Lydford to Whiddon Down
Before I start I think I’d better just warn Sarah that if she’s reading this out to the girls, she may well need to skip or paraphrase this first part of today’s posting.
So, the complete twats from last night didn’t get any better. As per normal I was struggling to get to sleep but with my iPod on I wasn’t doing too badly. That was until about 12:30am when the knobs decided that it’d be really funny to spend the next hour and half walking down the hall way knocking on everyone’s door! Clearly they thought they owned the place and that nobody else other than they were staying there?!
The first time they knocked on my door I replied with a pretty pissed off “What?!”, just for them to run away giggling. Next time I answered with a very loud “Fuck off!!” just to get the same effect. In fact, I overheard them talking and all I was doing was spurring them on to do it again and again. So, I put my iPod back on and did my best to ignore them, hoping that they’d soon get bored of not getting a response – works with kids pretty well so I was hopeful that it would work.
All in all I managed to grab about two hour’s sleep which as you can imagine isn’t a good way to start the day with a good fifteen or so miles to cover ahead of me. I wouldn’t have minded as much if the idiots were eighteen or something; no, they were my age and older! You don’t know how close I was to opening my door and beating some heads with one of my walking poles!
Breakfast over with and bag packed I got out of there as quickly as I could in case I bumped in to one of them and said/did something I might regret. Also, getting out early meant that I’d be able to get the first bit of today’s route up the A386 out of the way before the traffic got too heavy. Dodging the cars along that road last night wasn’t much fun I can tell you.
Fortunately the stretch up the A386 was only a couple of miles and before long I was making my way up on to Dartmoor. The track leading up to the moors was nothing if not steep! There’s nothing like a good 200ft climb in the morning to really get the blood pumping. I’m glad I made the effort to get up there though as the views were absolutely spectacular! The weather had completely cleared up after yesterday’s rain which meant I could see for miles and miles. Again, something else I’ll always remember from this walk. I’d definitely like to go back and walk some more over Dartmoor some time in the future.
I made my way round Sourton Tors, trying my best not to scare the sheep as I went, making sure I followed the right track. I say track but what it really was was a slightly more worn down path on the grass but my GPS saved the day; much easier to follow a dotted line on the GPS screen that’s for sure. Unfortunately, as I was concentrating more on that than where I was walking I put my left foot down and it immediately disappeared under the mud of a rather boggy part of the path – doh! Fortunately it only came up to just under the bottom of my gaiters so I wasn’t too fussed about it – the boots could handle it.
The decent in to Meldon was a striking change from the moorland I’d been walking on. Within the matter of a few yards it went from empty grass land to a lovely tree-lined bridle path. It was actually quite shocking how the countryside could change so dramatically so quickly.
Out the other side of Meldon I had a lovely stroll through some woods. This was a wonderful stretch of today’s walk, with a little river running through the middle of the woods. The only thing I was a little bit wary of was the fact that the path I was walking down had a shear drop of a good 30ft down to the river – careful with my footing I most definitely was.
Sooner than I’d have liked I came out the other side of the woods and crossing more farm fields. To my horror I had to cross a field of cows again, this time passing within a metre or so of them all. Fortunately they all seemed to be far more interested in eating the grass than bothering me …phew!
The bridle path I was following took me across Okehampton golf course. One thing I found highly amusing, other than grown men trying to hit a small white ball into a little hole of course, was the fact that they had marked the bridle path with a red line either side, all the way across the golf course! It made me wonder what would happen if I “accidentally” put my foot over the red line, would I be breaking some law or something? It reminded me of the Star Trek: Next Generation episode where Wesley was sentenced to death for crossing a line on to a flower bed, or something like that because of course, being as cool and hip as I am I never watch Star Trek!?
As I hadn’t taken a break yet I decided to sit in Simmons Park in Okehampton to eat my lunch and take the weight off for a little while. The sun really was hot today so I tried to find as shady a bench as I could and enjoyed the peace and quiet. It was a shame to move on once I was done.
Out the other side of Okehampton I picked up the Tarka trail which again took me through some lovely woodland with yet another river running through it. I seem to have spent quite a lot of time today walking by rivers or streams, which has been really lovely – the sound is mesmerising – but it had one fatal problem: it made me feel like I needed the toilet all the time! Not an easy thing to deal with when you’re nowhere near any loos. Yes, I’ll admit it, it’s been quite liberating over the last week just stopping where ever I was at that point in time and having a wee, but sometimes you just don’t know who might come round the corner and a lot of the paths today were well used by a lot of people so I had to try my best and fight the urge.
As I made my way along the Tarka Trail I caught up with an old dear out for a walk. When she saw my pack as I passed her she asked me where I was going to, so again the conversation of the LEJOG walk was made – I’ll get bored of talking about it soon. She asked if I was doing it for charity and when I told her she said she’d pop in her local British Heart Foundation shop and buy something by way of sponsorship, bless her.
