There is no ‘bucket list’ - Lynne and I are both well, thank you – but we have arrived at a point in our lives where we have the time, the money and the good health to indulge in a passion for travel. We know how lucky and privileged we are to be able to do this, and we know it won’t last for ever, but while it does…..



Thursday, 27 April 2017

Bennett's Cross to Lustleigh: Day 30 of the South West Odyssey (English Branch)

The South West Odyssey is a long distance walk.
Five like-minded people started in 2008 from the Cardingmill Valley in Shropshire and by walking three days a year have now (April 2017) reached Lustleigh on Dartmoor.

A Tedious Little Prologue (skip if you have read Day 28 or 29)

The ‘five like-minded people’ would only be 4 again this year. I did my preparations and after four full-day practice walks with Mike and Francis and some solo strolls I was feeling fit and ready… except for a nagging little pain beneath my right heel.

Then, with less than a week to go, a further morning’s walk saw that nagging little pain exploded into something I could no longer ignore. It was no better next day and a trip to A&E resulted in a diagnosis of plantar fasciisitis, inflammation of and/or damage to the tendon where it joins the heel bone. And the cure? Rest, probably for several months.


But the accommodation was booked so Lynne and I went anyway. There were cars to shuffle which Lynne usually does on her own, food to be eaten and beer to be drunk for which my talents might be needed.

I found these three days frustrating, transferring people to starts, collecting them from finishes and in between hobbling around various tourist sites.

Day 30, Bennett's Cross to Lustleigh
The morning started with scrapping ice from car windscreens before I followed Mike and Alison to Lustleigh where they left their cars at the end of walk. After breakfast I took the walkers back out to Bennett’s Cross. There was no snow today, instead there was a platoon of soldiers with packs and rifles preparing for a yomp across the moor. As the others pulled on their boots the soldiers appeared to be forming a firing squad so I courageously decided to leave. On mature reflection I realise I was in no danger, it was Alison they were after – several decades as a pacifist-activist must have made her enemies in the military!

Bennett's Cross on a bright but cold morning (Photo: Brian)

Francis now describes the walk. He also took the pictures (except where noted).

We re-joined The Two Moors Way but only for a kilometre as we inadvertently veered off our planned route over Birch Tor.

Climbing across Birch Tor
We could see the unmistakeable outline of Grimspound on the hillside east of us so took a path to Headland Warren Farm then another across Hookney Tor….

Hookney Tor looking back to the Warren House Inn near Bennett's Cross (photo: Brian)
…. to the pound. Grimspound is a Bronze Age settlement and apparently 24 huts have been found in it. They were all enclosed by a large double circle of granite stones but over time their walls have collapsed inwards to leave a single much lower circle.

Grimspound Bronze Age Settlement (Photo: Vince Hogg)
(Apologies for the interruption: the only way to take a meaningful picture of Grimspound is form the air. As no one was carrying a drone in their pack I have taken Francis' advice and stolen this one from Wikipedia. Thanks to Vince Hogg, who took the picture and holds the copyright.)

We continued on over the summit of the ridge and steadily down for our coffee stop on the grass near Natsworthy Manor then followed a track to Jay’s Grave. We joined a road here for just over a kilometre then headed uphill over Hound Tor Down passing Hound Tor on our left and Greator Rocks on our right.

Hound Tor
The path led down through woods to Becka Brook then up onto the side of Black Hill. We crossed a high minor road then steadily descended to the car park we want to use next year on a slightly lower road. From there we descended steeply and then precipitously down through a deciduous wood to a track at its base - the shortest possible route to Lustleigh.
Here we had some brief refreshment after the ordeal of our descent then crossed a small packhorse bridge across the River Bovey....

Mike and Alison and the River Bovey

before ascending and zigzagging on a track through Hisley Wood passing some excellent bluebells and reaching the minor road into Lustleigh.
Bluebells in Hisley Wood (Photo: Brian)
We planned to finish with a cream tea at the tea rooms but they were closed for renovation so instead we enjoyed drinks in The Cleave. Finally we walked to the cars, and so ended the tenth year of the Odyssey. For the four of us it had been a very enjoyable three days and we look forward to next year’s instalment.

