Bideford to Horn’s Cross 27.5.18

A patch of blue sky and an optimistic forecast. We leave Bideford and carry on northwards up the west bank of the River Torridge. The shore is littered with derelict vessels of all shapes and sizes but at one point we climb up into a lovely stretch of woodland with a photo opportunity.

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Just south of a village called Appledore is a large ship building yard. The area is hermetically sealed from prying eyes and the coastal path diverted away from the estuary. Obviously there is/have been projects here deemed not for the public eye and I later find out that, in 2007, important elements of the two Queen Elisabeth class aircraft carriers were constructed here – maybe why.

Appledore is delightful little fishing village – home to Hocking’s ice cream, which is only sold in North Devon. Pity we didn’t know that when we were there. The streets are lined with pastel coloured cottages and we walk past one of the narrowest houses I have ever seen.

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A little further down the street two terracotta figures lean out from an upstairs window.

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…and further on, another homage to the village

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From Appledore we continue up and around the Northam Burrows Country Park and down into Westward Ho! which must surely be the only place in the whole world to have an exclamation mark after its name. The town has attracted its fair share of holiday makers on this sunny bank holiday weekend and we find it difficult to find a nice place for a cup of tea and a sandwich.

Setting off again we follow a tribute to Rudyard Kipling set into the pavement of the promenade with small granite cobbles. Apparently he spent a few years of his childhood life in the town.

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Admirable sentiments……

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Further on down there is a concrete swimming set into the rocks. It looks enticing but we don’t really have the time and no swimsuits.

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The path leading out of the town now follows the base of the cliffs for a while but then twists upwards and we soon start to see the lovely red sandstone that I associate with Devon.

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Eventually we reach Pebbercombe which is our turn off.

IMG_3757The track that leads up to the main road seems endless as we are pretty tired by now but as always a pint of cold beer at the end makes it all worthwhile. In the bar a couple of girls are setting up a drum set and testing microphones. They are due to start in a hour which is a bit long to wait. Pity.

Distance: 10 miles

 

Fremington Quay to Bideford 26.5.18

So back to Fremington Quay, this time with Damian and this time we cross the bridge and carry straight on along the Tarka Trail.

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It’s a dull day but at least it’s not raining and we make good progress. On the outskirts of Instow we pass another overgrown railway track and a very well preserved signal box – now a listed building.

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Instow is a pretty little village with a wide sandy beach, independent shops and a well stocked delicatessen. We decide to stop for a cream tea from a van parked overlooking the beach. As luck would have it, a few minutes after sitting down the heavens open and there is very little shelter around – stuffing down scones in a rainstorm is not really what I had in mind.

Anyway, the rain is short-lived and we are soon on our way. A while later (it’s so long ago my memory fails me) the path takes us though a patch of woodland and rounding a bend we are treated to the sight of a large boat which has been hauled up onto the mudflats and showing clear signs of human habitation. An extraordinary sight – very Dickensian.

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We tiptoe past, feeling like intruders.

From here on we share the path with joggers and cyclists – it is long and straight with no surprises. There is a sculpture.

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And soon we are crossing the bridge into Bideford and straight into the tumult of a motorcycle rally.

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On our way to our BnB we walk past at least half a mile of motorbikes and their owners – of all shapes and sizes. A constant worry for me is that my daughter is a motorcyclist – she would have loved it.

Distance: 8 miles

 

 

 

 

Barnstaple to Fremington 25.5.18

Once upon a time, a long long time ago, I set out for Barnstaple in North Devon to go walking – since then I have not had my boots on – work is a curse.

Anyway I arrive in Barnstaple at lunchtime and having found my hotel I set out for the Tarka Trail which runs westwards, skirting the estuary of the rivers Taw and Torridge.

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It takes me a while to find it but after a few stops and starts I set off on the long grey tarmac road which runs alongside the sand and mudflats of the estuary. It is drizzling but I don’t mind. There is a concrete road bridge ahead of me and as I walk under it I see that one of the pillars has been decorated with a picture of a mermaid in what looks like an old fashioned diving helmet – very strange.

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Further on a rusty old fishing boat sits on the sand waiting for the tide…………….

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Nothing much happens now, I trudge along with rain dripping steadily from the hood of my jacket, fantasising about supper – but at least it’s not cold.

