Church Way, Widecombe in the Moor, Dartmoor National Park

Church Way, Widecombe in the Moor, Dartmoor National Park

The Lichway/Lych Way is a well known and reasonably well signposted long distance walking route that runs from the heart of Dartmoor across a section of its high moorland to Lydford St Petroc's Church on the National Park's western boundary. People who lived in the heart of Dartmoor were required to carry their dead on this route for a Christian burial.

According to the Dartmoor expert Eric Hemery in his book 'Walking Dartmoor's Ancient Tracks', 'the distance [of the Lichway/Lych Way] by the most direct route from the tenements of Babeny and Pizwell in the east central basin was about 12 miles; when adverse weather compelled travellers to use a route less arduous and consequently less direct, the distance increased to 17 miles. In 1260, therefore, the easterly Ancient Tenements successfully petitioned the Bishop of Exeter (Walter Bronescombe) for permission to attend the much nearer Widecombe church instead of Lydford for all sacramental purposes, whereupon the Church Way began to receive regular use for that purpose, and the vicar of Widecombe to receive tithes which properly were due to the rector of Lydford'.

The Church Way has two routes. One runs east from Pizwell and Runnage to Widecombe-in-the-Moor. The other runs north east from the Babeny area to Widecombe-in-the-Moor. Both are pleasant walks but's there's a reasonable amount of road walking. Both lack the isolated splendour of the Lichway/Lych Way.

Holiday in Dartmoor is a practical guide to Dartmoor. As such, it's easiest to walk these routes in the opposite direction by starting at Widecombe-in-the-Moor. There's plenty of parking, shops and places to eat and drink in this moorland village. We begin with the Pizwell/Runnage route and then cover the Babeny route.

Park at Widecombe-in-the-Moor. Pop into its impressive church. From there, take the road that runs west of the village. Shortly, you come to an ancient lane that climbs to the northern section of Dunstone Down/the southern section of Hamel Down. The Church Way runs north west across moorland and then drops down to Littlecott Farm. From there, follow the skinny moorland lane to the southern boundary of the plantation at Soussons Down. Continue on the road to Runnage Bridge or the track marked on the Ordnance Survey Explorer OL28 'Dartmoor' map that leads to Pizwell.

To walk the other route, take the road that runs south from Widecombe-in-the-Moor. You'll come to another road that climbs west across Dunstone Down near Wind Tor. This is the modern Two Moors Way. Pass the site of Hutholes. Continue to the crossroads beyond Dockwell. Take the right hand turn and walk to Shallowford. The road takes you to the foot of Corndon Down. Cross the down to Sherwell and Babeny. Note that heather and gorse can be difficult to walk through on Corndon Down. To avoid, head up to Corndon Tor, drop down to the Evelyn Anthony Cave Penney Memorial and then follow the moorland road down to Sherwell and Babeny.