Bere Ferrers

Bere Ferrers Station

The joy of walking this all too easily overlooked corner of Devon is its ease of access by train. The villages of Bere Alston and Bere Ferrers are both on the Tamar Valley Community Partnership line. We get there from where we are staying outside Calstock, across the border in Cornwall. Day One is an outing to Bere Ferrers where we discover the ‘Tamar Belle’ rail heritage site, separate from but part of the Victorian station. The signal box says “Beer Ferrers’ while the platform signs (in old Southern railway green livery) ‘Bere Ferrers’. We are informally hosted by Chris the owner and his passing friends, all seriously committed rail buffs, who between them have collected, repaired, maintained and developed the carriages, engines, cranes and assorted equipment redolent of the age of steam. We are shown the brilliantly converted B&B accommodation of the carriages and are Refreshed with tea we set out on our ramble. It takes us past an orchard – one of many that used to dominate this region – on a rough farm track that, with the coming of the railway in 1890, was used to convey early season fruit and flowers ferried over from Cargreen on the Cornish side to catch the trains that would rush the fresh produce up country to the London markets. (The route, via Tavistock & Okehampton, was axed in the 1960’s Beeching cuts). Cautiously sidetracking a herd of cows and calves we divert steeply downhill to link up with the ‘discovery trail’ following the tidal river upstream between lush species rich meadows and a strip of ancient woodland overhanging the wide waterway. We quit the footpath and return to the station uphill via a deep lane with high hedged banks full of campion, stitchwort, bluebells, vetch etc. At the top we pass a farm selling home produced honey and take in great views of the two rivers moving towards their esturial confluence with the distant Cornish and Devon moors providing the finest of backdrops. We follow the long village street down to the ancient parish church overlooking the Tavy with its fine stone tomb effigies of the Ferrers family, Norman lords of the manor here. A more recent memorial – a polished brass plaque on the wall – commemorates ten New Zealand soldiers killed by a passing express in September 1917 while stepping out of a troop train that had halted unexpectedly at the station. These ill starred Kiwis, after travelling half way round the world and before ever seeing action on the western front were killed in their allies land, far from home…A terrible, if ironic, tragedy.

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