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


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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Saturday, 20 September 2014

Day 18 - Withypool to Simonsbath, Sat. 20th Sept.

Last night I had a good shin beef casserole with mini roast vegetables at the Royal Oak - chef knew what he was doing.

Breakfast not until 8:30, but it didn't matter, I had only seven miles to do with the pleasant knowledge that I was already booked into the Exmoor Forest hotel at Simonsbath.

I dawdled all the way. A distant mist prevailed so views were restricted, but atmosphere enhanced. I was soon up onto what they call a moor around here, all very pleasant but no relation to Ilkley or Goathland. Here it is largely reeds, gorse, bracken and a bit of heather, and because of its suitability for grazing animals, close cropped grass. Ponies, cows, and sheep, and their leavings were the order of the day.

A long length of the path was well evident but only about eight inches wide, and occasionally disappearing. I lost it once and ended up about fifty yards off. Even with map, gps and compass it was quite difficult to get back again across the rough terrain - you can be only ten or fifteen feet away without being able to see it.

Dropping down off the moor the attractive River Barle came into view and was then followed into Simonsbath on good paths.

Once again I have ordered a packed lunch in lieu of breakfast to be given to me tonight and I aim to get away for 7:00 am to do the last stint to Lynmouth. Getting home may be a challenge, there is no railway, and it being Sunday not much in the way of a bus. I may resort to hitch-hiking to get me to a railway station. We shall see.

A different take on dry stone walling

Very steep - there's lots of this on the TMW

Typical vegetation on the moor. The path was more established here

Typical narrow path - lose it at your peril

River Barle

Close up with the Barle

A bit of the orange string I keep moaning about. Here the string was the only thing holding the gate post up. When I untied it the gate post just fell over

I sat here in peace for a while, then after I had things to myself all morning various parties seemed to appear from nowhere and so it continued into Simonsbath

My bed at the Exmoor Forest hotel - you could have a game of tennis if you could stand up

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Friday, 19 September 2014

Day 17 - Witheridge to Withypool, Fri. 19th Sept.

Was the early start a good idea?. I left The Mitre after battling with the mighty front door again at 6:00 am. It was dark. I was sporting my head torch, something I have hardly ever done before. The brightness of the screen on the iPhone mapping killed my night vision. Consequently I turned up a track leaving the village parallel to my route and wasted ten minutes or so backtracking. Stumbling across a sort of path over a ploughed field, but feeling I was making some effort at moving quickly a young girl with dog came skipping past and vanished into the distance. Fortunately it became lighter, and then I was into a long stretch of road where I really did march.

A lot of the route was on roads, but the paths were mainly on ancient bridle ways in sunken lanes, or following higher ground in other places - the sort of tracks where I was imagining the possibility of finding a medieval hoard with a metal detector. That was all a lot better than yesterday's contrived paths round fields.

Halfway through the morning light rain started and persisted until mid afternoon. At one point I sheltered, munched and regrouped in the church at West Anstey (churches offer a good facility for weary weather stricken backpackers).

I arrived at the tea shop in Withypool nine and a half hours after starting out this morning. The book says it is twenty two miles, but I have my doubts. I intend to measure when I get back home.

Tomorrow I could walk the book stated nineteen miles to the finish at Lynmouth, but have opted to walk only seven miles to Simonsbath where I have already booked in courtesy of the landlord here at the Royal Oak. The forecast is better and I prefer to enjoy two shorter days rather than have another big slog.

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Thursday, 18 September 2014

Day 16 - Morchard Bishop to Witheridge, Thurs. 18th Sept.

I had a monster meal at the London Inn last night with quantities that would defy anybody and I had to leave quite a lot. The pub was run by mum, Vera behind the bar, and daughter Sarah, on cooks. There was lots of family banter and village gossip about, and later I got the full thing from Vera about when she was a lass and they walked three miles each way to school, and how she had to milk the cows before setting off etc., etc.

By the time I left the village it was 9:00 am. I was lethargic and still weary from yesterday's efforts and walked very slowly the eight miles to Witheridge - 5.5 hours for eight miles. The walking was dreary, much on agricultural, lumpy, cow fields, and hate of hates TRACTOR TRACKS (like walking endlessly over buckled corrugated iron). There were also many bad gates lashed up with orange string, almost impossible to untie; once the indispensable Swiss Army knife was put to use. Another time the farmer had destroyed the TWM signpost with his hedge cutting leading me to a false trail down a steep, lumpy grass hill and back again. There was nothing to note of the scenery and you could have been anywhere in the country. I hope things will improve when I hit Exmoor.

I am booked in at The Mitre. Witheridge is an attractive, quintessential English village.

