Wednesday, 8 July 2020

08/08/20 - Geocaching at Combe Martin

Distance - 6 miles
Geocaches - 43
First Geocache

If you have a plan, you have to stick with it... regardless of the weather.  I had a cache trail setup on the GPS from Combe Martin.  One look at the window and it became obvious that this would be a solo outing.... biblical rain, teeming in over the hills.

Guide Dog Abi and Mrs M decide to stay in, watching Good Morning Britain and researching "Best Devon Cream Teas" for this afternoons entertainment.

I head off - albeit without my good camera - grabbing one of the few road side parking spots on the way into Combe Martin.

Not going to do war and peace on the blog - I have a lot of logging to do - but the highlights..
  • Kevham is one of the best CO I have found for some time.  The caches are all handmade, raising a smile and well maintained.   Thank you so much - if you read this and let me know which pub you drink in, I'll leave you a pint behind the bar - assuming a) I visit it and b) it is open.
  • The walk takes me over the highest point of the South West Coast Path - on Hangmans Hill.
  • Of course, this was in the clouds.  All I can tell you is that it has a giant cairn on the top.
  • Goretex does not work.   I am soaked through to my non goretex pants
  • Its hard to cache when there is steam and water droplets on your glasses
  • In this part of Devon, when you are not going up, you are going down
Here are the few photos from today.

Combe Martin
Combe Martin Beach - no one there ay 8am in the rain
Little Hangman Hill
Little Hangman - Big Hangman was in the clouds
Combe Martin Church
Combe Martin Church - near the end of the round

Home, showered and dry and I think I have just enough time to log my caches before heading to May Cottage Tea Rooms, Croyde.

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

07/07/20 - Woolacombe to Bull Point

Distance - 6.5 Miles
Geocaches - 15
Walk Inspiration - AA Pocket Walks - Walk 9

In this post lockdown world - we are certainly doing our bit to revive the economy.  Our first contribution is when we pull up to the large car park at Woolacombe Beach and see it's £8 per day.  £4 if you can be back by 1pm.  Unlikely, we have plans for a pint and takeaway fish and chips.

Note to futureself - the less salubrious car park over the road is half that.

Woolacombe Beach
View from an £8 car park
The beach at Woolacombe is dog friendly, if you are heading in the other direction to our plans.  We take Joy down for a look at what she could have won and start the walk proper - heading North to the lighthouse at Bull Point.

This must be the South West Coast at its most rugged.  Beautiful views out to Lundy and rollercoaster ups and downs, with the colour scheme changing from lush green sheep pastures to bleached white rocks.   A delight - made even better by a fantastically varied geocache trail - that proved fun until Guide Dog Abi got bored with all the hanging around.

Abi looking at what she has won
Guide Dog in Training Abi wishing we stayed on the beach
Devon Coastline
Our route for the day

In the distance, we saw the steps down to Rockham Beach.  There was some deliberation about whether to drop down the steep decline, knowing we would have to climb back up.  On arrival, the reason for the lack of human activity was all too clear.

Rockham Beach - inaccessible
Stairs no more at inaccessible Rockham Beach
Bull Point - our turning around point - is not too far in the distance.  Prayers were made that there would be a tea shop but these were rendered unanswered - all there is a lighthouse - complete with fog horn.

Bull Point Light house
Bull Point - and the Turning Point
Mortehoe is a little inland village.  We were meant to only skirt the perimeter but on OS Map inspection, we spotted the Big Blue Cup of Joy.   Its midday - the pub is calling.

And it couldn't have been a prettier scene - dominant church and a wonderful little pub called the Ship Aground.  Double whammy on the disappointment stakes - the pub will not reopen until the risk of covid has been eliminated.  The chipper doesn't open until 2pm - although Mr Chipper is at work 2 hours early - distracted by his fishing rod delivery from Parcel Force.  We can only assume he is going self sufficient.

