Day 18 Exeter to Woodbury Salterton 10 mls

The little shack turned out to be a comfortable place to stay in spite of a 5am dawn chorus of mooing from the dairy cows next door and birds tuning up. The blackbird on the roof excelled himself.

I do love walking over busy duel carriageways and today supplied quite a mix. It is quite bizarre to be on ‘quiet’ tracks and lanes with nobody around, and yet only a few yards away are thousands of stressed drivers rushing somewhere. Except in this particular picture there was barely one car!

Getting around Exeter was remarkably easy, for footpaths took me right up to the road across the various waterways at the southerly end of the city.

From there,I followed a very pleasant and scenic walk along the river to smart Topsham. People in Topsham do not speak or even look at rather scruffy hikers with rucksacks.

I’ve actually noticed that animals react to me in a variety of ways. They must see me as a weird shaped four legged (walking poles)creature that is sort of human but not . I have the effect of either making dogs quiver with fear or become snarling,barking fiends.Horses stop dead and peer at me with horrified eyes while cows give cool penetrating stares.Cats of course being superior beings don’t care what you are wearing, and will behave normally provided you first do the usual polite introductions.

Lots of flowers and wildlife today. Marsh marigolds along the river, white egrets ,black swans and the first orchids.

Not a very beautiful photo, but then I couldn’t be bothered to take my rucksack off, and trying to bend down to ground level was a little tricky.

The last part of the day was rather unexpected. A small white road on the map usually means a track, but today it turned out to be a road through a major industrial estate complete with monstrous HGVs thundering down on me. I removed myself as fast as possible.

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Day 17 Moretonhamsted to near Exeter 12mls

Todays map had an enormous quantity of very close and wiggly contour lines,so I knew I was in for a hilly day. Not surprising given that I was still close to Dartmoor.

Moretonhamsted is a lovely little town full of winding streets which of course makes finding the start of a small footpath even more interesting. I made the mistake of asking a dog walker who wasn’t going to admit that he couldn’t read a map. He turned my map round and round,hummed,and made thoughtful noises,but when, after a good few minutes we were no further forward, I politely made my excuses and left.

Once over the first hill I was into a very rural landscape devoid of buildings,but having large masses of rock jutting out of the hills at regular intervals.This is Blackingstone Rock.

The lanes around here were pleasant to follow because for once there were no cars. A Roe deer standing only a few feet away in a wood, watched me pass but didn’t run.

After a leg wearying descent to cross the river Teign,it was up yet more hills to Doddiscombsleigh. They seem to specialise in unbelievably long place names around here. I’m glad I don’t have to spell them out on the phone to some overseas customer support adviser.

At my destination,I was offered the use of this lovely little building complete with mini kitchen and proper bed. My dream garden shed,and definitely a better idea than camping.

Off to the bright lights of Exeter tomorrow, well, skirting around the start of the M5 and crossing the river Ex.

Day 16 Bellever to Moretonhamsted 12mls

Not as warm today but dry, so that’s good, but even better is the fact that Martin is joining me for the first half of the day. At Bellever we were watched by a group of ponies having a ‘lie in’ at the edge of the forest. They couldn’t be bothered to move, and I can’t say I blame them.

The faint lines in front of them are the fencing.

After the woodland section we followed roads and field paths to Challacombe Down. There were the remains of an ancient clapper bridge where the road crossed the East Dart river.

A group of what must have been cub scouts had been camping on the other bank and were clearing up in slooow motion. I don’t think they’d had much sleep.

Further on, the footpath directed us to keep to the left of a building, while the main track headed to the right through a farmyard. When we looked at where we were meant to go and realized it was thick mud overlain by a running stream, guess where we went. And then the owner appeared and tried to make us go the correct way!

I hasten to add that I was very polite about it. And yes,she saw sense, and let us keep dry feet.

After a lunch break at the enormous circle of broken boulders that makes up Grimspound, Martin headed back via the Two Moors Way, while I carried on towards my destination.The view north from King Tor was immense.

After a very steep descent to Heathercombe, there were more fields to cross, but thankfully here they are walked and well marked. I was thinking that I would get to Moretonhamsted too late for the shops, but no,no,fear not. Sometimes you just have to love the good old co-op for staying open until 10pm on a Sunday.

