Close to Buckfastleigh and Buckfast Abbey, Hembury Woods makes for a wonderful morning or afternoon walk in the woods of Devon. It’s part of the rare ancient woodland in England and not only does it include the ancient site of Hembury Castle but also wonderful river walks and magnificent bluebells in May.
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More Dartmoor Tips
- Where to find bluebells in South Devon
- Beautiful walks around Ashburton
- Visiting a Bronze Age village up on Dartmoor
How to Get to Hembury Woods
You can easily take bus 88 from Totnes, Newton Abbot or Ashburton to get to Buckfastleigh. There are two stops in town, the closest being next to the old Abbey in Buckfastleigh.
The walk from the abbey to the forest takes about 30 minutes. From Ashburton to Hembury Woods, a walk is a little under 2 hours.
Another option is to take bus X38, which operates between Exeter and Plymouth. It will pass South Brent in Devon on the way, which has a beautiful forest as well. You can hike from Hembury Wood to Lady’s Woods in South Brent. This takes about two hours.
There are various parking spots along the road passing Hembury Woods. The most popular one for dog walkers is the first one, just before Hembury Castle.
Where to Find Bluebells in Hembury
From the southernmost parking lot, take the path northwards towards River Dart. Shortly before you reach River Dart Country Park you can spot beautiful patches of bluebells in May.
Even better when it comes to bluebells and much less frequented is the northernmost parking spot. It’s rather small and close to an entrance gate. From here, you walk along the fringe of the forest, past a few patches of clearing and then back into the woods.
There is a deserted stone house covered in ivy along the way. After that, you climb yet another fence and then get to see another glorious albeit small stretch of bluebells.
The time to visit the bluebells in the woods of Hembury is early to mid May, you get to see fields bluebells blossom beneath the old oak trees. If spring came early and temperatures are already quite warm, the bluebells come up a bit earlier. If it’s been wet and cold, they blossom later.
One of the most prominent features of the Woods is the old Iron Age fortress. It was in use between the late 5th until Roman invasion. Fun fact: The first excavations were led by a woman (Dorothy Liddell) in the 1930s.
What you can see is the mound and its oval ramparts that were heaped up and on which the fort/castle was erected.
However, don’t expect structures to be still standing, there isn’t much left of the Hembury fort house. No walls or structures remain as back in the day, it was built with wood. Time and weather haven’t been very kind.
You are walking in the woods. This means, it should go without saying, but there are no bins. If you do bring food, take your rubbish back home with you. Also, stick to the paths to not destroy the fragile bluebells (they are protected – so no selfies in the flowers allowed!) or other plants and shrubs. If you encounter wildlife, don’t approach and definitely not touch.
When walking along the river, you might notice the riverbanks are falling apart. That is because so many people are walking or running on it or dogs are digging up holes. Therefore, don’t let your dog dig up around here and avoid trampling on the riverside. Stick to the paths.
Further you should be aware of ticks. They love grass and shrubs to hang from and crawl up your legs. Therefore, wear long clothes and a protective spray. Always check your clothes and bod after a walk and have a special tick tweezer ready.
Should you have been attacked by a tick, gently pull the tick upwards with your tweezer and then observe the site of the bite over the coming weeks for any odd changes. See your doctor immediately if you feel like you have symptoms. Lyme disease is no joke.
Is a Hembury Woods Walk worth it?
I would say yes. There are tons of things to see in Dartmoor National Park but up on it, there aren’t forests. If you want to experience ancient British woodland (and a National Trust one at that), Hembury woods are ideal. The paths are easy to do, with only gentle slopes and forest bathing is proven to be good for your health.
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