Day 18 Friday August 16 North Molton to Simonsbath

Miles walked: today 9 cumulative 248.9

Today was disappointing. Like the whole of Southern Britain, there has been heavy incessant rain. I had planned to head north-west to the west edge of Exmoor to join the MacMillan Way West . This forms part of a network of routes compiled by Macmillan Cancer Support. For a small fee you get a route guide and accommodation leaflet. The guide also includes points of interest along the way.

After a couple of miles the rain steadily increased and the mist came down over the Moor. I abandoned my plan and turned down (or rather up) the road to Simonsbath. An afternoon to relax, catch up on the blog and hope the forecast for better weather is correct.

Devon Cream Tea instructions for use

1 check GPS for location to confirm which County you are in. The cream tea police are active down here

2 divide your scone

3 Cream first

4 Then the jam. Home made is ideal

5 Eat

6 Repeat with other half of scone

Nicki greeted me with this cream tea at The Middleton Farmhouse B and B in Sampford Courtenay (see Day 15). One of the best B and B on the walk. Oh. The Jam and the Scones were indeed homemade.

Followers may note the only difference between this and the Cornish cream tea is the order in which cream and jam are applied to the scone. I had intended to do extensive research on which tastes nicer but I am now in Somerset.

Day 17 Thursday 15 August Eggesford to North Molton

Miles walked today 17 cumulative 239.9

Number of silly number plates 1

Today was my last day walking through central Devon. I delayed setting off until the drizzle had stopped and I was rewarded with sunshine. The day involved many ups and downs but I was surprised that Walkmeter recorded the day’s ascent at 1800 feet.

The first task was a walk through woodland over a hill and down to the picturesque Lower Dart river folllowed by a steep climb up to the Saxon village of Chulmleigh.

View across the Little Dart Valley up to Chumleigh church

Little Dart River

Chulmleigh village was very pretty. I didn’t realise that many of its buildings are listed and the church has some interesting features. I admired the cottages in ignorance

The route continued along quiet lanes and through farmland though several more small, pretty villages. These chaps seemed a long way from home:

Ostrich farming was popular in the 80s when it was marketed as low fat meat. I haven’t seen it in the shops for years but these guys seemed quite happy.

I sopped at the Grove Inn in Kings Nympton for some liquid refreshment. The pub specialises in beer from local craft breweries and if I didnt have further to walk I would have happily spent the rest of the afternoon here. The food looked nice too.

It a difficult to write much about the walk as the text would be repetitive and bore the reader. This is not to say the walk is boring, far from it. I really enjoyed my 3 days crossing central Devon. There is a sense of progress as Dartmoor recedes into the distance and Exmoor approaches. The rolling countryside is beautiful and if I had not been doing lejog I suspect I would have walked the moors and ignore the area between. By using the Mindfulness techniques that I was taught I really appreciated the different colours and smells of the landscape and the feel of the breeze or wind.

I passed through South Molton and dropped down to the river Mole. I finished the day by walking along the Mole valley to North Molton which, no surprise, was at the top of the hill. While I have really enjoyed the last few days, I am looking forward to Exmoor and the Quantock hills.

Day 16 Wednesday 14 August Sampford Courtenay to Eggesford

Miles walked: today 14; cumulative 222.9

Bovines of no threat to anyone Several.

Outside the Taw valley dairy

I started with a detour to North Tawton post office. Most people pack too much for lejog and I was no exception. I posted surplus stuff and some used maps back home (I am in trouble, Angela thinks it is a present!). My pack is certainly psychologically lighter.

There are several medieval crosses around Sampford Courtenay and North Tawton

Historic England say that most of these were erected from the 10th to 16th century. They served several functions including religious, marking boundaries, places for making public proclamations and others. The web site goes into much more detail and is well worth a look if you are interested.

