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!

My blog nick-name is SIR HUGH. I'm not from the aristocracy - my middle name is Hugh which relates to the list of 282 hills in Scotland compiled by Sir Hugh Munro in 1891. I climbed my last one (Sgurr Mor) on 28th June 2009


Tuesday, 30 December 2014

"Have a nice day"

Some years ago, with my sadly, late good friend, and climbing partner Tony, I climbed in Spain along with local Spanish climbers. Tradition observed an accepted programme: starting with morning coffee, then climbing together during the day, and finishing off with a communal evening meal. Providing that programme was fulfilled they referred to it as El día completo. I liked this appreciation of the sport which demonstrates that its attraction derives from more than a narrow minded nerdish attention to achievements on the crag.
El día completo is of course appropriate to rock climbing because it is a multi-person pursuit (unless you are a nerveless devotee of E-grade soloing). Whilst I do enjoy the company of perhaps one or two others on the hills I also have my own version of El día completo.

At 8:45 am today, inspired by Blonde Two's daily post (The Two Blondes) which I regularly devour along with my breakfast, I decided, on a whim to make use of a clear-blue-sky-frosty-morning and depart for the Howgills.

My day-walk rucksack is by habit in the car, and a flask of coffee and some biscuits was all I needed. The car was fuelled, so no need for an irritating pit stop. At The Cross Keys, the setting off point for the eastern Howgills, I bagged the last parking spot in the small lay-by, and I was off following one or two people on the well trodden path to The Calf, the Howgill's highest peak, but before the steep climb started I left the herd and peeled off north ascending steeply on my own on pathless fellside aiming for the col between Ben End and Yarlside, the latter peak being my objective - it is one of my remaining unclimbed Marilyns in Area 35 of Dawson's Relative Hills of Britain which provided the original Marilyn listing. Whilst a chance meeting with fellow fellwalkers is fine it does add to the feeling of remoteness and adventure if you have the terrain to yourself, which I did today, but once above the col I was walking in fresh snow and saw that someone else had been ahead of me, although I saw nobody for the rest of the walk. From Yarlside summit I made an exciting steep descent on snow, and then down to the valley and back on a farm track and a short section of road to make a satisfying circuit. Walking along the road I looked up at the hills from the valley still sunlit, but the tops were wearing clouds  with intense blue sky above - it was like an upside down inversion.

I was back home by mid afternoon wallowing in a hot bath and finishing the evening with some half decent tele, a good meal and a glass or two of red.


The pink route is part of The Dales Highway - today's route = red dots. The scull and cross bones marker on Yarlside is the one I use on Memory Map to identify Marilyns

River Rawthey and Brant Fell just after leaving the car

Cautley Spout is the deep gash in the hillside - an ice climb venue when frozen where there have been fatal accidents

Back to the road running south to Sedbergh - yes that is a road reflecting the sun not the river

Yarlside ahead

From Yarlside summit

Red dots show my dicey steep descent from Yarlside

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Season's Greetings

Christmas and New Year's greetings to my readers and thanks for  all your comments during 2014.

I've just received a card from our local MP -   I am in no way promoting this from a political standpoint other than to say this guy has been a workaholic in our region for several years contributing to many local improvements, and in particular the saving of Kendal hospital where we are now on the way to securing a radiotherapy unit, saving people a 100 mile round trip to Preston.

The outside of the card is based on a competition for local childrens' art, and it is only on the inside that there is a happy family portrait (note the typical Springer Spaniel straining to be off) contrasting starkly with the recent self publicity and strangely miserable photograph from Blair. Ok, it is easy to be cynical, but the enclosed letter, for me, sends a message of genuine caring and a will to making a difference stemming from continuous hard graft rather than glory seeking. It's a shame we haven't got more MPs with this kind of dedication, regardless of the political agenda of their party (except for UKIP and perhaps one or two others!)


More seasonal rambling.

Ok, I'm an old fuddy-duddy and of course a grumpy old man, but I find it hard to endure seasonal parties that become disco nightmares making conversation impossible, and displaying aged contemporaries who should know better gyrating and gesticulating like crudely made automatons.

My son who is now gone forty and probably closer in time to my viewpoint than the time when he was a legitimate partaker said to me recently at one such event, "let's get out of here before they start doing the conga".


What about the new buzz word? - redact, or should I say redact ?