Eventually I arrive at Fremington Quay where I had planned to turn round and head back to Barnstaple. Looking at the building, which houses a heritage centre and cafe (closed), it dawns on me that the long straight road I’d been walking on is the path of the old railway line from Barnstaple. Further research tells me that by the mid 19th century Fremington Quay had become the most important port between Bristol and Lands End – the main export was clay and imports included coal from South Wales and seed potatoes from Ireland.

IMG_5369From here there is a road leading into the town but I see on my map that there is a footpath off to the left and I quickly find the sign.

 

The very muddy path leads alongside the water and then opens up onto a tarmac track lined with beech trees and rhododendron bushes.  It is pleasant walking and I fall to daydreaming.IMG_3715

Ten minutes later I awake from my reverie to find myself staring at a high metal fence which is blocking my way. I can see, on the other side, the tell tale signs of new house building but as I stare in horror at the prospect of having to retrace my steps I notice a chink in the armour. There is a very narrow space between the end of the fence and a tree, which would then leave me at the top of a slippery slope of newly dug over earth. Oh well – here we go. After a struggle to get me and my rucksack through the tiny space I slip on the mud and only save myself from the ignominy of sliding down the slope on my bum, by grabbing onto a young branch which is in the right place at the right time. Phew!

After this episode it is an easy walk back to the main road, the bus and a pint. Damian arrives tomorrow.

Distance: 4 miles

 

 

St. Bees to Harrington 20.11.17

This was the walk we did on our way up to Gretna Green to get married – it rained all day and I have precisely 4 photographs – 1 outdoors and three inside our hotel. It is also a very long time since I laced up my walking boots.Why? well Christmas, granddaughter in Denmark, work and last but not least a gammy leg (or knee to be precise) which I’m trying to get sorted.

So, strangely enough we arrive at the hotel right in the middle of a wedding trade fair and we take the opportunity to send off a few photos to friends – a juicy bit of fake news.

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The next morning we wake to rain and an overcast sky – well it is November after all. Trying to convince myself that it will clear up we walk carefully up the slippery path towards St. Bees Head. From here I look back at the village which is dominated by a large caravan park.

From the head it’s an easy walk up to the lighthouse which is unmanned – we continue to walk along the top of the cliffs. At one point we walk past a quarry and stop to read an information board where we learn that the sandstone excavated here was used to build the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

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And from now on there are no photographs, not even of Whitehaven which would look lovely in the sunshine with its newly refurbished harbour and beacon. One gory detail about the town was that in 2010 it was the scene of a shooting spree. After killing his twin brother and the family solicitor, taxi driver Derrick Bird began the spree in Whitehaven, shooting several people on the streets and at the taxi rank where he worked, killing one.

After Whitehaven it is an easy walk through Parton, which reminds me of towns in South Wales, with its grey terraced houses creeping up the hill. And on into Harrington where we end up in a small, neglected pub that seems to have escaped the no smoking rules – we drink quickly and leave.

Distance: 12 miles

 

 

Carnforth to Silverdale 26.11.17

On our way back from Gretna Green – now Mr. and Mrs. – we decide we have time for a short walk before continuing to Damian’s sister in the Midlands.

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Our walk begins at Carnforth – scene of the film Brief Encounter and the beginning of another one of our walks some months ago. Last time we walked south to Morecambe – this time we’re heading north.

From the station we follow the main road, under the railway bridge and left down a wide tarmacked track that leads out into the marshes. The sun is already quite low in the sky so no dawdling today.IMG_4810We are following the Lancashire coast path which leads us past Warton Crag but the directions on my phone are not what we’re seeing on the ground and we find ourselves trudging through soggy fields for a while before spying the rotten broken down stile which takes us back to the road. This diversion has wasted 20 minutes of our precious time but despite my urging to get a move on, Damian stops to say hello to a goat – I wait.

At the bottom of a hill our route branches off left back onto the wetlands – I worry that the path may be under water, looking at the large pools glinting in the weak sunshine. But no – the path is slightly raised and perfectly dry – we start to see dog walkers and signs to Jenny Browns Point. Approaching the point it almost looks like the path ends at the very exposed row of cottages but fortunately after a short scrabble over the rocks we are back onto a country lane.

IMG_4815From here the walk is uneventful, down a narrow country road passing Gibraltar Farm where we stop to sample their raw milk. Neither of us had ever tasted raw milk and I must say it didn’t taste a lot different – the jury is out on whether the health benefits outweigh the dangers. IMG_4817

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By now the light is fading and it starts to rain – but we don’t have far to go. Arriving at Silverdale station we have just enough time for a quick cup of tea in the National Trust cafe before catching the train back to Carnforth.

