Exmoor Delights!

On Saturday,21st September 2013, 51 West Essex  ramblers set off on another adventure, this time to Devon and Somerset. We stayed in The Hotel Imperial, Ilfracombe, but split our walking between the two counties. For a very reasonable fee, our hotel provided plenty of food to keep us going during the week.

Before we even reached the hotel we were dropped off and made to walk a few miles to earn our supper. A lovely walk down to the River Exe was followed by some very nice refreshments in the Bridge Tea Room, Exford.

On Sunday, after a man-sized breakfast, we were quickly ushered onto the coach for our exploration of Doone country. We were given the choice of four different length walks: 5, 6.7,7.9 or 12.5 miles (who said we were spoilt?). Jan and I opted for the longest one and our group was pushed hard to reach Porlock Weir in time for the coach pick up. On the way we climbed some impressive hills and visited Oare and Culbone churches. However, we made it with a few minutes to spare so we had time for a quick look into the local hostelry.

Monday 23rd provided us with the most complicated set of options that can ever have been devised by a walks leader. I know now why the hotel was located a good distance from the area of campaign - it was to give Len time to try to explain all of the convoluted options available to us. After many manly attempts to clarify the various start points and distances, 4.7, 6.5, 8.5, 11.2 or 13.2 miles, most people just stuck a pin in the map to make their choice. This time we chose the 11.2 mile option, thinking that we would walk with Julie until the end, but this was not to be the case so we switched to Len’s walk a few miles before the pub stop at Tarr Steps. Before this, we had started of in the mist and all had to climb an impressive selection of ingeniously designed and extremely high stiles before descending to the Barle River which we followed until we reached our destination, Dulverton.

Tuesday’s medium walk had to be removed from the programme because our driver could not access the desired pick up point. Luckily, Hazel came to the rescue and led a coastal walk from Woolacombe back to Ilfracombe. As Jan and I had walked this a year or so earlier, we decided to join the short walkers, led by Julie and John,  for a 5.5 mile walk through the Valley of the Rocks. We assumed that this would be another riverside walk, but with bigger rocks - how wrong can you be! We started with a delightful ride on the Cliff Railway then our walk took us along the coast where spectacular rocks towered over us. After this we had a very long, hot climb before descending to Lynton for the return trip on the railway. Crab sandwiches and lashings of tea finished off the walk perfectly.

The long walkers followed Len for 12 miles over the moor and were in high spirits after a very enjoyable day.

This lovely sunny day was enjoyed by all three walking groups. It was only marred by Sue having an accident near the end of Hazel’s walk, but she made a quick recovery and was her normal self by breakfast - albeit with a black eye.

Our final day’s walking was limited because it was an interlude in our homeward journey. It was all based around Lynmouth with choices of either a 3.4 mile short walk or a 4.4 mile long one. We chose the latter which followed the impressive East Lyn River (complete with Dippers) which gently climbed to the NT Visitor Centre at Watersmeet. After a pleasant pause for coffee and cakes there was a steep climb out of the valley then a well earned pub stop in the Blue Ball. Fully refreshed, we pressed onward, over the hill, to start our long descent along the coastal path back to Lynmouth. Yet again the sun had favoured us, an excellent end to a very enjoyable holiday.

Thanks go to all involved in devising, organising and implementing this enjoyable break - Len, Julie, John F, George, Hazel and John J. We all appreciate that trips like this don’t happen without a lot of forethought and preparation.