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Summary re track leading straight up from four cross way to Ridge Road: It is not 'Gulmswell Lane'


No apologies for length. This is a very important business


Farms in hilly parts of Devon were poor. Wagons were not afforded. Pack horses were used to bring the crops in. Small numbers of animals would be driven up to pastures as they greened up. If wagons were available they could not be driven up this track or driven down given the steepness.

My custodianship

I opened up the long disused buddles/drains before we bought the 25 acres from the Boyds – about 32 years ago because I like to see things working and damage reversed. After the purchase I attended to them about 3 times a year and often with paid help. (Buddles above Home House Orchard and up Barcombe Lane were also opened up.) Later, when I was chairman of the Village Hall committee, heavy concrete lintels were spare. These being ideal for diverting water into the buddles, one was used for each buddle. They were fastened to the bedrock. Mark helped me in this - paid. There had been two 'rallies' prior to this – Midland Motor Club. The rallies involved at least 100 VW Beetles ?2WD. Some needed extraction by tractor. The track was widely flattened including the primroses and other flowers. Mrs Sutton, a widow of the Paignton Park Superintendent who lived by the road to Stoke, liked to walk the paths. She wept at the vandalism.

The Motor Club found that the VWs could not mount the 4 inch step. I believe Dr Thomas, Parish Councillor, and Peter Williams the then Parish Clerk wished to see the rallies continue. A meeting was held up the track with these two and Mr Brewer, the area Highways officer. He expressed himself very content with our work (always done to the highest standard) and said the track was not on the DCC map. No further rallies took place, but walkers, horse riders, motorcyclists and 4WD off road vehicles continued to use the track. The latter damaged the banks, and our bank (the east) in particular. More soil/stones/leaf litter was displaced into the track, thus causing the buddles to block more quickly.

We paid for a swing shovel to spread the large mounds of soil on our land by each buddle because they were obstructing the outflow. All employed labour and the cost of this swing shovel were of course paid by us with no thought of any contribution from any other body. This we call husbandry.

Because my efforts and expenditure were being wasted by the 4WD vandalism, I decided to install steel posts top and bottom, with a small bund at the top to keep the water on the track above. The posts were clothed in Yorkshire Board and reflectors attached in case there was motor traffic at night. This work was done 12 years ago, and with Mark at a cost of about £260. Families and other walkers could enjoy the peace and the natural life. Occasionally they might have seen day time flights of the barn owls who live in our cob linhay we built in 1994. Horse riders, runners and mountain bikes could use the track without meeting a roaring Land Rover coming up. Motor bikes were seen mostly at weekends.

The Parish Council appeared on the scene courtesy of Dr Matt Fox, 'Footpath Officer' in November 2016

Minutes of the Parish Councilheld on 4 November 2015 at 7.30pm


Cllr Fox reported that the footpaths are generally fine. However, concerns were

raised about the condition of the unmetalled road leading up from Gulmswell Farm

and that it was difficult to comply with the maintenance requirements of DCC’s P3

scheme because access was restricted by the concrete posts at the top and bottom

of the lane. It was agreed that the clerk writes to the landowner who is believed to

have installed the posts informing them that the Parish Council intends to remove

the posts so that access can be gained to carry out necessary maintenance of the

lane and trees.


Minutes of the Parish Councilheld on 2 December 2015 at 7.30pm



Members received and noted correspondence with regard to the unmetalled road

leading up from Gulmswell Farm. It was also reported that the posts at the top

and bottom of the road have now been removed and landowners will try and clear

the trees (DSH – not our trees) and generally tidy up the area.


Minutes of the Parish Councilheld on 6 January 2016 at 7.30pm



12.1 Members received and noted correspondence with regard to the unmetalled

road leading up from Gulmswell Farm. Members also noted that following

removal of the bollards at the top and bottom of the lane, the landowners

now have access to their land to carry out necessary maintenance.


DSH to PC Although my focus is on threats to OUR NHS and other things which will affect all our lives, and not on an ancient path, I will find time to send some key points re history and maintenance needs.  After the PC reads that, it would be good if we walked up the path.  A few councillors might not know the bridleway.

At the same time a signpost to nowhere appeared at 4 cross way – but it had 3 fingers. One pointed to Carl Napper's Restricted Byway (which is named on his gate), and one upwards to the track – Unmetalled Road – patently obvious it is 'unmetalled'. The third pointed downwards towards Gulmswell – Unmetalled Road. The road down to Gulmsell is down to bedrock (brecchia). The road above Home House Orchard is still metalled in parts, with broken stone and no doubt rolled in with a steam roller. DCC made this useless signpost, delivered and erected it. Being of the softest of soft wood and with the useless modern Tanalith, it rotted in a year. This was done with council taxes.

