This circular route from Eggesford Railway Station is a great way to visit the Devon Wildlife Trust nature reserve at Meshaw Moor. I cycled this route from Chulmleigh during BikeWeekUK. I rode back via Chawleigh (and the newly re-opened Earl of Portsmouth pub), Eggesford Station (stopping to buy veg at the Old Nog's Farm Shop) and Heywood Wood.

I didn't allow enough time to search for the rare Heath Fritillary butterflies that love these areas. I did see Meadow Browns, Painted Ladies and a Mother Shipton moth amongst the profusion of wild flowers at this Culm Grassland site.

This route explores the Taw Valley and the Witheridge and Rackenford Moor Devon Character Areas.


Map designed by Grant Sherman from OpenStreetMap data

Copyright OpenStreetMap contributors 

Ride with GPS 



 Eggesford Railway Station to Chulmleigh

via Heywood Wood and Bridge Reeve 5.1 miles, 730ft climbed 

From Exeter you arrive at Eggesford Railway Station on Platform 1. Turn left when you leave the train and then turn right when you get to the road. Eggesford Bridge takes you over the River Taw. Turn right again at Cott Cross (signposted to Wembworthy and Winkleigh) and start the climb towards Heywood Cross. 1/3 mile up the hill you will see the trees of Flashdown Plantation to the left of the road.

The first Forestry Commission trees in Britain were planted in Flashdown Plantation in 1919. There is a lovely avenue of Copper Beech trees planted in 1969 (turn left at the Forestry England sign to see these). Another avenue was planted in 2019.

Turn right at Heywood Cross and then left and follow the road towards Heywood Wood. Watch out for potholes especially under the trees. Pass the Heywood Wood Car Park and go down hill to cross the stream at Saul's Bridge. Choose a low gear for the short climb up the other side to Crossgate. There are more potholes as the road goes through Western Wood on the way to Gosse's Farm. The road can be muddy through Gosse's Farm. Follow the road around to the left at the bottom of the hill and into the hamlet of Bridge Reeve. Turn right at Bridge Reeve Cross, go over a small bridge over Hollocombe Water and then turn right to cross the River Taw on Kersham Bridge.

The flood plain here is the lowest point of this ride. Soon the road rises to go over the railway line just past Leigh Cross Farm. Take care at the junction with the A377 at Leigh Cross and ride up Leigh Road to Chulmleigh. Carry straight on at Wallingbrook Cross to head to the centre of this small market town or turn left along Back Lane to rejoin the route at Charneymore Cross (via Four Crossways).

Chulmleigh is home to a bakery, a cafe/deli, a golf course, two pubs, and a few other shops.

 Chulmleigh to Meshaw 

via Garland Cross 6.7 miles, 488ft climbed

Follow South Molton Street north from the centre of Chulmleigh, turn right at Three Crossways and follow the road around to the right at Charneymore Cross. This is the start of a long hill to Parsonage Cross (follow the road left) and Chulmleigh Beacon. Turn right at Beacon Moor Cross at the top of the hill and head to Orange Moor Cross.

Horridge Moor is a small pocket of Culm Grassland. It privately owned but there is access along a bridle path. Part of the land is a County Wildlife site and is farmed under an Entry Level Environmental Stewardship Agreement plus Higher Level Stewardship. The name has written as Harridge Moor in 1711, and Horridge Moor on the 1840s tithe map and all Ordnance Survey maps. 

Head north downhill from Orange Moor Cross to Garland Cross. Turn right at Garland Cross (towards Meshaw) and travel along Romansleigh Ridge through Measbury Moor Cross and Beacon Cross. There are great views across to Exmoor from this ridge. Take the right fork at Odam Moor Cross and follow the road right at Hill Side Cross. Take the right fork at Meshaw Moor Cross - the entrance to Meshaw Moor nature reserve is immediately on your right after the house.

