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Lands End to Cape Wrath
BUDE TO THE SEVERN BRIDGE
Dread and gloom on the bus back to Bude, skirting Dartmoor in the rain. Sunday evening in the car back to school.
The next day, day 14 (walking day 10) and the gift again of rain. So head down and roads all day, across the top to Bradworthy. A gloomy bit of country it seemed to me; out of the way and not yet brought to life by the spring. Some very scrawny cows coming out of winter barns needing a good feed on new grass.
Elation on passing the Cornish county boundary. 1 whole county walked across.
That evening and a loverly reception when I knocked on the door of a random farm house or more like small holding. ďCamp where you likeĒ.
Diary entry. Tuesday 3 May.
So over the top today. Roads and roads, Bude to nearly Bideford. Plid-plodding down long straights with beach and hazel very bright new leaves. Low clouds and windy drizzle through the morning. Lifting after mid day but not more than an occasional burst of sun.
Finding I could step out. New left and right instep twinges, worrying I might overdo it on the first day out since Friday; weíll see tomorrow.
Long winding descent along the valley of the river Yeo. Damp boggy woods offering no path and no possibility of an easy camp out so keeping going till sore feet and needing to stop.
ďDanger Keep outĒ. At the gate of the farm track. They could only tell me to go away But Hallelujah! cups of tea and then wine and ďdo you want a shower or a swim or both?Ē and kitchen chat, yeah. Sign on gate left over from foot and mouth.
Bleak high pastures, scraggy farms but Bradworthy with a working butchers and a chatty lunch time BT man.
Also Joe Tex heavens above (SUI)
2 nights ago
I was at a disco
I was gettin it down
Yeah I was gettin it downÖ
She done knock me down
She done step on my faceÖ
Ainít gone bop no more wi no big fat woman
A lovely thing talking that evening about what Iím doing. Kind people offering me a corner of their garden to camp and apparently keen to hear about this trip. They opened up and talked of their children, son in the marines and daughter away working and travelling. It touches a chord what Iím doing and I love it, what Iím becoming. The Walking Man, simple identity. Uncomplicated and accessible and learning about finding a balance. Iím out here self sufficient but in need of people. Not a wandering mendicant Iím carrying food and money and not having to trust too often on the kindness of strangers. To be carrying no money. That would be a thing; walk out and trust.
One of Satish Kumarís ďweaponsĒ on his cold war peace march across the world. Carry no money to ensure he would be humble and make maximum contact with people.
Spirits lifting. Next day into Bideford for a full English then round to Barnstaple on the Tarka Trail cycle path.
Barnstaple post office by 4.30 to pick up the first parcel.
Things I donít want to have to go searching for as I head north, make it easy;
Maps and food and other stuff Iím going to need; notebooks, purification tabs, midge gear.
10 Parcels packed up and addressed and left with my Father ready to send to Post Office Post Restantes all the way up the land. Phoned and organised in March making sure each one could do it. Be prepared.
Spread across the sitting room floor in early April, each parcel contains.
With this lot I had the staples and enough energy food to keep me going, all I needed to buy along the way was fruit and vegetables, breakfast and lunch and extra chocolate and cake type treats. Easy small shop stuff.
And these parcels were ready to go off to:
There it is, my route. Apart from obvious long distant footpaths there was no more real detail planned beyond that.
So arriving to pick up the
first parcel; something to worry about. Would it be there? Would
this whole parcel system work and would the extra weight, loaded up
for the next leg, would it pin me to the tarmac.
La-Di-Da burger and chips.
Diary entry. Wednesday 4 May
Round to Barnstaple. Anonymous BnB box room but some familiar comfort in stiff white sheets.
Change of energy. Without the wonders of the cliffs and sea. No spectacle but did it get me while I was there? Different walking now, stepping out not the physical working of the cliff path; now more plodding along. The Tarka Trail, long long straights, ebullient veg , robinís song (telling me not to worry). Clearing sky and a fresh breeze up the estuary.
Delight at first stage parcel here and system working but aimless wandering round town over whelmed looking for supplies and needing to find a BnB and stop.
Back up to full weight, will these little leggies be able to handle it?
Sun the next morning and roads east up onto Exmoor.
This was a key day, another shift. A rung on the ladder of yes I can do this and itís gonna be fun, pack not feeling too heavy. All morning pushing out hard and delighted. For the first time finding spontaneous singing shouting, Yes! I can do this, this is what Iím doing!
Deciding also on a project to entertain me and which would have to be a worthwhile thing: Take regular photographs of the path ahead, the path that Iím following . Capture it and wouldnít it be a great record of this jaunt. This was my journey.
The path, always there leading off and away, a real and imaginary line extending for four months from my now toes. Always this certain amount there ahead of me up to that corner or horizon that I can see. If I canít see it is it there? Do I create it by reaching and looking over the rise? If I turn around and look behind is it still there? Is the path still the path if I stop moving?
Diary entry. Friday 6 May.