Having taken no part in maintenance of this track in living memory, and without discussing its plans with the man who had done his very best to maintain it, the PC removed the posts within days of the 'intending to'. The PC had no idea what financial liabilities were attached to its rapid action or what was needed for maintenance. It appeared to be moved by a mixture of arrogance and vindictiveness. (See below for conflict of interest.) But it has learned something about this track in volumes of correspondence from me since then. (All available on request.)

I asked the PC twice whether it wanted to see 4WD vehicles on the track. It failed to answer so one assumed it did.

I walked down the track – 10-02-18. It is in a terrible state: walking for the elderly is dangerous. 4WD vehicles have been using it, planing down the sides and more importantly the banks. With brisk rainfall, the large amount of displaced soil will quickly fill the buddles which had been emptied well by a husband of a councillor. The heavy rain will have filled the buddles again and more soil and stones will have been scoured out and washed down to the Dod to add to the risk of flooding.


Questions for the Parish Council - three elected members, three co-opted members and two vacancies.

  1. Did Chairman Boerer and other councillors walk up the track before the posts were peremptorily removed to see its state under my stewardship, to get some idea of the maintenance required by the PC and the cost of it?

  2. Did the PC carry out a survey of the flora, mosses, lichens etc on the banks before the posts were removed? The council will be aware that a book has just been published recording an increase in the species of the Devon flora.

  3. The council will also be aware that very many millions are being spent restoring and enhancing the natural world in the UK. Is it a function of the PC to encourage destruction of this ancient track?

  4. We had the 26th most populous lesser horseshoe bat roost in the UK in Home House - 86 at one count, plus some greater horseshoe bats. The head of Natural England wrote thanking us. When bats are hunting for those c. 2000 insects per night, they fly up corridors and favour tall overhanging hedges. This track is an ideal corridor. Being winter, a survey with receivers would not be fruitful. However, how might these very sensitive creatures tolerate lingering toxic emissions from 4WD vehicles such as nitric oxides and 'particulates'? Might the insect/moth population be adversely affected by the trampling of heavy 4WDs?

  5. The PC is aware that the bank on the east side is our property. We have steeped that hedge twice. The two greatest risks for extensive destruction are a.the 10 metres of stone facing below our top entrance, 1 square metre of which has fallen away already because traffic has eroded the foundation by about 2ft. If the wall falls into the track, the steep bank (6ft > 8ft high) will slump into the track b.Because the banks are up to 8ft high in parts with very large trees on top, a gale might fell a tree at the roots, displacing a large amount of stone and soil. This would be into the track. The cost to repair either would be very substantial. Is the PC prepared to guarantee that it would bear the costs given that the precipitating cause will be 'vandalism by vehicle' that it is encouraging?

  6. It is likely that a motor club will decide to use the re-opened track for an off road trial, and perhaps in great numbers. Is the PC ready to defend its position with the people of the parish and especially with the occupants at Gulmswell? It will bear in mind the traffic congesting the roads already.

  7. The trees that line the track are ash, some oak, field maple and wild cherry. The two latter are beautiful in their autumn colours. The cherry blossom is wonderful in the spring. For quiet enjoyment.

  8. “The main aim is to improve the condition of the local rights of way and keep them open and used properly.” Does the PC consider the use it has facilitated as proper?

  9. Youths break the branches of a sapling in the park. Vandals!! Is the PC not a vandal in this?

  10. A sensitive child climbs the track, through the mud, to pick primroses for its mother on Mothering Sunday. There is roaring behind from a heavy 4x4. The child looks for a refuge on the steep western bank. Is the PC pleased with this possibility?


Conflict of Interest; Did Dr Matt Fox bring this to the PC when he was lobbying to have my posts removed and vehicular access encouraged?

He was 'clinical lead' for 'coastal' and attached to the South Devon and Torbay Clinical Commissioning Group. He was based at Dawlish as was his assertive associate, Ms Jenny Turner. He was 'tasked' with promoting the closure of Teignmouth Hospital, and was in harmony with closure of three others. Sham consultation was the main mechanism.

Teignmouth Community Hospital with airy uncluttered wards and sea views. The old CH bombed by the Luftwaffe.  7 patients and 3 killed killed.  The FIRST hospital to be built post-WW2 by OUR new NHS.  So valuable for rehabilitation in the main. Now closed for most purposes.

I strongly opposed the closure of CH beds at public meetings, via papers to the CCG based on a long and deep experience as a local Consultant in Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgery, via letters in newspapers both local and regional, and on TV.

I know my opposition to closure and very public stance were not welcome. I was told it. Ms Turner insulted me in public and was forced to issue a watery apology. There was strong animosity towards me.

( Half the CH beds were closed (60). This was a major factor in the 'lack of capacity' this winter with cancelled planned operations, as opponents to closure predicted.)