North Tawton is a large village that, as I was to find, in common with many other central Devon villages, lies on top of a hill. It was Nanny Knights Revel week. Nanny Knight was a senior citizen who went missing about 100 years ago and the whole village searched for her. The North Tawton web site does not say whether she was found and, if so, what revels they had. The revels last for a week. The local primary school children had written poems for the revels and they were displayed in the front windows of the houses as I walked up the hill. The other event of the day was a snail race but I needed to get on.

In fact my progress was snail like. I started by leaving on the wrong road ( note to self USE YOUR COMPASS). After 20 minutes I arrived back in the village centre and left by the correct road. I followed a footpath sign into a housing estate and spent 15 minutes trying to find the exit path into the countryside.

The path was very pretty, passing through trees. it passed over Bouchers Hill which would have afforded good views of northern Dartmoor except the tors were covered by low cloud. It then dropped into the Taw valley which I followed for much of the day

This path forms part of the Tarka trail. Shockingly, I know, I have never read Tarka the Otter or seen the film but the trail passes through mid and north Devon. (As an aside, when researching this, I read that the author, Henry Williamson, was seriously wounded at Passschendale, became a pacifist after the war but then was a Nazi sympathiser and joined the British Union of Fascists; bet they don’t say that when they show the film on TV).

I saw no otters. In fact, I have never seen an otter in the wild in the UK. (we did see sea otters on a boat trip in California) I have sat quietly by rivers and lochs in the hope of seeing some, hopefully I will before the end of this walk.

I stopped for lunch by the Taw, near a house that was flying the Devon flag

I would like to report this was designed by the first Duke of Devonshire in 1500 as he mustered his army in some noble cause. NOT TRUE.

In 2002 BBC Radio Devon decided Devon should have a flag and asked the public to send in designs.They then held a poll to decide which one to use.

The flag is dedicated to St Petroc, a local saint. It is green because those are the colours of Plymouth Argyle, Exeter University and the Devon County Rugby team.

I look forward to the design of a Manchester flag based on football ( no suggestions please).

The walk continued alternating between staying close to the river and crossing hills. Dartmoor gradually receded into the distance as a Exmoor became more prominent.

Just before the end I passed the remote Eggesford church. This dates back to Norman times although most of the structure is 18th century. There was an impressive tomb of an important 16th century dignatory, Lord Chichester and his wife.

As I approached the Fox and Hounds I felt smug as there had only been light drizzle today. It then poured for the last 200 yards.

Day 15 Tuesday 13 August Betty Cottle’s Inn to Sampford Courtenay

Miles walked: today 12 miles cumulative 208.9miles

Unusual road names 1

This was m a very short day so I had time toreturn to the Granite Trail and look at the Meldon viaduct. This double viaduct spans a 165 metre gorge, phenomenal when you consider the technology that was available to build it in 1874.

The viaduct was built to run a rail service from London to Plymouth via Oakhampton. This was shut to passenger trains in 1962 although it continued to transport stone from Meldon quarry until the 1980’s. The view from the viaduct is stunning. The Meldon dam was a controversial project to form a reservoir by damming the West Oakmont river in 1970. Meldon dam

The granite trail runs to Okehampton. I had a wander round Okehampton and picked up some food for the following day’s lunch before an uphill, tedious road walk to Stokley Hamlet. I then followed field paths and quiet lanes east and then north with pretty views of the surrounding countryside. In the distance I could see a smudge on the horizon which was Exmoor, still two and a half days walk away.

I arrived in Stamford Courtenay. This is a beautiful little village in central Devon. It was the site where the rebels of the Prayerbook Rebellion made their last stand in 1549. After the reform of the church by Henry VIII, his son, Edward VI, introduced Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer, written in English. This aimed to unify Anglican church services and it replaced Latin with English as the language for prayer. This particularly annoyed Cornwall where most people were still Catholic and spoke Cornish rather than English. The rebels laid siege to Exeter and the government sent troops to put down the rebellion. The final battle was at Stamford Courtenay.

There was a scarecrow competition going on at the moment. My favourites are shown below. I particularly like Lewis Appleton.

