Saturday 17 August Simonsbath to Dunster

Miles walked: today 18.5 cumulative 267.4

Woke up in Somerset this morning. I didn’t realise that Exmoor straddles Devon and Somerset. The border passes just west of Simonsbath.

I read in other blogs and books that the long distance Walker is obsessed by two things: weather and legs (his or her own)

Weather: perfect walking weather, at least to start. Dry,sunny, not too hot and a gentle cooling breeze.

Legs: apart from one blister my feet have been fine. On the first stage, I did have a sore 5th metatarsal base. Being a hypochondriac, I was convinced this was a stress fracture and my lejog was over before it has started. It got better within 2 days. I must be a fast healer because I can’t believe my diagnosis was wrong (lol). On this section I have had a sore hamstring since day two. It is a persistent niggle and it wakes me at night. So far I have only had showers but my B and B in Dunster has a bath.

Simonsbath is a small hamlet admist trees in the middle of Exmoor. I set off up through a small wood behind the pub. This was a “natural garden” that was planted by John Knight in the 19 century but never completed. It is situated behind the ruined old village school and the National Park are currently restoring both.

Route up on to Exmoor

Exmoor consists of high moorland with deep wooded valleys and the views were spectacular today. The purple heather flowers are just coming out. However, I was unable to take a good enough picture to publish. Once up on the plateau the walking was easy with no steep ascents or descents.

I have not seen many walkers this trip. I was not surprised in mid Devon as I was not on a major footpath. However, I expected to see more today but, until I reached Dunkery Beacon I only saw two walkers and one cyclist. Horse riders were out in force

These pictures give you some idea of the expanse of the Moor.

As I approached Dunkery Beacon I saw a small herd of Exmoor ponies

These are a specific breed, native to Exmoor. Although they are allowed to roam “wild” on the Moor they are all owned and the herds are managed.

Dunkery beacon is the highest point on Exmoor at 1705 feet, and the highest point on my walk so far. The hill is very rounded so the summit cairn is hidden from view until the Walker is nearly at the top

There are several Bronze Age burial mounds on Exmoor. The grassy mound dates from 3000-701 BC. I am not sure whether it has been excavated. There was a fire beacon on top in the 17 century. The stone cairn is modern. It was a bit hazy but I had a good view of South Wales, across the Bristol Channel and Eastwards towards the Quantock Hills, my next target.

Although I am now the proud owner of a DSLR it is too heavy to take on a trip like this. A pity because I think judicious use of filters may have produced better images. The wind was cold so I soon set off downhill towards Wootton Courtenay nestling in the trees

Then disaster! I set off through the woods behind the village intending to walk along the ridge you can see in the background. I reached a path junction and took a track that I thought was heading in the right direction. I turned too early and the track deteriorated into an overgrown path and finally nothing. I pressed on, trying to find another path. Big mistake, it took me an hour to find my way down to a road and I finally arrived at the Olde House in Dunster at 8pm. Sorry George.

My spirit was immediately lifted by a home-made florentine ( the B and B is also a tearoom). And a big bath! After a good soak I headed off to the Luttrell Arms for a pint. The hotel was featured on Time Team and dates back to the 15 century. I think it unfair to say that a particular B & B was the best. I think it fairer to say which are my favourites and the Olde House in Dunster is one of them and well worth a stay.