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Not one of the most memorable walks but worth doing all the same.

Distance: 6 miles

Burnham on Sea to Uphill 14.10.17

This has to be the quote of the day, splashed onto the sea wall at Burnham – but what is it trying to say?

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….and equally, what is this strange edifice further up the beach? I’m surprised it hasn’t been turned into a “luxury apartment”. I later discover that it is a listed building that still functions as a lighthouse.

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……..and later on a sign of extraterrestrial visitation a la Erich Von Daniken?

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……but these are decidedly terrestrial beings, plodding along up the beach. I always get a twinge of excitement when I see horses but these do look a little tired and fed up.

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By this time I have been walking on sand for 30 minutes, making very good progress when I start to see cars on the beach – a little strange.

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…….and then this makes me smile as there is no fence on either side of the gate, slightly surreal.

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……..and then I discover what all the cars with people have come to see – sand yachting.

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It looks fun, the drivers are almost horizontal as they whizz past me like grounded dragonflies.

From the unfriendly signs planted in the dunes I realise that I must be close to a village and on consulting the map I see that I have walked past my turn off into the village of Bean. Turning around I start walking back and soon find the path through the dunes which will take me to the road.

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From Brean there is a path up the peninsula up the hill named Brean Down but as far as I can see I will have to come back the same way unless I’m up for a bit of trespassing which I’m not – so I’ll save that for another day. Instead I am taking a road and then a short stretch of a cycle path inland.

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From where I turn off the cycle path I am walking on narrow roads with quite a lot of traffic. It is not pleasant but I cover distances quickly. A section of the road has been recently tarmacked and reminds me of my new perfume “Charcoal” by Lyn Harris. The description of this perfume alludes, amongst other things, to her visits to her grandfather in Scotland and remembering the smell of the coal she would help to bring in for the fire. IMG_3660

At a place called Wick Farm I turn off onto a footpath across fields, but the path is very overgrown and it’s hard work. All too soon I’m back on an extremely straight road which runs alongside the railway line until I can turn off up a cycle path.

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The walk through Bleadon Level is mostly gravel paths across salt marshes until I enter the parkland which overlooks the marina at Uphill. IMG_3665

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IMG_3668I now start to see people for the first time since I left the beach at Brean – ahead is Uphill castle. IMG_3667

There is also a persistent sound of revving engines coming from the other side of the town and stopping to talk to a dog walker I discover that the beach at Uphill has been taken over for an annual motorbike racing competition. The noise fills the air and is slightly annoying. What is even more annoying is that the event means that I cannot walk along the beach to Weston Super Mare unless I pay the extortionate entrance fee.

So that will be another day as well.

Distance: 12 miles

 

 

 

 

Bridgewater to Burnham-on-Sea 13.10.17

Well – this is a long way from Cornwall, both literally and metaphorically, but a much shorter train ride means I can fit in two days walking in North Somerset. I say metaphorically as most of the walk is up the eastern bank of an estuary. No salt spray from storm waves pounding majestic cliffs but a slow running strip of water snaking its way through chocolate brown mud banks and flat forsaken marshland.

I start in Bridgewater in Somerset, at the bottom of the estuary: a busy town with an enormous church and the tallest spire I’ve ever seen. For centuries the town prospered from the export of bricks and tiles but with the advent of the railways the river trade declined and in 1971 the docks were closed.

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To the north and east of the town the acres of industrial estates and roads full of snorting HGVs are clear signs that some industries in the town are still alive and well.

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I walk over the town bridge, trying not to breathe in the noxious air too deeply, following signs for not the South West but the England Coast Path. Unfortunately, one all important sign is ambiguous in its direction and after 15 minutes of walking up the main road I seem to be heading further and further away  from the riverbank. Stopping for directions I am sent off across a playing field where the recent mowing has turned up all sorts of unsightly rubbish that has not been cleared away (why can that not be part of the job?), only to find myself stumbling along on a small path of broken up concrete and brambles and coming face to face with this.

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Not the right way methinks……………

My next guide is a young welshman from Newport and his dog who points me in the right direction but after 10 minutes I realise I have walked a full circle back to the misleading sign! Oh dear.

