Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Backpackers Dartmoor midweek Day 3 - 6 October


I had a visitor to my tent last night. I heard a rustling and on turning over saw, in the gloom, my foodbag disappearing under the flysheet. A bloody fox. I shone a light outside but couldn't see anything. When I woke, I ascertained there is a Londis store in the village so made a mental list of food items to buy. However, when I emerged from the tent, I found my bag about twenty feet away, a tear on the side and my three remaining M&S chocolate chip shortbreads gone but everything else was untouched.

We started the day with a visit to Fox Tor Café just down the road. I had an excellent black coffee.

The weather forecast was good and we had a warm and sunny day. We took the bridleway east from Princetown to cross the bridge over the River Swincombe, then right alongside the river for a short distance before cutting across country towards Ter Hill. Much of it, maybe 1.5 miles was over rough clumped grass which didn't make for easy walking.  We all complained and Howard said maybe the next Dartmoor meet would be on better paths. Still, at least it wasn't raining and we passed by one of the two ancient crosses marked on the map just to the north of Ter Hill.

Near Princetown
Once we reached the Sand Way path, things improved and as we approached Michelcombe, where we are camped, the descent on the wide grassy path was a treat with amazing views beyond the eastern edge of Dartmoor.

The descent to Michelcombe
We have spent the evening in the Tradesman's Arms in Scoriton.

Backpackers Dartmoor midweek Day 2 - 5 October


It was a little windy in the forest but we were quite sheltered. Howard and John, outside the forest, were windswept, I think. The worst we had was overhead wind noise. "We" was me, with Pam on one side and Lawrence & Leslie on the other. At the forest edge about 100 yards away were Nige on one side of the gate and Brian & Jill on the other. It came on to rain in the night so I closed my tent flap and the rain, sheeting at times, continued until late morning.

Starting off at 9am, Howard led the way over pathless moorland to Sittaford Tor. Later, reaching the East Dart River, Brian, Jill and I waded the twelve feet or so across in trail shoes, about calf depth. The others, wearing boots, wandered about a quarter of a mile along the river bank before eventually crossing one by one using Lawrence's sandals.


More pathless terrain brought us to Lower White Tor followed by Higher White Tor. A path emerged after our late lunch stop below Littaford Tors, eventually arriving at the road by the Two Bridges Hotel. We then road walked two miles into Princetown and our campsite behind the Plume of Feathers.

Once the rain stopped, it was a very pleasant day. About nine miles walked.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Backpackers Dartmoor midweek Day 1 - 4 October

An uneventful train journey to Exeter, both trains were strangely unbusy. I met with others there; seven of us caught a bus to Chagford, meeting with two others there.

We walked along narrow lanes for a couple of miles before entering access land at 699870 (Teigncombe), following faint paths. After a mile, we crossed a grassy track and went straight ahead over pathless long grass, heading for the northernmost tip of Fernworthy Forest. The wind got up but it remained quite sunny. The ground was a bit boggy at times.

We found our pitch for the night at Long Ridge. Two of our party are camped outside the forest but the rest of us are scattered in amongst the trees where it is rather more sheltered, although the wind is quite loud. There is a good water supply nearby at North Teign River.



Saturday, 26 August 2017

Hertfordshire Way Day 7 - 24 August - Reed to Bishop's Stortford

Started walking 7.10am
Distance walked 15 miles
Finished walking 7.30pm

After only a few minutes walking, I came across a bee hotel!


I reached Barkway at about 7.30am, a delightful place despite the road passing through it. In the churchyard, I found a small wooden cross leaning against a wall. The lady I met at Reed yesterday told me about it so I was curious to see it. She told me that it commemorates a man (a hermit, I suppose) who lived in a nearby wood for many years. The cross appeared to be deteriorating and I couldn't make out much of the carved lettering. I can't find anything online about it.




At Nuthampstead, I stopped by the pub, The Woodman Inn. It wasn't open for business but I went in and they kindly filled my water bottles. Outside The Woodman is a large memorial stone dedicated to the United States 398th Squadron which was based here from 1944-1945 from where Flying Fortress missions took off.




After Little Hormead at a remote farm, Mutfords, I saw what appeared to be a graveyard for several Austin A40s.



I hadn't been to Patmore Heath for a very long time. I remember Sunday afternoon drives there from home with my family. At a house overlooking the green, a lady sold home made confectionery. I particularly remember coconut ice.

Approaching Hadham Hall, there were official notices posted at field edges here and there. They were giving notice of proposed compulsory purchase orders relating to land which is to be acquired for a bypass to the north of Little Hadham, a nearby village on the A120. This is lovely countryside here and the works will seriously diminish this part of the Hertfordshire Way. I suspect the occupants of the rather posh houses and apartments in the nearby Hadham Hall aren't very happy about it either.

Just past Hadham Hall, I stopped to get the stove out to make tea as I had time to spare before meeting Amanda at Bishop's Stortford Tesco. 

