Thursday, 23 February 2017

Exploring South Devon

Exploring South Devon

Thursday 16th February 2016

This morning our target was Appledore - a village that lies at the mouth of the River Torridge, and about 3 miles north of Bideford - however, I don't think we'd quite realised how far that would require us to peddle!! We packed a smallish picnic and left T4rdis2 about 11am, and we only had a short distance to travel along Sustran's route 27 (that took us via quiet country lanes) until we were on the very scenic Tarka Cycle Trail.

Plaques outside Henry's Former
Home in Ilfracombe
The trail gets it's name from the classic tale 'Tarka the Otter' written by Henry Williamson back in 1927, and it now  forms part of the 'Devon Coast to Coast'.  It runs, traffic free but with road crossings, for 32 miles from Braunton to Meeth passing through Instow, Bideford and Great Torrington on it's way, but to get to Appledore we left it at Bideford.

Part of the Tarka Trail

 A Sandpiper
Once we were on the trail we found ourselves passing by large areas of mudflats and sandbanks where huge numbers of birds such as redshanks, oystercatchers, lapwings and curlews, along with lots of ducks and geese were grazing at the water's edge as the tide receded.   And even though we were once again binocular-less, we paused to watch them while sipping our coffee -  we will definitely be returning to get a closer look sometime in the near future.

A Curlew
Eventually, we arrived in Bideford at about mile 22, and we could easily see Appledore across the water, so now the question was 'should we push on for the extra 3 miles to achieve our goal or should we stop where we were and have lunch?  Our quick decision was 'push on' so by the time we got there it was about 2.30 and we'd covered nearly 25 miles.

Appledore Esplanade

So to say the least, we were starving - and the chip shop had just shut ๐Ÿ˜ญ, but maybe that was a good thing because we'd got no other choice than to make do with what we'd got!  Anyway, by the time we'd eaten it was well after 3pm , and we still  needed to stop off at Asda for a few supper essentials (๐Ÿ•๐Ÿบ), so we didn't really have any spare time to stop and look around, however we've promised ourselves that we'll stay for a couple of nights around here when T4rdis2  moves to her next destination in early March ๐Ÿ˜.

Our return journey took us back the same way we'd come, and as I said we stopped off at Asda for said goodies, and then by the time we got going again it was nearly 5pm and the sun was dropping low in the sky - we certainly weren't going to make it home before dark so we thought we might as well just enjoy the sunset and finish our coffee.

And then once we got going again I had a little 'incident' ๐Ÿ˜ฎ - I fell off - ouch! We'd been quickly tazzing along the trail with John in front and me trailing slightly behind when we came to one of the road crossings which happened to be on a blind bend.  He nipped across but just as I was going to leave the kerb a car came around the corner - so my anchors went on a little too hard causing my back end to skid round, and as I was unable to get my foot to the floor quickly enough - down I went. Luckily, my bike was unharmed and other than a squashed pizza and a bruised  hip and chest no harm was done, but I did feel a bit sorry for myself, especially as we still had nearly 10 miles to go and the night was closing in.

We finally arrived home about 6.30pm in the pitch dark with 49.5 miles on our clocks, and by then I felt even sorrier for myself, but after scoffing my pizza and indulging in a little beverage my spirits were soon restored - and John even promised me an easy day tomorrow๐Ÿ˜€ .....but that didn't quite work out as planned!

Friday 17th February 2017

So today our EASY DAY plan was to walk to Lee Bay, and then return to Woolacombe via the coastal path taking in Bull Point Lighthouse and Morte Point on the way.  John had very carefully researched our outing and identified paths to use, and all in all he thought the distance would be about 8 miles - easy peasy - NOT!! We left T4rdis2 and headed down the Tarka trail towards Ilfracombe until we got to Lee Bridge, and then for a short while we followed a dead end lane that would should have taken us onto a footpath to Lee Bay.

We found the start of the footpath at a farm, and even though we had to wade through some horrible muddy patches across a  field we thought all was good - until the path vanished on our side of a fence.  However,  we could see another path on the opposite side of the fence so thinking that this would solve the problem - over we went.   We then continued to follow a track of sorts though ancient woodland which we later learnt was Borough Woods, but the further we went, the rougher and muddier it became, but by now it was too far to go back, and as we knew we were going in roughly the right direction we had little choice but to persevere.

