Day 18 - Molland Cross to Exford
Today started with a 2 and a half mile climb of over 800 feet. Which seemed a bit harsh as an opener, but as the Devonian countryside morphed into the edges of the Exmoor moorland it felt worth it.
I walked the first section on my own this morning, whilst my friends were kindly transporting luggage and sorting out our accommodation and cream tea for later on.
As the view got broader and more expansive behind me, the moor became more prevalent. It quite took my mind off the irritation on my toes from what I initially thought were excellent new socks yesterday. They removed skin off one toe, and bruised another. Back to the old type again today. I could write a very boring book on socks.
I love the moors. It was one of the greatest joys of walking the Coast to Coast last year to be on the North York moors. That ancient wilderness was restorative and exciting, and I was looking forward to seeing Exmoor properly for the first time.
Although I stuck to the road as far as Simonsbath (don’t dare pronounce it like the man’s name - it’s ‘Simminsbarth’), that was not a hardship. I barely saw any vehicles, it was more like a well tarmacked track. I was delighted to see the ponies, and was most impressed by the fantastic memorial to John Fortescue, historian to the British army. I was intrigued by how such a sturdy monument would have been erected for him here. So I looked him up - he was part of the landed gentry that owned a lot of Exmoor. So that explains a lot. He also worked as Edward VII’s librarian, and lots more if this has piqued your interest….
After a couple of hours of good walking I met Liz and Janna at the tea rooms in Simonsbath. Lovely restorative sandwiches, and good to meet Jan and Maryke, a Dutch couple on holiday to the UK who had already seen more of the country in a week than a resident would see in a year. And they were kind enough to sponsor me too.
They used my Just Giving link, but I also managed to transfer today all the money donated in cash since setting off. An amazing £177. Which brings my total to just under my target at nearly £3000. I think I’ll need to change my target!
From Simonsbath the route was onto Exmoor proper. Janna accompanied us for a little while and then kindly went to move the car to Exford, not before I’d impressed her with my shepherding skills.
Liz kept me company for the remaining 8 miles.
The walking was great. It was a mixture of well marked trails and boggy trickier patches, with plenty of incline at the beginning.
Having decided to take a break in a mile or so, a lovely little brook appeared. It seemed rude not to. We enjoyed cooling our feet, not sure that the many tadpoles in the water were as thrilled.
This marked the end of the really steep uphills today. After that it was flatter and more open, allowing us to enjoy the peace and space of this very special place, whilst having to keep an eye on the route on my mapping app, as the path was sometimes almost invisible. It made it feel even more of an adventure.
Janna joined us for the last section of the walk. Those who have been reading the blog carefully will remember the most disappointing moment in Padstow when a pub that had offered a free cream tea later reneged on the arrangement. in Exford (pronounced Exfooooorrrrd) all will be pleased to know that a warm scone with masses of cream and jam was available. I obviously ate it Devon style (jam first). I’m not an animal.
Distance: 14.5 miles
Total ascent: 1900 feet
Calories burned: 2000
Local tipple - half of Exmoor ale
Dinner at White Horse, Exford - very good
Exmoor brown trout with new potatoes and veg
New song of the day
For those I Love: I have a love
This is sort of rap, sort of techno trance feeling. I was drawn in by the lyrics, about his best friend who had died. They were both moving and had lovely details.
Video of the day: