The Devon Coast to Coast Revisited
|Coast to Coast sign|
Bailing so early had troubled me for seven years, so with some holiday to use up, I figured it was time to take another crack at it. This time around I thought a bit of company might provide motivational support, so I raised the subject with Matthew King and when he said yes, the plan escalated quickly for an October start.
For logistical purposes, Matthew and I decided to begin in Lynmouth and southbound the route. Transport options away from Wembury were more practical and to have Dartmoor beckoning on the horizon would be a great incentive through the "doldrums" between the moors.
|At the start - photo by Matthew King|
Day One: Lynmouth to Cow Castle
Getting to Lynmouth wasn't without its issues; a missed bus connection saw us getting a taxi from Barnstaple, but on the plus side we were dropped off in Lynmouth and spared the walk down from Lynton to the start.
|Start of the Two Moors Way|
|Track above the Lyn|
When we finally made it to the Exmoor Forest Inn, about 4:30 pm, it was closed. We sheltered in the tiny porch, as the rain returned, pondering if we wait for it to open or push on. We had scheduled for a pit stop here, a decent feed before finding a spot to wild camp but we couldn't afford the extended delay. Being a reluctant camper, the prospect of squeezing myself and all my wet gear into a cramped space for the night was the last thing I wanted. Thoughts briefly returned to 2009.
Out of Simonsbath, we joined the banks of the River Barle, eventually finding a flattish place just passed Cow Castle an hour later. As soon as we had pitched, the rain descended, and so began a night of incarceration. I tended to my sodden feet with their creased soles as best I could in the limited space, a tad concerned that the sores across the knuckles of my toes were beginning to bleed. Then, I forced down an uninspiring ration of some bland freeze dried meal I have immediately forgotten the name of, before settling down for the night. Well, at least I was toasty beneath my quilt.
|Cow Castle Camp|
Day Two: Cow Castle to Knowstone
Morning couldn't come soon enough to release me from my sarcophagus. Treated to a low mist in the valley and the promise of some fine sunshine, we faced the day with renewed optimism. It was a soggy, but pleasant walk, to Withypool.
|River Barle below,looking up Sheridan Water|
|Heading for Withypool - photo by Matthew King|
|New Bridge, Withypool|
|Mud on Parsonage Down|
|Devon border at Dane's Brook|
|Dartmoor comes into (distant) view - photo by Matthew King|
As we approached Owlaborough Moor, on a bridleway beside a wild boar farm, we saw some folk sat around a fire drinking and listening to music. The proprietor, keen for some revenue, was quick to inform us that the pub in Knowstone was closed tonight and this was the only place we could camp. Neither of us were too keen on the idea, so we ploughed on hoping the news was just a ruse to get us to overnight there.
|Another closed pub! Photo by Matthew King|
We now had to think about pitching for the night, but we didn't have anywhere definite to camp; I had taken some details from The Backpackers Club Farm Pitch Directory, but these options were proving to be extremely unreliable and out of date! The nearest proposed farm was a mile away in the wrong direction, it would be dark when we arrived and we had no guarantee of a welcome.
Nightfall creeping, we arranged to get a taxi to the London Inn in Morchard Bishop and return the next morning. As we sat waiting, in the dimming light, a passing local mentioned a bed and breakfast the other end of the village. Fortunately, our data signal was good enough to Google a phone number and get a room for the night.
|No Muddy Boots|
Day Three: Knowstone to Morchard Bishop
A good breakfast inside us, we headed off for Morchard Bishop. We were now into what I call "The Doldrums"; a two day trudge of 29 miles through the farmland between Exmoor and Dartmoor. Whilst it has some charming tree lined lanes that make for a lovely countryside walk, they are overshadowed by plenty of tiresome sections where you are forced up, down, and around the perimeters of uninteresting fields and untidy farms.
The afternoon route was no more inspiring than the morning. I find the best way to tackle this monotonous walking is to have tick points over shorter distances. To pass each one gives a psychological boost.
|Church at Washford Pyne|
|Ever get the feeling you're being watched?|
|Church at Morchard Bishop|
The owners allow camping in the small beer garden, for a charitable donation. The meals in the pub are excellent and huge and the welcome was a warm one. They didn't even object to us drying some of our clothes in front of the fire!
|Camp at the London Inn|
Day Four: Morchard Bishop to Drewsteington
Today was my toughest leg. Whilst Dartmoor made appearances all day, my poor feet still weren't sitting well within my boots. I had long sections where each step was painful and I trailed behind Matthew for most of the day. I was conscious, as was he, that this section might be my undoing.
|Dartmoor getting closer|
But with the prospect of refreshing my feet in the River Troney, a short distance further, I donned my boots again and we went on. The river wasn't suitably accessible, so we continued uphill to a grass island within the junction of the road, where we rested beneath a fine oak.
|A30 - a sight for sore feet!|
|Drewe Arms, Drewsteington|
Day Five: Drewsteignton to Hameldown
|Sharptor (Castle Drogo)|
|The River Teign|
Time to move on, we walked out of the town, rejoining the Two Moors Way at Chagford Bridge. Along narrow lanes, we passed Puggiestone, down to Leigh Bridge, where the North and South Teign converge.
|Where north and south Teign meet|
Across the South Teign, we walked through Yardworthy. Here we were dismayed that all the signs and instructions of which path to keep led you straight to an electric fence! Such a friendly landowner!
|Hurston Ridge Stone Row|
Here, I had a valuable lesson in not trusting everything you see on an Ordnance Survey map, and definitely not on the internet! We had intended to stay at a camping barn, in Holne, clearly marked on the map. I had also seen plenty of reviews of the barn on the internet, even managing to get a phone number for the place, but when Matthew rang to see if there was space, he was told that it was now a holiday let! Time to improvise!
We hatched a cunning plan of adjusting the distances on the days into Ivybridge, to give me the opportunity to retrieve my car from home before the leg to the sea. This would solve our problems at the end of the journey. We finished our food then headed out into the dusk, with our head torches ready for a walk into the night.
|Hiking up late on Hameldown|
Day Six: Hameldown to Crossways
|Wildcamp on Hameldown|
|West Webburn River|
|The River Dart|
We considered a pub lunch at Holne, but when we reached it we found the Church House Inn had shut down. A real shame as I remember it from my walk in 2009 as being a lovely establishment.
|The Church House Inn, Holne (another shut pub!)|
We passed through the last village, Scoriton, and up the long lane to Chalk Ford and the open moor.
|Woodland near Chalk Ford|
|Ascending Pupers Hill|
|Playing in the Avon. photo by Matthew King.|
|Two Moors Way marker stone near Crossways|
|Wildcamp below Crossways|
Day Seven: Crossways to Ivybridge
The miserable weather seemed to increase our pace and this seemed to infuriate my feet, who had ceased their whining since Drewsteington.
|Marching the track to Ivybridge|
I then left Matthew at the hotel, to retrieve my car. A bus to Totnes, a train to Exeter St. Davids, and another bus to my home in Okehampton. A necessary inconvenience if we were to ease the problems getting home once we had finished.
Day Eight: Ivybridge to Wembury
|A familiar herd|
|Old bridge near Flete|
The trail finally starts to bend towards the coast as you reach the mud banks of Cofflete Creek.
|Field of the Trail!|
|Meeting the sea|
|Meeting the sea|
Or did it? We still had a couple of kilometres to walk up the road to the The Odd Wheel! For me, the pint of Jail Ale in the beer garden was the fitting way to mark the end.
|Cheers! Photo by Matthew King|
Thanks Matthew for your excellent company!