I'm waiting for my first: amazing,  robust, redacted, emotional roller coaster post, which will ensure that such a thing can never happen again". If it does happen (the post, or again), "my thoughts will be with the blogger and his (or her) family". Of course I am typing this prior to my broadcast, standing outside the headquarters of ConradWalks.Blogspot.Com in lashing rain and darkness, round about midnight, wearing a fairly expensive suit protected only by a cheap umbrella lent to me by the sound recordist.


Once again, Merry Christmas everybody.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Classic design

My Christmas policy is to do nothing until after my birthday early in December. I also admit to the arrival of winter when I awaken my Paramo Cascade waterproof/windproof trousers and jacket from their summer hibernation  - strange, are there any animals that hibernate in the summer?

Well, the birthday passed a few days ago and I did the Christmas cards and ordered a couple of pressies on line. On Wednesday evening I had need to go out to the garage and I felt like Scott trying to get to that last depot, and mindful of the Thursday walk with Pete next day I reckoned it was wakey-wakey time for the winter gear. Along with the aforementioned Paramo brand stuff, which is heading for classic status, there was one other all time favourite to be aroused which would count in my top ten list of global design classics.

In 1960, before setting off on a trip to Norway with Pete, I bought  myself a pair of Dachstein* mitts. I am not sure when this classic item first became available but they have stood the test of time in terms of practicality and durability (mine are still as functional as they were over fifty years ago).

We walked again in the vicinity of Simpson Ground (see my last post), keeping to tracks and reasonable surfaces, but there is a top of the world feeling here and we were blasted by fierce icy winds blowing themselves out after Wednesday night’s gales, and at one stage had a rare difficulty in the Lake District of finding a crossing for a swollen stream, but it was good to be out equipped with appropriate attire making the difference between hardship and smug comfort. 

Today I do the Christmas Tree.


Needlesports in Keswick are excellent suppliers with a good website giving advice based on their own knowledge of and participation in climbing and hill walking, beyond the usual manufacturer’s blurb. Their review and photo of Dachstein mitts tells all:

On the way to Simpson Ground - top of the world

Gnarly hawthorne

Presumably they didn't

Monday, 1 December 2014

It's who you are with that matters

"I reckon it's getting dark."

My words after finding our sixth geocache of the day at the edge of a secret tarn in the middle of an oh, so remote primeval swamp-forest  unknown to the rest of humanity. I was jesting a little in consideration of it being well into the afternoon and it having taken us five hours to cover only four and a half miles.

My explorer companion was Bowland Climber, a regular commenter here. After we scratched, scraped and squelched our way back through the swamp-forest to more familiar territory, frequently consulting compass and GPS, we did find ourselves, yes in the dark, marching steeply down a Tarmac road overlooking Windermere, but with just enough light for a glorious flame-red sunset high up above the distant hills on the other side of the valley.

BC had not  geocached before, although he is a veteran of more long distance walks here and abroad than most trekking enthusiasts have even heard of. A lot of the terrain was challenging with tussocky swamps, dead bracken, gorse, dense fir forest and difficult route finding, enough to discourage most self proclaimed adherents of the outdoors, but not BC.

I am in my element with such challenges, but if I am with someone who is not game for it my day is ruined. Successive immersions of boots, and desperate fights through forest were greeted by BC with more and more laughter and amusement at our self inflicted discomfort, and a constant stream of interesting and largely amusing conversation was maintained throughout. BC also entered into the spirit of geocaching and I think he found four out of our tally of six.

Much of my walking has been solo, but being with someone of like mind and constant good cheer is a great pleasure.


Please also see: BowlandClimber

Windermere below, and distant Old Man of Coniston and Dow Crag

Zoom to Dow Crag

Simpson Ground tarn

Location of one geocache. This was in the middle of a thick forest with no paths within several hundred yards in any direction. We reckon it was built before the trees were planted - it involved a hard fight to get there

Close to the above shelter and what geocachers refer to as "ground zero" for a cache

Science fiction mossy stuff on boulder shown in previous photo

Simpson Ground tarn looking back to location for taking earlier panorama photo

This is the final primeval tarn which, but for its geocache, may never have been previously visited by humans. Note, the reflected tree is growing in the middle of the tarn

Monday, 24 November 2014

Maps don't tell the whole story

Blonde Two's last post talks of gorse problems; I have had my own.

It seemed like a good idea at the time (2002).

Lurgh Mhor and Bidein a'Choire Sheasgaich (Lurgh Mhor is often mentioned as one of the most remote Munros)

SMC guide to the Munros, "...there is very much the feeling of a real expedition to climb them, some may prefer to take two days..."

By my route the distance was about 18 miles there and back of very strenuous hill walking.

