Exeter's Green Circle Hike
Updated: Jul 5, 2022
Date: 16th November, 2020
Location: Exeter, Devon
Distance: 25 km (15.5 miles)
Elevation gain: 486 m (1595 ft)
Duration: 7 hours
Highlights: Exploring parts of Exeter we had never seen before, beautiful views towards the Haldon Hills, lunch in Barley Valley Nature Reserve
Summary: A beautiful walk around the city, linking Exeter's many parks in a easily navigable trail
Our one-year anniversary was meant to be spent in Bristol, where we'd explored the day we became an official couple on the 16th of November, 2019. But as COVID cases rose and England was put back into a national lockdown, we knew our plans would have to change. Since the beginning of the pandemic, our outdoor adventures have been such a source of joy, so we knew we needed to find a way to celebrate our anniversary with a mini-adventure. And with the lockdown preventing us from using public transport, we needed to find an adventure here in Exeter.
After a recommendation from a friend, we looked into the "Exeter Green Circle" hike, a 19 kilometre (12 mile) hike "within the boundaries of Exeter." The route connects many of Exeter's parks, which sounded like a perfect way to get out of the house and reconnect to nature without having to leave the city.
And so on Monday the 16th of November, 2020, we got up early(ish) to set off on our very local adventure! Between the two of us we had four cameras – three film and one digital. You might say "that's excessive" and you would be entirely correct. But in our defence, we did end up shooting on all of the four cameras. The colour photos within this post are a mix of iPhone and digital camera photos, while the black and white photos were shot on film using our Nikon N80.
We decided to start at Mincinglake Valley Park, a 1.5 kilometre (0.9 mile) walk from our house. Once in the park, we saw the first of the Exeter Green Circle markers we would be following throughout the day. While we've visited Mincinglake Valley Park many times over the last few months, as soon as we left the park, we were already walking down streets we had never explored. After passing the gorgeous St Katherine’s Priory, we walked through the Hamlin Lane Playing Fields and towards Ludwell Valley Park.
We stopped for some film photography near the Exeter Crematorium, where we enjoyed photographing the brightly coloured leaves covered in water droplets.
From there, we walked through Riverside Valley Park before crossing the River Exe and heading into areas we had never explored before. Following the Alphin Brook, we passed through Alphington and then up into the hills. The stretch along Hambeer Lane was definitely a highlight of the hike. From the ridge-top green lane, we could see out towards the picturesque village of Ide, surrounded by vibrant autumn colours.
We stopped for lunch in Barley Valley Nature Reserve and cooked our miso soup with udon noodles while looking out over the city. The weather was gloomy and grey (classic Exeter), but we felt lucky that we managed to stay dry the whole day.
After our stop, we walked along quiet suburban streets before heading into the Exwick Cemetery. From there, it was back down to the river and then up to the university along paths we had wandered many times before. Crossing the university campus, we ended up on the Belvidere Road track, near the top of Pennsylvania Road. At this point it was beginning to get dark out, but we felt confident we were close enough to home that the darkness wouldn't be a problem. We followed the path back down into Mincinglake and, from there, with tired legs, we left the Green Circle and headed back towards the city.
After walking almost 25 kilometres (15.5 miles), we arrived home just as the sky was getting dark. Exhausted after our longest hike together, we opted for take-out burgers and shakes from one of our favourite restaurants in Exeter: Eat the Bird.
Lessons learnt from this hike:
Don't gorge yourself on homemade sushi the night before a long hike. It's not a good idea. We promise.
There are always new and beautiful places to explore near home.
We don't need fancy restaurants or expensive hotels to celebrate special occasions together.
Exeter Green Circle website: https://exeter.gov.uk/leisure-and-culture/walking-in-exeter/exeter-green-circle-walks/overview/
Inspiration for other local hikes: https://www.covestocliffs.com/post/5-lockdown-walks-in-exeter