Teamwork in Combe-in-Teignhead 1975 to 2000. The personal recollections of David Halpin

19th February 2018

Chairman of the Village Hall. Oversaw its rebuilding. The A frames had spread and with them the single skin walls. Dangerous. Gilbert Eales > scaffolding throughout from floor to roof – suspending it. New foundations and walls rebuilt up to the roof. A tricky and unusual job.

A cramped Christmas Fair in our Home House. Many activities and all involving John Coombes and his late wife Maureen, Bill and Carol Smith, my wife Sue and the late Dennis Ross. A revue directed by Dorothy Miller – 'Combe-in-Teignhead Here We Come'! Dances, Xmas Fairs, barbecues. the history of the Parish – John Coombes. Village Fetes in the summer for the church. The yard outside made into more of a small tennis court for children. Sue and I arranged for David Ramsden of the Barn Owl Trust to speak on barn owls. This was the first time for him. This was for fund raising for Rocombe Valley Action Group – to fight rumoured tipping of inert waste in a deep valley. And much else.

Jubilee Committee.Silver Jubilee 1977. Combe people were asked to attend the official fire – Labrador. I said that meant cars and that was not in keeping. So this committee formed. Wonderful fire on Cliff Chudley's land – via Barcombe Lane. Dennis Ross took a leading part. After the fire a barbecue with donated chops! We then took on the newly named Jubilee Garden. The top soil had been removed and estuarial mud dumped instead. Colin Shaw and I worked on this – mostly on Sundays. A patient made the raised bed in brick. I erected a steel tube as a flag pole, the purpose being vent the cess pit!

Hearne Field and Committee.Martin Boyd was keen to see cricket on this field bequeathed by good Percy Hearne, and he set me going. I spent an hour one Saturday pm with gentle Cliff Chudley the tenant. It was the best fattening field on the farm (?salt spray on the pasture). But, he agreed to restrict grazing to sheep alone. The ground where a hedge had been was dealt with by John Coombes and me. A second hand gang mower was obtained from DGM and paid for by the Parish Council. I cut the grass with an old tractor. Time and diesel were not charged. Steps down to the little beach – Mark Blaber and me. Paid for by PC. I wanted this beach to be a place for mothers with little ones. Oaks and one lime planted by me by Combe Cellars Lane. I planted a red flowered Horse Chestnut – given by the Boyd family in memory of Martin. This was by the drive to the Pavilion. The Harts wanted it removed because it 'would obscure their view of the estuary'. I note its absence. Returned from 6 months in NZ to find some men had been defaecating behind the makeshift pavilion. Mark and I dug a 'long drop' and built a little house over it. No charge. Then the pavilion, and I wish the architect had not advised against 'wet trades'. Being in wood the insurance must be substantially higher. Donation of £1000 by Sue and me in memory of Susan's mother. I laid the water main through hard core across the car park entrance. Much else.

Parish Council and sometime Chairman.Not easy. I recall strong objections from a few to the development of Hearne Field. Planning applications – sites visited. eg. Honeysuckle Farm (horses). Attended with a senior planning officer. Hardly ever was the considered view of the PC accepted by TDC. The 'boathouse' at Tidelands – Mr Spink. PC unanimous in objecting to it believing it was likely to be converted to living accommodation. (It has!) Besides, the steeply pitched roof obstructed a pleasing view down the estuary. After long days in clinics or in the operating theatre, I must have felt tired for this PC work. Being on call for trauma cases at night 1in 2, and later 1in3>4, meant that some weeks I worked about 60 hours.

2000> In 1986 we purchased 3 parcels of steep land in poor heart. The Woodland Grant Scheme helped with the 'coppice' and Celia's wood – both 5 acres. 25 'back sun' acres were purchased from the Boyds and planted without grant aid as a pasture woodland. Sheep graze on the clear areas and on the 7 acres of pasture that have been retained. Altogether there are about 6000 trees. 1 acre cider orchard restored to beauty above Home House. A linhay was built in cob in 1994. The barn owls live there. A 'Shepherd's' Hut is a very recent addition, and also a log store in the coppice. Fitting with the adage, 'leave the land better than you found it', there are no broken down vehicles, caravans etc in these acres which we have enhanced.

Maintenance of the track which goes straight up from 4 cross way alongside our pasture woodland.

The two 'buddles' were opened up by me before 1986 and our purchase of this land. These drains, if kept open, stop the track from being scoured out by rain. Cleared out about 3 times per year. And 12 years ago, posts top and bottom, to stop 4X4 vandals. £260 spent then for public and not personal benefit. A youth breaking the branch of a sapling in a park is called a vandal. What of a 4X4 driven up an ancient track?