The conventional route started by crossing the railway near Gerry's Hostel (where I later stayed on my LEJOG walk).

I had looked at the map and also viewed the river from the road just to the east of Achnashellach station and it looked shallow. I took trainers to wade across the river thereby saving myself about six kilometres there and back on the track starting near Gerry's hostel.

From memory, the climb over the fence or whatever to cross the railway was not easy. Next I found myself in total swamp often up to my knees, but boots were being carried so remained dry. The river was waded fairly easily, but the far bank was guarded by solid gorse over six feet high and twenty or thirty feet deep. I hid my trainers and had no alternative but to force my way through that gorse which was very close to impossible. Sweating and shredded I was faced with climbing a deer fence (they are about ten feet in height), into a wood. The wood was strewn with felled trees and thick undergrowth, the trees having being felled at right angles to my direction of travel necessitating climbing over and negotiating the mass of twisted branches, brambles, hidden holes and other evil ankle twisting horrors. Another deer fence was conquered to land me on the track of the conventional route. That was a distance of about half a kilometre from the car, but the worst half kilometre I can ever remember.

The rest of that day was brilliant, but on the way back descending steeply a few hundred yards from the point where I had gained the track from the second deer fence my knee suddenly suffered the most excruciating pain. I was staying with the caravan at Kinlochewe and the previous day I had by some strange prescience bought a single walking pole at a small outdoor shop there which has since closed. Why I bought that pole I have no idea - I had scorned them in the past and seemed to have no reason for the purchase, but it it turned out to be a lifesaver.

I think that was the start of my knee problems which resulted in several arthroscopies and replacement knee surgery in May 2012.

Of course I had to re-negotiate the obstacle course providing a final challenge for a very long day.

The thick brown dash/dot line is part of my LEJOG route from 2008 - the tent symbol indicates a night stop at Gerry's hostel

Friday, 21 November 2014

Orange goes pink

I am now wearing black stockings.

The nurse (I didn't ask if she wears them) said I can dispense with them in summer if I am walking and wearing shorts - that's a good job - some observers may get over excited otherwise.

This compression hosiery will apparently reduce the risk of DVT - let's hope so. 

The wound on my shin is improving and I am walking some miles again, modestly. Pete's arthritis is showing signs of gradual improvement with the shed load of pills he takes daily. I feel I could walk more, but I don't want to risk aggravation and I will see how things are going after I see the nurse again next Thursday.

Here are a few photos from our two last Thursdays around Witherslack and the Winster valley.

Old yew tree and Witherslack church

Well, I have gone on and on about hairy-orange-string.  Perhaps we have a  refined lady farmer in the Winster valley?

Strange building, excessively windowed, in grounds of large conventional country house - cheap roofing-felt roof. Any ideas anybody?

Witherslack Hall. The special-needs school where daughter High Horse was recently made redundant.
Whitbarrow on the skyline

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Remembrance Day

Remembrance Day was doubly poignant. My brother (18 months younger than me) has Altzheimers and he has been moved from a home in Leeming Bar to a hospital in Scarborough.

With daughter, High Horse, and granddaughter Katie, just gone three years old, we made the round trip of 330 miles setting off at 10:00 am and getting back home at 8:00 pm and all for a half hour visit with my brother. Although Nick recognises us it is impossible to have meaningful conversation, but he seemed fairly cheerful and pleased to see us, and the staff were kind and seem to be looking after Nick as well as is possible.

We did reflect at the eleventh hour as we were driving across Bowes Moor and a little later had a break at the Sutton Bank National Park Centre.

After leaving the hospital I was asked to drive along the sea front at Scarborough for Katie to see the sea, then I continued to follow sat-nav instructions. I quickly realised that sat-nav was now taking us home via York and Leeds because we had diverted from our inward route over Bowes Moor. Although I knew this was not the best plan I just went with it and that was a mistake leading to all the usual M62 start stop frustration.

Another World War reference came to mind - The Longest Day.

At Sutton Bank visitor centre

Saturday, 8 November 2014

What are the odds?

Amidst all the frustration of my leg wound healing, oh so slowly, I have had a free health check with my gp’s nurse.

Prior to getting the results, and considering the mountains and lakes of cheese, red wine and cakey sweetie confections I consume Imagination tortured me convincing that at least diabetes would be diagnosed, along with cholesterol off the top of the graph, and perhaps something else Imagination had failed to anticipate. 

In the past, Imagination was so good at creating the “what if…” scenario I was invariably second on the rope as a rock climber and rarely the leader.

