Starcross is one of my favourite place names ever, I think. Right up there with Crapstone, but that's a favourite for entirely different, less romantic reasons. Starcross is just such a pretty place name, evocative of Romeo and Juliet and other such star-crossed lovers, tu ne pense pas?
Anyways. Starcross is about 9 miles from Exeter, and a walk between the two is a rather nice way to spend a sunny afternoon. Though I would recommend doing this in proper trainers, rather than the black ballet pumps I did it in- J caught me off guard with this, and I hadn't packed a pair of trainers/ converse/ similar for my weekend in Exeter, so a pair of ballet pumps it was.
In the simplest terms, if you set off from the Quay in Exeter, and just follow the canal/ river/ water for 9 miles, you will reach Starcross. It could take you as little as two hours, if you walk pretty quickly and you don't stop at the pubs you'll pass on your way. But let's be honest, wouldn't that be a little dull? Taking all afternoon and stopping at both pubs for a drink by the water is a much nicer way of doing it.
About two miles from the Quay, you will come to Double Locks, the loveliest little pub I've come across in a long time. Get a glass of Pimms (they have it on tap, which I'm not entirely convinced is a good idea), and maybe some food (their burgers are excellent, if undignified to eat, from previous experience), and park yourself on a bench outside- around the back they have the most enormous seating area, with a BBQ in the summer too.
Once you've had your fill, carry on along the canal, keeping it on your right- you can cut through the beer garden back to the path. You'll have to cross the road at the Swing Bridge, and the water should then stay on your left for a good while. Walk along and admire the peace and quite, and forget you're near a city (until you come across the M5 flyover. Sorry about that)
A couple of miles later, you will come across Turf Lock, and The Turf - a pub you can only get to by boat or by foot. You'll know you're getting close when you see all the boats moored nearby. Cross the lock, grab yourself half a cider (proper Devon cider only, please, none of this Koppaberg/ Rekorderlig crap that tastes like fizzy squash), and take yourself outside to admire the setting and other people's children/ dogs. Or your own, if you take them along for the ride.
Leave the pub (if you can drag yourself away), and continue keeping the water on your left- the canal ends here, and the estuary begins, and keeping it on your left is about the only thing you can do, really. Admire the views across the estuary to Exmouth. Wave at the people you know there, or jut stare into the distance wondering what they're up to.
Try to avoid the escaped cows. Don't make loud noises around them, even if they do it to you. It isn't polite, and cows are a big fan of polite.
Cross the railway line at the level crossing. This is how you know you're nearly at Starcross. Resist the temptation to lie in the middle of the track and pretend to be a damsel in distress- it really is quite dangerous, even if trains don't run along this track particularly regularly.
Arrive in Starcross. Trains run roughly once an hour from Starcross to Exeter, though remember there are three train stations there- St Thomas, Central, and St Davids. Central is, oddly enough, the most central. You can either go for another drink in The Atmospheric, the most old-man pub around, or get fish and chips and eat them on the station platform, while you wait. As my grandparents live nearby, we popped in to see them while we waited. But we made sure we had enough time to come back and admire on of the prettiest settings for a train station in England.
Perfect Saturday afternoon fare. Also easily doable on a bike- much quicker, though much wobblier after a few ciders.