A Little About the River,
the Railway and the Locality
The River Teign rises on central Dartmoor at a height of 1,706 feet above sea level. Within a mile and a quarter of Teign Head are the sources of four other well known rivers: the Taw, Okement, Dart and Tavy.
The juvenile Teign cascades off the moor and appears to have reached its valley stage at Chagford, but instead, watched over by Castle Drogo, it enters a gorge and is hidden by dense oak woods on each side for six miles.
At Steps Bridge, Dunsford, the Teign emerges into its valley proper and assumes the character seen at Christow.
When the river reaches Chudleigh Knighton, around seven miles downstream, the valley widens and the landscape is much more affected by man. Where the River Bovey joins the Teign is found a relatively flat area, ringed with hills. This is the Bovey Basin, renowned for its valuable deposits of ball clay. The open cast workings, the most dominant feature of the area, extend into Newton Abbot where the Teign becomes tidal and soon after has its estuary, actually a drowned valley. At Teignmouth, 34 miles from its source, the river flows into the English Channel.
For most of the way between Christow Station and Teignmouth, the river shared its course with a railway. From Teignmouth to Newton Abbot there is the Great Western, Paddington to Penzance main line, while from Newton Abbot the former Moretonhampstead Branch, still open in part for freight traffic, is never far from the Teign until the line strikes off to follow the River Bovey. The former Teign Valley Railway left the Moreton Branch at Heathfield and quickly met with the Teign at Chudleigh Knighton, where there was the first of five river bridges.
The Teign Valley Railway opened as an isolated standard gauge line in 1882. Its terminus was Teign House Siding, just south of the present overline bridge at Christow, but this was for goods and minerals only; the passenger terminus was Ashton, 1½ miles away. In 1903, the Exeter Railway made the line into the city and Christow Station opened.
These two railways, later generally known as the Teign Valley Branch, were the rumps of much grander schemes, one of which might have seen an electrified line following the Teign between Christow and Chagford, using power generated from the river.
A great stimulus to the early railway promoters was the Teign Valley's minerals, which it was wildly reckoned would be extracted on the same scale as in the Tamar Valley. In fact, lead mining boomed in the second half of the 19th century but production had ceased before the Teign Valley Railway opened.
Although many shareholders never lived to see it, prosperity came in the twentieth century when roadstone quarries were opened near Christow and Trusham. In 1922, the peak year at Christow, over 50,000 tons of stone were forwarded. Quarrying ceased at Christow in 1950 but a barytes mine continued to provide traffic until 1958 when both the mine and the railway closed.
Christow Station served four nearby villages and the surrounding district. Christow itself nestles in the hillside a mile away to the south-west. It is a widely spread village which hosts the valley's annual agricultural show. The grounds of Canonteign House, 1½ miles south of the village, are open to the public. High above Christow, 2½ miles from the village, are the Torquay Reservoirs, encircled by conifer plantations.
Bridford, 1¾ miles west of the station, lies at over 700 feet and there are fine views from the village eastward to Haldon. Not far above the village is Heltor Rock which, at over 1,000 feet, provides an even better vantage point.
Dunsford, three miles north-west, is perhaps the Teign Valley's most typical Devon village. Had the railway to Chagford been built, Dunsford would have been very close to its station alongside the river, whereas it was 1¾ miles from Dunsford Halt, the next stop on the Exeter line after 1928. From Steps Bridge it is possible to walk or cycle upstream for five miles to Fingle Bridge. Part of the trail is in a National Trust nature reserve which in spring is carpeted with wild daffodils.
Doddiscombsleigh, one mile west, in which parish the station lies, is a small village probably best known for its Nobody Inn. A mile and three quarters above the village is the refurbished Lawrence Castle or Haldon Belvedere, the most prominent landmark for miles around. From its roof on a clear day, a huge tract of Devon, as well as parts of Somerset and Dorset, is revealed. The station, however, is just out of sight.
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Finding what you need, essential or luxury,
at or nearby Christow Station.
Many, if not most, campers will want to know where they can find the best nearby hostelry.
There is a "Jubilee" telephone call box at the Teign House crossroads.
The Shower in the Station Master’s temporary hovel can be used by arrangement. A charge of 20p is made for each use. Any more than three minutes is classed as an indulgence.
Washing can be done by the railway’s automatic machine.
Fish and Chips are fried in a mobile shop.
Near the station is the Teign Valley Nursery where a large selection of plants and gardening sundries can be found, along with pet supplies. Ice creams are sold in the shop.
Opening hours:- 08.30 – 17.30, Monday to Saturday,
and Sunday afternoon in summer.
Christow Stores (1½ miles) keeps a full range of general provisions, including Fairtrade products, along with wines and beverages. There are also newspapers, cards and local interest books on sale.
Opening hours:- 08.00 - 18.00, Monday to Saturday.
09.00— 13.00, Sundays and Bank Holidays.
Fresh Fish can be ordered from Gibson's Plaice in Exeter.
Two Kona AfricaBikes are available for hire at the station.
The railway's utilicon can be booked to meet trains at Newton Abbot or Exeter under certain circumstances.
A selection of choice souvenirs is sold in the "Temporary Booking Office," where an exhibition area may be viewed.
Many other facilities and services are listed in the "Welcome to the Humble Accommodation" left in the van.
CAMPING on RAIL
By offering camping accommodation in an old brake van, the Exeter & Teign Valley Railway is continuing, after a fashion, what the Great Western started in 1934, when the first converted coaches were berthed in semi-redundant sidings at pleasant backwaters and popular spots around the system.
Little was spent on renovating and equipping the coaches, which would otherwise have been sold or broken up. At the end of the season, they would return to Swindon Works for storage or repairs.
An article in the March, 1939, edition of the Great Western Railway Magazine listed the camp coach sites and the accommodation available at each. Of the 12 sites in Devon, one third—Ide, Ashton, Chudleigh and Lustleigh— were on the East Dartmoor branches.
All bar one of the stations in Devon, and most of those elsewhere, listed in the article have closed and the coaches of course were taken away long ago. However, the once luxurious Pullman cars berthed at Marazion were still in use until quite recently and the coaches in the former goods yard at Dawlish Warren were replaced about thirty-five years ago. The latter are now owned by the G.W.R. Staff Association (Tel.:- 01626 888527).
Always very keen to run a diverse operation, the Exeter & Teign Valley is intent upon providing more camping accommodation in the future. When new land is acquired—as it must be in order for the line to reach towards Exeter—a siding will be laid next to the river for three camping coaches.