What sort of animal doesn't serve lunch until 2pm, Mrs M asks?  Only Devonian cider from the village stores will placate her.

Ship Aground and Morthoe Church
Church and Pub - the lovely looking Ship Aground
Korev and Devon Cider
Snakebite love  - making do with Cornish Lager and Devon Cider
As good as this was, it turned out to be another mistake - around the corner from the church is the fully functional Chichester Arms - looking both lively and earthy.

Chichester Arms
A case of "look what you could have won"
Its all downhill back to Woolacombe.  Mrs M has googled the best fish and chips shops - and of the ones open, its the Captains Table that has the highest reviews.

I am sent to work out the new rules - which involve waiting at the door until someone comes and serves you.

Delight at the fact that they are doing takeaways is only tempered when Fish and Chips twice comes to £23.90.

These masks mean that everyone gets to play at Dick Turpin.

Monday, 6 July 2020

06/07/20 - The Hunters Inn at Heddon Mouth

Distance - 6 Miles
Geocaches - 11
Walk Inspiration - Walk 56 AA 1001 Family Walks

We have found the high point of the South West Coastal Path.  The clue was on the OS Map, where we start our walk at a little pull in above High Cliff.  At least it is all downhill to Trentishoe Church, on a sheep shared lane.

Start of the Ramble
Heading downhill, budging sheep out the way
Trentishoe Church
Trentishoe Church
We hit the valley floor - finding the River Heddon - and the pub that we will return to under mechanical power.  Abi decides that all this walking is hard work and takes advantage of the facilities.

Abi takes a rest
Trout fishing, guide dog in training style
The route follows the River Heddon to its exit to the sea.   A delightful walk through woodland, before turning gorge-like, across broken stones to a rocky beach.

Heddon Mouth
Onto the beach
Its here that the real work starts... a stiff climb up onto those High Cliffs on the South West Coastal Paths.  Views are earned.  Geocaches are found.

High Cliff
Dog's face says "we are supposed to be on holiday"
The good news is that once gained, the height is maintained all the way back to the car.

Onwards to the pub - The Hunters Inn is now in the hands of the National Trust - having been purchased in 2018 for £1.2m.  Looks like they are still spending money on it.

Hunters Inn
Work in Progress
Its a cavernous hotel that offers plenty of space for social distancing.  The barrels out front are to separate those that have booked from those that are on spec.  Little need, on a Monday Lunch Time.

We are met at the door - taken to a huge room we have to ourselves, following at all times the one way markers, taped to the floor.

It does mean that we have our drinks served to the table - a decent pint of Exmoor Stag.

Exmoor Stag
Mrs M doing the Untappd Checkin

Sunday, 5 July 2020

05/07/20 - Tiverton Town Walk

Distance - 5 Miles
Geocaches - 0

Along with the pubs re-opening, is also the promise of holidays.  AirBnB throws off its shackles and we head down to the North Devon Coast to annoy the locals.  Twitter would have you believe that sheets are being hung over motorway bridges, like in Aston, as Villa fans clamor for another managerial sacking.
We saw none of that and our hostess was delighted to see us.

But before we get there, we need somewhere to break up the journey.  Tiverton is previously undiscovered, reasonably sized and just off the motorway.

So, what do we discover from a car park at the back of Wetherspoons?  Life is returning.   There is a queue down the high street from one of the barbers that is open on a Sunday morning.  Buying coffee is fraught with danger, should you stand in the incorrect place.  And Tim's place is open at 10am.   The one day novelty hasn't worn off.

We leave the town behind and head up the great western canal, careful to keep Guide Dog Abi on the lead.   We could do without the seal impressions today.

Grand Western Canal
No Swimming
The walk takes us up over Gogwell.  I think this is Devonian for "really steep hill".  Abi make up for her lack of canal walking by having a dunk in the world's muddiest puddle but the River Exe provides a decent wash off stop on our return in town.