Everything was fine, so nurse said? I don’t understand these things and work on the principle that the less I know the better. Amongst stuff about blood sugars, and a resting heart rate of 54 I was told there is good and bad cholesterol and my good outweighs the bad.

Nurse put all the stats into some sophisticated number crunching software, even asking me to confirm that my country of birth was the UK, which seemed to be the largest influencing factor.

I was told the national average chance of having a “cardio vascular event”for a 74 year old, within the next ten years was 26%, and mine came out at 23% .

With my ignorance of things scientific I am now not sure whether to laugh or cry.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Six years later

Yesterday  Gayle,  Click for Mick and Gayles blog , called in after her walk round my domain, and on her way to Scotland. Unfortunately Mick was absent due to some current employment.

It is unusual to make strong friends later in life, but Mick and Gayle are an exception for me. We talked without a single break for over three hours, but importantly we both talked and we both listened having a genuine interest in each others topics and anecdotes and that is the measure of good conversation and friendship.

My memory of our first meeting on day fifteen of my Land's End to John 'o Groats walk is still vivid but for you readers here is the relevant extract from my journal:

Wednesday 30th april 2008
Bawdrip to Cheddar
17.5 miles

Towards the end of this day I had just negotiated what became in my mind the worst stile of the whole trip. There was a gap in a hedge about six feet wide with a difficult stile descending via a nearly vertical mud bank about six feet down to a complete and unavoidable mud bath, and then ascending to another stile even more difficult than its partner, and all this, for reasons I can’t now remember had necessitated removing my rucksack.

I was just walking up the field trying to recover from this trauma when I realised I was being followed by two other walkers. They turned out to be Mick and Gayle who were also walking the End to End, and we walked together with some minor navigation problems due to our enthusiastic chattering, to arrive at the camp site at Cheddar. Mick and Gayle turned out to be a great couple who were doing the walk for the Macmillan charity. I think they will be visiting me at Arnside sometime in the future. Their planning had been meticulous with a large spreadsheet detailing all accommodation on their route, and they had also produced at home a large number of dehydrated meals using a proprietary dehydrating system. The meals looked very good.

And later on  my blog:

...we continued to meet each other from time to time until they took a different route via Offa’s Dyke from Knighton, but we have remained in touch by mobile  since…"
The offending stile.
Mick and Gayle were perhaps a hundred yards behind, but I hadn't seen them at this stage

Well, that was six years ago and we have had many pleasurable exchanges since, and long may they continue.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

LEG acknowledges his foot

I posted just before setting off for the SW Coast Path/Two Moors Way walk about acquiring a new sound system.

In the past I had separates. To listen to FM music (DAB wasn't available) I had to get up, cross the room, crouch down to floor level, and with difficulty manipulate various controls. Selecting tracks for a cd so it didn't continue to play the throwaway piece tagged on after the symphony was even more fiddly. Most of the time I just couldn't be bothered. How lazy can you get?

I have a sort of guilt feeling for such indolence, and perhaps it illustrates my lack of commitment to the wholly intellectual life, but I just wasn't listening to music which I do enjoy.

I can now sit in my chair and listen to superior tv sound, play cds and select tracks, listen to quality sound DAB radio on many preselected channels, or play any music I have on the iPad or IPhone with ease.

That may not be helpful in view of having just been diagnosed with a blood clot in LOWER LEG, but I do get up and wander about every so often, and as advised by the medics, keep waggling LEG's foot.

Sent from my iPad

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, 17 October 2014

Busy but not walking

Leg seems to have recovered, more or less, from the the cellulitis type bacterial infection after taking on board enough antibiotic to solve the World health problem, but he still continues to rebel against the whacking I gave him with a branch somewhere around 15th September on my SW Coast Path walk, and which received another whacking when my hooped carbon fibre tent pole, under tension, released itself and struck again in the same place. Leg therefore has two wounds close together on the shin about a centimetre diameter which are not healing well and are still painful, and Leg seems to have the capacity to transfer that pain to me in retribution.

There is also the added problem of the blood clot in Lower Leg, not a dvt, and therefore not too serious, but I am still giving myself daily injections, and attending fortnightly at the hospital for scans, and also at my gp's nurse for attention to the wound. Lower Leg I am told is behaving himself according to the scans.

Of course, I am not whinging. Daughter High Horse may not agree.

I need to rest and keep the leg up as much as possible which I do in the evenings, but during the day I am always busy.

Have you heard of hacking? Buying an item as new and then modifying it to your own requirements, having a high hit rate with IKEA products. High Horse is into this and we’ve bought a bunk bed, from IKEA, for Katie’s birthday later this month, and I have been co-opted to hack.

As bought from Ikea (after the half day you have taken to assemble it)

An elaborate "hack" using two units

Work in progress - finished photo may appear later

Thursday walks with Pete are suspended for the moment - Pete has joined the wounded, suffering from arthritis and is taking tons of pills which he is assured, will, after some time, relieve things.

Today our walking substitute was a visit to a picture framers in the wilds  beyond Kendal used by Pete’s wife who is a talented amateur artist. The mission was to have framed a superb photo of Annapurna taken by David Ensor (David Ensor Travel Photography, ). David is the proprietor of Chiltern Lodge b and b at Worth Matravers where I stayed on the second night of my recent walk on the SW Coast Path (highly recommended), he has travelled extensively and organised his own treks to the Himalayas pursuing his passion for photography.

Photo by

The picture framer was located in a mini industrial estate hidden under the slopes of Scout Scar in the middle of nowhere. You could hardly move inside the place for stacks of wood that looked as though they had accumulated over a hundred years. It was a pleasure to chat with Michael the owner knowing it was he who would do the job, all so much better than handing over to some faceless multiple in the middle of town (watch out Gimmer - it looks as though I’m going conservative -  small c).

After that, despite not having walked, we still went for our usual wind-down at Café Ambio (located in the newly built livestock auction mart). It was a busy auction day, and as usual we followed the trail to the café of mixed sawdust and livestock leavings scattered, incongruously along the recently laid pristine vinyl flooring. All the farmers, in their working worn tweed suits and waistcoats, flat hats, wellies and boots were seated together at one end of the room, troughing, and telling the tale with lively bavardage - this is obviously a cherished social occasion for them (no ladies), and despite the clinical architecture of the building there was a strong atmosphere akin to attending a shepherds' meet in a seventeenth century pub in the Dales, belied by expensive 4 x 4s and nearly new Landrovers evident outside.

Time-out for the farmers at Ambio



Perhaps she may get on The Two Blondes team?

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Glen Affric could be trashed

There are plans afoot to put a windfarm in Glen Affric.

That's like putting a brothel in a church.

Glen Affric is one of the most iconic beautiful spots in the whole of the UK.


Generally I get irritated with all kinds of people asking me to sign petitions,  but I feel very strongly about this.

Please take a few minutes to read Alan Sloman's blog and follow the link to sign the online petition.


Tuesday, 7 October 2014


I have followed The Two Blondes blog for more than two years.  They have now been nominated for the above award.

Have a look at their blog:

The Two Blondes

Because of their insistence on anonymity, which is intriguing, I am a bit restricted in what I can say, but I do write from some inside knowledge, and they certainly get my vote on two counts.


They have posted every single day for more than a year, and in writing terms they have a delightful, individual, enviable style that is consistently witty, passionate, thoughtful and always a pleasure to read, covering a wide range of thoughts and deeds mostly related to their passion for Dartmoor (and Fox Tor Café at Princetown which is also up for the Café of the Year Award, and deserves its own vote). To achieve such consistency of quality, writing on a daily basis for more than a year, is an outstanding achievement which no other blog I follow can match.


The Two Blondes devote all their spare time to organising and teaching Duke of Edinburgh Award kids, and teams for the Ten Tors Event. They drive full minibuses all over the place, camp, hike, sing, play games, console, encourage, laugh, inspire, and thoroughly enjoy themselves. They have brought confidence, skills, and a sense of values to hundreds of youngsters. They also involve their charges in various conservation projects and work with a number of bodies in that connection.

To do all that, and at the same time cope with Health and Safety regulations, endless form filling, risk assessments , and the perils of legal liability, which put off so many potential youth leaders is worth an accolade in its own right.

Please give them your vote, here is the link:

Friday, 3 October 2014


I have seen a lot of these in the last few days. I have been visited four times a day by nurses who have administered massive doses of antibiotics with a large syringe taking three to five minutes each time. 

I have had visits to Kendal hospital and lost count of how many other needles I have had stuck into me as well as blood pressure, temperature and heart readings taken, and more than anything else I have lost count of is the number of times I have been asked for my date of birth. A further complication is a nasty wound I sustained across the inflamed part of my ankle when I caught a branch between my legs during my walk a few days after inflammation started. Then, at home, drying the tent out on the lawn the carbon-fibre hoop pole under tension flicked out with a life of its own and lashed me again on exactly the same spot.

