Friday, July 30, 2010

The Adventure Continues

Sat 17-7-10

This is the first 'on-my-own' day and I set out towards the Plymouth Barbican in a sort of SE sweep to pick up the start of the Earme-Plymm trail. I walk through Brixton with its streets of delightfully thatched cottages then Yealmpton and Ivybridge before heading steeply up onto the Dartmoor on the Two Moors Way. I free camp on dartmoor that night very peaceful with the glow of Plymouth on the distant horizon. Starngely there were no baying hounds to keep me awake, must have been their day off.

Sun 18-7-10

I awake to an almost white-out fog, this more like it; Dartmoor is turning on a show for the visitor. This necessitates constant use of map and compass to stay on track, but the fog lifts by lunchtime and I can really appreciate the open wild moorland with herds of wild ponies met every so often.

I do some cross-country navigation from Pupers Hill to Ryders then chart a course for Dartmeet my destination for the evening. Dartmeet has the famous stepping stones and a clapper bridge. I stay at Badgers Holt that night.

Mon 19-7-10

Up early I head up the East Dart to Laughter Hole which leads out back onto the moor at Laughter Tor. The views are magnificent in all directions. it was then onto Bellever Tor then down off the moors to Postbridge a picture postcard vaillage with delightful water meadows and an ancient clapper bridge.

I continue up the valley following the East Dart almost to its source then continue northwards to Chagford Common then down to the village of Chagford itself. I decide to walk on through, still on the TMW into the grounds of Castle Drogo where I camp for the night on the banks of the River Teign

Tues 20-7-10

It rained all night and I had a really horrible packing-up time of it. However once done but with the sodden tent feeling like lead in the saddlebags I walked to the village of Drewsteignton where the PO was just opening and the lady made me a reviving cup of tea. The heavens open up later and I get drenched including squelching boots. I head for Morchard Bishop via Hittersleigh Barton, Howards Cross and Summerhill Farm. When I get to MB, bitterly cold and demoralised at 3:30pm I find the shop has shut at 1:00pm and the pub does not open till 7:00pm. This is looking like a disaster until I manage to find an unadvertised B&B and I am saved.

Wed 21-7-10

In dry clothes today I feel a lot brighter although my boots are still wet. The Two Moors Trail requires me to walk through a saturated wheat crop and soon my boots are back to yesterdays squelchiness. I am concerned I will get mega-blisters walking heavily laden in wet boots. I decided to stick to roads for the day, to help things dry out walking through the villages of Black Dog and Washford Pyne. I then head for Witheridge and from here to Creacombe Parsonage Farm shown as a camp site on the OS map; it turns out to be a naturists camp. Oh well; when in Rome.........

Thurs 22-7-10

I pack up camp in a slight drizzle and resolve I will stay on roads for the day to allow my boots to get 100% dry. After experiencing a magical walk along an ancient drove road I bump into Patrick, E2E walker who passes on best wishes from Rob a guy we met on the South West Coast Path, small world isn't it. From here it is up onto Knowstone Moor then a steep path down into Knowstone Village, a delightful collection of ancient thatched buildings and a big church.

A bit of a detour takes me to Jubilee Inn for a well earned pot of tea, and a chinwag with the owner then back on the TMW heading for West Ansey and up onto Exmoor. This is fine walking country, open moorland with gurgling brooks and birdsong in the air, I would gladly revisit this part of UK.

Steep road walking gets me to Hawkridge as once again the heavens open and I am almost staggering by the time I get to Withypool with a tea shop still open at 5:00pm thank goodness. Because of the bad weather I decide to head for Exford which has a YHA. This makes it a long day in excess of 25 miles but I am pleased to have made good progress in mainly poor conditions and to have a roof over my head and a drying room.

