- Day: 16
- Started at: Brightlycott Farm, nr Barnstaple
- Finished at: Twitchen Farm B&B, Challacombe
- Miles: 9.5
- Miles from LE: 181.5
- Duration: 5.5hrs (8:00-13:30)
- Trig points visited: 0
- Ales imbibed: 1.5x Exmoor Fox
Overnight there was a considerable thunder and lightening storm which was quite exciting. I think it was the flashes that initially woke me, they lit up the inside of the tent like a searchlight, then the claps started getting louder, then came the downpour. The tent held up no probs – useful to know. I packed up and very wet tent and made my first early start (by my standards) because I had places to go and people to meet. My brother and his family were driving up from South Devon to meet me for lunch in Challacombe so I hot footed it through some woodland to Bratton Fleming.
The weather then rolled in and after a heavy shower the the mist and fog set in. The only way out of Bratton Fleming was along the road so I put on my headtorch, attached a red flashing light to my rucksack and started to dash up the road. The visibility was atrocious and I’m pretty sure I couldn’t be seen, but I kept my ears peeled and jumped into the verge when a car approached. Finally, after a brief diversion (i.e. I got a bit lost) and an argument with a nettle bush in shorts that I didn’t win I made it to the Black Venus Inn and waited for my visitors. When they arrived my soggy morning was all forgotten and suddenly normal life resumed. For just a few hours I was just having lunch with my family in a pub, it was welcome distraction.
We waved goodbye and full of steak & ale pie and brownie, I waddled round the corner to my B&B just in time to watch Arsenal win the FA Cup! What a great day but altogether a rather strange day.
- Day: 17
- Started at: Twitchen Farm B&B
- Finished at: Westermill Farm Campsite nr Exford
- Miles: 12
- Miles from LE: 193.5
- Duration: 7.5hrs (9:30-17:00)
- Trig points visited: 0
- Ales imbibed: 0 but 1x Stella(!)
Not long after leaving Challacombe the path headed up to Wood Barrow along the Tarka Trail once more and for a short way it forms the Devon Somerset boundary. It is also the watershed; water to the west flowed into the Taw and ended up in the Bristol Channel, water to the east formed the Exe and flowed into the English Channel. So once I turned east I was into Somerset and onto proper moorland. Second county done in a matter of days – 5 I think!
I passed by the muddy puddle that is the source of the Exe and then further along had to make the decent into a deep valley that it has carved.
Granted it was steep, but I think if whoever worded this signpost were to walk the South West Coast Path they may reconsider it and mark it as a ‘steep-ish’ path!
The weather, the terrain the views had made for some great walking and the first 10miles flew by. From the ridge I could then see the campsite, full of bank holiday and half term campers, at the bottom of the valley, but there was no direct route so had to do 2 sides of a triangle (1 mile each) to reach it. Those last couple of miles seemed to drag as I was racing the rain that was forecast and it had just started spitting. In the end the rain didn’t materialise but I was rewarded with a donation of a refreshing cold beer.
- Day: 18
- Started at: Westermill Farm Campsite nr Exford
- Finished at: The Rest and Be Thankful Inn, Wheddon Cross
- Miles: 13.5 (6.5 and 7)
- Miles from LE: 207
- Duration: 6.5hrs (9:15-12:15 and 13:00-16:30)
- Trig points visited: Dunkery Beacon, 519m – SS891415
- Ales imbibed: 2x Exmoor Ale
I headed straight back up to the ridge and it was another morning of stunning moorland walking. It was humid and the cloud was building but for the moment it was dry and pleasant. Except for finding another tick on my leg, grrr – I wish I could take a pill that would make my blood abhorrent to pesky disease-ridden ticks. Wayfinding is easy on the tops as the pathways are well established and follow the lie of the land, as opposed to lower down where field boundaries and private property get in the way which can be frustrating.
Today was another day of having to be somewhere to meet people, I could get used to having visitors it’s a highlight to look forward to. Also, it’s nice to have a conversation with someone who already knows what I’m doing and therefore why I have a big heavy bag and look knackered! I was due to meet a car full of Rockhoppers (Chris, Clare & Ciara) on their way back from the annual Cornwall trip who decided to detour via Exmoor to see me – I was honoured! I had to make it to the car park below Dunkery Beacon for 12:30, so I trotted on.
They arrived, I ditched my bag in the car (oh the freedom!) and by the time we set off up to Dunkery Beacon the cloud had come over and we couldn’t see a thing. In the usual ‘hopper-style we resolutely sat at the summit in the mizzle and ate our lunch, and I couldn’t turn down the offers of fresh fruit and veg!
The walk was slightly extended by a basic navigational mishap; we were too busy nattering and headed off the summit in the wrong direction, but it meant we enjoyed a pleasant strole through woodland. The cloud eventually cleared and we headed down to Wheddon Cross for refreshments and it was here that we parted company. I was welcomed into the pub and was bought a pint by a local couple who were in admiration of my efforts.
- Day: 19
- Started at: Rest and Be Thankful Inn, Wheddon Cross
- Finished at: White Horse, Stogumber
- Miles: 13
- Miles from LE: 220
- Duration: 9 hrs (9:00-18:00)
- Trig points visited: Lype Hill, 423m – SS950370
- Ales imbibed: 0.5x Exmoor Ale, 1x ‘under the counter’ cider & 1 x Proper Job
Having stayed at the Rest and Be Thankful Inn, I awoke, rested and was thankful for the large full English breakfast. It was mostly fields and tracks today, making my way through villages; Kingsbridge, Roadwater, Monksilver and finally into Stogumber my destination for the day (pronounced with the emphasis on ‘gum’, stuh-GUM-ba). More fair weather meant that the high points revealed unexpected views across the Bristol Channel to Wales and over to the Quantocks, where I’d be heading the following day, having coasted across Exmoor.
The locals at the White Horse were chatty and interested in my adventure – got bought another pint, staying in pubs has its upsides! By the end of the evening I was the talk of the pub, despite the SLAGs (Stogumber Ladies Action Group) hosting a talk in the function room.
- Day: 20
- Started at: White Horse, Stogumber
- Finished at: Quantock Orchard Campsite, Flaxpool
- Miles: 8.5
- Miles from LE: 228.5
- Duration: 4hrs (9:00-13:00)
- Trig points visited: Black Hill, 358m – ST148381
- Ales imbibed: 0.5x Knollered cider
Following my 3rd fry up in 4 days (I think I’ll put on weight if I continue at this rate!), I followed the road out of Stogumber and saw a choice of 3 combes up on to the main Quantock ridge; Short (aka steep), Long (aka gruelling) or Paradise (aka escalator?!). I plumped for Pradise Combe but alas there was no escalator so I heaved me and my pack up. It was a pleasant enough combe but Paradise is perhaps overstating it, I wouldn’t all rush there with your Hawaiian shirts and flip flops, you’d be disappointed.
Once on top there were great views all around and although I could have gone further I opted to head down and camp near a station on the West Somerset Railway line so I could have a rest day the following day and take the steam train to Minehead and explore the village of Dunster and it’s castle.