Views over Tiverton
Gogwell Views over Tiverton

A clean Abi, marching into Town
A decent way to break up a lengthy journey - but where is the post walk pint Mappiman, I hear you ask?

Well, JDW has a prominent "No Dogs" sign.  We spot a loop hole in that it says "except Guide Dogs".

We think of retrieving Abi's Guide Dog Jacket but Mrs M still hasn't forgiven him.  Not for his furlough money grabbing, mind, she just cannot stand the bloke.

Saturday, 4 July 2020

04/07/20 - Super Saturday from the Anchor Inn, Leek Wootton

Distance - 9 Miles
Geocaches - 5 Found
Drink - Old Hooky
Walk Inspiration - Country Walking Magazine, Feb 2011, Walk 10

106 days since my last hand pulled pint in a pub (Loweswater Gold, Dog and Gun, Keswick) and I am in with the chance of ending this most barren of runs.

I will see what the Anchor Inn at Leek Wootton is like at the end of the walk.  If its all ambulances and fire hydrants spouting 20 foot geysers, I may walk on by.

First the walk - from a reliable source, Country Walking Magazine, but unlikely to trouble any "best of...." awards in the end of 2020 review.  Should we get there.

It starts off with promising Geocache laden woodland - where I find exactly 0 out of 10.  Too embarrassed to log them.  If I hadn't have found the last five, I would be sending my GPS off for a calibration check. Thank god I was on my own.

A rare find
Geocaching - Still got it, just about
Out of the woodland and into Ashow - a tiny village that wikipedia claims has 50 houses, a C12th Church and no forms of employment or industry.

The path to ashow
Good signposts, though
Ashow's C12th Church
Ashow Church - St George Cross proclaiming Super Saturday

Rocky Lane is a pretty, sunken green lane that doesn't make a good photo and then bizarrely, our route has two miles of what must be Kenilworth's roughest housing estate.  Quite why Country Walking Magazine wants us to dodge white goods left on the roadside, I am unsure.

But even this is marginally better than following the rights of way through the that most terrible urban horror - the golf course.  The signage is always fierce in terms of telling you to keep to the path and lacking in signs as to where the path is.  All this completed whilst men in silly caps and trousers look at you incredulously, asking the question, why would you want to walk here without dragging a big bag of clubs?

Lets park the walk and check out the pub situation.

The Anchor Inn is not in the Good Beer Guide - or even carrying the cask marque accreditation.  It does have good social media presence, so I knew they would be looking forward to welcoming me from midday today.

The Anchor, Leek Wootton
One way system is in evidence, along with hand sanitiser and perspex screens on the bar.  No indication of needing to leave my details on a form for 21 days - which is a shame, as I have been memorising my mobile number and am thinking of using the nom de booze, "Hugh Jardon".

I've also had 15 weeks to practice what I am going to say to the Barkeep on arrival at my first post lock down pub.

I confidently stride to the bar and ask "what's fresh on?".  The barkeep doesn't even miss a beat or raise a smile when he replies "everything" and then recommends the Doom Bar.

Old Hooky
Hook Norton, Old Hooky it is then
So, this is the new normal.... not so bad.   Like the old normal, but with more hand sanitising.

Saturday, 27 June 2020

27/06/20 - Fownhope and the Wye Valley Walk

Distance - 9 Miles
Geocaches - 6 Found
Walk Inspiration - The Times - June 6th 2020

That Times Newspaper from the start of June has paid for itself.  The second Saturday running that I have completed one of their "20 Walks for Summer".

This is a delight.

It suggests starting at the Green Man in Fownhope.  I'm hoping this is my last week of blogging Pub Walks without Pubs.  With it not quite open, I decide to relocate the start to a picnic area high above the River Wye at Brockhampton.

This also means that I can add a 2 mile loop to attempt some geocaches. I have a poor day, getting as many DNF as F and I cannot totally blame the cows.  All was not lost, I had superb views and stumbled across the thatched church, falsely appreciating its antiquity.  Only 118 years old in 2020.