Fri 23-7-10

Today I set off in beautiful sunshine, a very welcome change. From Exford it is a steep climb back up to the moors. I headed for Porlock Post then Dunkery Beacon with fine views in all directions. From here a walk down to Horner Village gives the choice of two tea shops, in a fine valley location. It is then a short walk to West Luscombe where I crossed the ancient packhorse bridge to head for Porlock. Porlock is a delightful little town which gives glimpses of the Bristol Channel and I rejoin the SouthWest Coast Path not seen since Plymouth 8 days ago. From Porlock I follow the SWCP east to Bossington then tackle the impossibly steep Bossington Hill which must have a grade near 30% certainly steeper than anything I have met so far. Once up onto the moorland the walking is delightful, open rolling moorland and oak-shaded paths along stone walls and herds of wild grazing ponies. I then join a road which leads off the moors and down to Minehead where I am permitted to camp at a Caravan Club site just west of the town.

Sat 24-7-10

I packed up early but dilly-dallied with delightful camping neighbours who insisted on plying me with cups of tea to help me on my way. From Minehead I made my way to Dunster an absolute showcase English village with flower baskets adorning the stone walled cottages and shops in the main street. Again I dallied taking photos and drinking tea, so that making Williton today was not a reality. Consequently, I end up at a camp farm called Warren Farm on the outskirts of Watchet and, with tomorrow being Sunday there is no point heading for the Williton PO which will not be open for me to collect my next batch of maps; therefore the decision is made to stay here for two nights.

Sun 25-7-10

What an excellent decision, Watchet's annual fayre is on. The streets are alive with music, Morris dancing, poetry recitals and a grand parade. Watchet is known as the inspiration for the 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner' and there is a most evocative statue on the harbour wall. There is also a lot of other history including Daws Castle from Saxon times and some marvellous buildings and an excellent museum. There is also live steam trains running from the station; so I had no problem filling in the extra day.

Mon 26-7-10

I get to Williton early and conduct my PO business smoothly. I am now walking down the map; it seems odd to be walking away from John O'Groats when that is the prime target, but this is my chosen route and it involves traversing the Quantocks a range of hills that rise from the Somerset levels. my introduction is Bicknoller Coombe reached from the little village of Bicknoller, which gives delightful views of Somerset along open rolling countryside, with glimpses of pastures and villages on the 'levels' below. My favourite part of the walk was along the section from Little Quantock Coombe to Parsons Plantation. This section was smooth green grass under enormous spreading oak tree branches providing lovely shade in what turned out to be a hot sunny afternoon.

The track rejoins a road down to Merridge and Manor farm before a steep climb up onto Broomfield Hill. Then down to the same road where with time running out for the day and no real decision made for the evening accommodation I decide to pull out all stops and get to Kingston St Mary asap before the shop shuts. There is no shop open by the time I get there but I have a meal and a pint at the pub, while Les the landlord rings ahead to Lower Marsh farm to secure B7B accommodation for me. A couple of miles later and I am safely and comfortably housed at this B&B just outside the major town of Taunton.

Tues 27-7-10

In Taunton I do shopping including replacing a broken water tube from my hydration pack, then head along the delightful Bridgewater and Taunton Canal. It was enjoyable to walk along, and interesting to contemplate that here is engineering that predates the railways. The canal water was surprisingly clean, full of little fish and flowing gently eastwards in the direction I am walking.

From Creech St Michael I followed the north bank of the R Tone to Ham then took a footpath up over Knapp Hill. The sun was near shining for this part and the forecast rain did not seem to be close at all. From the top of Knapp I took local roads down to Lowe Knapp which promised a tea shop but there was none so I walked straight on to North Curry a delightful picturesque village.

I followed my route to Langport and Wearne with shadows beginning to lengthen I new that time was running out. I decided to head straight for Somerton as a more direct route but even this was not going to work. Nothing for it but a free camp tonight. I turned right up a quiet road and found a good empty paddock, but with a dog barking next door I thought I better seek permission. The lady owner could not give this; not her land, but said that by walking on there was another property ‘third on the left after the railway that might’. This turned out to be Susan a sort of hippy and I suspect Glastonbury festival connected who gave permission to camp with her hippy friends, for no charge. I set up my tent made my pour-on boiling water meal, then used the billy to have a full wash out of, surprisingly successful.

