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It was time to head home and check up on the cats today, but not before having a final Devon adventure. We'd already ticked off the national parks of Exmoor and Dartmoor, but the Devon guidebook also strongly recommended visiting the East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This wasn't a place that we were familiar with, but it was a nice sunny day and we decided to give us a try The guidebook had specifically recommended walking along the coastline outside a small village called Beer, so that was where we were headed. It was around 60 miles from where we'd been staying, on the far side of Exeter, but we needed to drive as far as Exeter anyway to get home, so it wasn't too far out of our way. We arrived around 11am and parked in a clifftop car park. Even from the car park itself, the views were wonderful. The cliffs were really unusual - some of them were white, while others were a deep shade of red. The guidebook had suggested a walk, but we didn't really need it in the end because there was a clear path to follow. There were some beautiful views of the sea as we walked. It looked very calm today. There were also some great views of the cliffs. At various points we had the option of climbing down to beaches, but we decided not to. It looked a long way down (and a long way back up!). Plus although they probably look sandy in the photos, in reality it looked like they were mostly pebbles. The path continued indefinitely - it was part of the South West Coast path, which goes all the way from Somerset, around Devon and Cornwall, to Dorset - so we had to be careful not to walk too far. We decided to stop at this point, when the path started sloping quite firmly downhill. Well, we just went a little bit further to get a better look at the view It was really lovely here (though quite sunny, so hard to keep my eyes open for a photo!) We turned around and retraced our steps to the car. There were lovely views walking back in this direction too When we got back to the car we drove a little way down the road into the village of Beer itself, where we found a nice pub to sit outside and have lunch. It was a lovely end to what has been a really fun trip to Devon
The good thing about staying in the middle of Devon is that it gives us lots of options for where to travel. Yesterday, we went north to Exmoor. Today, we decided to go south to Dartmoor. Our first stop was a place called Castle Drogo, right on the edge of Dartmoor. Castle Drogo isn't a real castle, having been constructed between 1911 and 1930. But the property is owned by the National Trust and has a reasonably large car park, which you can park in to do walks on the estate, even if you're not interested in visiting the property. The estate includes views of the Teign Gorge and I had found a walk on the National Trust website which we were planning to attempt. We had a great view as soon as left the car park behind and started walking towards the main path. It was quite cloudy and overcast this morning, but that just made the views towards Dartmoor look more atmospheric As we headed towards the woods, I was surprised to see that there were still bluebells out The path led us above the treeline initially. As we walked, we began to have views down into the gorge of the river Teign. The landscape was quite rocky on this side of the gorge. And the gorge itself was so deep that we couldn't even see the river at the bottom. The path was absolutely beautiful though After a while the path led us quite steeply downhill through a wood... ...until we eventually found the river Teign We crossed it via a bridge called Fingle Bridge, which was built in the seventeenth century. From here a flatter path ran alongside the river for a while. We could see back up towards the opposite side of the gorge where we'd started and it looked like we were going to have a long walk back up to the car! For now, the path was mostly flat though Eventually we came to a bridge... ...and crossed over the river. From here the path did lead back uphill, but it was gentler than the way we'd come down. I was amazed when, partway along this path, we came across some wild ponies As we emerged from the woods, there were some beautiful views once again. The path led all the way around the side of the hill. We had some great views back down towards where we'd been in the gorge. Once we got back to the vicinity of the car park, we were able to look at where we'd been on the map. We'd walked from the "you are here" sign all the way down to Fingle Bridge, then along the far side of the river and back up. It was only a four mile walk, but with all the up and down it felt longer! We had some refreshments in the National Trust cafe before setting off on our second activity of the day, which was a scenic drive across Dartmoor. We followed a beautiful road, which took us to the small village of Postbridge. We parked for a while in Postbridge and went for a stroll. Postbridge is famous for having a clapper bridge, similar to the Tarr Steps. This one is estimated to be 700 years old It doesn't feel scary when you're standing on it because it's quite wide and flat, but it looks very high above the river when you see it from a distance. Our roadtrip ended in Tavistock, which turned out to be a pretty little place. We had a stroll around, admiring this beautiful church. We had actually been hoping to find some food in Tavistock, but drew a bit of a blank. The owners of the cabin we're staying in had recommended a pub with good food, so we decided to drive to that instead. Unfortunately that was also unsuccessful, as it turns out to be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. But in the end we did find a lovely place where we were able to sit outside in the sunshine Tim tried a Devon pasty, which looks very similar to a Cornish pasty, but apparently is chunkier and has less swede. I opted for a slightly less exciting cheese baguette We had puddings too, before heading back towards the cabin for an evening of attempting to find a strong enough phone signal to post a blog
It had rained quite a lot overnight and was still quite damp when we woke up this morning. During breakfast we just managed to get enough of a signal to check the forecast, which suggested it was actually going to be a reasonably dry day, with not more than a 30% chance of rain at any point. After a short morning stroll around the area where we're staying, we decided to head north today towards the Exmoor National Park. I had invested in a Devon guidebook prior to this trip, and one of the things it recommend as being a highlight of Exmoor was a place called the Tarr Steps. Google had suggested this was only around 35 miles from where we were staying, although the journey ultimately took longer than I expected thanks to the small and winding roads! We arrived some time after 11 and were happy to find that there was both space in the car park and a parking machine that accepted cards A small path led downhill from the car park. The path took us to the Tarr steps, which are what is known as a "clapper bridge" across the river Barle. It's essentially a bridge made out of huge slabs of stone, thought to date from at least medieval times. The bridge was a bit busy when we arrived, but soon emptied out a bit so that we could take some photos Although the bridge looks like it's been here forever, it's actually been washed away several