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the creek. The land on which you stand on the quay was once also a part of Kingsbridge Creek and lay underwater. Over the centuries the area was reclaimed and quays built over the original mudflats.


Heritage The name West Alvington means ‘Aelfwynn’s Town’. Like many other settlements in the South Hams, it takes its name from its one time Saxon chief. Times have changed rapidly since but only a hundred and fifty years ago this village was a thriving and independent little hub. Back then West Alvington had blacksmiths, carpenters, masons, plumbers, a shoemaker, tailor, and general shopkeeper. The parish was a largely self-suffi cient world of its own, despite being so near to the main town. As you walk up past the filling station, you pass the end of a road called ‘Ropewalk. This marks a place where fibres were twisted and stretched into rope in vast quantities for the vessels which were built in the shipyards of Kingsbridge. A little further up the road, the distinctive roof of the old Kingsbridge railway station can be seen over the fence of the industrial estate on the right. This was the terminus for the ‘Primrose Line’ running from South Brent. It was the fashion among Victorians to come down to Kingsbridge by steam train and take a paddle steamer trip around the estuary. Eventually the railway met the fate of so many rural branch lines, being closed in 1963.


Landscape Looking into the creek from the quay at the start of the walk, you can see seaweeds flourishing. This is a rarity. Such a variety of seaweeds seldom survive so far ‘upriver’. They are only able to thrive here because the estuary is not fed by any major river and so the water remains very salty even up here at the head of


Wildlife A buzzard is often to be seen circling above the parkland meadow by West Alvington Wood. The biggest of our common birds of prey, it is a majestic sight sailing the thermals on its broad, ‘fingered’ wings. Buzzards hunt rabbits, small rodents and birds but they’re not above picking around in the fields for earthworms too, particularly in the winter. West Alvington Wood is a wonderful little pocket of old woodland. Its trees are mostly oak, beech and sweet chestnut. Below these taller trees grow many-stemmed, silvery barked hazel. Their catkins – known as ‘lamb’s tails’ - come out very early in the spring and if you look closely you can see the tree’s tiny red female flowers poking out of the end of some of the buds, looking a bit like miniature sea anemones. Later in the year, their nuts feed many woodland creatures. If you come across a hazelnut shell on the ground that has been split right through, the nut will have been eaten by a squirrel. A neat round hole gnawed in the shell, on the other hand, is the telltale sign of a mouse. The tussocks of downy green blades carpeting the woodland fl oor are great woodrush, which throws up sprays of chestnut brown flowers in the late spring. Spring also brings washes of bluebells to the wood, along with the bright white star-shaped flowers of wild garlic with their pungent, oval leaves.


Hazelnuts eaten by a mouse left and a squirrel right


Buzzard


©-Bill-Nicholls. geograph 4082118


Hazelnut catkins in early spring


Andrew-Curtis geograph-2821562


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