Wed 28-7-10

I packed early and left with the best wishes of two new friends and a top pocket of freshly made hard boiled eggs. After some early mapping difficulties, I found Etsome Farm and I knew I was on the right track.

From here I followed lanes and crossed fields of what would be the dirtiest farm on the planet; rubbish, old plastic bags and all sorts of debris, like the road into a council tip, heaped up and decaying with an awful stink. This included having to cross a live electric fence which I believe is illegal. Anyway back onto a filthy lane and I walk into the village of Littleton. A man stops when he sees me consulting my map; I assume one of the local farmers, and he couldn’t have been better cast than if he was in a movie. Rotund, puffing for breath and bright red cheeks, but very friendly and helpful and attuned to farming in Australia from our discussions regarding the current Somerset dry spell.

From Littleton I had to head north up the B3151 for about a mile. This was not very pleasant necessitating several dives into the prickles to allow for oncoming traffic and a few sprints around blind corners. Eventually Redland Farm was attained; a hamlet on a bend in the busy road in an open pleasant rural setting. From here a walk up a steepening lane New Hill Wood promised a bit of peace and quiet in a woodland environment. It was indeed pleasant but lack of signing and a myriad of pathways meant I never knew whether I was lost or not. My fallback increasingly in these situations is to adopt a heading ie just keep on pressing north come what may and eventually I will come out somewhere where I need to be. This I achieved coming out onto the main road which again required a difficult head-on walk into busy traffic for about two miles relieved by a short side trip to the Hood Monument then press onto Street and the YHA at Cockrod.
Thurs 29-7-10

Street itself is an unremarkable city. It is renown as the HQ for Clarks Shoes so I found the big factory complex called Clarkes Village and took some general photos and watched employees turning up for work. Inside the grounds were some very nice looking cottages, perhaps these were homes for executives or retirement cottages.

There being really very little to see in Street, I turned my back and headed out of town towards Glastonbury some 2.5 miles distant. At least there is a continuous footpath between the two towns. The first impression entering G from the S end is the strange derelict factory buildings which are situated on the outskirts. There was a giant building with hardly a pane of glass left intact. Further on in the situation improves but with a more modern feel with new developments and large shopping complexes. The centre of town retains a slightly old feel with old buildings and narrow streets. I walked to the Abbey but it was locked up behind high walls and there would have been an admission charge to go in if I had the time to wait. So I grabbed a few photos and retraced my steps from town out to G Tor. The main street seemed to be full of mystical-type shops and the hall had some sort witches conference underway, very weird place.

G Tor is a cone-shaped hill about 150m high which just rises abruptly from the old marshy plains with a tower on top. It is a reasonably testing climb but once on top the views are a just reward. There was an information dial pointing out all the features near and far including my destination, Wells. The last Bishop of G was hanged here by Henry VIII as part of the reformation; I wonder if they made him walk to the top.

There were a lot of hippy mystical types hanging around the Tor; several ladies in yoga-meditating poses, with one humming like a mosquito. There was a gentleman responding to voices in his head; it looked like he might have been there all night. Later an oriental gentleman arrived offering food, including to me but I declined. I saw him in deep discussion with the voices-man who no doubt would have been hungry.

