Tuesday, 26 May 2015

A fortnight in the South West

It hardly seemed worth driving back to Lancashire after Marlborough, especially as I was keen to return to Wellington to see mum and then The Ox was near Shaftesbury only a fortnight later. Instead we visited mum on Mon and Tuesday before heading off to wild camp in the van.

Tuesday afternoon and evening saw us in a favourite spot on the Quantocks.

There really should be an ultra here. I ran just for the joy of it for about two hours; no idea how far or how fast as that was not the point. I put in descents and climbs at random as I fancied as the run progressed. I saw ponies, sheep, rabbits and deer and then that evening an amazing sunset.
Wednesday we parked on North Hill above Minehead.

 On the way up we met a magnificent stag stood in the middle of the road. We ran to Porlock using the hilltop path before a laze on the beach and returning by the SW coast path.

The weather was gorgeous but there were not many tourists about. Bob collected the van and I ran down the quay-side in Minehead and in doing so found where all the tourists were (Prom, Butlins and McD). I covered about 24km.
We drove further into Exmoor and parked at Webbers Post. The lane was only just wide enough for the van and it was a blessing we did not meet any cars on that section of the journey. It rained for ages in the morning but by the afternoon it had almost stopped and we got out to run.

We ran in a loop to take in Dunkery Beacon and then Bob returned by a similar route to the van and I extended my run further west.

 I had an interesting time being chased my a dog and almost bitten, meeting a herd of deer as the crossed a very minor road metres ahead of me and then helping a guy get his car off the mud and onto the road again. I ran about 26km some of it not very fast but I enjoyed exploring and the views, plus it was nice to revisit places I had been to as a child.

At the GL3D Shane had very kindly given Bob a copy of Wild Running to give to me as a birthday present. It was a fortnight early but we used it to get ideas for another run.

 Further west along the Exmoor coast beyond Lynton etc is the Heddon Valley.

 The book suggested a 6 mile route using the coast path and a green lane that contours above it called the Carriage way.  It was warm and sunny despite the cool wind. After our fun on narrow lanes we parked above Woody Bay instead and so added a bit. The Hunters Inn in Heddon Valley looked wonderful but we were on a mission. Having got their in no time we extended the run out onto the common land and coast to the west. I ran even further west over three deserted tops before dropping to the best bit of the coast path and meeting Bob near Heddon mouth.

 On the way back I ran down to Woody Bay and then suffered a really stiff climb back up to the van. Probably about 25km all told.

Next stop was Meldon just beyond Okehampton. The car park near the dam was deserted and the toilets were open. What a wonderful place to spend the night.

 Again Wild Running got us started on a route and we modified it. We did our own ten tors (it's an annual challenge put on by the army).

 After the two highest tors of Yes Tor and High Willhays were added 8 more. Most of the running was superb but we did have one section of pathless Bob that reminded me of the OMM a few years ago.

We played on the rocks on the way but it was too windy to sunbathe, we caught the sun without realising until later.

 Almost 30km.
A drive via Tavistock for milk and an ice cream saw us spending the evening right on the edge of the moor. It was a glorious evening and the wind dropped and the sky got even more blue. I couldn't resist and went to explore the nearest tor.

 Arriving at the trig point in under half an hour I then decided to take in the next three as a little circuit.

Each tor was unique; the first had the trig point and was surrounded by weird grassy lumps, the second had an army mast, the third had very impressive stacks of rock and the last was inhabited by loads of Dartmoor ponies and their foals.

Bob did this run the next morning before we moved to Princetown. Another glorious day but still the cool wind. Again we extended the suggested route and explored.

 About 20km. It was good to spend the late afternoon and evening with my brother and his family. We had a lovely meal and I begged a shower so I could wash my hair!

Time to return towards mum. We had a rather disturbed night as our lane was the diversion for a closed road but never-mind. For me it was another day of memories as we parked on Budleigh Common just north of Exmouth which is where I did my teaching practice.
Dartmoor flog (not wet enough for bog)
The very slight drizzle soon stopped and we explored the common and some lovely beech woods. We then did get a little lost on some lanes but put it right before heading back through more woods. I decided I wanted to run faster and that map memory would see me back to the van. I gave Bob the map and set off. I did get back but only after a loop west to Lympstone and a bit of re-location.

After two days with mum we headed off for an easy walk at Cerne Abbas and the famous giant before driving further east to Shaftesbury ready to recee The Ox.

We stocked up with food and I enjoyed seeing the town I had lived in for a few years as a child.

Sadly the tourist office had shut at 4 so we bought two OS maps instead and sat on Win Green hill studying them that evening. This was one of our families favourite play places for several years and it felt special to be back there.

On Wednesday we receed The Ox- not all of it but a good 24 miles or so.

Parts were in beautiful woods and full or wild garlic but the section along the northern Ox drove road seemed to stretch forever and it felt like far too much was on either tarmac or very hard surfaces.

 I was a bit despondent as I had anticipated grassy drove roads with great views not what felt like a disused rail-track with big hedges blocking the view. I shot ahead and gained enough time to explore the Fovant badges that would be just off our route.

On Thursday we jogged through to the start area and receed the first 6 and last 5 miles with a linking bit in between. This was better with wonderful woods and parkland on the Rushmoor estate and then a more interesting section of drove road and softer paths as well. Perhaps it would not be so bad after all.

We knew we needed a rest but could not sit and do nothing so on Friday we had two shorter walks and managed to include 3 ancient hill forts of varying ages. Probably only about 14km in total but very pleasant.  The next day we had an even shorter explore of the Rushmoor estate from Win Green down to Tollard Royal and then over to Berwick St John and back. It was getting warmer and the wind was dropping. Already a wonderful fortnight of almost perfect weather; lots of sun, very little rain and a cool wind. We alos discovered the delights of McD smoothies in our quest for free wifi!

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