DWT Meshaw Moor

"Thirteen fields of wildflower-rich Culm grassland make up this smallholding which has remained unchanged for decades. Meshaw Moor is what many parts of mid and north Devon would have once looked, smelt, felt and sounded like.

It's patchwork of small irregular shaped fields are bounded by hedges. The fields themselves are classic Culm and flower-rich hay meadows. So rich is Meshaw's crop of summer flowers we often harvest its seed and use it to restore grasslands elsewhere." 


 Meshaw to Chawleigh 

via Stone Moor Cross 5.8 miles, 360ft climbed

Turn right when you leave Meshaw Moor and carry straight on at Bourne Bridge Cross. Pass the Christmas tree plantation on your left before you arrive at Burrow Cross . Turn right at Burrow Cross and head WSW along this ridge between Huntacott Water to the north and Little Dart River to the south. I was cycling into a headwind on this part of the journey, which made it feel like I was cycling uphill rather than downhill. Pass Mouseberry Cross, Molland Cross, Bealy Court Cross, Benley Cross, and Chenson Cross before arriving at Stone Moor Cross. Turn left at Stone Moor Cross and avoid the potholes under the trees before you start the descent into the Little Dart valley. The road zig-zags down to Stone Mill Farm. After the farm, at Stone Mill Cross, turn right over Stone Mill Bridge and begin climbing the long hill into Chawleigh

 Chawleigh to Eggesford 

via B3042 2.3 miles, 33ft climbed

Turn right at the newly re-opened Earl of Portsmouth Inn and follow the B3042 to Hollow Tree Cross. Turn left at Hollow Tree Cross and begin the long descent to Eggesford railway station. Take care at the junction with the A377 and reward yourself with a food from Eggesford Crossing Cafe, stock up with fresh veg and other supplies from The Plant Shed, or a drink from the Fox and Hounds before catching the train back to Exeter or Barnstaple.

Edit June 2023: The Crossing Cafe and Plant Shed have now combined to become Old Nog's Farm Shop

Devon Character Areas

DCA - Taw Valley

This is an intricate, complex and varied landscape within a dramatic valley, which contrasts with the surrounding open, elevated farmland. Woodland and slopes combine with bends and spurs in the valley to hide views onward and create constant surprises. Tightly wooded sections unexpectedly open out to display wide vistas across the valley. Around Eggesford, the steep valley sides and mixture of broadleaved and coniferous woodland is evocative of continental Europe. Elsewhere, tranquil parkland gives the valley a soothing atmosphere.

This area comprises the main valley of the River Taw, plus its tributary valleys, including the River Bray, River Mole, Crooked Oak Stream, and Mully Brook. The area forms a rough ‘T’ Shape, surrounded by areas of higher land. The Codden Hill and Wooded Estates and the South Molton Farmland lie to the north, Witheridge and Rackenford Moor to the east and the High Culm Ridges to the west. To the south is the High Taw Farmland.   

DCA - Witheridge and Rackenford Moor

An elevated, open landscape with long views to Dartmoor and/or to Exmoor. Within the patchwork of pastoral fields are extensive areas of rough Culm grassland and heathland. These Culm ‘moors’ have a strong sense of remoteness, even wildness, which is accentuated by the relative lack of settlement and the wind-sculpted trees and hedgerows; they give an impression of how large areas of Devon might have looked before agricultural improvements such as drainage, ploughing and fertilizers. The presence in the landscape of numerous clusters of prehistoric barrows adds to this sense of history and changelessness. The strong textures of plantations, beech hedgerows, heathland and grasses contrast with the smooth improved agricultural land which surrounds them. Patches of colour in the landscape change with the seasons – golden, brown and green grasses, purple heather and bright yellow gorse.

This area comprises elevated land between the Taw Valley (to the west) and the Cruwys Morchard Wooded and Farmed Valleys and the Exe Valley (to the east). To the north is a gradual transition into the South Molton Farmland, and to the south a gradual transition to the lower and more intensively-farmed Crediton Rolling Farmlands.   

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