The Villager

A Winter’s Walk at Dartington

December 15, 2014 7:38 am Comments Off on A Winter’s Walk at Dartington

It’s a sunny day with blue skies, no wind to speak of, and a thermometer registering a chilly seven degrees. I wrap up warm and head to Dartington Hall to take a circular walk along the River Dart and through the estate woodlands. From the car park opposite the entrance to Dartington Hall courtyard, I walk in the direction of Warren Lane. Just beyond the point where the road forks I take the metaled track on the right that cuts through fields down to the River Dart. At the end of the track I turn left and walk along a riverside path that follows the course of what once was a late 18th century carriage drive.

Trees spread themselves along the riverbank leaning this way and that, their branches, almost bare of leaves, are sharply defined by a sun that hunkers low in the sky, even in the late morning. A couple wearing identical coats pass by, then a dog walker (even the dogs have coats on). I pause at natural beaches to watch the river rush by before then continuing my walk through spongy grass (this is a Wellington boot walk) until I reach a gateway set in an ancient stone wall that encloses Staverton Ford Plantation. As I climb the steep path through the woods I interrupt a pair of jays perched in the branches and nervous squirrels hurrying about their business. As birds flit between trees I wish I knew more about the nuances of birdsong. I am however able to identify the whistle of the Santa Express as it puffs its way to Totnes.

Keeping the two-metre high limestone wall to my right (and an eye out for wandering deer) I continue uphill through cascades of fern and spreading ivy. A stone stile cut into the wall leads into the field where rabbits were once bred for the table.

The field gate leads into Warren Lane with its distinctive white modernist houses designed by Swiss American architect William Lescaze in 1935. The largest of these is Warren House which was built for dancer and choreographer Kurt Joos who fled from Germany before the war and worked at Dartington with his company Ballet Joos. Warren House is essentially designed around three interlocking cubes on two different levels. At the rear of the building is a purpose built dance floor. Keeping with tradition the house is now the home of American dancer and choreographer William Forsythe.

With the circular walk complete, I decide to save a visit to the gardens for another time, opting instead for a light lunch at the Roundhouse Café and a quick spin around The Shops at Dartington before heading back to the comfort of my apartment at Hillfield Village.

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