The East Devon village of Newton Poppleford sits astride the A3052 road between Exeter and Sidmouth where it crosses the river Otter. With Ottery St Mary six or seven miles to the north, Budleigh Salterton a similar distance to the south, Sidmouth even closer to the east, and Exeter only ten miles or so to the west, Newton Poppleford, is ideally located if you want to explore the popular seaside, historic market towns, and beautiful countryside of East Devon.
The village's strange sounding name comes from early descriptions of its location as a new town at the pebbly ford. Originally settled by the Saxons, the Lord of the Manor of Aylesbeare founded the 'new town' and was granted the right to hold a market there in the 13th century. Bridges across the Otter at Newton Poppleford date back as far as 1259 but the present bridge was constructed in 1840 by the first County Surveyor for Devon, James Green. It was one of the few bridges over the river to survive the severe flooding of 1968.
Some of my very earliest memories are of Newton Poppleford because my family moved there when I was two years old. We only lived there a couple of years before moving to Sidford, just outside Sidmouth. However, we were there long enough for me to remember walking down Back Lane to Station Road and picking blackberries along the old railway line. The railway used to run up the Otter valley from Budleigh Salterton through Newton Poppleford to join the Sidmouth branch line at Tipton St John on its way through Ottery St Mary to join the main line at Feniton. The line was closed in 1967
At one end of the village, where the Exeter and Exmouth roads part, an old toll house dating from 1758 is a reminder that the road through Newton Poppleford is old and in fact goes back to roman times when it was the main road from Axmouth to Exeter.
Like most rural communities, Newton Poppleford has the usual community Post office that doubles as a newsagent and general store, a couple of traditional English pubs, an old parish church (St. Luke's, the tower of which dates back to 1331), a few traditional businesses such as a butchers and a garage, the almost obligatory village and church halls, and because its Devon, traditional local cafes serving clotted cream teas including the celebrated Southern Cross Tea Rooms. Other housing in the town is a mix of thatched cottages many of which are 300 or 400 hundred years old and more modern housing estates.
Historically, if Newton Poppleford is famous for anything, it is its King Alfred Daffodils which achieved the top award from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1899. The daffodils industry was once the biggest employer in the village and Newton Poppleford's daffodils were sent all over the country. King Alfred Daffodils were created at a local market garden by John Kendall, a former London solicitor. These days there are still stunning displays of daffodils in spring and there are still a number of plant nurseries just outside the village.
Just over the river from Newton Poppleford is the little hamlet of Harpford with its church, St Gregory's, that dates back to 1208 and where 'Rock of Ages' author, Revd. Augustus Toplady, was once briefly the vicar. On the outskirts of Harpford at the bottom of the steep Four Elms hill is an award winning fruit farm where, when I was a student, I once spent two weeks picking apples during the summer vacation. I have to confess that I found the work so boring that I returned to university much more determined to get a decent degree to ensure I would never have to work like that again.
For those who enjoy walking, the East Devon Way, a long-distance path from Exmouth to Lyme Regis, passes through both Newton Poppleford and Harpford.
Autumn in Devon and Somerset is annual, fund raising, carnival time complete with carnival queens and princesses. Many of the local towns hold one. Local groups construct brightly decorated floats that take part in the processions, the more elaborate ones travelling to take part in many of the events. Newton Poppleford's long, straight high street makes it a perfect venue.
Other things to look out for in Newton Poppleford are the family of carved wooden bears on the grass verge by the stone bridge.
Newton Poppleford is twinned with Crevecoeur-En-Auge in France.