Got showered then set off for village. My pub closed, but door on latch, but I couldn't open it (massive door). Knocked on all locked doors in hall. No response. Returned to room where I had a faint Vodafone signal armed with pub visiting card and phone number. Tried number, " this number not yet issued".

Went back down, heaved on mighty door again and it suddenly came open nearly knocking me over.

At the village tea shop I researched logistics for tomorrow, and to be sure of accommodation I will have to walk to Withypool. 22 miles!

I had no signal but the kind lady at the tea shop let me use her landline and I am booked in at The Royal Oak. I have arranged for a packed breakfast which I will get tonight and I aim to set off early in the morning. This afternoon it is incredibly hot in the village.

The balcony path below Castle Drago yesterday

Castle Drago under restoration wraps

From Sharp Tor on the same path

One of the better bits of today's walk

The same farm where the farmer had trashed the TWM sign and tied up gates with orange string. Goodness knows what he had been up to excavating this eyesore

This one just to show some boring, lumpy field scenery. You readers have got to suffer too

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Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Day 15 - Chagford to Morchard Bishop - Wdnesday

Breakfast was at 8:00 and I had a most interesting conversation with John who took over this pub, The Chagford Inn last January and is in the process of fully refurbishing, and already providing interesting food way beyond the average pub grub. John has cycled from LA New York dipping down into the south. That was a three month trip. He is also a keen photographer. I could have spent a long time chatting there, but I had a twenty mile day in front of me.

Pleasant riverside and old woods walking took me onto a fabulous balcony path running under the ramparts of Drago Castle ( the story of its ongoing overhaul is worth looking at - I'm sure Google will provide. There was a good tv documentary about it sometime ago).

After leaving the northern boundary of Dartmoor Nat. Park the quality of the walking degenerated into farmers' fields, nettles, stiles, and the like. Also the path now became comprehensively waymarked.

I walked hard, by my standards all day but I was well done for during the last five miles.

At the village shop I enquired about b and bs. There was nobody home at one, but Mrs Snell at Shippens had room. I misunderstood the directions turning right from the shop and walked down one fork of the steep village street and back up the other adding another half mile to my total, then returning to the shop for more directions. When I make a route mistake I tend to march hard to redeem myself, and so I did on my second attempt.

Mrs Snell is a great elderly lady, sharp with her repartee and a good conversationalist. The house is a large converted barn completed several years ago - her husband died shortly after completion, "...he wasn't a lot of help to me". After a welcoming tea and cake I showered and went back up the hill to the London Inn. Mrs S had booked a table for me, but when I entered I was already famous having been seen doing my redeeming route march past the pub earlier on the way to Mrs Snell's - they were all impressed. I could just as easily have fallen over with exhaustion when I marched past them.

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Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Day 14 - Widdecombe to Chagford - Tuesday 16th Sept.

Venton Farm at Widdecombe was an excellent B and B; a sixteenth century farmhouse still run as a working farm, all cosy and comfortable.

A climb up onto the ridge was chilly and then I was in mist on the tops for a while but the sun appeared and there were miles of enjoyable ridge walking.

I came across the massive stone circle marked as Grimspound on the map. A party of school children were being shown around and I took a quick snap. I was then questioned politely by one of the leaders who wanted assurance that I wasn't going to publish the pic. I never thought about the implications thinking it would make an interesting point for various people who read this blog who have an interest in education. What a sad changed world we live in. I have deleted the pic.

The TMW is proving to be a classic. It would suit someone who is fed up with trudging round the perimeters of farmers' fields but doesn't want the rigours of a full high level mountain thrash, but I would stress the need for competence with map and compass and the advisability of having gps ( I know there are some who would disagree with the latter point).

There were not many people on the path today, but three of the four pubs in Chagford were without vacancies, and the fourth is a £100 a night job and I didn't enquire there.

Fortunately John at the The Chagford Inn who was in the middle of having all his rooms refurbished let me have a half finished room, and here I am now with full wi-fi, and just had a hot shower.

I don't know why this wall was so massive. It was still under construction

Typical Dartmoor ridge walking - easy under foot and great views

More heather and gorse. Can't resist it.

Zoom to ponies on summit

They were still there when I arrived. Hameldown Tor, complete with trig

The massive stone circle - Grimspound

Hookney Tor

Another take on drystone walling. Single thickness of stones, daylight can be seen through

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Photos for day 13 - Holne to Widdecombe

The Shepherd's hut, and inside below

River Dart, easy walking

Heather and gorse

I wonder which is oldest, cross or tree?

Zoom to a huge distant Tor. Will need to research name

The Rugglestone Inn where I ate - "...we aim to stay in the past as long as possible"

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Day 13 - Holne to Widdecombe - Monday 15th Sept.