11am Still here. Cow Castle, destination from yesterday.
Spotted on the map in my Barnstaple BnB and Iíll head for there and delighted I did it and that the extra weight wasnít driving me into the ground. Along with a bounce and a spring.
Up out of Barnstaple along sunny roads twisting into Devon hills. Through Gun and lunch in Brayford, brewing up soup by the river. Happy even with the roads. ďI can do this yeahĒ and in fact Iím doing it.
Then Exmoor after lunch and into the fog. Up onto wide flat pasture, compass out for the first time and due east with about 20 yards visibility across a couple of miles of marshy wildness, first little bit of this, sensational, with a heard of shaggy wild little ponies. Late afternoon out of the fog and down between round hills to Cow Castle; ancient track through Aslan country to a sacred place.
Very struck by the form of the hills, smooth and round beneath neutral grey skies with lines of budding beach to set it off. Perfect laid hedges, well looked after countryside.
Here now, lump of round hill at the confluence of 2 rivers. Valleys winding in to the focus of Cow Castle.
Hey and just earlier an Osprey soaring and flipflopping out of a plantation over there above the stream. Migrating in it must be, on itís way to a watery summer spot. There we are again, the summer all ahead.
Text AQA 6336
What is the history of Cow Castle earthworks near Simonsbath on Exmoor?
Cow Castle is an iron age fort and it is thought to be more of a refuge than a power base. Legend says it was built by good pixies to be a happy place.
Camped up on a ledge, one of the banks out of the south west wind, quite strong last night. Ecstatic at finding this place. Barnstaple to here, salvation.
This is why I came and so lovely I decided to stay, hang around for a late morning start.
Blue and warm and a winding path off east through there in a little while.
Bit of a downer after that as you might imagine. (:O:) ooch making a re-appearance and getting stuck and tangled in paths across up and down agricultural land. Exmoor turning into the Brendon Hills. There was a moment though up on top near Champflower Barrow, bright quite chilly and windy, finding shelter for lunch down behind the banks of the earth works dodgy footpaths abandoned for the B3190. Bright, quite chilly and windy. Suddenly a big view north and east along the Severn estuary and across to Wales, standing on top of a pile of those huge slick black plastic covered straw round bales for a better view and photo. Yeah, progress but by the afternoon I think the most exhausted yet.
Staggering in that canít walk straight way delirious down the road feet throbbing, pushing to reach a camp site under the Quantocks. 7 oíclock and another mile in evening sun after finding the Youth Hostel full up.
Back aching as my body is starting to change shape. So an enforced break there, lying leaden in my tent all the next day. Dozing with Caravan people coming and going and the dancing sunlight through the trees on the orange tent insides. Sun and chilly wind all day. Buttercups.
Other world of Texting.
Dave Mate I thought you would like to know the following: Jordanís un-borne child is fine. Beckhamís sacked nanny gagged by court order. No need to reply.
How r u r u cold at night where r u what have u bcum have you a beard do u wear dear skins is there a god will she answer my prayers tell me oh great guru
No deeds to do no promises to keep
Both less and more
Having an opportunity 2 journey and listen 2 it for such a focussed time must feel strange scary and exciting with so much discovery and freedom. Stay safe. So much life is often lived asleep. Enjoy and send a wish to me at 1pm.
Hello what hat are you wearing?
Struck by the Quantocks, first visit, very rich green country after the wind blown hills of the past 2 weeks.
Up and over the ridge next morning, day 20. Down into Bridgewater at 5 Oíclock. Internal world beginning to split. Characters emerging; I told you, what did I tell you? No you never, yes I did, pull yourself together you canít do that, yes I can why not, just think about it, well maybe youíre right but I donít care anyway. Long conversations as we all walked past busy silage farmings. Saying goodbye to west country hills.
The time had now come and I was ready.
Unisex hairdresser just before closing and I had no hair. Number 0 Metamorphosis.
Expecting to be look a strange bald man, but every man in grim Bridgewater he is a no hair man.
A bleak and shabby BnB that night. DHSS customers, haunted souls in the corridors, sticky carpets, door frames split and mended and a broken cot in the £35 En Suit room. Sit in the bath and wet shave off all remaining head hair. Kinky.
The Somerset levels all day 21 (walking day 16) and that I did enjoy. Flat and somehow out of the way isolated and lost.
20 miles for the first time. 20 miles and no hair.
I was intending to have it all off earlier, first opportunity along the path, St Ives. But getting there on day three I was just feeling too stressed and not strong enough to take that step. I had the idea that it would be part of making the shift out of normal persona and long established self and so part of the reason for doing this out here. Simplify.
Also because I didnít want to be worrying about hair. How was it looking? Should I let it grow? Should I get it cut? Could I get a good cut vanity etc, washing it and all that stuff. A right of passage, pealing another skin; leaving old self behind.
What else will be left behind?
I was heading for campsite near Westbury-sub-Mendip but fell for a little knoll on the plain below it.