Day 15 Tavistock to Bellever. 12.5mls

My two days of rest and recuperation in Tavistock are merely being touched on , but suffice to say they were spent either sitting in the sunshine, sleeping or eating. I was not sorry to be stationary, because the weather had suddenly become hot,in fact TOO HOT, which was ridiculous given that I was too cold three days ago.

But for once,my expedition over the wilds of Dartmoor hit perfect weather, but more importantly the ground had dried up so the black gluey morasses and green slimy bogs had become solid making walking easy.

After following little roads to Peter Tavy, it was uphill all the way on paths into the Merrivale ranges . Live firing had been taking place all week, but today was one of the few days without a red flag showing . I had timed it well.

The view back to Tavistock was superb from the top of the first climb.Apart from a few DofE groups ,I barely saw another soul and the only sounds were those of the many larks singing overhead.

There were various cairns, stone rows and this standing stone right by the path.I was glad the visibility was good, for the route was less than obvious in many places.

Later on I had the fun of getting across a number of large streams.

The first two were simple, but the last was wide and boggy on the approach making finding a crossing point quite difficult. A conversation with a couple coming in the opposite direction helped point me to a place with large rocks that I could step across.

I discovered later that this long path I had been following all day almost to Bellever was known as the Lychway, or the ‘way of the dead’. Apparently centuries ago, people were obliged to transport bodies right across the moor to Lydford for buriel , and so this route was established. I’m glad I found out about this after the event!

Day 14 Callington to Tavistock 12mls

Sun and more sun today which in combination with only carrying a little bag,made walking a real pleasure. From Callington church,I firstly climbed up Kit Hill with its’ trademark tall chimney, where I got into a long conversation with a Brummie dog walker who had seen me leave the road at the bottom. He reckoned that I’d made’a speedy ascent’ , which of course is pure flattery to any hikers ears.The chimney is just about visible. Note the unaccustomed blue sky.

There was a mammoth descent by means of roads to the pretty little village of Luckett, where I passed what must have been one of the very last unmodernised but uninhabited miners cottages in Cornwall.

After a green and pleasant walk along part of the Tamar Valley Discovery Trail,I crossed out of Cornwall into Devon via the C15 bridge. I was duly informed by a passerby that for centuries this was the nearest point to the sea that the Tamar could be crossed. A large number of lanes converge on this bridge even now.

Into Devon, and the roads are instantly less well maintained. Hang on, that shouldn’t bother me!

The rest of the day involved a walk through woodland where there were once some of the worlds most extensive Copper,Tin and Arsenic mines. Little sign of this remained apart from chimneys popping up through the trees at odd intervals.

All in all,a day full of historical facts. I have the next 2 days resting (and eating)back in Tavistock, before the next epic trek over Dartmoor.

Day 13 Pensilva to Callington. 9mls

I had a nice short day today because Martin was collecting me from Callington at the end of the walk. Just as well because it has turned out to be the wettest and windiest day I’ve had so far.

The absolutely lovely campsite owners supplied me with another mug of tea and a plate of toast this morning for which I am eternally grateful. It made all the difference especially as the rain started up just as I was part way through packing up which is never a good time.

Lots of road walking today first through a very wet Pensilva, and then back lanes to Callington.

There was one footpath I could have taken,but the stile went into a muddy saturated horse field, so I chickened out and continued on the road instead. I’m sure standing in thick mud can’t do much good for the poor horses’ feet.

At one point the lane went down into a sheltered wooded valley, full of wood anemones, but due to the weather they were sulking. What a sight they would have been had the sun been out.

As always the last two miles went steeply uphill to Callington, and that is always the hardest part. I liked this sign, because does someone seriously think cyclists are going to use this path?

Being collected by car and fed a hot pasty, was the perfect way to end today.

Day 12. Bodmin to Pensilva 11mls

Yesterday finished with rain and today started with rain, but at least it had stopped by the time I got up. I have the owner of this place down as a fusspot because everywhere I looked in the little wash room were notices saying ‘don’t’. Tempting as it was to’do’ ,I didn’t.

Not a great day, partly because my bag was weighed down with a wet tent,but also due to the persistent wind and the fact that I was on roads nearly all the way. I was skirting the southern edge of Bodmin moor so the roads were straight(ish), but switchbacked up and down in an unreasonable manner.

