The reopening of the Dartmoor Line this weekend makes it possible to catch a train from Crediton to Okehampton and to explore a beautiful area without taking the car. Our editor Rosemary Stephenson has been looking at things to do in and around Okehampton, whether you fancy an energetic hike across the moor, a leisurely stroll and some shopping in town or a visit to the movies.
Okehampton station first opened in 1871 and for a hundred years the town had a regular rail service linking it to Exeter, Plymouth and other stations across Devon and Cornwall. But following the 1963 Beeching Report, which led to the closure of a huge number of railway lines, the station finally closed in 1972.
Luckily the track between Okehampton and Exeter wasn’t removed and until 2010 was used for transporting railway ballast from Meldon Quarry as well as running a few special trains for tourists in the summer months. For many years local people campaigned to reopen the line for regular passenger services and you can read their story here.
It is thanks to their perseverance and hard work that the Dartmoor Line is the first to reopen under the Government’s Restoring Your Railway programme, which is looking at ways to return old lines and stations to service across the country.
Initially there will be trains every two hours each way, seven days a week, between Okehampton, Crediton and Exeter St David’s, and this will increase to hourly in 2022 with some trains continuing on to Exeter Central.
With trains to Okehampton leaving Crediton before 8am and returning after 10pm, and a journey time between the two towns of just 27 minutes, it is now possible for Crediton residents to enjoy a car free day out.
Here are some suggestions of what to do when you get off the train in Okehampton.
Okehampton is often described as the gateway to Dartmoor and the station is located conveniently close to the moor. Take a short walk up the hill to get a feel for this unique wilderness landscape. Or, if you are feeling more energetic, here are 3 circular routes, of varying lengths, which start and finish at the station.
Yes Tor and High Willhays This 8.5 mile route takes you to the highest point on Dartmoor.
East Okement Valley A 7 mile route including woods, tors and the village of Belstone, with its pub and tea room.
East Hill A shorter walk of 2.3 miles including panoramic views across Devon and the highest peaks of Dartmoor.
Please remember that Dartmoor is notorious for rapid changes of weather, even in the summer. So if you are planning to walk on the moor come well prepared with waterproof clothing, walking boots, a map and mobile phone.
If you fancy exploring on two wheels, hire a bike at Granite Way Cycles next to the station and pedal off along the spectacular Granite Way. This is a traffic free cycle route of 11 miles, so ideal for children or inexperienced cyclists.
With fantastic views of Dartmoor and the surrounding countryside, the route runs to Lydford, where you can visit the stunning Lydford Gorge, the deepest river gorge in southern England.
Bear in mind that there will be limited space on the train for bikes, so if you are in a group hiring may be a better option than bringing your own bikes.
If you want a more leisurely day out, and to learn something about Okehampton’s history, why not follow the town trail, which takes you to all the key sites.
The trail starts a short walk from the station at The Museum of Dartmoor Life, a fascinating collection telling the story of life on Dartmoor life over the past 5,000 years. The museum also offers a tourist information point for North Dartmoor and the local area.
The trail takes you to the picturesque remains of Okehampton Castle, Devon’s oldest and largest castle and well worth a visit. Set high above the rushing River Okement, it was built soon after the Norman Conquest as a motte and bailey castle with a stone keep and was converted into a sumptuous residence in the 14th century by Hugh Courtenay, Earl of Devon, much of whose work survives. After the last Courtenay owner fell foul of Henry VIII in 1539, the castle declined into a ruin
There is a riverside picnic area near the castle as well as beautiful woodland walks. It's also a great place for bird lovers with regular visiting species.
Follow the trail back into the town centre where you will discover the delightful Simmons Park another great spot to relax or enjoy a picnic.
Like Crediton, Okehampton has a brilliant selection of independent shops to explore, selling both useful and unusual items. In Red Lion Yard the kids will love The Toy Shop and Koast, a specialist clothes shop just for them. .
In the Victorian Arcade there are some great places for buying gifts, such as the quirky Moon and Moor gallery offering handmade jewellery, artwork and plants or Chilli Baba which sells gorgeous clothes, jewellery and accessories sourced from small businesses in India.
When you’ve done enough shopping there are plenty of pubs, cafes and restaurants to grab a cuppa or a bite to eat before catching your train back to Crediton.
Alternatively, if there is still time before the last train back to Crediton, you could complete your day out by watching a film. With its three screens, the Merlin Cinema in the centre of town has a changing programme showing all the latest films
Make sure the film finishes in time to catch the last train back to Crediton (22.18 on Monday to Friday and 21.56 on Saturday and Sunday)
You can find out more about the Dartmoor Line including train times and ticket prices here