Explore town's hidden treasures
DISTANCE: 1¾ miles / 2.8km
START POINT: The Town Hall in North Street, TQ13 7QQ
PARKING: Kingsbridge Lane Car Park
PUBLIC TRANSPORT: Timetables available online at www.travelinesw.com
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Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
TOILETS: Kingsbridge Lane
MARKET DAYS: Tuesday to Saturday – Tuckers Yard, Chuley Road
WHILE YOU ARE THERE: Consider a steam train ride along the South Devon Railway from Buckfastleigh, 3½ miles from Ashburton, to Totnes. It's a beautiful 7-mile stretch which follows the River Dart
THIS soggy June is an ideal time to keep off the moors and coast and confine your walking to somewhere where you can quickly dodge a shower by heading into a cafe, pub or shop – an historic south Devon town.
Ashburton has some intriguing and ancient-feeling backwaters which you might not find on a simple shopping visit to the town.
This walk explores these as well as having a good look at the centre of this old stannery town (where locally mined tin was weighed, stamped and assessed for duty) with its many listed buildings and enticing independent retailers. There is ample opportunity for some really nice foody stops too, so allow time to make the most of what the town has to offer.
There is a short stretch of ascent and descent to visit the Holy Well, but this is a 'there-and-back-again' bit, so you can miss it if you wish.
The map is your guide.
The walk starts at the Town Hall, adjacent to the main car park. From outside the Town Hall turn right along North Street towards the town centre. Look left as you head down North Street to see The House of Cards, a former gaming house with the four card suits decorating its façade.
A little further along is a rather venerable medieval granite archway.
The Grade ll-listed building which contains this medieval arch was, during the 17th century, The Mermaid Inn.
In 1637 a £4 annual rent from the Inn helped fund the Grammar School, then housed in St Lawrence Chapel.
During the Civil War the Inn hosted Fairfax after his Parliamentarian troops had put the Royalists to flight from Ashburton. The building now, with its painted render, looks quite different to the old stone pub which it once was but the arrangement of windows, doors and chimney is unchanged.
Farther on is the medieval Exeter Inn, dating from the early 12th century is Grade I listed. After the death of Elizabeth l in 1603, Sir Walter Raleigh was arrested here and taken to the Tower of London.
James I, Elizabeth's successor, disliked Raleigh and tried him for treason.
He was found guilty but rather than being executed he remained a prisoner until 1616. He was then freed but was subsequently beheaded at Westminster in 1618.
Down here continue past two left turns, Stonepark and Stonepark Crescent.
The next attraction is St Gudula's Well.
There are various possible origins for the dedication of this ancient well.
Gudula was born in Belgium in the 7th century and she is venerated as one of the patron saints in Brussels, but there is little to connect her with 'sight', and the waters of this well reputedly aid weak eyes. Neither is she known to have visited the area. Alternatively, 6th century Welsh Gudwal was associated with the south west and did have a reputation for healing the sick. The nearby cross is thought to be 14th century.
Both St Andrew's Church and its graveyard are worth a visit. The church's origins are 12th century but the building you see today is primarily 15th century. Hugely impressive from the outside, take time to also look round the interior with its beautiful stained glass windows and wealth of historic features sitting comfortably with 20th century carvings.
St Lawrence Chapel, which you encounter a few minutes later, was originally a private chapel for the Bishop of Exeter. In the early 14th century it was given to the town by Bishop Stapledon and became a chantry school which then evolved into the grammar school. This closed in 1938 when numbers dropped but was still used as a school annex.
It has also been a library and museum. Ashburton retains certain forms of civic
administration, such as Court Leet and Court Baron, which date back to Saxon times. The Court Leet elects a portreeve (the steward of a market town) and bailiff who are appointed at an annual ceremony in the chapel.
Further down on the left is The Golden Lion. On the opposite side of the road to The Golden Lion notice the large stone structure inscribed 'DHBT' and '1974'. This is an early 18th century 'conduit head' which once supplied water to the town and which is now a Grade ll Star listed building.
It was restored by the Devon Historic Buildings Trust.
The Golden Lion was built as a surgeon's house in 1768 and within 30 years had become a coaching inn.
Press gangs would visit here to seek 'volunteers' from amongst sailors who had dropped in to seek solace in ale. In 1984 it became headquarters for the Monster Raving Loony Party and the owner, Alan Hope, became first MRL councillor in 1987 when elected to Ashburton Town Council. The building is Grade ll Star listed.
The last landmarks before the walk ends are the Town Hall and the Great Hall, which is the old United Reformed Church.
Taken from Town Walks in Devon by James Clancy and Simone Stanbrook-Byrne (Culm Valley Press, £7.99). This has circular walks exploring some of the county's most picturesque and interesting towns in the county. Also available by the same authors and publishers is Town Walks in Cornwall (£6.99). Both are available from
Waterstone's, independent bookshops and many village shops and post offices.