|Day 13 – April 17||Barnstaple to Simonsbath|
|Weather: Sunny||B&B: Exmoor Forest Inn (£30)|
|Departed: 08:10 Arrived: 15:45||Walked: 5h 42m Rested: 1 hr 16m|
|Distance Today: 18.1 mi / 29.13 km||Total Distance: 202.4 mi / 326.05 km|
|% Complete: ~ 18.10%||Pint of the Day: Exmoor Ale|
|GPS Track for: Day 13|
It’s Saturday night and I’m in Simonsbath, a small village in the heart of Exmoor National Park. For the past 20 years Exmoor never quite made the cut when it came time for me to finalize my walking plans in Britain. This time around I designed my LEJOG itinerary around it. Today’s route was a collection of minor roads and dirt tracks and for the most part was very scenic. The highlight was the little village of Brayford and a great little pub in the middle of nowhere.
I was away from my B&B just after 8am, my earliest start yet. I stayed in Sticklepath, west of the river and so it took me more than half an hour to cross through and out of Barnstaple. As I mentioned yesterday my plan was to find a direct route to Simonsbath and that’s exactly what I did. Had I gone with my original plan I suspect it would have been an 8-hour walk of at least 23 miles, but my revised 18-mile route had me in Simonsbath before 4pm. A good result.
I think I relied too much on Andy Robinson’s guidebook when planning my original route. He’s a very aggressive walker and 20-25 mile outings are commonplace in his book. He sticks to footpaths and higher elevations whenever possible and although I prefer to avoid roads too I will make an exception from time to time. The fact is there will be plenty of opportunities to follow long-distance footpaths that are going exactly where I want them to and so I don’t feel I have to use them when they don‘t.
While the approach to Barnstaple is flat the landscape to the east of it is not. Amongst the rolling hills were many small villages, most of which were still waking up when I walked through them. I could see wisps of smoke from the chimneys and hear snippets of Radio 4 through partially opened windows. After about two hours I stopped for a break at a little farming community called Stoke Rivers. I found a small patch of green and a solitary park bench next to the Anglican Church where I enjoyed my first 10-minute break of the day.
The next couple of hours were spent walking on country lanes and by the time I reached Brayford I was definitely needing a break. I was hoping to find another bench and so I immediately headed for the church however this particular Presbyterian Church didn’t have one that I could see. What I did find however was a tiny little park next to the river and old stone bridge. It was a fantastic setting and so I treated myself to a half-hour break. Off came the socks and shoes and out came the snacks … a crispy Braeburn followed by some equally crispy Cheese & Onion crisps. This was made all the more enjoyable by the signpost, clearly in view, that indicated Simonsbath was only 6 miles away!
About a mile down the road I came to my third signpost, and the third to indicate Simonsbath was still 6 miles away?! I also passed my first “Exmoor National Park” sign and began the long and slow climb up. According to my OS map there was a pub located in the middle of nowhere (known as Yarde Down in these parts) and fortunately it just happened to be on my route, an amazing coincidence you must admit. I was half-expecting it to be closed (possibly permanently) but was very happy to find it was not. The Poltimore Arms is a 300-year old pub serving a couple of Real Ales from gravity fed casks behind the bar. The family that just took it over were very friendly and I enjoyed my half hour visit. If you’re in the area I encourage you to drop by for a visit. They have new hours and are now open for lunch from 12-2 and for dinner from 5:30-11 Tuesday through Saturday, and Sunday from 12-3.
The last 4 miles were spent walking along a B-road high atop the moor. There are less hedgerows up here so the views of the surrounding countryside were excellent. Simonsbath is nestled in a valley and will be my home for the next two nights. I’m very happy with my accommodation at the Exmoor Forest Inn … a nice big single room, power shower, pub downstairs and free wifi for guests … all for 30 quid!
Tomorrow is my rest day but I will post a brief blog entry and also update my photo gallery.