The Somerset Levels is strewn with little lumps, Glastonbury Tor a pointy one.
Mine that night, Chalcroft Hill a 30 meter bulge above the flats and somehow very special and other worldlyfull. Soft evening sunlight and a big sunset but 7.30 and no water so no option other than to dip into green daphnia dancing cattle trough. Life Systems chlorine tabs and a bit of a boil and no ill effects.
Somerset Levels also divided into oblong chunks by roads and tracks, some tarmac, most graded farm track. I made my way across zigzagging, saw tooth. One particular mid afternoon, long and straight as far as I could see, raised a few feet above the meadows with ditches either side. Overgrown and rich bursting spring veg: knee high grass and nettles and cow parsley, contained by the high bushes of raged out grown hedges. Tramping slowly on above the fields, pause and turn round to see it receding behind me for as far as I could see it reaching ahead.
Now it was all about to happen.
Shifting Gears (We been Shifting Gears throughout the years)
Becoming henceforth the day by which all others would be judged.
Heading to stay with friends, Jane and Julian at Cadbury Camp near Portishead. Old and venerable country people friends from Plymouth college days. I decided to take 2 days to cover the ground to there; shorter days, slow down, I was doing Ok.
Diary entry. Thursday 11 May. Cowslip Green
Something happened today. Something shifted. Finding out about relaxing and getting some perspective.
Standing on top of Black Down trig point. 3 weeks, 365į I can see way back down to the hills Iíve walked over and on north to the Severn Bridge. You know Iím doing this, actually getting along. Talking to an old guy out walking his home hills and he saw the wonder in what Iím doing, giving me that perspective.
I know what Iím doing, feeling and knowing this for the first time.
I can do this.
Trusting. I can carry it and I can look after myself. I can cover the ground and I can have fun.
Food, gear, body, way of finding routes with miraculous round the corners.
Everyday is different, something new and a little adventure. Actually just piling adventures one on top of another.
Strength. Today I made the decision to shorten the day and because of that being able to detour and explore and space out. So subtle but crucial. From an A-B thing to a wandering thing and grooving with the landscape.
Dolebury Warren iron age fort; must revisit oh yes, and camp upon.
Strange thing. Here I am at a random campsite and what do you know tis the family and childhood home and everything of Jane who Iím heading to see and stay with tomorrow.
Realising this when the checking in woman was just a split of Jane and of course her sister. So there.
And an ecstatic moment this evening also; collecting a 5 oíclock fish and chip supper from a cross roads at Churchill below Dolebury Warren. Home time Friday evening rush hour and me sitting on a bench by the traffic light queue greasy fingers and delight then and there to be on the outside. Free wandering and all the time to sit happy knowing how it feels to be rushing home head full up with must doos and what are we going to cook for supper and even though thereís no real hurry getting frustrated and stressed by slow traffic and Ha! Iíll just sit here with greasy fingers in this this different life and watch you all (smug!). 20 years of age and hitch-hiking and not a yet member of all that. Just getting my thing together.
A 2000 year old shoe has been found in Somerset. You sure you havenít done this before?
So. The earth / the cosmos (us) doing the best she can, which is us (me) Life/consciousness finding the energy in matter, in the rocks and making it happen. A bit of a half way fuck up but this is where we are.
Tuff for us.
Painful because we are awake and struggling with this experience of coming into consciousness, imperfect, how far have we come? How far will we get?
No more diary from there until Hay on Wye, 8 days.
During which time I had a blissful 36 hours with Jane and Julian and family. Being looked after and eating them out of house and home. Lots to catch up with, lives being lived in parallel. Also a quick trip by car across to Chepstow and back to pick up the next parcel. It was Friday and it looked like I would be getting there on Sunday so one of those had to dos or wait another day. Suggestion of exciting possibility also of reconnecting way up in Scottish lands. They have a croft near Ullapool which they may be staying at in August. We could meet up again then and also they can pass me on to a friend of theirs who lives way south of there on Kintyre. A contact and possible destination for a bed and board.
Walking out midday Saturday. Over the Gordano M5 bridge, through Avonmouth docks and warehouse-land and along the Severn shore to camp on the edge of the wide salt marsh with nosy cows and a friendly farmer. Sunset between the two bridges, a chilly night with all my clothes on inside sleeping bag.
Romping, (Romping!) across the old and very beautiful suspension bridge 10.30 the next morning. Brightest sharpest sunshine. Everything clear out there and no doubt why and what I was doing.
Oh Gosh! To walk all the way up that south west peninsular. Tears, shouting and singing and making an exhibition of myself to all the car people passing.In the middle, far below me a small cruiser was beating up river with the tide. Bald head of a man in the cockpit shining in the sun, a wave as he passed under. A worm whole opening; confluence of time streams. He was me (him was I), 10 Ė 15 years hence. Life was and would be good and what I will have to do is sail around (clockwise) these islands when legs too tired to walk
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