Section 4 – Two Moors Way - Morchard Road to Knowstone
Distance - 19 miles Grade - Moderate (11 miles) then Easy Grade into Knowstone - What these grades mean.
See the "Options" section in the walk Overview for info on shorter walking days for those wanting more relaxed Two Moors Itineraries.
Today the Two Moors Way continues its pilgrimage towards Exmoor, now on more remote farmland, passing the wetland ponds at Slade and traversing a run of several little rolling stream valleys, to reach the high ground and the larger village of Morchard Bishop. From here, on a clear day, you can see back to Haytor Rocks on Dartmoor in one direction and more importantly for the Two Moors Way walker, onwards to Exmoor and the sea in the other.
The walk now enters Morchard Wood Plantation with its tall, dark spruces, before cutting through wild meadow, wetlands and small stream valleys, more prolific now as you start to close in on Exmoor. At the macabre sounding hamlet of Black Dog where there are views to both moors ahead and behind, those who want to visit the Iron Age banks of Berry Castle make a short diversion. The Black Dog Inn, a walker’s favourite, is the more usual stop however. Legend is that a tunnel to the castle leaves from the old well here and at the time of the Civil War its entrance was guarded by the ghostly ‘black dog’ that gave the hamlet its name.
After passing through the ancient oaks and hazel trees in Washford Wood and fording the peaceful infant river Dalch, the day ends with a descent to Witheridge Village, the views now bringing a real brooding sense of entering mighty Exmoor tomorrow.
Dropping now to follow the gurgling Little Dart River, through the Woodland Trust’s Yeo Copse, you reach an area of more organised plantation and flowering marshlands that leads to the 17th century Bradford Mill. Dense and remote thickets hide plenty of waterfowl, deer and there is always the hope of more otter.
Three open heath areas herald the entrance to Exmoor now, sandwiched in between them some delightful green lanes, back roads and strips of woodland. After Canworthy Common you enter the Devon Wildlife Trusts nature reserves at Outer and Inner Knowstone, two areas of moor land giving a return to open heath walking through heather and rough grassland, skipping round mire and gorse. Both are protected environments with Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) status as the largest area of Culm grassland in the world, a habitat attracting plenty of grazing wild deer and other wildlife including marsh fritillary butterflies along with plenty of nesting curlew, jack snipe, woodcock and hen harrier.
The day ends at pretty Knowstone and yet another protected conservation village to explore.