For newcomers

At the bottom of each post there is the word "comments". If you click on it you will see comments made by followers, and if you follow the instructions you may also comment and I always welcome that. I have found many people overlook this part of the blog which is often more interesting than the original post!

****************************

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Aftermath - South West Coast Path and Two Moors Way


Well, I  made it home.
Departed Barnstaple 9:43 am for Birmingham, Birmingham to Lancaster, Lancaster to Arnside, arriving 5:30 pm. 

My section of the SWCP was varied, and always interesting, and individual because of its affinity with the sea, The going is strenuous but mainly on good paths. There are many very steep, but usually short ascents. There is some pretty uncomfortable pebble, shingle beach walking which, although attractive to view is hard going - I was just glad there wasn’t much more.

Poole to Exmouth is 115 miles and I previously walked Land’s End to Barnstaple on my LEJOG walk which is another 188 miles so I reckon I have covered just under half of the total 630 miles. I am pretty sure the remainder would be just as tough. I only met two or three people who were embarked on the whole trip non-stop, but many who were walking it in sections. Anybody who completes this walk in one hit has my profound respect.

The Two Moors Way had three components, Dartmoor National Park and Exmoor National Park and “the bit in between”.

Devon County Council produce a useful guide to the TMW and state their policy of not waymarking the route across the moor thus retaining a feeling of wilderness and remote walking, and I admire that. The path is not easy to follow and once lost needs skill with compass, map, and hopefully gps to regain. This trek must not be taken lightly. The scenery is superb, but for northerners this part of the moor is not a blanket of heather like Goathland or Ilkley, more a mixture of heather, gorse, reeds and open patches of grass. I saw it at the back end of heather blooming combined with rampant yellow gorse - magnificent mixtures of colours. Looking at the map this walk only scratches the surface of the massive expanse of Dartmoor, and from what I saw you could spend a very fruitful lifetime exploring this unique and beautiful environment.

The “bit in between”  has not much to recommend. Certainly on leaving the northern boundary of Dartmoor National Park the route crosses fields with stiles, gates and quite a lot of road walking. You could be anywhere in the country, but as you get closer to Exmoor more old country bridleways and lanes are used and the walk takes on some character. The balcony path skirting Drago Castle and taking in Sharp Tor is spectacular.

The trek to Exe Head and the rest of Exmoor is once again a delightful region with its own identity taking in wild grass moorland, rivers, wooded ravines and hillsides, and then an invigorating ridge walk on cropped grass to arrive at Cheriton. The walk out to Lynmouth builds to a superb climax of deeply wooded valleys, airy footpaths zig-zagging up and down with distant sea views and the final descent to sea level.

I’ve never been too keen on planning ahead, but Lynmouth is not an easy place to escape from, especially if you arrive on a Sunday. Others may wish to put a bit more thought into that problem.


For me a good long distance route should have character that sets it apart from mundane country walking. Coastal walks always have that advantage even in their industrialised settings. Inland walks can have quality by following a good line of ridges or waterways, and a sense of purpose, perhaps following the ancient bridleways between major settlements. Both these walks had most of that and would get a top rating if I was scoring. The ones to avoid are those devised by local authorities to promote their region linking together a number of meaningless footpaths round crop fields ploughed out to the edges leaving ankle twisting tractor tracks, and which seemed like a good idea at the time, but not now maintained, and degenerated into a nightmare of overgrown undergrowth and nettles, broken stiles, blocked off rights of way, aggressive farmyard dogs, and gates tied up with hairy orange string.   

8 comments:

The Crow said...

Glad you got home okay, still in one piece.

Looking forward to your next trek and your great phots.

Blonde Two said...

Welcome home (if that is the right thing to say). You can see now why we find exploring Dartmoor so infinitely fascinating. So much more to see!

Do come back sometime ...

Roderick Robinson said...

I haven't paid as much attention to this walk as I have to others. I think this has to do with the location: the southern tranche of our island nation (A Cameroon phrase if ever there was one) seems so trammelled. so over-familiar (even if only in name) as if most of it were within spitting distance of London. As if you were walking from one level of property prices to another. Pure prejudice on my part. There's no reason why places shouldn't be set aside for the rehabilitation of those living under the burden of impossible mortgages.

As one familiar with your literary ways (as opposed to the factual content of your posts) I somehow had a premonition as I read on that I was nearing the opposite of a panegyric. And lo, thus it arrived. How specific your nightmares are; as if one might buy one at Tesco, like a made-up meal. Broken stiles, forsooth. And then the realisation that you were becoming over-serious about a not-so-serious phenomenon, hence the need to throw in orange string as proof of your catholicity.

You do not say what stayed you, intellectually, during that lengthy train journey. A book, if it was a book, often provides clues about the vocabulary you have drawn on for this post. In re-reading Proust (a fact I toss in gratuitously as you do with that hideous acronym LEJOG) I'm well aware I am subject to his influence. Not a good idea for someone who limits their posts to 300 words. I don't suppose many ramblers read Proust, finding him too heavy. There, a double entendre, to end with.

Sir Hugh said...

The Crow - Thanks. I'm working on the pihotos adding captions and doing a little cropping and enhancing here and there. I'm up to Day 9 at the moment and will be putting a Dropbox link up soon. It will be a marathon for those who can see it through.

------------

RR - For years I have had exactly the same feelings about the SWCP and avoided it. This time it linked in with a more specific objective, but I had always imagined it to be crowded with people, so deliberately chose to go after the end of school holidays. That strategy is now apparently defunct. All the greys are doing the same thing, and this year with an unusually long-dated good weather forecast that was magnified.

However, once embarked on the trek all those apprehensions disappeared as I indicated in the post. Sometimes the most entrenched fixations we have turn out to be the least well founded.

As for the north western section I did on my LEJOG (try typing Land's End to John 'o Groats a few times and you would soon be using the "hideous acronym") that is remote enough from our capital to stand on its own.

On the train I avoided buying the Guardian in case the crossword was one of those where I couldn't even get one clue, so bought The Telegraph which at my slow reading pace gave me plenty to go at, and the crossword was a toughy which I failed to finish, and the same with the quicky. Other time was spent playing with the iPad in various ways - you can now plug in and keep it charged on the train.

Roderick Robinson said...

Try End/Groat. Or, even more mysteriously, GroatEnd. Or EtoE. CornScot? Be inventive and avoid sounding as if you were employed by Nato. Or something to do with horses.

I said it was pure prejudice. Which means on this at least I not amenable to reason.

bowlandclimber said...

Just catching up with your extended trip, great reading.[I've had awful wifi in rural France.]
One memory of TTMW was calling in at the atmospheric Exmoor Forest Hotel for a drink and snack, jealous of you staying there.

Sir Hugh said...

Bowland climber - yes the Exmoor was a good stay, but the most expensive on the trip.

gimmer said...

sounds as arduous as a GR: more expensive ?
congratulations - those cliff edges look decidedly unnerving to me!