The perfect place for a family walk at any time but particularly attractive in Spring, Dunsford Nature Reserve is easy to find on the B3212 between Exeter and Moretonhampstead. If you leave Exeter along Cowick Street and just keep going you will pass signs for the village of Dunsford on the right and shortly after come to Steps Bridge. There are spaces to park on the road by the wall of the bridge which are next to the entrance to the reserve. You can also park in the Steps Bridge car park which is slightly further on to the right but you will need to walk back along the road. There are regular but infrequent bus services that will drop/collect at Steps Bridge too.
This walk is great for all ages. There is a surfaced path all the way but in places this is very rough which would make me wary of pushing a wheelchair, or pushchair/pram for a very little one. If you have big tyres or a toddler who wants to hop in and out then it’s fine for that. There are information boards detailing the history of the reserve and local area, and with tips for wildlife to look out for. Spotter sheets such as these from Woodland Trust and Wildlife Watch are handy to take if you have older children or want to have a focus for your visit.
There are easy circular routes and it’s not hard to find your way as the paths follow the river. You can explore and build dens, paddle at the ‘beach’ and enjoy listening to the birds. There are plenty of spots to lay a blanket and enjoy a picnic. If you want to, you can walk to the other end of the reserve at Clifford Bridge and return via the opposite bank but little legs may well find this too far.
This walk is dog friendly and there are bins at the Steps Bridge entrance. There are no toilets or refreshments available.
You could extend your trip by returning to Exeter via Dunsford itself. Take the first left turn as you drive towards Exeter from Steps Bridge. Parking is an issue and you need to find an on road spot which can be tricky. Food is available in a few places:
The village shop is a good spot to grab snacks or an ice cream to take to the excellent play area which is hidden beside/behind the village hall on the main street. There is a good green space and lovely play equipment including swings.
The Royal Oak has a fantastic garden with play equipment and animals but isn’t open all day so best to ring ahead to check.
The Walled Garden tea rooms are worth a visit. The little paths are fab for children to potter about and the food is lovely.
You can rejoin the B3212 by driving through Dunsford and leaving at the opposite end to Steps Bridge.