I took my photos and departed northwards down some steep steps and soon regained the bottom. My route was initially along country lanes to Norwood Park, then paths to East Street. I popped out in Pannard hoping for a cuppa but the EWhite Lion was closed so I pressed on to Manor Farm via Pennard Wood which gave delightful views over the levels northward. After this I tried a local path but it petered out so I walked steeply down the road to the next junction. Pausing to check the map I find it missing; nothing for it but to retrace my steps all the way back up the hill to manor Farm again and there it was lying in the middle of the field. When the day is wearing on and the feet are tired and sore this is the last little disaster I need. Anyway I press on along the main road to Pilton and manage to get a pot of tea at the pub. Revived I continue my journey but I get distracted by a sign for the tithe barn. It is a fair journey down steep roads but when I find it, it simply stunning. There is also a lot of fine ancient buildings and a church which are most absorbing and take my mind off my tiredness and remind me of why I am doing this walk. Back on the main road I find the correct field path and head steeply up and over to Burford Cross then down to West Compton. I stop here and use the rest of my water for a Berocca drink and have a Snickers Bar my only meal for the day but it is reviving and I hope I don’t need any ,more water for a while. Too late I get lost near Brook House Farm and a well-meaning lady directs me onto a path I don’t actually want to be on. This takes half an hour of exhausting toil to extricate myself from this including fighting my along a horribly overgrown bit of path to get back to the top of hill where I started, now very tired and very thirsty. At last on the right path I find all the right paths with little difficulty and get to Croscombe where there is a local shop. From C it is steep climb up onto the ridge behind the town to join the East Mendip Way including a section called Furzy Sleight. This is glorious walking country, fast well graded and with a good track, also very few gates or other distractions. There is the occasional glimpse of GT back to the SW. I am joined by a local, out for his evening exercise, strangely on his own, no dog, and he guides me into town and we chat about the world in general. He gives me some good general directions and we say farewell.

In Wells I skirt around the south and west of the Cathedral where I photograph some characters dressed as ancient men-at-arms on a battlement on the moat. Rom here to the centre of town which is stunning for its ancient cobbled streets and fine architecture; this is one place where I will definitely return one day. My mission however cannot delay; I am very tired and footsore and just want the monkey off my back. I get through town and make it to Wells Holiday Park. With great relief I set up camp, shower do washing, make tea and type the journal. There are as usual no power outlets so there will be no internet work, and I am conscious of how far behind I am with my blog; perhaps I can catch up in Cheddar.

Fri 29-7-10

Up very early this morning; it is overcast but everything feels dry except for the foot end of my sleeping bag. I retrieve my socks from the partition to the HWS in the ablutions and they are 90%dry just needing finishing off under the hand dryer.
I am on the road by 6:30am and head straight up the road from Haybridge past the paper mill to Wookey Hole. The place is naturally deserted at this early hour but loses none of its touristy turn-off with plastic Mr Plods giving directions into the over-priced car parks.

From here I follow the road W out of the village and turn off up the WMW path which leads up into the Ebbor Gorge. I am on the wrong track initially but I am getting better at route modification and beat my way across country to find the correct route. This is a wide path with steeply climbing stairs through an absolute paradise of trees with ash elm and oak; at one point I see a young deer; this is priceless. At the top I am breathless and pause for a drink and a Mars Bar before a short walk W to the precipitous cliffs overlooking the Ebbor Gorge. From here I u-turn, pushing east and then NE through delightful high pastureland with magnificent views south before it is back to green lanes and cross pastures in the direction of Priddy.
Priddy is a beautiful village and appears relatively unknown and quiet. The first pub, the Q Victoria is closed, but I decide to rest there amongst the tables and Fosters umbrellas. A gentleman turns up lost and consults my OS Map to get his bearings. I then decide to head out of town on his advice that the next pub is also closed but as I pass, it actually just opening so I order a pot of tea (large)

Priddy has a village green with a (recreated) hurdle stack under a thatched roof. This recalls when the Wells Sheep fair was moved here in the days of the Black Death. The buildings arranges around the green are picturesque and I stop to take a few photos. I then consult the map and take the lane W out of town which leads to delightful (and well marked) field crossings for several miles leading towards the edge of the scarp overlooking Cheddar. A steep path leads down to Draycott, an unremarkable village except for one or two nice cottages which I pause for photos.

I then take Top Road towards Cheddar forsaking the option that would have required a steep climb again to the top of the scarp and soon with steady walking arrive almost unexpectedly into ‘tourist central’ only 1:00pm, wall to wall people strolling, sitting licking ice creams etc all to do with the major tourist attraction of Cheddar Gorge. I find a fish and chip shop and get Cod and Chips, the cod is nice and fresh and the chips are extra good with vinegar. They are presented in a box celebrating 150 years of the good old F&C.

