Counting DownMay 2, 2019 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 11 °C
Less than 48 hours to go, almost time to start packing ...
Less than 48 hours to go, almost time to start packing ...
The bags are packed, the hiking boots are waterproofed, the camera is charged, the moose is on the move.
The adventure begins ...
Dubai International Airport ... plane needs fuel, passengers need fresh air
Far too many hours strapped into plane seats and eating from small plastic containers but it's over. An uneventful flight (just the way we like them) followed by necessary queues and inevitable baggage delays before we picked up a hire car and headed out from Heathrow.
Our plan is to have a couple of quiet days to knock our heads out of 'work mode' and get some much needed sleep. We're staying in a quaint inn which was built in the 1600s and has the expected wonky floors and crooked stairs. We're both exhausted but going to bed at 3.30pm wasn't a valid option. Instead, we stretched our legs around town before settling in for an early dinner and a couple of beers at the bar, which is very conveniently located down 2 flights of wonky stairs from our room.
Real food went a long way towards boosting our energy levels but the good work unravelled quickly with a second beer so we tackled the stairs before our eyes completely crossed. They didn't seem quite so wonky on the way back up ... blame the beer.Read more
It was a lazy day recovering from the long flight but don't for a minute think that involved reclining on couches, drinking hot chocolate and/or napping. We hit the streets with map in hand to explore Windsor and Eton ... the smartwatch app says we covered 18.75km, not a couch in sight.
It was a Bank Holiday today so there were lots of people roaming around pointing cameras at things. Also lots of tv camera crews here in expectation of the arrival of Royal Baby Ginger which coindentally did happen today. We thought we might drop in to say hi and wish them well but they're probably busy.
We saw lots of 'royal' things, not because we were specifically looking for them as tourists but because so many things have something royal in their name. Royal streets, royal shopping areas, royal parks, royal train stations, royal pubs, royal Lego ... and a legitimate royal castle. We decided to skip the queues and the hours required to shuffle around the inside of the castle but we did sit in St Georges Chapel for a while.
It was a little chilly today with a nasty arctic feel to the breeze but no wet stuff falling from the sky. Let's hope that contines when our hike starts in 2 days ... we've got everything crossed.Read more
This morning we checked out of our accommodation in Eton and started heading towards the launch point for our big walk. We've only got 280km to drive and we've got 2 days to cover the distance but we're on holidays so it will be a slow journey with plenty of "stop & look" moments.
We were only 10 minutes out of Eton before the first such moment. We stopped in Dorney and looked at the parish church of St James the Less (12th century) and Dorney Court, one of England's best examples of a Tudor manor (15th century).
Next on the stop & look list was Cliveden Gardens but that was a fizzer. We stopped at the gate, looked at the entrance price and decided that $60 to see a garden, albeit a glorious one, was not the best use of our time or money.
A very scenic drive through part of the Chiltern Hills AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) was naturally beautiful and we slowly made our way to Winchester (no ties to the rifle). We diverted for a quick stop & look at Highclere Castle of Downton Abbey fame.
Our stop & look in Winchester was mainly in the area of the famed cathedral and the high street, where it's worth looking up to see the original facades rather than the ground floor modernisations.
Back in the car and back on the road, our next stop was Salisbury. We were hoping to get there in time to see (one of) the original copies of the Magna Carta but we had spent too long stopping and looking at other stuff. So we just looked at the outside of the very imposing 13th century cathedral.
Our last stop & look was Poundbury, the village "built" by Prince Charles. We didn't stop for long and we didn't look at very much before heading to Dorchester for dinner and overnight accommodation.Read more
But first we have to finish our road trip to the starting point of our walk. After a scrumptious breakfast we headed generally south(ish) from Dorchester towards the coast through the Dorset AONB ... O for Outstanding 😀 ... and it was. Our morning was filled with impossibly quaint villages and nauseatingly gorgeous scenery. We set the GPS to avoid main roads so most of our route was on lesser roads and narrow country lanes with hedges whizzing past very close to the window. An "oooh, look at that'" moment was revealed at every corner we turned and every gap in the hedge.
It's impossible to see a town named Beer on the map and not set the GPS to take you there. So to Beer we went, via more lanes and "B" roads, and yes, of course we had a beer in Beer 🍺🍺
The last leg of our road trip was to Exeter Airport to return the hire car and throw ourselves on the mercy of public transport to reach our ultimate destination.
Part 1, find the return depot, was achieved after a couple of u-turns because we missed the tiny sign on the fence.
Part 2, catch a bus from the depot to the train station, was very easy ... there is only one bus so it's virtually impossible to get that wrong.
Part 3, catch a train to Yeoford, was also easy but a little daunting when the guy selling us the ticket asked "Yeoford, are you sure, you do know it's in the middle of nowhere?" Undaunted by his hesitance, we bought our tickets and then missed the train. The big voice in the loudspeaker said the train was delayed due the track being closed when a WWII bomb was found earlier in the day. So we went to get coffee and the train arrived right on time. Oh well, luckily there was another train later in the day.