Views from the Start
Parking - High above the Wye... I'm bound to rue the walk back up at the end

Geocaching with Cows
Friends helping with the Geocaching

Brokchampton Church
Brockhampton's Thatched Church
The Geocaches are laid along the Wye Valley Trail - which leads from the church up to Capler Camp Hillfort - providing views to the land where the pubs won't be open on the glorious 4th.

Looking over the Wye Valley
Looking over Wales
Agricultural land turns into Pagets/Lea Wood.  The views don't get any less impressive, even when looking back over to England.

Wye Valley Views
Looking over England
Fownhope is dominated by its main road and provides access to the River Wye.  A bigger than expected church and two pubs - with the Green Man winning the prize for most impressive sign.

New Inn, Fownhope
Would the New Inn have received the Mappiman Dollar?
Green Man, Fownhope
or the no words required Green Man

A good couple of miles back along the meandering River Wye.  Canoeists, fly fishermen and a very hairy pathway at Leabank, where fortunately there were ropes to assist with a path that is falling into the river.  The canoeists had decided to commandeer a little beach, but a little further along is the remains of a ferry jetty.

Looked a perfect place for lunch.

Hawkshead Gold at the River Wye
As good as this Hawkshead Gold is, I am looking forward to next weeks cask.

River Wye
My Lunch Spot for the day - the Swans know all the good places
The river is left behind at Brinkley Hill Farm.  The climb back to the picnic area showed me how it got it's name.

Sunday, 21 June 2020

21/06/20 - Clee St Margeret and Stoke St Milborough

Distance - 7 Miles
Walk Inspiration - Country Walking Magazine - June 2014 - Walk 7
Geocaches - 0

As much as a I like walking in the Shropshire wilds of the Clee Hills, its a real pain getting to.  Probably an over reliance on Sat Nav but at least half of the 20 mile journey is along single lane tracks, with blind bends and grass glowing along the middle.  Throw in kamikaze farm traffic and I am a mightily relieved man to have both made it there and back with the car in one piece.

Parking for this one is in a small area above Stoke St Millborough labelled Stoke Gorse on the map.  Having driven up the bank, I am pleased that I am walking down it to the quiet hamlet.   Not much to report from there - a well and a fable of the Abbess of Wenlock Priory falling off her horse and blessing the spring.

Of course, I hadn't read the walk instructions well enough to actually find the mythical spout.  I content myself with a walk around the remote church.

Stoke St Milborough Church
Stoke St Milborough Church
Unusually for a Country Walking Magazine route - the directions to and off Weston Hill are not great and the footpaths, when not completely overgrown, were bearing little resemblance to the OS Map.  It was a bit of battle that I was glad I had undertaken alone - without a wife to bend my ear and a dog to hoike over tied gates and wobbly stiles.

Arrow shows I am bang on where I need to be.  6ft ferns say otherwise
Still, the views from Weston Hill Trig Point were impressive, even if shared with interlopers amongst the sheep.

Crips vs the Bloods, Shropshire Style
Shropshire Views
Views from Weston Hill

The walking does improve from Cold Weston, where the chapel has been converted into a private residence and a mile of uninterrupted lane walking leads to a glorious sunken track at a property labelled as "The Boot".  Its suitably old and distinctive but Google research into whether it was ever a pub has been met with its the 7th most expensive property sold in Clee St Margaret.

Sunken Lane to Clee Brook
Delightful sunken lane
This green path leads to Clee Brook - I fail to find the footbridge marked on the map, so some paddling is required before it reveals itself.

Plenty of time to dry off on the superbly wild section around Nordy Bank fort.  Exactly my type of walking - good tracks, extensive views and a little bit of sunshine.

Brown Clee hill from Nordy Bank Fort
Final section of the walk - looking back to Brown Clee Hill