times by floodwater and had to be rebuilt. Luckily the river was nice and calm today! We followed a short circular trail which leads alongside the river. It led us through a pretty forest... ...with some lovely views of the surrounding countryside. After a while we crossed the river... ...on a normal bridge this time... ...and walked back in the direction we had come. We had a final view of the Tarr Steps... ...followed by a bit of an uphill climb back towards the car. Our next destination was a place called Valley of Rocks, about a 20 mile drive away across Exmoor. We got a little glimpse of the sea as soon as we parked, which was exciting It was a rather unusual landscape, in some ways a bit similar to the Brimham Rocks which we visited on the way to Northumberland last month. Some people were climbing to the top of the rocks, but we didn't fancy that. Instead, we walked towards the sea. We followed a narrow coastal path. We didn't have to walk very far before we turned round and found the most amazing views I didn't know what to expect from the north Devon coast, but I didn't expect it to be quite this beautiful. It was difficult not to keep taking the same photos over and over again Obviously it wasn't a circular walk this time around, so we had to be careful not to walk too far. It wasn't a hardship to turn around and walk back towards views like these, though! All in all we've had a lovely day in Devon And the weather turned out to be a lot sunnier than I expected when I got up this morning
I had planned to take a week of work in June for a while, but planning an actual holiday to take has been complicated. Firstly, by the fact that I've handed in my notice at work, so for a while it wasn't clear if/when I was going to be able to take off all my holiday. Secondly, by the fact that our trusted cat sitter is also on holiday this week. In the end we decided that the best solution would be to go away for two short breaks of three nights each, that being the longest we can leave the furry members of the family unattended, and make a trip home in the middle to top up the water and cat feeders Having spent all our holidays since Covid so far driving north to Northumberland and Scotland, this time we decided to try something different and explore another part of the UK. And so, a couple of weeks ago, Tim booked a place for us to stay for a few nights in Devon. As soon as we started driving south, we got reminded why we normally prefer driving north So many people everywhere! We struggled to even get out of Nuneaton due to road works, then got caught up in a lot of slow-moving traffic as we navigated the M42 around Birmingham. Things picked up for a bit once we made it to the M5, but before long we encountered an ominous warning sign, informing us that there was a delay of 30 minutes between junctions 14 and 20. There did indeed turn out to be quite a delay as we made our way very, very slowly around Bristol. We were actually planning to leave the motorway slightly after Bristol for a detour to Cheddar Gorge. When researching earlier in the week, I thought this looked like a nice place to break the journey and I'd calculated that if we left home around 10.30, we ought to be there by 13.00. We did actually manage to leave home shortly before 10.30, but with all the delays on the roads it was around 14.30 by the time we were finally driving through the small village of Cheddar. Cheddar looked... busy! The car parks in the village itself all looked full and for a moment I thought we might have a repeat of our experience in Scotland last week where we'd driven a long way to get somewhere, then found that it was impossible to park. But there are a lot of parking spaces along the gorge itself, so in the end we found somewhere without too much difficulty. We had to pay £5 to park; rather frustratingly, the car park machines only take coins, but luckily it was possible to pay via an app as well. Cheddar Gorge is a bit unusual, in that the south side is owned by the Longleat estate and is quite heavily commercialised, with all sorts of paid attractions. You can pay to climb some steps to the top of the gorge on that side, for example, and in normal times there are also caves that you can pay to go into, although I think those are closed at the moment because of Covid. The north side of the gorge, however, is owned by the National Trust and it's perfectly possible to walk around it without buying any expensive tickets. My plan was to follow this walk from the National Trust website, which started from the National Trust information centre. The centre seemed to have closed down, but we found the right place anyway and set off up a small lane. This quickly turned into a grassy path, leading quite steeply uphill. The National Trust instructions were full of warnings about how the path could be muddy in places. We were lucky today in that it was very dry, but I can imagine parts like this are a nightmare when it's been raining. In parts the path was also very rocky. In the excitement of actually arriving somewhere and being able to get out of the car, we'd forgotten to put our boots on so we were going up in trainers. Wouldn't really recommend In some places the uphill climb was made easier by steps. It was still pretty steep though! Eventually we climbed out of the wood and passed through a gate, from where we had a nice view down to the (very flat) countryside below. The path led alongside a wall for a while... ...from where we got our first glimpse of the gorge. There was still a bit more uphill to go... ...but the views were definitely compensating for the climb now. At one point we could even see down to the sea. The path levelled off for a while and we enjoyed the views of the gorge. Cheddar Gorge is the largest gorge in England. It's definitely a very popular tourist destination and we did encounter far more other walkers than we've done on any of the walks we've done in Northumberland. Although it looks quite cloudy in the pictures, it was actually really bright so I struggled to keep my eyes open for a photo The path ultimately led along the length of the gorge and then downhill. The downhill was a bit gentler than our route uphill had been, which was good. Before too long we were down at the main road which runs through the gorge. The National Trust walk instructions required us to cross the road and climb up the opposite side of the gorge. We had a look at it, but the path looked even steeper and more uneven than the way we had come, so we decided to give it a miss, Instead, we started walking back to the car along the side of the road. There were actually some really good views of the gorge from the road. A lot of the time there was a bit of a path by the side of the road as well, so you could stay away from the cars. We passed several groups of people who were climbing the rocks. Before too long we'd made it back to where we parked the car. We still had around 90 miles to drive before we got to our final destination of Petrockstow. Fortunately, the traffic was nowhere near as bad now that we were past Bristol We arrived some time before 7pm and checked in. This is rather unusual accommodation for us - we're staying in a log cabin! It's absolutely beautiful inside, with a living room... ...kitchen... ...and bedroom. The only catch is that there's no WiFi! But it seems like I've got (just about) enough of a phone signal to use my mobile data allowance to post the blog