From here I head for the YHA for the chance to drop the pack early after a short 12 mile day. I book in, have a shower, do washing, hang it outside, air the tent in the drying room and pull everything out of the pack for a general airing in my large and empty dorm room.

I then head out and up the street for a pint at the ‘Bath Arms’ then shopping at a supermarket for evening meal tonight and breakfast tomorrow.
I feel a lot better for the shorter walk and the feet had a chance for rest and respite with most of the afternoon spent just in sandals. I feel better, more rested from not having had a day of endless frustration on the poor path system. I feel relaxed and managing better, with systems falling into place for keeping up with washing, supplies etc, no matter whether I am camping, YHA or B&B

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Walk Commences

Fri 2/7/10 fine, sunny
Arriving late in the day we (Geoff and Cathryn) left after brief farewells from the remainder of the family and covered the relatively short distance to Treen in good weather. The coastal scenery is wild and dramatic.

Sat 3/7/10 fine sunny
Todays objective was Marazion, again to a camp site at Wheal Rodney. The villages of Newlyn and Mousehole en route are a delight to see, enhanced by views from the cliff tops as we approach. Marazion is said to be Englands oldest village. The views out to St Michaels Mount are stunning. We had a nice meal and me, a pint of 'Tribute' at the Fire Engine Inn looking out through a window to the Island.

Sun 4/7/10 windy overcast rain at times
Todays objective is Porthlevan. The weather is rotten and we walk in full rain gear getting blown around by the wind. Fortunately there is a beach cafe at Praa Sands which provides a hot cuppa and respite from the gale. At Porthlevan we opt for a B&B 'Wellmore' most accommodating and run by the ever cheerful Bridgette. I try a pint of 'Tinners' at the Ship Inn

Mon 5/7/10 chilly wind overcast
We are booked at Chyheira B&B on the Lizard, an arrangement I made in Australia. Our walk today takes us across Loe Bar then high rugged cliff walking  takes us past Gunwalloe Cove and Hazelphron Cliff then to Poldhu Point where Marconi conducted telegraph experiments. Mullion is a delightful introduction to the Lizard. We walk to Kynance Cove where the geology changes to Serpentine, a dramatic green and red marble-like rock; then strike inland for Chyheira a magnificent old farmhouse. We walk to Cadgwith for an evening meal in the local Inn. Cathryn has foot trouble and we have to plan some road walking to ease the pain.

Tues 6/7/10 fine windy
Today I head off south to reach the tip of the Lizard whilst Cathryn takes a short cut to the SWC path at Cadgewith to reduce her distance today. My route takes me past the light house then back up to Cadgewith before catching up with her at Coverack. We continue on to Porthkerris Divers which is a disappointment, no real facilites and food only available in the next valley

Wed 7/7/10 rain, rain, rain
We pack up in the rain by ferrying all our gear into an army tent at the dive centre. I have a wet tent bag which means that it can be stowed alongside my dry gear. I also use a pack cover which keeps the pack dry. We generally don't bother with a rain coat; it is not that cold and the sweat from exertion makes you wetter than being in the rain anyway. Pennance Mill camp site tonight.

Thu 8/7/10 overcast
We plot a route using roads for the sake of Cathryns sore foot, and I transfer some of her pack to mine. This seems to work and we head directly into Falmouth where we stock up on some nice food and raid the hole in the wall. We then catch the ferry over to St Mawes and then a connecting ferry to Plaice. There are views of Henry VIII Pendennis Castle. From Plaice we head up to the vaillage of Bohortha which I think is the most beautiful village I have seen yet with thatched roofs and flowery gardens ( and no traffic). We then travel to Gerrans, Portscathco and into Veryan where we are lucky to get a B&B called Elerkey run by two immaculate gentlemen. The B&B has a deep bath and I made good use of it, Cathryn has walked much better today from our adjustments. There was a time when it looked like we would need to abandon the walk.