The Cleave Inn, Lustleigh (Photo:Me - we joined the walkers at The Cleave)
But for the fifth it had been a frustrating time. Last year the walking had not been outstanding, much of it merely a matter of getting from A to B but this year had crossed fine walking country in almost perfect conditions – and I missed it. I hope I will get down to Devon later in the year and will then be able to look forward to the next instalment with everybody else.

Today's distance 17km
The total distance for the three days 61km

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Drewsteignton to Bennett's Cross: Day 29 of the South West Odyssey (English Branch)

The South West Odyssey is a long distance walk.
Five like-minded people started in 2008 from the Cardingmill Valley in Shropshire and by walking three days a year have now (April 2017) reached Lustleigh on Dartmoor.

A Tedious Little Prologue (skip if you have read Day 28)

The ‘five like-minded people’ would only be 4 this year. I did my preparations and after four full-day practice walks with Mike and Francis and some solo strolls I was feeling fit and ready… except for a nagging little pain beneath my right heel.

Then, with less than a week to go, a further morning’s walk saw that nagging little pain explode into something I could no longer ignore. It was no better next day and a trip to A&E resulted in a diagnosis of plantar fasciisitis, inflammation of and/or damage to the tendon where it joins the heel bone. And the cure? Rest, probably for several months.

But the accommodation was booked so Lynne and I went anyway. There were cars to shuffle which Lynne usually does on her own, food to be eaten and beer to be drunk for which my talents might be needed.

I found these three days frustrating, transferring people to starts, collecting them from finishes and in between hobbling around various tourist sites. (End of prologue)

Day 29, Drewsteignton to Bennett's Cross
As we were staying a second night in Moretonhampstead, car shuffling was simpler this morning. Before breakfast Alison and Mike took a car to the finish at Bennett’s Cross, 3 kilometres onto Dartmoor and 435m up – details I mention only because they found the moor under a carpet of snow, a rare event in April though the snow would not last for long.

Mike leaves his car at snowy Bennett's Cross (photo: Alison)

Later I drove the walkers to Drewsteignton. It is a lovely village which I wrote about yesterday, though I failed to mention its little square with church and pub – what could be more cosily traditional?

Drewsteignton Square
My picture, but it's a shame I could not come back for the afternoon sun. 
Text (in blue) is now by Francis who took all the photos (except as noted).

It was again cold but we set off in clear sunshine. We immediately dropped steeply down off the road and then steeply up on a path so punishing it needed steps, but at the top we were provided with an excellent view back to Drewsteignton.

Drewsteignton
We then had a very pleasant walk along the top of the valley side across the edge of Piddledown Common (yes, really). We were in the Castle Drogo Estate and caught a brief glimpse of the castle though it was hidden behind scaffolding.

along the top of the Teign valley below Castle Drogo (photo: Alison)
[Sorry to interrupt. Castle Drogo, designed by Edwin Lutyens for Julius Drewe, founder of Home and Colonial Stores, was built between 1911 and 1930. It is often called ‘the last castle built in England’, but as there is no agreed definition of ‘castle’ and Castle Drogo was never in anyway fortified I prefer the description ‘vanity project'. Economic uncertainty meant it is only half the size originally planned and the asphalt roof – a new and untried technology - leaked almost from the start. In 1974 the building was donated to the National Trust and in the current six year restoration programme the roof is being replaced and the windows reset which accounts for the scaffolding. Lynne and I visited Castel Drogo while the others were walking; the gardens are magnificent, but the ‘castle’ will be a lot more interesting when fully reopened next year.]

Much pleasanter sights were Whiddon Wood…

Whiddon Wood - looking remarkably like broccoli
and a Pearl-bordered Fritillary.

Pearl bordered fritillary
The path passed Hunter’s Tor then descended to the River Teign which we followed for 6 kilometres passing Dogmarsh Bridge where we crossed the A382 and shortly afterwards saw a red kite, Rushford Mill where we paused for coffee and Chagford.

Along the River Teign
On the narrow road after Chagford Bridge we were passed (with difficulty) by an amazing number of delivery vans all heading to Gidleigh Park Hotel and were pleased to leave the road and join a footpath heading up to Teigncombe.

Looking back to Chagford
Here we left The Two Moors Way....

The last stretch before the open moor (Photo: Alison)

.... and headed further up onto Dartmoor intending to pass north of Kestor Rock, but the best path went to it and it seemed sensible to visit the rocks and sit out of the cold wind on its lee side to have our lunch. Mike and Brian had bought pasties in Moretonhampstead, Alison had Bombay Mix while I made do with cereal bars. As we sat in warm sunshine admiring the 360 degree views we visually plotted our afternoon route.

Lunch at Kestor Rocks
The moor was incredibly dry and the afternoon walk was pleasant and easy. We came eventually to the restored Grey Wethers Stone Circles and then headed south-east over White Ridge (just over 500m) and east over Assycombe Hill to an ancient settlement on the side of Water Hill.

Grey Wethers, a pair of re-erected  (1909) pre-historic stone circles
From here it was an easy amble through the heather to meet the B3212 ..

Across the moor from Grey Wethers
...and follow it a short way to The Warren House Inn. Brian and I enjoyed pints of beer while Alison had a soft drink and Mike a pot of tea but quite why we opted to sit outside in the cold I do not know.

Sitting outside thee Warren House Inn (Photo: Alison)

I had planned a walk down to the old mines below the Inn then back up to the road at Bennett’s Cross but in the end there was a unanimous decision to simply follow the road to the car park.

Bennett's Cross
And who, you ask, was Bennett and why was he cross? The simple answer is nobody knows, there are theories but no definitive answer. Its age is unknown, too. It was mentioned in a tithe dispute in 1702 but its rough-hewn nature suggests it might be much older. It marks the boundary between the parishes of Chagford and North Bovey and once bore the letters WB for ‘Warren Bounds’ as it denoted the limit of Headland Rabbit Warren - so you knew if you were poaching someone else’s lunch.

Later, back in Moretonhampstead, we had pre-dinner drinks in The Horse. Francis described the Drewe Arms as ‘delightfully unimproved’ and at first glance the same could be said of The Horse, but I suspect it is more archly retro.

We ate a few doors down at Berto’s, a tiny Italian restaurant. We had booked yesterday on a recommendation from our B&B – and booking is necessary when six people want to eat at a restaurant with only four tables. Berto’s has no drinks licence but we non-walkers had been tasked with purchasing appropriate wine. The menu is limited but the quality is high and the flavours genuine. It has the vibe of a small family run Italian restaurant, which is what it is, if not quite in the expected place.

Today's distance 23km

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Down St Mary to Drewsteignton: Day 28 of the South West Odyssey (English Branch)

The South West Odyssey is a long distance walk.
Five like-minded people started in 2008 from the Cardingmill Valley in Shropshire and by walking three days a year have now (April 2017) reached Lustleigh on Dartmoor.

24th of April 2017

The Prologue


The ‘five like-minded people’ were only 4 last April as Alison had been unavailable. She almost completed the walk in August but reaching Morchard Bishop on a fine, sunny day had decided to do to go to the seaside and have an ice-cream instead.

Accompanied by Francis and Mike she closed the gap on Monday by walking not to Copplestone as we had done but to Zeal Monachorum. Copplestone is some way east of our intended route but had been a convenient starting point for the journey home, while Zeal Monachorum – a similar distance off route to the west - is a prettier village and home to the comfortable Waie Inn where Lynne, Brian and I joined them for dinner.

Tuckingmill Bridge, just outside Zeal Monachorum
Actually, Zeal Monachorum is a place I would visit for the name alone. It means Cell of the monks, the manor having been donated to Buckfast Abbey by King Cnut in 1018.

