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When it comes to scenery, most of us associate South Devon with its unspoilt farmland and varied coastline, incorporating sweeping bays, secluded coves and craggy cliffs. These make wonderful terrain for walking, providing stunning countryside and coastal views, but sometimes – especially on hot days when you’re in need of shade or during the autumn when the leaves start to change – nothing beats a walk in the forest.

Fortunately, there are several forests in South Devon offering a range of options for woodland walks, depending on the level of challenge you’re looking for and scenery you’d like to find.

Here are five of our favourite woods in South Devon.

1. Avon Valley/Loddiswell Woods

Avon Valley Woods near Loddiswell

This sizeable forest in the valley of the beautiful River Avon (also known as the Aune) is the backdrop to one of South Devon’s most popular walks, which runs by the river along the old railway line. Free parking in the village and the fantastic Avon Mill Garden Centre café en-route make this a must-try for keen walkers looking for a change of scene.

The sparkling shallow water on this stretch of the river is hypnotic at times. Bring a picnic blanket and flask with you, so you can settle down and while away the time.

2. West Alvington Woods

About a mile west of Kingsbridge across roads, fields and paths, West Alvington Woods is a common destination for walkers looking for a pleasant trail from this pretty market town. These woods are fairly small but old and rich in variety, with oak, beech, sweet chestnut, hazel and other species. Find out more about this walk from the South Devon AONB.

3. Erme Wood

Just into Dartmoor National Park and a few miles from the South Devon town of Ivybridge, this ancient section of woodland is a well-kept secret amongst local residents and frequent visitors, so an ideal spot if you’re looking to escape the summer crowds for a morning or afternoon.

One regular visitor to Erme Wood told us:

“The tall trees and quiet, peaceful atmosphere at Erme Woods make you feel like you’re in another world. I walk my dogs there a few times a week (they absolutely love it and it’s a safe place to run free) and sometimes I have even been lucky enough to see deer in the woods. If you follow the path through Erme Woods to the top, you can see beautiful views of the surrounding countryside and Flete House.”

4. The Raleigh Estate

There are some 250 acres of woodland on the Raleigh Estate, a 1000-acre area of privately owned land in the Dart Valley between Dartmouth and Dittisham. There’s parking close to Old Mill Creek, or you can walk from Dartmouth or Dittisham (why not walk the whole way and get the Dittisham Ferry back?)

There’s more woodland on the opposite bank too: take the passenger ferry from Dittisham across to Greenway and walk back through beautiful forest and farmland to Kingswear, where you can hop back across to Dartmouth.

Find out more about the stunning Dartmouth-Dittisham-Greenway walk here.

5. Holne Woods

Dominated by mighty oak trees, this ancient woodland is found just off the A38 near Buckfastleigh. At the southern edge of Dartmoor, these woods provide spectacular views of the national park. This stretch of woodland runs alongside the River Dart, which changes season by season, moment by moment and yard by yard, sometimes appearing as a rush of white water and at others slowing to a trickle. Like Erme Woods, it’s a great choice for those looking to hide away.

From steep wooded valleys and dramatic coastline to gently rolling hills and picturesque towns, the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty offers a wonderful range of options for keen walkers.

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