First of all I forgot to mention yesterday that all morning and early afternoon the walk across the moor was in cloud/mist/fog or whatever you want to call it and visibility ranged between half a mile and fifty yards which better explains my travails with navigation.

I re-read the TMW guide and interestingly I quote, "...the open moorland of Dartmoor and Exmoor is NOT signposted or way marked. Not only is marking alien to wild landscape, but it destroys the experience of being in remote country". I am all for that but wish I had read that bit before embarking on day one of the TMW.

The Shepherd's Hut was ok but without mains electric pretty basic, and if it had been much colder that could have been a problem. Anyway it was better than the tent.

When I re-conceived this walk for now, i.e. later in the year, I had visions of huge expanses of purple heather on Dartmoor, and purple heather for me is like listening to a world class soprano having a memorable performance for others, although the latter wouldn't go amiss anyway.

Well, the heather has gone over, but some of it remains, but glory of glories a fiendishly deep yellow gorse over massive expanses has taken over and bits of the heather remain intermingled. It would be worth anybody's effort to get out and have a look.

Today I have walked through enchanting old deciduous woodland, often accompanied by the River Dart, which has water coloured like a good bitter, but so clear you can see to the bottom even at surprising depths, and offering the greatest temptation to taking dip one is ever likely to encounter, and I actually observed a couple doing just that.

After that the path climbed through jungle bracken to a grey stark tor and then developed into a high level track constructed for a conceited aristocrat to entertain his guests with dramatic views looking a long way down into heavily wooded valleys, which hinted at some secret river running through.

The village of Ponsworthy, enchanting as it was, offered no refreshment, but I chatted with a gent who had lived there since 1949 and we recalled bad winters of 1947 and nineteen sixty something and his running of a café on the south coast for eighteen years. The next village of Jordan had nothing to offer other than its unusual name.

Widdecombe is a thriving tourist centre with the National Trust running a shop and TI centre rolled into one. They found me a B and B about half a mile from the village, but with the Rugglestone Inn half way. I left my sack at the B and B and wandered back to the village for tea in the café booking a table for 6:30 on the way, and here I am now after meeting the challenge of a superb steak and Stilton pie. I enquired if they had wi-fi and the reply, " sorry, no, we try to keep as much in the past as possible".

By the way, I'm being haunted by a guy on this walk with a funny hat.

Could not post last night. Can't reply to comments easily. Will catch up later. This coming from Hameldown Beacon (517m) in the mist if it goes - 10.00 am Tuesday.

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Sunday, 14 September 2014

Day 12 - Ivybridge to Holne

I was able to depart Ivybridge for 7:15 am. A stiff road climb took me onto the moor and several fast miles on an old tramway track used for transporting peat, then it was off onto the footpath of The Two Moors Way (TMW). I found not a single way marker during the whole fifteen miles except for one at the start and one at the end. The path kept disappearing and I spent lots of time consulting gps and walking on compass bearings over virgin moorland. In a way that was quite interesting and a challenge but I wouldn't recommend it for the inexperienced. That is surprising when Devon CC have produced an excellent guide, and perhaps I would have done better following that as well as the OS on Memory Map, but there is a limit to the number of gadgets, compass, guides and maps that I want manipulate all at the same time as well as continuing to use the indispensable walking poles.

I am staying at a farm camp sit at Michelcombe between Scorriton and Holne in a Shepherd's Hut. There is a double bed, camping gas stove, a sink and cold water and some 12v lighting, and a toilet block about a hundred yards away. I have walked twenty minutes back into Scorriton where I have just had a magnificent rare beef salad with excellent double fried chips.

I am having charging and signal problems so will try to send this now with pics later. The priority is to preserve battery life for map navigation.

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Saturday, 13 September 2014

Day 11 - Torquay to Ivybridge - Saturday 13th Sept.

I had a thoroughly pleasant meeting with friends today, no walking, and ended up at The Sportsman Inn at Ivybridge. Here I have the whole of an attic second floor flat for £35. It is pretty basic in decor but well appointed with facilities and I have arranged a pre-prepared breakfast so I will be able to get away early in the morning for the start of The Two Moors Way. Now then, hands up all those who thought I was continuing on the SWCP.

I have booked a Shepherd's Hut equidistant from Scorriton and Holne and it's a fifteen mile walk.

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Friday, 12 September 2014

Photos for Day 10

The Sidholme Hotel

Looking west along Sidmouth Bay

From the gardens at the western end of Sidmouth

Looking back towards Sidmouth

Budleigh Salterton across the River Otter estuary

Moi ascending out of Budleigh fuelled up with tea and bacon butty

Distant Exemouth

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