Now really, I'm not very fond of mud, especially when it regularly tries to steal my boots, so I was very relieved when John told me he could see the path that we should be on!  The only problem was we needed to get down a 4 foot crumbling bank that was almost a sheer drop, and across a 7 foot stream that was slightly deeper than John's walking shoes! John managed to climb down the bank ladder fashion but I was a bit of a wuss and had to slide down on my bottom - and then came the issue of the stream.  Here, I had  the advantage because I'd got my faithful waterproof walking boots on, but to try and prevent John from getting wet feet we had to build a stepping stone by piling up lots of little ones.  Now, he was fine when he stepped onto it, but when he reached out to step onto another large rock that was already embedded, our little pile gave way and he almost ended up doing the splits - but I bravely 'saved' him so all was well๐Ÿ˜‚.

And then, happily we were on the proper path so it didn't take us much longer to get Lee Bay were we stopped for a very well earned coffee break - however, the arduousness of our walk was far from over.

From Lee Bay it was up a very steep incline and out onto the coastal path, and from there it was a mere 5 miles of highly undulating terrain with continuous stunning views over jagged cliffs.
An Up

And a Down

Initially, we were aiming for Bull Point Light House where we planned to stop for lunch, and once we got there we learnt that the original lighthouse had been built in 1879 following more than a dozen wrecks in the preceding 20 years, but in 1972 it was moved further inland following a rock fall.  We also found out that at low tide on Rockham Beach you can see the remains of the SS Collier which sank there in 1914, but we couldn't quite make that out.

John and Val, do you remember this 

Then, when lunch was finished it was onto Morte Point, a place we'd visited previously with John's sister Val and her husband John back in September 2015, but even though we'd seen it before the vista was still quite breathtaking.

The jagged rocks right on Morte Point
And then eventually, after another climb, we were back in Mortehoe and very soon after, in Woolacombe. So that just left the 3 miles (and another long climb) back to the camp site, however before doing that we needed more sustenance which we took in the form of orange juice and cake while watching the waves race up over Woolacombe sands.

By the time we got home our feet were dragging, and it certainly hadn't been the EASY day we'd planned - but apart from The Deep Dark Woods of the first bit it had been a fantastic walk.

Saturday 18th February 2017

Well, after nearly 50 miles ๐Ÿšด on Thursday and 11 miles ๐Ÿšถyesterday, we were determined to take it easy today, and initially we'd decided we wouldn't leave the camp site at all.  However, with the warm ๐ŸŒž making it feel like a summers day we couldn't resist a little visit to the beach - but only in a very leisurely fashion.  We packed our lunch then zoomed down the hill on our bikes to the sea front, and once there we sat for a couple of hours watching the world go by while overlooking what must be one of the most amazing beaches in the world.

Sunday 19th  February 2017

Well, when we woke up this  morning we were very glad we'd taken advantage of the lovely weather yesterday because right from the start the view from our windows was almost totally obscured by mist and mizzling rain, and that really set the scene for all day.  Therefore, the most interesting thing I can think of to tell you about is the fact that our garage door fell off๐Ÿ˜ฑ

John had been quite concerned about it for a while because despite regular 'lubrications' the hinge had become very stiff and was struggling to pivot on the hinge pin.  This was causing the rivets that hold the hinge to the door frame to work loose over time, and this morning it all came to a head - the hinge seized up completely and pulled the rivets out of the door frame, thus leaving the door only hanging on to thin air!

Therefore, there was no choice other than to remove the door altogether, and then John was able to take the hinge off.  But even that didn't provide the leverage he needed to free it off.   'He twisted it, hammered it, and swore at it' but it wasn't budging, so then I suggested warming it up!  So our next action was to dunk it into a pan of boiling water - and little by little this allowed it to be twisted free. Then, after the hinge pin had been filed down  and very well greased John was able to reassemble hinge but we still had the problem of how we were going to rehang the door because it looked as if the only way would be to re-rivet it.

However, John eventually came up with the cunning plan of using butterfly cavity screws which we should be able to obtain from a nearby  B & Q!  At the mo it's still a work in progress but we'll let you know if Grandad managed to fix it again!

Monday 20th February 2017

Sadly, this morning the weather was as grim as yesterday with visibility down to about 10 metres.  Therefore, there really didn't seem much point to going out, because not only would we be unable to see much further than the end of our ๐Ÿ‘ƒ๐Ÿ‘ƒ in the dense foggy murk, we'd also have got cold and wet for our trouble.  So we whiled away the morning by not doing much at all, but in the afternoon we decided  to nip down to Ilfracombe on our ๐Ÿšดto do a bit of restocking at Lidl - we didn't really get wet but we did get very mud splattered!  Then when we got home we watched the weather forecast and  unfortunately, if the weather man is to be believed, we may still have a couple more similar days to come ☂๐ŸŒ⛈⛆☂!