We chatted a little more as we walked, her apologising for holding me up but it wasn’t a problem, it was nice to have a chat seeing as I’d hardly seen anyone for most of the morning. She was out for her 3 mile constitutional which I was quite impressed with because she wasn’t exactly a spring chicken.
After finally saying goodbye to her I got back up to my normal walking speed and left her behind, quite quickly.
After the hills on the moor this morning, most of the rest of the walk up to this point had been pretty flat and made for good time. This soon changed when I came to yet another massive hill that needed to be conquered. This one was a doozy and once I’d finally reached the top I was almost good for nothing; it completely drained me of everything I had! Granted, I was greeted by yet another fantastic view but sometimes I’d sooner not have the view and just have a nice, easy, flat walk thank you very much.
If the hill wasn’t bad enough I had to go through another field of cows but it wasn’t until I was half way through it that I noticed that there was something different about these cows. I stopped for a second to have a closer look and then it hit me…horns! These weren’t cows, this was a field full of bulls! There’s nothing to get you going than the fear of one of them coming at you and it spurred me on to get to the top – I was not happy!
I struggled on about another mile, moaning about my feet and aching legs quietly to myself, when I came across the Tors pub in Belstone. This was a tiny little village, the pub not being very big either, but as I entered I was greeted by a very full bar. I couldn’t believe how many people were in there. I just about managed to find a stool at the bar, ordered a half of Doombar and took the weight off for fifteen minutes. As I sat there it became clear that a lot of the people were locals but there were quite a few foreign tourists too. I’d never heard of Belstone before this and I have no idea what the draw was, other than maybe access to the moors or the sight of a quint English village. Who knows?
One thing that was a welcome change on today’s route was the fact that I didn’t spend all my time dodging traffic. No, today it was the turn of the horses. I lost count how many horses I patiently waited for at the side of the road to pass down the lanes from Okehampton – the lanes weren’t very wide you see.
A few miles down the road I had to stop again, this time in South Zeal. One of the toes on my left foot had started to rub and was causing quite a lot of pain, probably brought on by the heat. Fortunately I found a bench to sit at – again by a little stream – took my boots off and taped up the offending toe. It was lovely to sit down again and to be honest, I could have stayed right there. The walk was really taking it out of me today and the heat was beginning to get a little too much, what with the weight I was carrying.
South Zeal was a lovely place, although it suffered from a complete lack of signal for my phone. It had two lovely looking pubs, which I never visited as I really did want to get to the end of today’s route…honest. What it did have was possibly one of the smallest churches I had ever seen. I have no idea how many people they couldn’t get in there on a Sunday!?
The last few miles of today’s walk seemed to go on and on and on. One thing I’ve noticed since I started this walk: road signs lie! As I reached the top of the [very big] hill out of South Zeal I spotted a sign that said that Whiddon Down was one and half miles away. Yes, almost there! That put a little spring in my step with the thought of stopping at the pub for a beer and something to eat – my belly was beginning to rumble a bit by now. About five minutes later, which would probably equate to a quarter of a mile, I came across another sign at a junction that said…yep, you guessed it, Whiddon Down was still one and half miles away!? How could that be? Had I not been walking for the past five minutes? Had I gone through a worm hole or something? Oops, there goes the Start Trek again. I don’t watch it, honest!
Sufficed to say I did eventually make it to the pub in Whiddon Down and drank a very nice pint – well, almost a pint as the lady couldn’t poor a pint of beer to save her life – of Dartmoor IPA. Trust me when I say that that pint didn’t last very long at all!
Being the clever chap that I am I decided to eat there and then, instead of getting to the Travelodge and then not wanting to walk back up the road later and going hungry. I treated myself to a 12oz steak and chips, had another pint and made my way to find my room for the night. Funny thing is, as I walked up to the garage by the Travelodge I thought to myself that I’d been there before. Would you believe it, this was the exact same garage that Matt and I stopped at on the way down last Thursday to get petrol and some lunch! You couldn’t have put money on that happening could you? It was a pleasing thought to think that I’d actually walked that far already, but as far as the entire route goes, I hadn’t even reached the point where I properly start to head up the country to Scotland. I’ll be there soon though!
Although quite a hard day’s walking, I’ve enjoyed this one again. The change from moorland to woodland has been lovely today and again I’ve met some lovely people along the way. It’s a shorter day tomorrow so hopefully that’ll mean I can rest up a bit tomorrow afternoon…we’ll see.
It’s taken a diet of Lucozade and Maltesers (the first chocolate I’ve had since the drive down over a week ago) to get this post out today. I’m so tired after the severe lack of sleep last night because of those idiots, and I can only hope and pray that that actually means I’m going to get an ok night’s sleep tonight. Fingers well and truly crossed!