25th of April 2017

 Another Bloody Prologue

The ‘five like-minded people’ would only be 4 again this year. I did my preparations and after four full-day practice walks with Mike and Francis and some solo strolls I was feeling fit and ready… except for a nagging little pain beneath my right heel.

Then, with less than a week to go, a further morning’s walk saw that nagging little pain explode into something I could no longer ignore. It was no better next day and a trip to A&E resulted in a diagnosis of plantar fasciisitis, inflammation of and/or damage to the tendon where it joins the heel bone. And the cure? Rest, probably for several months.

But the accommodation was booked so Lynne and I went anyway. There were cars to shuffle which Lynne usually does on her own, food to be eaten and beer to be drunk occupations where my talents might be needed.


Day 28 Down St Mary to Drewsteignton
I found these three days frustrating, transferring people to starts, collecting them from finishes and in between hobbling around various tourist sites.

Enough Prologues, now down to the Odyssey....

Lynne drove the four surviving walkers to a point near Down St Mary close to where the Copplestone and Zeal Monachorum routes had diverged.

Booting up near Down St Mary
They started on a path beside a huge sloping field, a long tedious upward drag I remember from last year.

Looking back at Down St Mary
Francis now takes up the story (and the photos are by Francis, too, except where noted)...

Halfway up the field, I heard a bird whose song I did not know. We only got a brief glimpse of it flying but I think it was a lesser whitethroat. Having climbed the field, we turned right through the gate away from Copplestone on the Two Moors Way. It was a cold, sunny morning which had started with a hail shower but would become perfect for walking. We soon reached the first main road we had to cross and beyond it reached Clannaborough Barton, once a hamlet now just a farm with a church.

The Church of St Petrock, Clannaborough Church
A strange little church that looks taller than it is long, St Petrock's is early medieval with a 15th century make-over.
The 'unbuttressed west tower has hollow-chamfered plinth and embattled parapet with granite machicolations and crocketted corner pinnacles' (British Listed Buildings). Francis left those details out (perhaps I should have done the same).
The route was typically Devonian, that is up and down all the time. We arrived at a ridge-top for a brief coffee stop before a long descent to the Okehampton railway line then a climb through woods, along a ridge and down a very deep descent which inevitably meant a steep climb up a road to the next ridge top.

Devon, going up and down all the way to Dartmoor
 We now had 4 kilometres to walk along the road...

Following the road to Hittisleigh
 ...which followed the ridge to Hittisleigh Barton - a pleasantly restored village with some lovely thatched houses and fine old barns....

Old barn, Hittisleigh
.. and Hittisleigh Cross where we found a bench which we decided was a good place for a spot of lunch. One end was in pleasant warm sunshine but Alison and I got the cooler shaded end and were happy when we got going again.

Lunch stop near Hittisleigh (photo:Alison)

We met some friendly horses and a group of miniature ponies at West Ford Farm...

Miniature ponies, West Ford Farm
then climbed to the highest point of the day (225metres) exactly where we crossed the A30 and  walked the last section into Drewsteignton which, of course, ended with a really steep, tiring ‘sting in the tail’. Mike and Alison, with David’s help, had positioned their cars in the village square before breakfast so Brian and Mike headed straight off to the B&B in Moretonhampstead  but Alison and I went into the delightful, unmodernised Drewe Arms where I enjoyed a superb gravity-fed Jail Ale to end the day on a massive high!

Mike sitting outside the delightfully unmodernised Drewe arms, Drewsteignton
The Drewe Arms, formerly the Druid's Arms, was named after Julius Drewe (1856-1931) the founder of Home and Colonial Stores for whom the nearby Castle Drogo was built (more next post). The pub was managed by Mabel Mudge (and her husband while he lived) from 1919 until she retired in 1994 aged 99, the oldest pub licensee in the country.

Drewsteignton is a settlement above the River Teign owned in the 12th century by an Anglo-Norman called Drew de Teigntone, the original Drogo, from whom Julius Drewe claimed descent (though the claim involved some wishful thinking).

Today's Distance, 21km