Tuesday 21st February 2017

Well sadly, the weather man was right, and if anything the murk was worse than yesterday!  So there was nothing for it other than to have another 'duvet day' and to stay safe snug and warm, however, if we thought the elements had been against us in the day - the night got quite a bit worse!  T4rdis2 definitely ROCKED in the almost continuous gale force winds overnight - but having said that, we both slept quite like babies - so maybe we're just getting used to our big cradle.

Wednesday 22nd February 2017

A Misty Spot by a Reservoir on our
walk down to Ilfracombe
Oh dear Oh dear Oh dear ๐Ÿ˜ฌ- another grey misty mizzly miserable day - so what should we do?  Initially we considered yet another duvet day, but really that would have just been plain lazy, so instead we decided to take ourselves out for a walk down the cycle trail to Ilfracombe for lunch at good old Weatherspoons.

And in the end our outing turned out to be quite interesting, and additionally, it also contained  lots of ooohs and aaahs as we paused to watch the gigantic wind swept waves crashing up onto the jagged rocks.

One of the things that I would really liked to have seen while we were in Ilfracombe were the Victorian network of hand carved tunnels that date back to the 1820's and that lead to a sheltered bay with bathing pools.   However, these days you have to pay (£2.50) to enter and they didn't open until March!

Next we found a trail that runs all the way along the sea front to the Harbour, and that has lots of features marked along it's way.  One of them was  The Runnymede Gardens that are full of sub tropical plants, and even at this time of year there was colourful plants to see.

Runnymede Gardens

Then came the Landmark Theatre with it's distinctive conical turrets each measuring 22.5 metres and clad with white Belgian Bricks.  It opened it's doors in 1997, but we were quite saddened to learn it went into receivership in January this year and is therefore closed for the foreseeable future.

A little way further along the trail we passed  the ancient  smugglers cove of Wildersmouth Beach with it's grey sand - a feature that is related to the vast amount of slate in this area.

Next it was The Triple Jump mosaic! It challenges you to test your skills and see if you can beat Britain's best jumper - Jonathan Edwards - a chap who lived in Ilfracombe and who holds the record  for jumping 18.29 metres in 1995!

The Admiral Collingwood Weatherspoons
 And then the trail required us to climb Capstone Hill via a narrow winding path - as we went we held onto each other quite tightly because at times it felt as if the roaring wind would pick us up and whirl us away into the sea.  However, we made it to the top safely and from that vantage point we could clearly see The Admiral Collingwood building that housed Weatherspoons.

Kate - The Statue who
stands at the top of
Capstone Hill

Now, we did wonder weather to stop at the top of the hill for coffee but the howling gale deterred us, so instead we trekked down to the harbour and paused there beside the numerous lobster pots and other fishing paraphernalia.

However our break was short because it was cold and we soon found ourselves wending our way along one of Ilfracombe's most famous streets - Fore Street where myriads of quaint pubs and restaurants (many of which were closed) are found.   One of them turned out to be the oldest pub in the town - The George and Dragon which first opened it's doors in 1360, and we did consider stopping to dine  there, but as we'd already decided on our lunch destination we stuck with our plan - and very nice it turned out to be.  Then once fed and 'watered' we set off for the Old Market Hall where we'd heard an organist plays to entertain the customers.

When we arrived there were several people milling about and chatting but they were all stall holders, and really the place was like nothing we'd ever seen before - it was absolutely full of colourful rammal - and nobody was buying!

By now the time was getting on for 4ish and we still had a long walk home, but before we left the town we did find another shop that seemed to sell loads of 'stuff', and amongst it John managed to find the drills and screws he need to fix T4rdis2's garage door - so hopefully 'the work in progress' will be completed soon.

By the time we got home the 'murk' had thickened again and the rain was just starting, so after our 10 mile or so little jaunt we were quite happy to sit back and relax - but I'm not sure how restful our night will be because the wind is picking up again and the van is ROCKING once more!

Thursday 23rd February 2017

Well, it truly was a dreadful night, and one where the Rocking turned to Shaking in the wrath of Storm Doris. Neither of us slept much, and at times we feared that the violent assault of the winds might cause T4rdis2  to tipple over altogether - and that's to say nothing of the deafening clatter of the rain that torrented down onto our roof. I think the only other times we've experienced anything so tempestuous  were on the Isle of White when the wind managed to rip our tent to bits, and when we were pitched on a 'wild camp' spot in Portugal at Cape St Vincent.

Throughout the day the violent winds have continued and others 'campers'  on the site are nipping around taking down awnings and securing belonging.  Therefore,  for safety's sake we've decided to stay at home, because you never quite know what might come flying through the air, however,  better weather is forecast for tomorrow so we're keeping our fingers crossed that we'll be able to resume our explorations then - that's if we don't get blown away before!

Anyway, Bye for now and wherever you are keep safe in this horrible storm xx

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