On Tuesday the 25th April 2017 I set off from Wembury just outside Plymouth on the Two Moors Way, 40 years after ‘the way’ was officially launched.
I had given myself a generous 8-9 days to tackled this route, which passes through some of the most remote and charming countryside in Devon, touching little backwaters rarely visited and certainly well off the traditional tourist trail. Using the Cicerone Press guide to the Two Moors Way and the Yellow Publications 2 map series as my only mapping, I was looking forward to dipping into the rich history and ancient past of this part of the world.
This first podcast covers the shorter day one with a midday start and day two. It takes me from Wembury, to Yealmpton through Ivybridge and across a stretch of Dartmoor to Holne.
The whole approach to the walk was as a lightweight backpacker. Using a sub 8kg pack, a simple tarp and bivvy shelter plus wild camping on route. As you’ll hear the wild camping aspect had to be fairly flexible for different reasons. In the next podcast you’ll hear much more on the subject from Cicerone Press Two Moors Way author Sue Viccars.
Setting off from Wembury, the weather gods blessed me with glorious conditions. Sunshine with a hint of warmth complimented by a cool breeze, which makes walking an absolute please.
I had put the route on my Routebuddy system on the iphone and this proved invaluable leaving Wembury, as there we so many tourist trails heading off in different directions. It was often confusing over which one to choose.
The reward of the day was certainly the best nature the British countryside could offer. Swathes of Bluebells, Wild Garlic, Oil Seed Rape and wild meadows littered every style into a new field or gully. A smorgasbord of aroma of Spring. Beautiful.
After resting and topping up with a pint and chips in Yealmpton, I was keen to find a wild camp spot. It started to dawn on me how difficult this would be, as every field and square inch of land was either cultivated or covered in stock and thus not enticing. However in the final hours of daylight I did find a small wood of conifer trees just above Ermington, which provided a level spot for the night.
It was lucky that I pitched high, as the katabatic air, and the air trapped beneath the trees, kept me just above the surrounding sub zero temperature. In the morning the valley was white with a crisp hard frost.
Day two saw me arriving in Ivybridge early. 8 am is the perfect time for an excellent bacon sandwich, several mugs of tea and rest while I waited for the Tourist Information to open and to sign the official book. However when that time came, I found that the original 40 year old book has ceased to operate, but the receptionist informed that there was a new launch of the 2MW currently underway. More of this later.
Leaving Ivybrdge I was keen to get onto Dartmoor proper and stretch my legs across Harford Common. Once again the weather goods were on my side providing perfect walking weather and the glorious musical accompaniment of my own personal Skylark all the way.
Even though the visibility was perfect, I still managed to get slightly ‘misplaced’ after Quickbeam Hill, where the path was marked to leave the land rover track across open country. As I set off, the various tracks came and went, offering different directions and ultimately I chose the wrong one. However, within 15 minutes I knew I had made a mistake, but was unsure when that happened.
No matter, a few minutes with the map, orientating myself with the obvious landmarks, put me back on track, which was thankfully about one kilometer away from where I had ended up.
Descending to Scorriton seemed to take forever and my legs were ready to stop at any excuse. As I arrived at the village a chap pointed at the pub and simply said ‘it’s open’. Tempted as I was I didn’t want to stop until I got to Holne. As I knew once I did stop, I wouldn’t move again.
I had arranged to meet Two Moors Way author Sue Viccars in Holne. Although we were texting as I approached, I was so tired I paid no attention to her excellent guide so as she walked out of Holne to meet me on her route, I walked into Holne following the road signs on a different road. However we finally met in the excellent tea rooms there and once restored with cake and tea, I interviewed her about the book and the route. Which is the subject of the next podcast.
The night was forecast to be sub zero and as it was late I just didn’t have the energy and enthusiasm to find a wild spot. Not that I had seen many on my way into Holne. However it does have a simple campsite and I treated myself to a Shepherds Hut, using the time saved at cook and consume two big meals before tucking in for the night.