Quantocks of solace aka Respect, mate, respect

A great tally of 26 miles today, avoiding all main roads until almost into Bridgwater. That takes me to 201 in total. Not anywhere near as painful as the 24 the day before yesterday with the savlon plaster working wonders. A few aches and pains, unsurprisingly, but a very satisfying day all round.

The easiest way to get through today was just to split into shorter journeys, so a series of villages were visited, many of which had few if any shops: Withycombe, Roadwater, Nettlecombe, Monksilver, Stogumber and Crocombe, where I visited the Carew Arms and had a much  more healthy than usual butternut soup with baguette and ‘real butter’ (presumably as opposed to the fake stuff). Had a nice chat with four old blokes about rugby, cricket and football. Earlier I had been past Stogumber Cricket Club, which had an interesting set up with sheep tending the outfield and a barb wire fence protecting the square.

The last thing I wanted to see after lunch was this:

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and this was a really tough mile or so on the Quantock Hills. It was worth it, though, when a car with two young lads pulled up when I had almost reached the summit, the driver saying (in a very non Somerset accent), “you walked all the way up here? Respect, mate, respect.” It did make me laugh.

And so on. Over Stowey, Spaxton and finally Bridgwater. Travelodge, but with a real bonus. Pammy is visiting and was waiting in my room when I arrived. A great day all round then.

Tough days ahead

A day’s rest and everything appears so much better. Last night I really felt in a bit of despair and pondering the impossibility of this walk. Today, the toes are much less painful, the fluid has subsided and some blister plasters purchased to protect and prevent.

But there are three tough days to come and something like 66 miles in those. The day has been useful not just for the rest but also to plan a manageable route for tomorrow at least. Helpful again to have local knowledge from Joy and Dave in rooting out some less desirable routes! Rain is forecast for tomorrow morning and, if I was 3 days further on, snow a distinct possibility.

But the big news today was weighing in at 8½ pounds lighter than the day before I started. That’s a baby’s worth (almost, congratulations Shayla!!!). But the thing is whether looking after a baby in the next 3 days is going to be harder than my walk. I’m not getting into this argument at all, just throwing the ball in the air for others to bat about.

Need to talk to my Pammy. Not about the baby bit, but just need some more comforting words of support that only she can give.

Ouch!

Thank you to Sandy for a nice evening and a tasty breakfast. Can thoroughly recommend Shorland Old Farm in Challacombe – had one of my best night’s sleep so far.

Perhaps today I overestimated my ability. Leaving at 9:15 with 24 miles to walk was optimistic to say the least. Though I soon found another county to play in:

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it seemed to take forever to get to Simonsbath and then forever and a day to reach Exford. There I had a fine ploughman’s lunch and then skipped off before the ploughman noticed. There was a minor kerfuffle as another customer (with his family) realised that his hub caps had been stolen. Yep, in Exford. But that doesn’t take away from the quality of the food.

A number of short showers peppered the day, none of which were of any intensity. The landlord of The Crown had informed me that much of this afternoon would be downhill, and that was true in the main. But some of the roads were more tricky to negotiate and progress was slower than anticipated. In fact, it was getting dark and I donned the fluorescent jacket to reach Dunster by about 6. But for the first time I was in some pain with a blister between the big toe and second toe and a cramp in my right foot. For those of you who can bear it,

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Ouch!

Rest day now at my sister Joy’s house in Carhampton and then three more long days to get to Bath.

First this, first that

First shave for a week. First Costa of the trip. First direct contact with people from work with an innuendo filled 10 minutes with the people at COOF and barely mentioned work at all. A really nice start to the day.

A slow start this morning walking-wise and a bit of time spent adjusting the bag to sit better on my back. Because of that, whether physically or psychologically, no new pains today but my calves are a bit tired. Made good headway eventually with fairly flat terrain for a while, but the route was both winding and windy. First experience on this trip of being abused by motorists, who really might have looked at themselves and their speed in relation to both the speed limit and the road conditions. Yeah, I know it’s a road, yeah, I know it doesn’t have a pavement, then perhaps you should take a little more care yourself. And get off the phone.

I moved onto a less busy track and found the inclines more inclinous. No, I don’t know (and I don’t care either) if that is a real word; let the pedants revolt if they feel like it. This was tough going and I reached Bratton Fleming (question of the day: what is the tennis connection here? – answer tomorrow if no one gets it) for a cheese and bacon wrap and a litre bottle of full fat milk. The milk, all 640 calories of it, was guzzled and I had plenty of energy to reach Challacombe by around 4 o’clock. On the way, I attempted, unsuccessfully, to recreate one of the scenes from Hitchcock’s The Birds:

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No, it was rubbish wasn’t it. The problem was that by the time I’d got my tablet at the right angle, most of them had flown off. Tomorrow: the crop dusting scene from North by Northwest.

