I arrived at GALFORD SPRINGS HOLIDAY FARM by car, a working farm on the border of Devon and Cornwall run by horse enthusiast and artist, Claire and her partner Fern. The farm is quite isolated so it’s not the kind of place you are liable to pass on the way to somewhere unless you happen to be walking the ‘Two Castles Trail’ from Okehampton to Launceston through ancient woodlands and moorlands in Holiday Devon.
The accommodation makes it an ideal location for groups rather than couples or singles. The bunk beds are located at one end of the open plan but very spacious sitting, eating and relaxing area which also has a pool table, large screen TV and numerous board games. There is even a good sized heated swimming pool in the adjacent building. There are two double bedrooms with their own toilet off the main communal area and a separate kitchen.
The nearest shop to Galford Springs is the well stocked Lifton Farm shop, about a 10 minute drive away which also has an excellent cafe. I was tempted to buy some local produce there and cook it on the barbecue back at the farm but it was a bit early in the season for al fresco dining, so I opted for a local Inn.
Having driven all morning I needed to stretch my legs. I followed the Two Castles Trail from the farm to a little village called Lydford, approximately 4.5km away. It took me about an hour and a half to walk but I was dawdling; distracted by a stoat playing in the path and the views of the tors that were on my to do list for tomorrow in holiday Devon. It could easily have been done in an hour, which I proved on the way back.
At Lydford I stopped by the castles, both the ancient one and the watering hole. Despite their names neither of them was ever a castle. The ruins, although castle like, was a notorious prison and courthouse in use from the 14th Century and was described rather unflatteringly by Richard Strode, an imprisoned MP, in 1510 as ‘one of the most annoious, contagious and detestable places.’ I doubt if the other castle, The 16th Century Castle Inn, had ever been described like that. It was full of character and history including some silver pennies from Lydford mint, dating from around AD 1000. According to the information displayed with the coins, 2 pennies would have bought you 1 sheep but it was more likely that they were used to pay high taxes to the Danes, which is why so many of the pennies minted there are now in Scandinavian museums. The staff at the Castle Inn were friendly and welcoming, and after a long walk, a refreshing drink and a bite to eat was anything but detestable.
On the western side of Dartmoor, the Tors of Great Links, Nodden and Bray beckoned me. Armed with my map and compass I set off from Bridestowe, a short drive from Galford and followed the West Devon Way for a bit before letting myself loose on the moors where the air was so fresh that every rock was coated with colourful lichen. I stopped first at Widgery Cross on Bray Tor to see the solid granite cross built by, Dartmoor artist, William Widgery to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887. It is visible from miles around and was one of the landmarks that caught my eye the previous day on my walk to Lydford. The low cloud covered the other peaks but the long spell of dry weather made crossing the moors unusually easy as I could see from the marsh symbols on the map and the vegetation on the ground that crossing the moors was not normally as user friendly as this. The weather was really on my side that weekend and by the time I reached the top of the tors I was rewarded with a cloudless panoramic vista of the moors.
For cyclists and walkers, Dartmoor is an adventure playground. Although hilly in parts, there are some spectacular cycle routes including Cycle Route 27 which takes you along traffic free sections of the old railway line and over some beautiful viaducts along the Granite Way passing many traditional Inns, just off the route, on the A386.
Galford Springs is an ideal base from which to explore the moors. But remember it’s a working farm so go prepared to meet sheepdogs and farm cats and don’t be surprised if you find a couple of hens sitting on your doorstep in the morning.