Many thanks to Nicky and Kevin for their B & B. They own a beautiful thatched farmhouse in the middle of the village. I was welcomed with a cream tea. My room was lovely. I wandered down to the New Inn (also recommended) for a wonderful fish dinner.

Day 14 Monday August 12 Launceston to Betty Cottle’s Inn

Miles walked: today 21 cumulative 196.9

Placid cattle with sharp pointy bits 1 herd

I have got a bit behind with the blog as Internet access was poor at last two stops. Well, to be more honest I was tired after this walk and I spent the following evening in the pub where there was no WiFi but excellent food.

Today I broke my rule of no more than 20 miles a day. Yesterday, I was meant to end the walk at Lifton but the hotel cancelled so I stopped early in Launceston. In fact, the walking today was easy and I covered the distance without too much problem.

Most of the day was spent following the Two Castles Trail that runs from Launceston to Okehampton. In view of the distance, I took some short cuts along roads when the trail tended to meander. Unfortunately, the trail leaflet was out of print so there will be a lack of background information.

I set off in rain dropping off the hill to follow field paths. Within about half an hour the sun came out and there were good views back to Launceston. I followed the River Kensey downsteam until it joined the river Tamar. Here, I reached a road bridge and crossed the Tamar, which marks the border between Devon and Cornwall.

The Trail uses a combination of footpaths and minor roads. Finding the paths with a 1:50000 map was not as straightforward as with the 1:25000 as the field boundaries are not included. However, I would have needed double the number of maps ( involving more cost, weight and storage space) so I persevered even though it involved a bit of backtracking.

Progress was quick and I was soon in Lifton. There were views over the Devon countryside, rolling hills and fields with more arable crops than Cornwall. There were views back to Bodmin Moor and Dartmoor could be seen on the horizon ahead, although it was a bit misty with low cloud. Cattle with impressive horns were in evidence, but they hadn’t read or seen Game of Thrones as they were content to chew the cud rather than”stick them with the pointy end.”

After Lifton, The Trail detours north along footpaths but I kept to the road. This saved time but the walk was a bit tedious. The road was busy (despite being unclassified) with a constant uphill incline. I consoled myself as there were 2 pubs marked on the map but disaster! Both were closed.

Gripe of the day. Why do car drivers chuck litter out of the window? Cans and coffee cups don’t biodegrade. Why can’t they keep them in the car till they reach their destination?

I continued to the hamlet of Lewtrenchard. Sabine Baring-Gould was born here, the son of a wealthy landowner. He became a curate in Yorkshire and wrote the lyrics of “Onward Christian Soldiers” as a processional hymn for children. On the death of his father he returned to Lewtrenchard. Here, he re-designed and rebuilt the Manor and restored the church. He was a polymath. He was an important folk song collector and he wrote other hymns. He translated carols and wrote many books, both fiction and non-fiction, on a variety of subjects. He organised archaeological excavations on Dartmoor.

In between all this he married and fathered 15 children.

He collaborated with Cecil Sharp to publish “English Folk Songs for Schools” which was used until the mid 1960s; they had to change some of the bawdy lines!

Church in Lewtrenchard

I continued through very pleasant woodland and then climbed Galford Down where I had my first view of DArtmoor. The trail continued through woodland and over downs to reach Bridestowe. I was gasping for a pint but the pub was closed (opened at 6). I continued to Sourton where the Highwayman was also shut in the afternoons. A pity, both the pub and the landlady sound like they are really eccentric. The pub is certainly strange, the entrance looks like the side of a stage coach.

From Sourton it was a short walk along the Granite Trail (a disused railway which skirts the edge of Dartmoor I then dropped off teh railway line to Betty Cottle’s Inn where I spent the night. This is an isolated pub but well worth a visit. Betty was the landlady until 25 years ago and her ghost is said to haunt the pub. After a well deserved steak and a couple of pints I was ready for bed and I suspect even if Betty had screamed in my ear I would not have stirred.