Knowstone to Drewsteignton, 29 miles, 2 days
As is always the case on a long distance walk, a night spent in a proper bed and the body filled with a proper breakfast gives you a bit of a spring in your step. And so it was as we started out for day 3, tempered only by the knowledge that the next bit of the DC2C is generally considered to be “the boring bit”, not worth doing and even suggested in some quarters to be worthy of skipping altogether. But that would remove completely any element of challenge in the project. And so we ploughed on, minds refreshed to give us the best chance of getting through a couple of days of underwhelming walking. It came with a few surprises though…
If you look at a map of Devon, what strikes you is the abundance of contours at the top (Exmoor) and at the bottom (Dartmoor) with not much going on between. What they don’t tell you is that although there aren’t many contours, the ones that are there are constantly fluctuating leading to a low-level rollercoaster of a walk. And so we spent two days walking up fields, then down fields and back up again. The total ascent figure recorded for these two days being 1,232m, compared with 1,375m for the previous two days over Exmoor. As we set off though, we were just seeing this as two days of very long country ramble and steeling ourselves to grit our teeth and get it done. With Dartmoor growing ever bigger ahead of us we’d at least have something to look forward to.
We set off, aided by a preponderance of waymarks on the sign by the church and found ourselves alternating between quiet country lanes, fields and bands of trees. Soon we were at the A361, a road I’d driven plenty of times but never seen from this angle. Many long-distance walkers moan about the busy main roads cutting across their walks and disturbing the sense of calm to be found; me, however, I like them as they’re a measure of progress. So I was happy to see the A361, even more so to not have to physically cross a road which is often a racetrack.
Soon we found ourselves walking along a lane through a strip of trees, all the appearance of an ancient route. Dried brown leaves crunched underfoot as we sauntered along in the shade of the trees, and I’d have been quite happy if this lane had extended to cover the whole of today’s walk. But it wasn’t to be and all too quickly it was over and we were back on the roads and rollercoastering our way over fields.
We emerged onto the road near Creacombe and stopped for a chat with a couple of council workmen busy diverting roads. But not before Paul had investigated the naturist retreat on the other side of the road.
A walk along the Little Dart, nothing to do with the better-known Dart further south that gives Dartmoor its name, but instead a tributary of the Taw, and then we were in Witheridge for lunch. Closed pub number 3, and a phenomenon I’m well familiar with – the pub that doesn’t open Monday lunchtimes. Not that it mattered – we’d heard the landlord is a bit of a muddy-boot fascist. The convenience store and a bench by the church did fine as an alternative.
The afternoon was a bit of a trudge and breaks were plentiful as we broke the walk down into tiny sections. Paul was struggling with his feet and the soaking they’d got on day 1. Off came his boots at the slightest opportunity.
And then with the knowledge there were only a few miles to go, we climbed up through a field to be confronted with The Gate of Doom. Tied shut and with the only way through being over the top or cutting the string, the situation was complicated by what was on the other side of the gate. Literally just the other side…
The cows weren’t keen to move, and if we opened the gate they’d be into our field just like that. Quite frankly I was more than happy to let that happen, given how much the farmer had gone out of his way to make it easy for us to pass. It could only have been worse if it had had barbed wire on top, which thankfully it didn’t. The only solution was an ascent of the north face of the Gate of Doom and a lot of swearing. Pack ditched, I clambered over and made myself look big to cause a diversion while Paul joined me. Cows scattered. Thankfully. We scampered across the corner of the field and into the next one. We made the swearing part of the plan last us most of the way into Morchand Bishop, where we found a deserted pub, even though we were expected. Not wanting to pitch without at least saying hello, we sat it out in the beer garden until 18:30 when it opened without fanfare. Soon we were pitched and back in the pub.
The London Inn is a bit of an experience, mainly due to the landlady Vera, who’s about 147 and still running things. She also seems to be mad as a box of frogs, but is clearly loved by the locals. Rarely have I been in such a friendly pub. The portions are also huge. We bagged a spot by the fire and festooned spare chairs with wet socks etc to dry.
Day 4 dawned and we set off for another day of up and down fields and country lanes. It was pretty unremarkable.
Paul, though, seemed to be struggling more today and I found myself leading the way more often while he hobbled along behind. His feet were still causing issues and as the day progressed concerns started to creep into my mind that he may be on the point of pulling out. Was this to be the last day as a pair ?
Salvation came in an unlikely form. The hum of traffic grew louder as we climbed the last set of fields and crossed the A30. I’ve never been so pleased to cross a major road, and can only imagine how Paul felt about it given the state of his lower limbs. What was clear, though, was the boost it gave us as we walked down the lane and into Dartmoor. If the Dartmoor sign had been huggable, we’d probably have done so. We were “home” in a manner of speaking and things could only get better.
There was still a bit of work to do, mostly uphill, into Drewsteignton but we made short work of that and got to the Drewe Arms, checked into the bunkhouse and then set about the huge selection of ciders they have on tap there. As you do.
A full set of photos can be found on flickr