Two rural communities in the Teign Valley have reacted angrily to news that DIY gritting could be the only way of keeping their roads open in winter.

The 750 people who live in hilly Bridford and Doddiscombsleigh are worried that Devon County Council's decision to downgrade their transport needs could leave them isolated and further weaken vulnerable bus services.

This week County Hall confirmed that roads serving both villages had historically been incorrectly treated as 'primary routes'.

Highways chief Cllr Stuart Hughes said: 'It's impossible for Devon County Council to treat its entire highway network but while we can keep the main routes as clear as possible there's a limit to what we can achieve at a very local level.

'Around 57 miles of minor roads to smaller communities, including Bridford and Doddiscombsleigh, unfortunately do not and have never met the critera and will now be placed on the secondary salting network which is treated less often but will still be treated in severe weather, such as the conditions we experienced last winter.'

The villages could sign up to the 'snow warden' scheme and be given grit to use where and when they thought appropriate, although volunteers injured while doing so would not be insured.

Cllr Stephen Purser, chairman of Bridford Parish Council and district representative for the Teign Valley, vowed to fight the change.

'They seem to be completely forgetting that all the buses from Christow and Bridford go through Doddi on the way to and from Exeter, so it's likely that the early bus taking people to work may not run in marginal conditions.

'And there are also the school buses,' he added.

'Bridford hill is more than a mile long and would make an interesting toboggan run for all the drivers who attempt it ungritted along with the T-junction at the bottom onto the main road.

'The snow warden bit is interesting and could be quite a responsibility for a volunteer with a shovel and five tons of salt. Not sure on a dark country road that I would want to be shovelling salt at my own risk.

'In rural areas we get little enough for our council tax as it is. We will be lobbying county to rethink as the minimal cost is insignificant against a child or other member of the community being injured.'

Chairman of Doddiscombsleigh Parish Council, Cllr Duncan Mitchell, took a similar stance.

'We want to be a sustainable parish but as soon as bus services become unreliable people abandon them and probably won't go back to them,' he said.

'We thought it would be good to have a snow warden, but we rather expected they would be helping the gritters, not replacing them.

'It's a bit of a disaster.'