I really enjoyed the eighty or so miles of the Way. I didn't meet anyone else also doing it, just the odd dog walker, which was a real shame as it is quite delightful. The only other blogs featuring it are either cumulative day walks or continuous walks but ending at maybe a B&B each night. I was keen to see how easy wild camping would be (because that is what I do) and there were so many opportunities. However, water has to be sourced and carried along the way.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Hertfordshire Way Day 6 - 23 August - Therfield to Reed

Started walking 11am
Distance walked 8 miles
Finished walking 5.45pm

Another short day. Steve and I drove to the Silver Ball transport café on the A10 south of Royston. I had an excellent breakfast; Steve managed an apple juice whilst looking longingly at my food. He promised the owner, who he knew, that he'd be back when he could eat properly again.

Parking Steve's van in Therfield, we picked up the Hertfordshire Way and followed an easy path down towards the A505. There were wide reaching views across nearby chalky soil fields and beyond. Just short of the A505, we turned north west and into a racehorse stable place. We had obviously missed a HW waymark as we were apprehended and told we were on private property. Without demur, we scrambled through a hedge and down an embankment to where our path was.

The Way skirted some rides on Therfield Heath and then a golf course, the fine views continuing. Into woodland and then Steve and I parted company, me to continue on the HW and he to follow the Icknield Way Trail back down to Therfield.

I skirted the edge of Royston to then pick up the HW again as it left the town to head south. The path was clear and followed field paths down to the village of Reed. A friend I worked with many years ago came from here. He died in 2008 and, although he wasn't living in Reed when he died, I was curious to find out if he had been buried here. The Way went through the churchyard where I met a lady doing some clearing work. I asked if she knew of the family and she was immediately able to take me to my friend Andrew's grave. We had a long chat putting the world to rights.

Not far out of Reed, I found my woodland pitch for the night. There is no aircraft noise, just the distant sounds of combine harvesters and the odd car or horse going past on a farm track about fifty yards away.



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Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Hertfordshire Way Day 5 - 22 August - Clothall to Therfield

Started walking 8.20am
Distance walked 7 miles
Finished walking 12.30pm

I chose a super wood last night. It was quite large and spacious with plenty of good leafy ground. I camped maybe 100 yards in from the edge; well hidden.

I was able to take my time getting away as I knew I had a short day. My first village was Wallington which I'd never heard of but what a gem. The Hertfordshire Way passes through the churchyard so I went into the church and I'm so glad I did. It was an education. Here's what Wikipedia has to say:

"The author George Orwell lived in a small cottage at no 2 Kits Lane, known as The Stores, in the village from 1936 to 1940, and at occasional weekends (when he was otherwise mainly in London) until he gave up the lease on the cottage in 1947. A commemorative plaque was placed there in 1989 by Hertfordshire County Council. This plaque is however not accurate, in that it refers to Orwell living at the Stores until 1940, whereas he had the lease until April 1947, and did stay at the house from time to time until at least the time of Eileen's death. He had married his first wife Eileen O'Shaughnessy at the village church on 9 June 1936. Orwell wrote his notable book Animal Farm in 1944 probably much of it while he was at the village and certainly drew on his experiences there for inspiration, especially Manor Farm and The Great Barn. The farm in the village is, as in the book, called Manor Farm."

In Animal Farm, the story takes place at Manor Farm, Willingdon. There was much to read in the church. 
Wallington church
Manor Farm, Wallington
I got rather muddled at Sandon where the waymarks I was following didn't accord with the route I had marked on my map. 

I met my friend Steve at Therfield and we went into the Fox and Duck where I had a pint of Greene King IPA; Steve had iced water, having just undergone surgery on his neck. He hasn't eaten proper food for three months but is slowly recovering. 

We went back to his home nearby, via Morrisons in Royston, and I'll get back on the HW tomorrow.

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Hertfordshire Way Day 4 - 21 August - St. Paul's Walden to Clothall

Started walking 8am
Distance walked 13 miles
Finished walking 6pm

The last plane went into Luton Airport at about midnight last night. Those directly overhead lit up my tarp through the trees with their lights and they were so loud. At 6am they took off again taking the same route over me.

The rain which came on yesterday evening continued all night but had just about stopped by the time I set off.

By arrangement, I called in to meet Ellie near Titmore Green. In fact, she and dogs came out to meet me as I approached. Facebook is an amazing thing. I last saw Ellie (she was Elaine then) 55 years ago when we left primary school. Although still living in the same town, we attended different senior schools and our paths never crossed. I'm sure it's true to say that I've never met anyone before after such a long break. We enjoyed exchanging life stories and she plied me with bacon and egg rolls and coffee. I came away with a tub of home made cakes left over from a do the day before.

Old school friends!
The next village was Little Wymondley where my paternal grandparents once lived. Then Great Wymondley and on to Graveley where I had lunch in the churchyard. I thought my grandparents might be buried here as they lived here before moving to Wymondley but I couldn't find a grave. I must do some research.

Graveley church

Next was Weston after a delightful two miles of field paths and park land. I used to cycle through Weston many times but after so many years, it didn't look at all familiar. I bought my supper from the excellent village shop.

An interesting well at Weston
Clothall should also have looked familiar but it didn't. I rang my friend Steve who lives near Royston and we agreed to make contact tomorrow morning. He'll pick me up to go to his home for the night and hopefully deposit me back on Wednesday morning.


Just past Clothall, I've found another wood to overnight in. There is aircraft noise but it's not intrusive. In fact, the pigeons are noisier.


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