Fri 9/7/10 rain later
We rejoin the SWC path at Portloe and walk the route via Portholland, Porthlune Cove and then inland in search of accommodation which ends up being Boswinger YHA. In the evening we take a walk (without packs) to Dodman Point where there are some interesting buildings including a lookout dating from the Napoleonic Wars

Sat 10/7/10 overcast windy
We head for Gorran Haven a fishing village then rejoin the SWC for a relatively easy path to Chapel Point and on to Charles Town. This was the where the Onedin Line series was filmed, we have a Triang pram at home which was one of the props in an episode. We have lunch at an old Inn; I try a pint of 'Doombar'.
We stay at Penare (Carlyon Bay Campsite) that night, one of the better camp parks I have seen.

Sun 11/7/10 sunny for a change, rain at night
We pack and hit the road early. Our walk takes us through the prestigous Carlyon Bay Golf course and past the abandoned 'Coliseum' a venue that in the early days used to get regular visits from Elton John, Genesis, The Who etc. We reach Polkerris Cove where there is a fantastic tea shop serving scones with a pot of tea that produces 5 enormous cups, just perfect for tea-loving hikers; then to Gribben Head where the tower just happens to be open (50p) and we climb to the top for fabulous views in all directions. Our walk is now down to Fowey (pron 'Foy') which is a large village on the River Fowey. We do some shopping and catch the ferry to Polruan the other side of the river. a very steep walk up out of village gets us to the Polruan Holiday Centre where we get a tent site despite the sign saying 'full'.

Mon 12/7/10 overcast
It rains all night but we wake to a dry morning and pack early. From Lansallos Cliffs to Polperro the path makes a series of rises and falls with hundreds of steps which is a bit tiring. Polperro is a delight and we have lunch there before continuing to Tallend then to Tencreek Holiday Park to camp for the night

Tues 13/7/10 overcast, windy rain later
We packed up and left early, walking directly to East Looe then over the bridge to West Looe. The wind was very strong and unpleasant so we opted to stay off the coast path for this bit. We rejoined the path for Milendreath where there is a prevalence of shoddy beach houses then to Bodigga and on to Seaton and Downderry. Given the bad weather we are directed to Trelidon a delightful farmhouse B&B dating from 1809. The owners are delightful and happy to share their wealth of knowledge of the district and the history of their farm. This was a real feature of the whole trip.

Wed 14/7/10 overcast strong winds
We left Trilidon after a big breakfast and much farewelling from our hosts. The walking was again very steep with repeated rises and falls all along towards Tregantle Fort. The red flags were flying and we could hear heavy gunfire, so the path diversion was in force. Apart from a few signs there was surprisingly little to keep the public out of the army site. There was a very poor fence that in places was collapsed. We headed around to Rame Head almost within site of Plymouth and decided to camp wild. On Rame Head is an abandoned chapel. There were some navy destroyers doing exercises out to sea and some aeroplanes buzzing about.

Thurs 15/7/10 rain and wind
After sustaining gale force winds all night we packed up and headed for Plymouth. The walk, in better conditions through Kingsand Cawsand and Mt Edgecombe Country Park, would normally be delightful, but we are focussed on getting to our destination, both feeling a bit tired from no sleep last night and me now with a very sore throat I think from being snap frozen too many times in the strong winds over the last few days. One last ferry ride from Cremyll deposits us in Plymouth and it is now just a short walk to Citadel Road to be greeted by my wife at the guest house we pre-booked in Aus.

Fri 16/7/10
This is a rest day. Angela and Cathryn catch the train from Plymouth to London to commence the journey back to Aus and I am now contemplating the remainder of my journey on my own. It was such a treat to have Cathryn's company for the last two weeks. The rest day gives me a chance to catch up on emails and write this blog. An issue all along has been broadband availabilty and the opportunity to charge flat batteries hence the reason why there has been apparent radio silence for so long; I do apologise.
For those interested in statistics we have walked approx 149 miles so far. Whilst we took some short cuts along roads when Cathryns foot was painful this would be fairly balannced against getting lost several times due to poor or non-existent signing, some long diversions inland to camp sites and following conflicting directions from well-meaning but misguided locals. Again, to help Cathryn's foot problem we used built-in rest days to walk more shorter days, thus averaging about 10 miles/day.