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…..

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.

With updates (in red) February 26th 2018

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, Alison 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
I eventually completed this walk with Brian on Feb 26th 2018. After delays caused by the Newton Abbot traffic and a road closure, we did not start walking until 10.30 a.m. We started from the centre of Down St Mary and used a different route that may have avoided the long tedious upward drag, but quickly proved our decision not to wear gaiters was an error.

The lane from Down St Mary, partly frozen, partly mud

Francis now takes up the story in blue (the photos are by Francis, too, except where noted or captioned in red)...

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.

Our route brought us out 250m from the gate mentioned above, so we had to walk to the gate and back to close the gap, but here is a photo of it to prove we did.

 Actually this could be any gate, so you will have to take my word for it
It was a cold, sunny morning [it was not as cold as Feb 26 - the temperature peaked at zero degrees] 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 Clannaborough Barton, once a hamlet now just a farm with a church.

The Church of St Petrock, Clannaborough Church
A strange little church that is 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. [It most certainly was] We arrived at a ridge-top for a brief coffee stop before a long descent to the Okehampton railway line..

Our descent to the railway line 26/02/18 - steeper than the camera makes it look
then a climb through woods, ....

We had a late coffee break on the climb up the other side
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 [A walk along a ridge sounded a pleasant relief after the constant up and down, but even the ridge varied from 135m to 215m] 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 [We had a late lunch on the same bench - there was no 'cooler end', the whole bench was (literally) freezing from one end to t'other].

Lunch stop near Hittisleigh (photo:Alison)

We met some friendly horses and a group of miniature ponies at West Ford Farm [they were still there, looking a little cold]...

Miniature ponies, West Ford Farm
then climbed to the highest point of the day (225metres) exactly where we crossed the A30 [it was down-up, to the A30 and another down-up to Drewsteignton. The picturesque Veet Mill Farm nestled at the bottom of the final ascent]...

Footbridge at Veet Mill Farm
... 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

We had planned a rest day for Tuesday 26/02/18 and then to complete the walk on Wednesday and Thursday, but then the 'The Beast from the East', which had only been playing with us on Monday unsheathed its claws. Attempting to cross Dartmoor in a blizzard imported direct from Siberia seemed foolhardy, so I remain two days short of where I should be. On the plus side, my heel held up alright.


  1. A lovely but cold day. I really enjoyed my pint of Jail Ale at its conclusion. Sadly, the beers at the Union were not of the same quality.

  2. The last photo of Mike outside the Drewe Arms is actually of him booting up the next morning.

    1. I know, but don't tell everyone

  3. A good walk, with 21 km covered fairly easily, despite the ups and downs. The walk along the road was very pleasant and allowed us to make good progress, with good views, easy walking, and hardly any traffic, just the bin wagons. Near the end of the walk we discovered a plaque commemorating the founder of the Two Moors Way, Joe Turner, stating that a sculpture was nearby. We found what we thought might be a bee hotel in stone about 200m further along, but reading the leaflet about the Two Moors Way in the Drewe Arms, I discovered this was one half of a sculpture by Peter Randall-Page, with the other half sitting on the edge of Exmoor, facing it.

  4. Well done for completing one day with no comeback from that heel. I seem to remember the gate where we left the path to Copplestone being wooden; are you sure that's the right one?

    We'll get some warm-up walks done in Staffordshire and hopefully all will go well in April 2018.

  5. I'm glad your heel held up. This day is getting very confusing, but it was good to read your comments, and it shows that cold is relative.