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Spring loaded! 10 local parks & gardens to visit now

Spring has sprung and it's blooming lovely. Enjoy the best the season has to offer with these mood-boosting local walks around the county.

WOODLAND STOMP: Dunsford Nature Reserve, East Dartmoor

For the full Wordsworth, head to the wooded valley at Dunsford Nature Reserve, stunning at this time of year thanks to the host of golden daffs which crowd the River Teign walk. You can do this dog-friendly walk in under two hours (wellies needed if it’s been raining) and while the climb is pretty steep to the top of the reserve, the views over Dartmoor and the valley sure make it worth your while. And it’s all free!

GORGEOUS GARDENS:Lukesland Gardens, near Ivybridge

Lukesland is like being transported to a Scottish glen – 24 meandering acres with paths and pools and brilliant magnolia in eye-popping bloom now, followed by later in spring, hundreds of flame-coloured rhodos and azaleas. Owners Lorna and John ensure it’s all family and dog-friendly and while their little caf and homemade cakes aren’t available just yet, they don’t mind you bringing a picnic. Spring openings: Suns, Weds and Bank Hols from 14 March – 13 June, 11am- 5pm. Kids free.

ABBEY HABIT: Buckland Abbey, Yelverton

Great name for a place don’t you think? *checks ancestral line* A 13th century abbey, in a sheltered valley, with peaceful walks, meadows and woods to wander. I love the Great Barn, especially when it’s decorated for Xmas or a special occasion and this Easter they’re bringing back the annual Egg hunt, putting on games for kids and there’s a special ‘Easter Tree’ in the kitchen garden decorated in hand-painted eggs. Pre-booking essential.

CULTURE: Ted Hughes Poetry Trail, Stover Country Park, Newton Abbot, 3.2km

Fancy some culture with your clomping? This council-owned park celebrates the honorary Devonian and poet Ted Hughes’ links with the county, with sixteen specially-designed wooden posts, each displaying a poem on a theme relating to nature. There’s also a shorter Children’s Poetry route illustrated by the Snowman author, Raymond Briggs. Free.

ON THE ESTATE: Dartington Trust, near Totnes

Dartington Hall we’ve missed you! But at last the gardens around the Hall are back open to the public, with woodsy borders alive with snakehead frittillaries, native primroses and all sorts of daffies, from tiny species, to tall trumpets. Highlights include the Henry Moore’s Reclining Figure sculpture, a bridge by Peter Randall Page and a whispering circle, plus just outside the entrance the excellent Green Table Cafe is on-hand for coffee, home-made soups, frittata and sarnies to takeaway. Free, except for parking and no need to book.

PARK LIFE: Cockington Court, near Torquay

Torquay and the tiny village of Cockington on its edge are like chalk and cheese, this being a go-back-in-time oasis with thatched cottages and at its heart a natural green playground of Cockington Country Park. The 420 acres include a craft centre, arboretum, along with dog-friendly woodland and lakeside walks. The Weavers ice-cream parlour is open (as is the working waterwheel next to it) and for coffee and light bites, stroll across the lawns to Cockington Court and the Seven Dials cafe. Galleries and studios follow on 12 April. Free except for parking.

NATIONAL TRUST: Killerton House, nr Exeter

This National Trust lovely has loads to see in spring, with over 100 rhodos, magnolias and awesome views out over the rolling Devon countryside. Muddy has spent many a happy hour here with both older rellies who enjoy the easy-to-manoeuvre flat paths and the Mudlets who love hiding among the trees, Don’t miss the quirky thatched 19th century Bear’s Hut (pictured) at the end of the lawn which once housed a poor bear called Tom, brought to Killerton by the 12th Baronet’s brother from Canada. Pre-booking essential.

PLANT-HUNTER PARASISE: The Garden House, Buckland Monachorum

A bijou 10 acre oasis on the edge of the moor, packed with springtime treasures made all the more astonishing for its contrast with its wild moorland edge location. Oodles of springtime horticulture to relish now, including Camellia, Magnolia, Azalea and Rhododendron, plus bridges and brooks for kids to enjoy, and teens should like the new 2021 Art Trail, with frames positioned cleverly around the garden to snap special views and, of course, for selfies. Open 6 days a week from 1 April, kids under 5 free.

SCULPTURE GARDEN:Stone Lane Gardens, Chagford

I’m always amazed this RHS Partner Garden on Dartmoor isn’t better known as it’s a beaut, a magical 5-acre woodland garden filled with graceful white-barked birch trees and alder. Go now to see the boughs leafing up, pretty catkins and spring bulbs in bloom, plus there is sculpture dotted around under the trees to enjoy. Adults, £5/children £2.50 and under 11s free, dogs welcome too.

CITY SIGHTS: Veitch Lamppost Trail, Exeter

Stuck in the city? This whimsical trail of 17 cast-iron lampposts around the St James and St David’s area of the cathedral city is a tribute to Exeter’s horticultural and industrial heritage, as well as the go-getting nature of the local residents who worked hard to save the lampposts back in 2015 when the council threatened to remove them. Now, they’ve been restored and each post individually hand-painted by artist Kate Wilson with a different Veitch plant. Inspirational.

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