enjoy as a family, the Bluebell Ring a beautiful walk in the spring from Escot along lanes covered with its beautiful carpets of blue flowers or what about trying Coleridge Big Night Out by visiting the place where Coleridge, aged seven, spent an October night out by the river after a row with his brother as described in an autobiographical letter to his friend Tom Poole in 1797.

If you are looking for a local informal group with volunteer-led walks and everybody taking responsibility for themselves, Ottery Walkers is the group to get in touch with.

A friendly and enthusiastic group offering you the opportunity to take part in a 10 mile walk on the first Saturday of the month and five mile walks on the first and third Thursday of the month.

You can meet them at the Land of Canaan at 9.00am. The walks take in all corners of East Devon and beyond with occasional forays into Mid and South Devon, Somerset and Dorset.

Who knows, you might make new friends while enjoying the beauty of the surrounding area. As John Hall, a member of the group and recognised local author recollects: “the regular walks organised by the group add something very special to our town.

We frequent the many local footpaths and so enjoy hills and river scenery and all the wildlife and splendid views that we can so easily take for granted.

All will, I think, also testify to the physical and mental health value of good conversation and exercise with friends. Personally, when I have had a busy spell at my desk, as I did earlier this week, the Thursday walk is just the therapy I need”.

For more information on Ottery Walkers email: otterywalkers@gmail.com