Another 13 miles today, taking me past 150. Staying at Shorland Old Farm just outside Challacombe. Many thanks both to Shelley Gammon for arranging and Sandy Aylen for allowing me to stay. A few tough days to come now – I have always said that this may be the make or break period with the next 4 walking days all around 20 miles or more. If I’m still standing after I get to Bath, I would put money on me being able to do the whole thing.

Barnstorming bound to Barnstaple

A new day, a new morning and what looked like a testing 22 mile walk to Barnstaple. However, sense took over from sentimentality and, though I would have loved to pass through Westward Ho!, a bit of rest day revision meant I could clip this by going across country to Bideford, rather than via the SW Coast Path.

As with many of my longer walks, the best of the hard yards were completed prior to lunch. Still hills aplenty and a few twinges coming to the surface by the time I reached Bideford. A really fine fish and chip lunch with a pot of tea and, ha ha, a fabulously fruity banana split, for just about a tenner.

I took it rather easier after lunch and strolled along the Old Barnstaple Road for a couple of hours, being serenaded much of the way by sheep. A baa here and a meeh there and each sheep then had to repeat in turn. Got a bit wearing after a while, and I scared them off by taking their picture.

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My mind wandered very much to friends, family and then football, and I realised I had walked further than I had thought when I reached the village of Eastleigh. I had only skirted the edges of Bideford, a town I know quite well from childhood holidays, but I noticed their football club had had a very recent and notable away win:

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It’s never bad to score five away from home, and certainly they must have played well to restrict Eastleigh to just 2½ goals. OK, a slight acceleration as the skies turned a greyer shade of pale and some unforecasted rain showered me in the last mile as I hunted round the various nooks and crannies of the industrial estate for my Travelodge. A quick check on my tablet said not 22 miles, not 21, not even 20, but a smidgen over 19 miles. Result.

Niggles and twinges update: left Achilles a bit tender, odd twinge in the left knee and shoulders a trifle achy. Two small blisters for a few days now and a bit of boy flu but nothing too serious yet! Still well up for this, feeling pretty strong and determined.

Recharging

Been using my rest day to sleep and then have a bit more sleep. Really just recharging my batteries, and looking at the next few days of the walk. Three days to get up to Carhampton, just south east of Minehead, stopping at Barnstaple and Challacombe en route.
Tomorrow had the potential to be the longest day so far, as I was planning to skit up to the SW Coast Path and visit Westward Ho!, where we used to holiday as a family when I was a child. However, needs must and I am cutting across country straight to Bideford, still avoiding the A39, but now having a most convenient lunch stop on the way to Barnstaple.
I reckon this will save around 4 miles. This may sound like nothing in the whole scheme of things, but that may be a couple of hours, given the much flatter ground as well. This is the “holiday of a lifetime”, as it has been referred to, but it doesn’t feel like a holiday at the moment. Anywhere where I can chip off a mile or two here and there without making the walk more difficult or unpleasant is very much fair game.
I have enjoyed Cornwall, but there are apparently only 3 Costa Coffee shops in the whole of the county, in St Ives, Newquay and Falmouth, none of which I was able to visit. Looking forward to more Costa-friendly territory now.
Also have realised the issues of digital reception in the West Country. I guess I will have to wait a few days to find out the real result of the Pompey game at Scunthorpe, since there appears to be interference on the digital feed. Or perhaps not.

Bye bye Cornwall

At last I have left Cornwall.

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Two signs there – one I very much liked, showing the progress to my second county, the other confirming that I haven’t seen the last of the hills.
Travelling first this morning to Bude, I bumped into one of my former students from about 15 years ago. I don’t think either of us had changed or aged much given that we both recognised each other instantly. That put me in a very good mood for a good day and around 17 miles to my sister Carolyn and Graham’s house in Claw Cross, just south of Woolfardisworthy, sometimes known as Woolsery. Just 100 yards or so on the A39, and then the rest was all country lanes. A blissful walk, eventually into Devon. The weather was dry but turned gradually chillier, and the cap gave way to the woolly hat.
Shops were at a premium out in the sticks until I reached the small village of Bradworthy. A couple of Lucozade Energy drinks were just what the doctor ordered with less than 4 miles remaining. Legs are achy and a day’s rest is in order before a tough looking second week.