Safely arriving in the middle of nowhere, aka Yeoford, we dragged our bags up the lane to our accommodation in a 16th century farmhouse. A warm welcome, a roaring fire and a cup of tea with choc-chip cookies ... nowhere is a good place to be 😀Read more
Firstly, the all important stats:
Today's Route - Yeoford to Chagford
Distance - 22.5km (excluding random wandering around)
Beers Earned - Forgot to set the app running, won't make that mistake again
The first day of a long distance walk is always a bit of an experiment. It takes a couple of attempts to get everything right ... what gets packed at the bottom of the backpack vs what needs to be at the top for easy access, how many layers of clothing are required for the changeable weather, are the boot laces tight enough or have toes gone numb because the laces are too tight. It's been 3 years since our last long distance ramble (far too long) and it took us a couple of hours to get into the rhythm of things again. One of the more interesting challenges was adjusting the backpack straps ... we're not the same shape we were 3 years ago and the pack fits a little differently this trip.
But, despite these minor dilemmas, it's soooo good to be back in the boots.
The weather was kind to us today. Lots of very threatening clouds, strong wind and quite cold but no rain to speak of ... just the occasional annoying drop landing right in the middle of the sunglasses lens.
Our morning started on narrow lanes to get out of Yeoford and join the Two Moors Way a little down the road. It's definitely nicer underfoot to be walking cross-country but even the lanes are pretty here. The hedges are full of wildflowers and the views in the distance are so different to what we're used to at home that walking on the hard surface isn't really a chore.
And there's so much to see besides the scenery. The guide book for the Two Moors Way contains snippets of info about the hamlets we walk through (or near) and suggests diversions from the trail to see interesting things. We poked our noses into most suggested places so it was quite a long day by the time we arrived in Chagford.
Despite not setting the app to calculate how many beers we'd earned today we unanimously decided we'd earned at least one each ... and it went down very well after our first day of tramping across the Devon countryside.Read more
Today's Route - Chagford to Widecombe in the Moor
Distance - 21.8km
Beers Earned - 6.7 (each !!!)
Weather - sun, wind, clouds, 5 minutes of hail, 3 minutes of rain
A lot of variety on today's stretch ... villages, meadows, woods, farms, national park, ancient settlements and monuments, bronze age burial barrows and, of course, miles and miles of moors.
The first part of our walk was on the Mariners' Way, reputed to have been the long distance route between Dartmouth (on the south coast) and Bideford (110km away on the north coast). Centuries ago, sailors would travel between the two ports when transferring from one ship to sail on another or when looking for work at either of the ports. It was a very pretty walk with nice views, fields full of fluffy lambs and bluebells in flower but we're pretty sure the ancient sailors weren't ooh-ing and ahh-ing at the scenery like we were.
We crossed the cattle grid into the Dartmoor National Park and followed the instructions in the trail guide ... "leave the road any time after the cattle grid, make your way southwards, avoid the wet ground by the streams". With the moors stretching as far as the eye can see it's a little daunting to just "make your way" but that's what we're here for. There was a trail, of sorts, to follow ... or maybe it was a livestock track ... or just some flat grass ... but the GPS buzzed when it thought we weren't going in the right direction. In some areas deeper into the park there was a definite path so they were the easy bits but others areas were more reliant on the buzzy GPS.
Unfortunately our buzzy friend didn't help identify the marshy, boggy, slippery, muddy bits that look like terra firma but really aren't. Lots of fun to be had slipping around in those sections.
According to the literature, prehistoric remains on Dartmoor date back to the late Neolithic and early Bronze Age, including Grimspound which is one of the best preserved Bronze Age enclosures on the moor. The trail guide suggests using ancient remains as way-markers but let's be honest, some of them just look like every other pile of rocks.
One chap we met on the trail told us to look out for the posts across the top of the next high section of the moor. Barbed wire was strung between the posts in WWII to stop the Germans from landing on the flat expanse.
Knowing that more rain falls on the moor than in the surrounding low lands, we expected to get a proper drenching as we crossed the top. Instead we watched as the rain clouds skirted around us and dumped hail on the low lands. Our B&B hosts had lit the fire expecting the arrival of 2 wet and bedraggled guests but we arrived dry and chirpy after a great day of walking.Read more
Today's Route - Widecombe in the Moor to Scorriton
Distance - 15km
Beers Earned - 4.2
Weather - gorgeous
A comparatively short walk in glorious sunshine for most of the day. It was pretty damn chilly when the sun went behind a cloud and the wind sprung up but out of wind was borderline tshirt-worthy.
The early part of the day was on a trail following a small river ... so pretty with the dappled sunlight through the trees and the sound of the water running beside us.
More fantastic views as we slowly made our way up to higher ground again but no boggy bits to tackle as the trail followed Dr Blackall's Drive overlooking the Dart Gorge. The good doctor was lord of a local manor (Spitchwick) in the 19th century when it was fashionable to have a carriage drive. He created his very long drive along the contours of the hill so he and his family could enjoy the magnificant views over the Dart River and valley.
A steep descent from the drive (definitely not the way the carriage would have gone) took us down to follow the Dart River to New Bridge. New does not mean new ... the bridge was built in the 15th century ... but it would have been new at the time.
Only a short stroll from there into Scorriton to arrive at the pub to claim our beers earned. There was some debate about whether we'd earned pints or half pints ... the app does not advise what size beer is used in the calculations. We've decided we'll just have whatever beer takes our fancy.Read more