Today a further review visit to Kendal hospital established that the inflammation has receded, so I have now reverted to antibiotics by capsule instead of injection, and the cannula has been removed from my arm.

I am still doing the daily self injections for the blood clot and have a further appointment in ten days or so for another scan, as well as other appointments with my GP's practice nurse for dressing the wound, and a further review appointment at Kendal.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

SWCP, Two Moors Way Aftertmath 2

Ten days before the end of the walk, when I fell on the road at Axmouth a recurrence of a previous affliction started. In 2009 I had a bacterial infection in my right ankle and leg which took a month to sort  via intravenous drip administered by health visitors to my home. This now started again in my left ankle.

I did not mention it on the blog, but I was in some discomfort for the rest of the walk, although that was on and off and usually settled down each day once I got walking.

Back home my gp put me on the same antbiotic as before which showed some improvement, but on Saturday things deteriorated and following the gp's instructions I went to Kendal hospital this morning, Sunday, and have now been sent to Lancaster, and I am typing this having moved from waiting room one to waiting room two to a cubicle. All that has taken less than an hour here so far and the doctor has been very thorough and informative. I am awaiting a blood test result which is being done here and now.

Further report to follow.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

SW Coast Path and Two Moors Way slideshow

Here is the Dropbox link to the slideshow


Despite the glorious weather it was nearly always hazy, and on the moors sometimes misty and most of the photos reflect this. Having said that I have been pleased with the Panasonic TZ40 and especially its facility to Bluetooth photos to the iPad so they can post on the blog.

Please click on the first photo to start the slideshow.

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.   

Monday, 22 September 2014

Day 19 (last day) - Withypool to Lynmouth - Sunday 21st Sept.

This was the first day of nineteen that was not hazy and it couldn't have been a better day for it. I did have a reed-swamp-fest soon after leaving the hotel and went in over the top of my wretched Brashers for the first time on the trip, so wet feet for the rest of the day.

I was looking forward to the trek over Exmoor to locate Exe Head for the second time. I passed through on my LEJOG walk, but this time I would cross that path at right angles. I hadn't fully realised until writing this that I have walked to Exemouth on the SWCP, and now to Exe Head. Is there a viable route to trace this interesting river?

Compass and gps were needed to get to the river source, others who are better at following almost invisible tracks may not need all that gadgetry. It is strange how memory plays tricks, but when I finally homed in it was a much more elaborate location with fences and crossing paths than I remember.

That had been a great trip across the moor watching the light improve. I now followed a much more defined path following Hoarse Oak Water with fabulous semi wooded ravine views, and then a tricky bit of navigation at The Hoare Oak - no clues, followers must sort it for themselves - part of the fun.

That took me to a superb cropped grass ridgewalk with great views, and I met the first people of the day on my route, a family on horseback.

The final few kilometres into Lynmouth look deceptively easy on the map - a broad track through woodland for starters, but then a tortuous hill climb, descent, zig zag, narrow path that goes on forever. However, the wooded ravine views and the distant sea are worthwhile rewards.

After five and three quarter hours walking I was at the finish -Lynmouth, 12:45pm. My overriding concern was to find a public convenience. Once sorted the local brew shop informed me no bus anywhere until 5: 00pm. I started to hitch-hike to Minehead, my direction of travel to get home. After one lift of two miles I was in the middle of nowhere, and it was after 3:00pm, things were getting serious.

I crossed over the road and started hitching the other way back to Lynmouth. I got another lift to five miles down the road from Lynmouth to Barnstaple, again in the middle of nowhere. A guy in a a Land Rover with a Springer Spaniel stopped on his way home which was about three miles from Barnstaple. He drove me right past his house, then all the way to the railway station in Barnstaple, waited until I established it was not possible to get home tonight, then drove me to a hotel in the centre of Barnstaple where I am now typing up after a very satisfactory evening meal. There are still some very decent people about, but not many judging by the huge number that didn't stop. This trip is costing me a fortune, but worth every penny.

Looking back on the way to Exe Head, morning light forcing through

Now a bit of sunlight on the moor ahead

Off the path on the way to Exe Head

Exe Head

Hoarse Oak Water

Easy walking on the ridge to Cherriton

Incoming cavalry

A fellow Yeti owner. Loading lambs sold on to more lowland farmer for further fattening. His land doesn't have rich enough grass


One of many views from path approaching Lynmouth

Lynmouth, just to prove I got there

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