By the time I had reached St.Neots I was exhausted but at least there was a shop. Actually, the shop was of the ‘three dented cans of baked beans and otherwise empty shelves’ variety, but it had to do. Distant view of the moor.

The only place really worth a photo was at Golitha Falls where I crossed the infant river Fowey. I admit I was too done in to visit the falls.

However, life perked up when I reached Fursdon farm camping. The owner went out of her way to try and find me a sheltered,drier spot and then not only brought me a mug of tea, but a plate of snacks. How little it takes to make me utterly happy again.

Day 11. St.Austell to near Bodmin. 12mls

Sad as it was to leave my new multinational friends at the hostel,I have a walk to walk and must get on.Trying to find my way out of the myriad of roads, cycle ways and paths surrounding the Eden Project was the first battle, but once that was won,I headed north to Luxulyan via the well marked Saints Way. I came across this barely recognisable stone cross at a stile crossing a field.

Having resupplied at the village store, I changed course to go on a more direct route to Lanhydrock house ( for the café!) via little lanes. The landscape was of gentler rolling hills than further west, with bigger fields and more prosperous looking farms.View of Lanlivery.

My clever plan to use footpaths into the National Trusts’ Lanhydrock estate nearly came to grief. I am starting to realize that if the footpath sign is missing at the entrance to the farm drive,it bodes ill for the rest of the way. Having gone in what I hoped was the right direction I reached a small river without a bridge. I could see the path on the other side through the trees, so the next ‘Crystal Maze’ challenge was to get over there.

After moving a few large stones to a shallow area I carefully crossed with the aid of my trusty poles,and then scrambled over a high bank and through various types of undergrowth to the path. The neatly dressed people spending Sunday afternoon at the gardens didn’t have a clue about my mode of entry.Cream tea here I come.

Latest campsite saga. The owner tried to charge me £18 because all pitches have electric hookup. She couldn’t understand why I didn’t want it, and was instead hoping for a discount. Much shaking of head. Anyhow I achieved my aim,so all’s well.

Day 10 Day off

Spent at Edens Yard independent hostel, doing not a lot. This was not the average hostel, for it had been imaginatively converted from life as a wooden stable block. It works well giving a quirky living room,2 dorms, the usual facilities and a sun trap yard, where I spent the day lolling around in my waterproof overtrousers ( and other clothes,I hasten to add) waiting for my washing to dry.

I fear I’m sounding like a press release for the place,but it really was enjoyable, for the friendly owners,Neil and Julia serve up reasonably priced evening meals which are eaten all together around their table. Therefore all the guests talk to each other making it one of the most social places I’ve stayed at.

Day 9 Sticker to St.Austell 9mls

Rarely do I choose to name and shame a business,but Meadow Lakes Holiday Park utterly deserves it this time. Martin and I had arrived at this massive static caravan site, which I may add was empty of all but 1 other tent, and were told we could pitch anywhere. Most of the grass was quite sloping so we found a nice level area nearer some of the mock bungalows and camped there. In the morning however,I was met by an officious man clutching a clipboard who proceeded to tell me that we couldn’t camp there as it wasn’t designated for tents! I asked him if we were ‘spoiling the view’ from the statics.He didn’t reply.

Apologies for the action photo of packing up, but this was the site, and it clearly shows how intrusive we were.

On my own again after that,and as I only had a short distance to go,I decided to take a detour to the coast. Queenies shop at London Apprentice provided both coffee and an explanation of the curious place name which goes as follows:

Apparently long ago there was just a pub of a different name along this main road. When the landlords son gained a what was then prestigious apprenticeship in London, the man was so proud that he changed the pub name to commemorate this. Over the years other houses were built and so the growing village also took on the name. Interesting fact of the day.

Back to the smart and very private houses along the coast, before heading down to the little harbour of Charlestown. It really looked the part with wooden sailing vessels moored up,and the obligatory tourist cafes around about.

As I was able to leave rucksack and poles at the café,I visited the Shipwreck museum, which I will say was crammed full of items from wrecks and stories of what happened to them. A slog through St.Austells suburbs was enlivened by this tree stump sculpture of Neptune, and then I was thankfully back out into rural lanes.

I’m under cover in hostel accommodation for the next 2 nights in order to have a day off and do boring things like clothes washing.