My next attempt at getting to the riverbank is more successful. Although it is illogical I try crossing the bridge and half way across is a gap in the metal buffer where I can see a way down to the river and the trail. I scramble down the bank and turn right and I’m off!

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The path now takes me round the back of the main road with the painfully slow moving river on my left. Later on I pass office blocks with people hunched over computers – I make a mental note to be more aware of my own posture when using a computer.

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A little later I come to an information board where I learn how much more life and activity there would have been in Bridgewater in the Middle Ages. On this side of the river would be ship building yards and countless ‘beehive’ kilns producing bricks and tiles. “The air would have been heavy with the salty muddy tang of the river punctuated with the aroma of wild herbs such as fennel and acrid coal smoke from the kilns.”

Well there is none of that now and in fact the only working wharf is at Dunball which I can see in the distance. When I arrive there is building going on and I am struck by the combination of colours from the sands being used, together with the green of the algae.

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After Dunball the path strikes out west following the deep curves of the river. At one point  I am directed through the middle of an industrial yard and out the other side where my path appears to be blocked by fences cordoning off a big digger. I yell at the driver to tell me where the path has disappeared to and to his credit he stops the engine immediately, climbs down, and a tad shamefacedly moves the fences to give me access. On the other side the bank are two men in turbans and high vis jackets who watch me silently as I walk past, making me feel a little nervous.

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From here on I cross fields and more fields, all empty – not even a herd of cows to set my heart racing. The sky remains obstinately grey……..but at least it’s not raining.

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At the second turn off for a village called Paulett is a path marked on the map as White House Rhyne. I stop to read another information board which confirms a fact that myself and my sisters are very familiar with, having had it drummed into our heads by our parents. They had  a house in Penarth in South Wales and we would frequently visit Swanbridge which is a hamlet on the mainland facing Sully island. At the start of the causeway over to the island is a big signboard warning of the dangers of getting caught by the speed of the incoming tide. And that’s exactly what happened, when I lured my little sister over to the island one day only to find ourselves cut off by the rapid approach of the tide. Fortunately, our waving and shouting attracted the attention of the lifeguard and we were soon rescued by boat and brought back to safety.

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Up until now the sky has remained grey and slightly oppressive but suddenly the clouds part to reveal a promising patch of blue sky – hooray!

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This point on the walk is also marked by the village of Combwich on the other side of the river – so close and yet so far as there is no bridge.

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And more estuary walking – the isolation, the chocolatey mud and unremittingly flat landscape remind of the walks I did in Essex all those years ago.

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I know I am now approaching a sluice where I can cross an artificial river (to reduce flooding in the area) but before that I come across something that is typical of some inconsiderate farmers. The sign says public footpath off to the right.

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………and this narrow strip of ankle twisting lumpy ground is what one would have to walk on – the field has been ploughed as close to the edge as possible almost eliminating the path altogether. Hurrump!

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Soon the sluice comes into view but when I arrive I have a sudden moment of panic when faced with a barred metal construction which doesn’t seem to offer me any way through. In fact the very narrow passageway for pedestrians starts in the other corner of the building – phew.

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Here are a couple of photos of mud………………………….

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Walking on I start to see signs of civilisation in the form of boats beached on the riverbanks – some of them a little worse for wear.

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I am now approaching Highbridge. where I can cross the river and walk up the right bank of the inlet up to Burnham on Sea. At the end of the bridge I turn left and to my surprise come to what seems to be a dead end with a house on one side and a dense thicket of brambles in front of me. Stumped I start thinking that perhaps the path is no longer used and as such is completely overgrown – I start poking the undergrowth somewhat ineffectually with my stick. At this point the woman of the house, who must have been watching me, comes out and points me in the direction of a very narrow path  just a couple of meters behind me. The whole episode makes me feel a bit silly.

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Anyway, this path soon opens up to circle round the back of a holiday camp – I start to see people for the first time today.

By now I am very tired and hungry but the almost artificial colour of the water to my left stops me in my tracks.

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Finally I walk into Burham which on first sight is not particularly inviting.

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The pier is the shortest I have ever seen and there are lots of signs about keeping dogs off the beach.

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I am pleased to see that a couple of dog owners are ignoring this rule which to me seems unnecessarily harsh, particularly at this time of year. I am also pleased to see a detectorist out looking for treasure.

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This has not been the greatest of walks but as I sit with a beer later on I am party to the most wonderful sunset over Hinckley Point Power Station.

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Distance: 18 miles (including the getting lost at the beginning)