Looking on the bright side, at least I had dry accommodation for that night, my sleeping gear was now all dried out and I had a good meal in my belly, so this combined with my tired legs meant I slept reasonably well. Well that was of course until I received my early morning call courtesy of the cockrills which started just after 4am. I drifted in and out of sleep until I recorded something around 5 and then dozed off again until 7 and rose to face the day.
It was a dull overcast day, however little pleasures made life worth living as I took up the offer of free eggs and boiled up a couple for breakfast on the solo stove.
The farm yard had come to life by now the cockrills and chickens were making themselves known, the convalescing owls watched in dispassionate interest, the dogs dashed out for a bark, run and stretch, the goats were bleating in the next barn and the horses leaned over the fence with that ‘come on, come on’ look in their eyes. So another busy day on the farm for my host who I left behind tending to her never ending duties, as I walked up past the A361 towards the bridlepath back to Knowstone.
I noted the wind turbines which loomed over the landscape, thinking back to the story my host told me of the resulting divided community and the acrimony of some which had brimmed over into physical abuse. So much for the friendly PR as suggested by the green energy brigade.
As I wandered into Knowstone I was acutely aware that timing was everything as I could finish today if I really pushed it. But that would leave me with far too many days to twiddle my thumbs at Lynmouth and naturally more expense occupying my time with endless cream teas and pasties. Tempted as I was this would also spoil what was left of the walk, so I slowed down as much as I could making Tarr Steps, some 10 miles away, my intended destination.
The weather had turned wet, but there were various bursts of sunshine during the morning, which made the bluebells bluer and the grass appear greener. However it was generally miserable as I wandered into Yeo and onto the road for the next section to Exmoor proper.
There was a camp site at Yeo, once again on a farm sand this looked like it would be quite well serviced. I was to hear later there was a wedding function there that day and the backpackers I spoke to were ushered into a small field to one side. However they gave it a positive report, so something worth noting for the future if you are coming this way.
The road section from West Anstey to Badlake Moor Cross seemed to go on forever and just wasn’t any joy. Partly because of the total lack of views thanks to the Devon high embankments and partly due to the increasing steepness of the hill which rises to the cross itself. There’s nothing worse than staring down to tarmac on a humid day even though it was less than 2km.
But once at the cross and the second stone symbol for the Two Moors Way, it was a short pleasant walk across the moor to find the track down to Hawkridge. Truth be told, the path became several and I took the wrong one, ultimately fighting with a bunch of gorse to get me back on course. Only 50 metres or so, but so easily done.
The signage from this point just became a dab of paint on a wall or fence and it took me a while to work it out as I stood at the entrance of each field trying to seek confirmation as to which was the correct exit. Then with no apparent warning it returned to something more obvious with the MW symbol stamped in wood. Who knows why?
Finally I arrived at Tarr Steps clapper bridge, sited at the fording point of the River Barle. The longest bridge of its type in the UK with 17 slabs, said to have been in place since the middle ages. Aside from the being rebuilt after the massive flood in 1952, it is an impress structure and once again does make you think about how people of that time, moved such huge stones. They are all catalogued now, so that should any stone ever move again in a flood they can be returned to their correct resting place.
The Tarr Farm Inn was a joyous jewel in the day. I arrived at the perfect time for Sunday lunch. I took my place at the bar and they had no issue with my wet clothes and gear dumped to one side. So I tucked in and had the best beef, yorkshire puds and veg I’ve enjoyed for a long time. The beer was first class and I realised I was very close to the point of no return.
Carry on or find a spot to pitch?
The landlady stated that I was welcome to pitch on their field down by the river and use the facilities, which would have been awesome on a nice day. However the conversation in the bar talked of nothing else but the heavy rain due in that afternoon and the idea of twiddling my thumbs down in a damp field, under a tarp, within sight of the tourists sitting in their warm dry cars at the car park, didn’t appeal.
I leaned over the bar and asked, more to help my dilemma than anything else “Do you happen to have a room free tonight I wonder?”
“As it happens yes, we do have a single”
Well enough said. That was me sorted and as guilty as I initially felt, this soon wore off while I soaked away my worries in the deep, deep bath, full of lavender type smellies that girls like, while listening to the pouring rain hammering down at the window.
This wild camping lark is good fun!